OK. Maybe Wednesday night's horribly paced performance night for the Top 12 Boys took me a bit by surprise.
Perhaps knowing what's coming for Thursday (February 26) night's Top 12 Girls performances will make it a bit easier to stomach.
Or maybe not.
8:01 p.m. ET. “Let's get ready to party,” Ryan Seacrest says aggressively.
Singer: LOVEY JAMES
Song: “Love Runs Out”
My Take: The song starts too low and Lovey can't get her breath at all. As it gradually moves up, Lovey's at least in range, but she also become shout-y and perhaps too excited or emotional. There are good moments in the second half, but also bad moments when Lovey's trying to be heard over the band and failing. There's energy here, but I'm sure I'll have forgotten this performance in 55 minutes.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo thought it was awesome. Harry thought it was good. Keith thought it got better and better.
Singer: ADANNA DURU
Song: “Rather Be”
My Take: Stand up straight, Adanna. Goodness. The hunched shoulders and crouching are uncomfortable to watch and they can't be good for her vocals either. And it's too bad, because there are nice things she's doing. It's a bit of a tease. Adanna finally separates from the mic stand and begins stamping around the stage with impressive authority. As with Lovey, Adanna gets shout-y, but I think there's more control here. Then she returns to her slouched posture. I think Adanna needs to work on blending the quiet and the emotional so that the shifts aren't as abrupt. But the raw material is obviously very good.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith says it was a good showcase for her skills. “You're going for blood,” J-Lo says, telling her to work on her control to enhance her amazingness. Harry thought the first half was the best he's heard her sing and she's dangerous.
Singer: ALEXIS GOMEZ
Song: “Gunpowder & Lead”
My Take: My initial read is that Alexis is performing this song with much too much of a smile, all things consider. But then it begins to dawn me that she's playing the narrative of the song as sexy-crazy and I can live with that as an interpretation. She's definitely yelling more than singing, but I like that she's playing to the crowd and to the camera and to the band much more than either Lovey or Adanna.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry cautions her about the affected twang, but he thinks she's lovely. Keith loved the performance, but worried that she was better without the guitar. J-Lo loves it and loves Alexis, but wants to remind her that she's Latina and she should play around with that.
Singer: JOEY COOK
Song: “Somebody Like You”
My Take: Keith Urban's slow realization that Joey is covering a Keith Urban song with an accordion is the perfect reaction to the oddball uniqueness that Joey's bringing to the table. I sense that eventually I'm going to have to write a “Stop trying so hard” comment for Joey, but if this is her first real try-out for America, why should she leave anything on the table? So from the instrumentation that drives the first half of the performance to the goofball dancing to the playful vocals to the spontaneous giggles that occasionally overwhelm her? That was a treat. I reserve the right to get tired of Joey eventually, but for a few weeks? I'm on-board with anybody who makes me smile for two minutes.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo's happy and asks Keith repeatedly if he's ever heard his song performed like that. “If me and Keith ever had a kid, that's what the music would sound like,” Harry says. “That what artists do,” Keith crows.
Singer: KATHERINE WINSTON
Song: “Safe & Sound”
My Take: Katherine starts sharp, but I like her quietness in contrast to the night's first few performances. I'm not sure on her sense of pitch at all, because a lot of this sounds just off and it's definitely not a sing that's giving her much to do. It's the same vocal ticks repeated over and over without any build. There's a sweetness to the performance, but also a sleepiness.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought her tone was gorgeous, but he tells her to feel the song. “You have a magical quality to your voice. It's really special,” J-Lo says. Keith questions doing a ballad at this point in the show, but he loves her voice.
Singer: SHANNON BERTHIAUME
Song: “Who Knew”
My Take: I've said the same thing about Shannon every time we've seen her. There are pieces of such total star quality to her, but they're often lost in the inexperience I can never quite get past. She's so internalized as a performer and I feel like she lacks the confidence to attack notes that we know she can hit. So that means that she's doing a tentative performance of a song by one of the least tentative performers in all of pop music. It's an introvert's performance of an extrovert's song and the restraint holds it back at every turn. I want her to stick around, because I want to see who Shannon is in May. But in February, she's a work-in-progress.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry likes how green Shannon is, but warns her that she needs to be more committed to the lyrics, because her novelty will wear off. Keith didn't like the song choice. J-Lo says Shannon needs to believe that she's a phenomenal singer.
