Forget JLo's crying: Rosen & Alaina emerge as worthy favorites in Idol's longmarch to top 24
After weeks of Hollywood rounds, a new Beatles challenge in Las Vegas and a set of comically long walks down the “Green Mile” (in what appeared to be an airport hangar), the top 24 contestants were finally revealed this week on American Idol. Props to the producers for giving almost every one of the successful contestants a fair amount of airplay — though it meant three whole hours for the reveal — and for generally cutting out the drama. Even Jennifer Lopez’s much buzzed about “breakdown” after Chris Medina's elimination felt as sincere to me as it did milked.
At the end of it all, we have an interesting and technically solid group of semifinal contestants, distinct and polished in a way that reminds me of the Season 7 cast. With so many big voices and personalities, the key to staying on top will be finding ways to make powerful, genuine connections to the music. As Jennifer so aptly put it: “Now we gotta see what you guys’ messages are as artists. What do you have to say? Do you believe what you’re singing?”
Next week we enter the live rounds as the 24 contestants are whittled quickly down to 12 — or 13. Lets take a quick a snapshot of the group that will sing for your votes:
The Chosen Ones
It’s tricky business being an early front-runner on Idol: every year one or two “anointed” contestants face early backlash from the public and the near impossible task of living up to initial hype. This year’s batch includes Robbie Rosen, Julie Zorrilla, Lauren Alaina, Jacob Lusk and Casey Abrams.
Robbie and Lauren have impressed me equally — Robbie with his skilled combination of confidence and musical instinct, and Lauren with her ridiculous, raw natural talent (for her inexplicable Barbie-meets-tacky-cowgirl fashion sense, I will just have to forgive her).
Julie’s first audition with “Summertime” left me thinking “style over substance,” but we’ve since seen shades of subtlety from her, like on her superb “Something" duet with Tim Halperin. Jacob is one hell of a singer, but his notion that every performance demands every ounce of his voice is ill founded and unfortunately perpetuated by the judges (seriously, Randy, his “God Bless the Child” was the best performance of all Idol seasons?).
And Casey? When you not only have flawless pipes but can fully — fully — invest in your performances the way he does, you have my vote.
Blink and you might have missed Paul McDonald,Lauren Turnerand Kendra Chantelle these past few weeks, seeing as the talented trio received little to no airtime. That’s a shame, because each shows promise and originality. Paul’s quirky, nuanced voice is unlike anything we’ve heard before on Idol. His “Blackbird” duet partner, Kendra, is equally intriguing, with a voice that teeters delicately between soul and country (does she remind anyone else of Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott?). And Lauren infuses some much-needed grit into the pool of girls with her bluesy, muscular voice.
Let’s just remember that we didn't hear so much as a snippet of season nine winner Kris Allen’s voice until the live semifinals — anything’s possible, folks.
Hailey Reinhart seems to be taking a page from Jacob Lusk's playbook; her oversung performances have been so squeezed and stretched that you can barely understand what she’s singing about. Joining her in the questionable decision camp is the inconsistent Tatynisa Wilson, the unremarkable Pia Toscano and the why-can’t-I-figure-out-why-I-don’t-like-her Thia Megia, whose technically proficient performances have left me cold.
And then there are two of the most polarizing contestants of the season: James Durbin and Scotty McCreery. The rocker displays an impressive range and an admirable drive, but I still don’t hear brilliance — or correct pitch — from him. The latter sang a spot-on version of (surprise!) Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train,” but there’s something detached about his persona that I can’t quite put my finger on.
And the Rest
Rounding out the rest of the Top 24 are:
- Unique performers Rachel Zevita, Naima Adedapoand Brett Loewenstern
- Powerhouses Clint Jun Gamboa and Jordan Dorsey
- Smooth-toned Jovany Barreto and Stefano Langone
- Big-voiced Karen Rodriguez and Ashton Jones
- And singer-songwriter Tim Halperin
Quote of the Night
“I’m here to prove that people like me can be sexy”
-Casey Abrams before his delicious, bass-accompanied take on “Why Don’t You Do Right”
Get more of Tara Seetharam's pop culture musings on her website www.taraseetharam.comand follow her on Twitter @TaraAshley.