American Idol Semifinals Round 3: Blind Guy Sucks, Jorge Loses his Rican Charm, and Kara Picks Up a Blaccent
Sharyn Jackson is your American Idol host for season eight. This week: Actual talent in the third round of semi-finals!
Tonight was a toughie. After two pretty lousy rounds, the last 12 semifinalists actually contained some talent--and another sob story worthy of a spot in the finals?
Michael Becker / FOX Von Smith
1. Von Smith
Sorry, my Tivo taped nothing but a blank screen for the first 15 minutes. Apparently he sang "You're All I Need to Get By." From what I can hear in the end-of-the-show recap snippet, it was cheesy. Thankfully, the recording came back in time for...
2. Taylor Vaifanua
She does a respectable "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys, and cries (from joy, she says) during the judgment. Kara is dying to know what it's like to go shopping with Taylor (what?) and Simon asks her what breakfast cereal she likes. Paula calls her on singing a Hollywood week song (Norman Gentle did that last week and no one said a word!). All around, agreement.
3. Alex Wagner-Trugman
Charming awkward boy admits that he's been reading Internet commentary about his dorkiness level (not here, I think), so he's been going to the gym. That hasn't been working out for him, sorry. His improvisations and cute attempts at dancing during "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" make me chuckle, in a good way. Paula says Alex "gave us our money's worth," though Kara says "you can't pay for that kind of stuff." Simon calls him a little hamster. I want to tickle him!
4. Arianna Afsar
Her video starts out with her singing "Put Your Records On"--count the number of times that song was done in an audition Miss Thang. But then according to Ryan, she becomes the first contestant to ever sing an Abba song on Idol. Did I hear that correctly? Seriously, no "Dancing Queen"? Who's feeling an Abba night this season? Arianna has a very adult voice for a 17-year-old. She's alright on "The Winner Takes It All" until belting some notes that are painfully out of tune. Simon says it's funereal.
5. Ju'not Joyner
One of the auditioners who tricked his way into Hollywood by bringing his cute little boy into the audition, he also sings a Hollywood week song--"Hey There Delilah," a song Jamar Rogers did awesomely even though the judges gave us only the Danny Gokey half of that duo. Anyway, Ju'not removes all the emo-boy bullshit from the song and makes it a smooth R&B number, and it's pretty dreamy. The judges just want to hear more. "I know you got ridiculous pipes," says Kara.
6. Kristen McNamara
Ryan sits down with both Kristen and Nathaniel to re-hash the millisecond of drama in Hollywood group day that was apparently the biggest thing to have happened this year, because the producers still can't let it go--Kristen and Nathaniel got into a fight with their third group member, who was kicked off shortly after. But back to Kristen, who makes her career as a karaoke host. She auditioned with purple hair but says it was an "accident." She's singing Tracy Chapman's "Gimme One Reason"--which Jordin Sparks sang on her first semifinal performance, and she won! Kristen is no Jordin (although in that dress, and in those shots from below, you could conceivably confuse her for a plus-size model), but she's totally her own thing. Sort of Reba-esque. All the judges wish she sang Kelly Clarkson and dressed better. Uh oh, Randy invokes the karaoke thing. Good luck!
7. Nathaniel Marshall
The swishy boy who's never seen without a headband says he has the reputation of this season's drama queen. Get in line, Nathaniel. To keep the illusion up, he sings Meat Loaf, the most flamboyant straight man to have a successful recording career. That's probably a bad move. Simon's totally gonna call him out for being gayer than Adam Lambert's canary. Norman Gentle and Nathaniel clearly share style tips. Simon says, "some people like that" and invokes Olivia Newton John. Simon, that's only going to convince me to vote for him! But he says Nathaniel's fun. They give him an extra nudge for votes by interviewing his adorable grandma. The judges confer over this boy for about 15 minutes, Paula scoops him into her lap, and Nathaniel tells Ryan he just wants to touch people. Good touch, I hope.
8. Felicia Barton
We didn't spend a lot of time with her, until we saw her rejection at the Judges' Mansion. But when failed recording artist Joanna Pacitti got plucked from the competition for being too buddy-buddy with some Idol janitor or something, Felicia got the second chance Pacitti thought she was deserved. Right around now, I'm wishing Pacitti was still here, because Felicia's "No One" is horrendous. Even the back-up singers sound off-key. She tries to make up for it with one final glory note; please let it be her last. But the judges kind of liked it, and America loves a story like hers (right, America?), so she's got a shot.
9. Scott MacIntyre
Blind guy! He's gotten progressively worse at singing since audition time, but maybe he was never that good. It's just that the novelty of his differently-abledness is wearing off. He's okay, it's just that his voice is a bit hokey. And sort of like Danny Gokey's every song being about his dead wife (even when it's not), Scott always seems like he's singing about living a wonderful life with a handicap. His version of "Mandolin Rain" is pretty awful, and his voice cracks too many times. But the cheering drowns out Randy--oh no, everyone loves him because he's blind. Randy says despite some bad parts, every time Scott sings he can feel the passion. Kara says he moves mountains. Simon says Scott is growing on him. This has gone too far.
10. Kendall Beard
The country girl's dad does an "alligator dance" every time she makes it through another round. Whaaat? We have to see this live! She sings some country song. I think it's good, but I never know about these things. Although she does sound flat. Simon says it's not his cup of tea and they all point out her note problems, but they feel like they got to know her. I do too! I think we'll be seeing her again.
11. Jorge Nunez
When this Puerto Rican auditioned--in Puerto Rico, mind you--Kara complained about his accent. He sings "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"--another overdone Idol standard (and no one will top Clay Aiken's version). He looks like he's going to eat his microphone, my TV, and my whole house while he sings. But he sounds great--I can't even hear his accent at all anymore. (Thanks, Kara, for whitewashing the season.) Paula looks like she's going to burst into flames from joy. Simon says he should have an accent. Thank you! And he says the other judges are patronizing, but Paula defends herself: "When he was dancing and saying 'This is how we dance in Puerto Rico,' it was funny." Nooo, not patronizing at all!
12. Lil Rounds
Idol's been pushing her for screen time since she began appearing in Hollywood. They're promoting her as a Fantasia/Mary J. Blige hybrid. She runs with it, the Blige comparison anyway, and does "Be Without You" and it's by far the best female performance this season. She has an amazing level of confidence. Simon kind of winks when he says she has great "prospects." Randy says she has her swagger on. Kara tries to talk to her in blaccent. I think that means she likes Lil.
You had two hours to vote, America! Here are my predictions and/or wishes:
Top boy: Jorge Nunez
Top girl: Lil Rounds
Third place: Kristen McNamara
Possible Wild Cards for Round 4:
Nathaniel Marshall, Kendall Beard, Felicia Barton
Top 12, So far:
1. Danny Gokey
2. Michael Sarver
3. Alexis Grace
4. Adam Lambert
5. Kris Allen
6. Allison Iraheta