Singer: LOREN LOTT
Song: “Note To God”
My Take: This is nice programming by the “Idol” producers. Loren Lott is the anti-Shannon Berthiaume. If everything Shannon does seems under-considered, under-polished, excessively restrained, everything Loren does is over-calculated, over-emoted, over-theatrical. She's singing way into the back row of a very small venue. This is the best I've ever heard Loren, the first time I felt like she could really sing. I just happen not to like her presentation and I get the earnestness of what she's doing, but I'm not feeling a darned thing. Your results, however, may vary.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo felt like it was brave. Harry calls it powerful and Keith says Loren's giving everybody a run for their money.
Singer: SHI SCOTT
My Take: I didn't think Shi should have been put into the Top 24 and this Rihanna cover isn't doing a thing to change my mind. There's a lot of yelling, no real nuance and Shi dances like Baby Groot. It's also a cold performance, because whatever “Umbrella” means, I don't know what feelings Shi is trying to convey. I'm getting nothing from it other than a barked out chorus. I think Shi, like Shannon, has elements that could come together, but I prefer Shannon because I don't know that Shi is moldable. She has her persona locked in.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought it was powerful, but he didn't like the song choice. J-Lo also doesn't think the song showed the best of her. Harry doesn't think it was the right song, but she may benefit from everybody knowing the song.
Singer: MADDIE WALKER
Song: “Love Gets Me Every Time”
My Take: Terrence Howard and other Rachael Hallack may want to look around, because Maddie Walker is taking this one to the Iowa State Fair. This is a performance better suited for a Miss Teen Cornfield than “American Idol.” The vocals are average and the cutesy affectations are irritating. And it's a pretty one-note song that is almost encouraging the flouncing and bouncing and pageant preening.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thought it was “a nice, good, solid performance.” Keith likes the character in her voice, but didn't love the song. J-Lo agrees.
Singer: SARINA-JOI CROWE
Song: “Mamma Knows Best”
My Take: GOOD GRACIOUS. Maddie Walker is 17. Sarina-Joi is 19. But the difference between the two vocalists couldn't be wider. Sarina-Joi could be cast on “Empire” as a new R&B chanteuse tomorrow and any song they gave her would be a massive hit. I like Joey Cook's personality and individuality. But Sarina-Joi Crowe is the first person tonight who looks and sounds like they could be out there in the marketplace right now. She's the real thing, Joey Cook is her own thing and everybody else tonight is just potential. So far. Fortunately, I like the last two singers, too.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo says Sarina-Joi rivaled Jessie J. Harry says “great” several times. “It was the perfect balance of loose and tight,” Keith says.
Song: “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”
My Take: Jax wants the camera to know that she's looking out for it. I love the opening, which is all sassy and coy and carefully articulated lyrics. When Jax springs off her stool and gets into rocker-chick mode, she's initially less convincing, perhaps getting over-excited, but she closes extremely well. Here's what I'll say: This is how you do a quiet-into-loud performance, as opposed to what Adanna did earlier. Jax isn't flawless, but you can feel the thought in every step she takes on the stage, in every word she sings and the exact volume and degree of rasp in every line. So if there are things that could have been improved, they're tiny failures of execution and not of imagination. And give me a singer with imagination any day.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “I love what you do. I love your artistry,” Keith says. J-Lo's sure we'll see her next week and and Harry thinks it'll be fun to watch her this season.
Singer: TYANNA JONES
Song: “Lips are Movin'”
My Take: Tyanna has a much better voice than Meghan Trainor, so this isn't really fair. The animation in Tyanna's face and eyes makes her totally engaging and she carries that engagement into her delivery as well. I think she still has some improvement to do when it comes to interacting with the crowd and navigating on the stage, but if she didn't have a wiggle room for growth, we'd get bored with her. I don't anticipate getting bored with Tyanna for a while.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry puts her in “the ridiculously talented category.” J-Lo says Tyanna's so fun to watch and that she should keep being her.
TONIGHT'S BEST: With Sarina-Joi Crowe, Jax and Tyanna Jones, tonight's episode closed with its three best performances, followed closely by Joey Cook's embraceably unique performance. For me, there was a huge gap between those four and the rest of the pack.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Maddie Walker was pageant-y. Loren Lott was stage-y. Shi Scott was wooden. And Shannon Berthiaume was too raw. But that doesn't mean that Lovey James or Katherine Winston were memorable.
What'd you think? Who stood out? And who stunk?