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American Idol 15: Top 24 (Group 1)

It's finally the Semifinals Round! This is always been an exciting night for American Idol because now we finally get to see what these kids can do in a "live" setting. I mean, we’ve seen them audition for weeks and weeks and now they get to sit there and compose a performance for America.

So, the verdict for this year's first group of semifinals? I'm quite happy considering that the usual first "live" show usually has full of jitters and nerves. Sure, we still had that this year, but there were actually a couple of strong performances from this group.

Not sure what to feel about the format though and the idea that the judges will be the one to whittle down the group to Top 14, but I'm hoping that the judges will do the right thing this time - although the simple fact that they eliminated Jessica Cabral for Gianna Isabella or Jordan Sasser scares me.

On with the show!

12. Emily Brooke
I Am Invincible
Oh, Emily. This was a hard one to watch. Emily has such an amazing instrument, but she completely fell apart. There were several moments where she lost the pitch and went terribly flat and I thought she started off on the wrong key. For a contestant who spent all year trying to create a comeback narrative, I expected her to be prepared for this round. She wasn't and she could suffer for it - especially now that this isn't the same show and American Idol is going to rely more on week to week assessment than looking at a complete body of work. I'm disappointed, but she really flamed out like a spectacular shooting star. 5

11. Jordan Sasser
All By Myself
No, it wasn't as terrible as I expected, but All By Myself is one of those songs that either has to be sung perfectly or not at all. It's a vocal monster and while he managed to hit most of those belting notes, it was still a bit of an overreach for his vocals. 5

10. Gianna Isabella
I Put A Spell On You
While she sang fairly well tonight, there's something strangely empty with her rendition of the song. I don't know. It was purely vocal bombast and nothing else. The entire performance just seemed unnecessary and felt colder than my previous relationship. Haha. 6

09. Jenna Renae
My Church
While she had better vocal moments than James or Thomas, it doesn't matter. She's oddly forgettable. Not even sure if I remember her performance and I'm currently writing about it. Like, right now. Haha. The vocals were fine, the performance was fine, there weren't any glaring errors, except for the fact that it didn't come off authentic and that it was so adequate it was almost terrible. 6.5

08. Thomas Stringfellow
Here's the thing: Thomas has got a great voice, his grasp on pitch is actually pretty impressive, and his tone has way more character than some of this year's finalists. That said, he needs to tone back the squeakiness of his vocals or I will lose my mind and punch a puppy. His emotional connection to this song almost pulled me in - especially towards the end - and then the affectations came in and he lost me. I tried, people. I did. 6.5

07. James Dawson VIII
Love Lockdown
Look, this one was simple. James is a very decent singer and the way he turn up the song to create something unexpected was admirable, but he has zero charisma on stage. There was absolutely no spark between him an the audience and he will never sell records when he can't connect with anyone. Again, he was perfectly fine and the notes were mostly there, but then there was nothing else to think about except if his cheeks have always been this noticeably red. Ha. 6.5

06. Stephany Negrete
Mama Knows Best
This was a lot better than I thought and Nicole Scherzinger Stephany did an adequate job proving that she had some great vocal chops to pull it all off. However, she kept going overboard in order to make some sort of grand impression and the whole performance actually came off a tad calculated and too polished that it was almost wooden. Still, not bad. 7

05. MacKenzie Bourg
Say Something
While this was, arguably, well sung and well presented, I didn't necessarily see that magic spark of originality that I saw with MacKenzie the past few episodes. I thought his version came across as boring and plodding as you can imagine. It was a coffeehouse performance and I would have wanted to see him take a chance and do more with this tune - or better yet another song. Don't get me wrong, this was solid, but highly predictable. 7.5

04. La'Porsha Renae
Proud Mary
Speaking of predictable, who else saw this one coming? I did. La'Porsha needs to be careful with these song choices because that will make or break her in this competition. You see, singer like her do not win American Idol unless you break away from the stereotype like Candice Glover did. Yes, she did bring a lot of confidence and energy to the stage without losing the vocals and she's, arguably, very charismatic, but it was still just a strong karaoke version of the song. She's a fantastic vocalist, but she's not a transformative one. 7.5

03. Sonika Vaid
Safe and Sound
She looked tentative as hell, but there's something incredibly heartfelt about her interpretation. The power of this song is in its lyrical simplicity and Sonika was smart enough to use it to her advantage. I thought her vocals were divine with some understated melodic choices that made it all the more gorgeous. She created a nice little vocal moment that allowed her to stand apart of the rest of the finalists this week. 8

02. Avalon Young
Love Yourself
There's a certain unexplainable something a contestant should possess to be a star and I genuinely think Avalon has it in spades. I thought the song choice was genius, she continued her growth arc with a more consistent grasp on pitch and a tone that's recognizably her, and the swagger was still ever present in her interpretation of the song. I would caution her to watch out on the nasal quality of her vocals as it may eventually annoy the audience, but for now, she's golden. 8.5

01. Jeneve Rose Mitchell
Surprise! Surprise! I inexplicably written her off coming into the semifinals as I thought she had a strong competition with Emily Brooke, but tonight changed everything. This was pretty sublime. No, it wasn't perfect - there were some vocal issues here and there - but the solemn nature of her presentation complemented by her playing the harp provided some depth and seriousness that I haven't seen from her. I've always been a big fan of a restrained performance, and she just brought it. Who knew? 8.5

Emily Brooke
Jordan Sasser
Gianna Isabella
Jenna Renae
Thomas Stringfellow

Emily Brooke
Jordan Sasser
Jenna Renae
James Dawson VIII
Stephany Negrete

American Idol 15: Top 24 (Group 1) Reviewed by DAM on 3:08 AM Rating: 5

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