American Idol Vegas Round (Part 1) Recap: Sudden Death and the Maidens [Updated]

american idol season 12 top 40 girls vegasA few of the details might’ve varied, but tonight’s installment of American Idol was, at its coal-black, mercenary heart, a less dusty reenactment of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

Oh, sure, Ryan Seacrest went with his standard, “This…is American Idol!” intro (as opposed to the more ominous “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dyin’ time’s here“). And no, there weren’t any feral, bloodthirsty ragamuffins in the front row (just some smiling or occasional booing family members of the contestants). But there was indeed a chiseled Australian dude (sporting better highlights, a more exacting ear, and a shaper sense of humor) and a dominatrix overlord (played by Nicki Minaj instead of Tina Turner).

Make no mistake, though, the “two men enter, one man leaves!” carnage was no less brutal or bloody. Ten wannabe Kelly Clarksons entered the Las Vegas stage that typically houses The Beatles: Love show, but only five advanced to the semifinals and a chance to find out if America’s speed-dialing populace wants to hold their hands, so to speak. (Ten of the guys will compete Thursday night, then 10 more ladies next Wednesday, and 10 more guys next Thursday, leaving us with 20 semifinalists in total.)

The 120-minute telecast featured only a few full-fledged train wrecks, but three or four performances which hinted that — with a little improvement/confidence boost — our Season 12 winner might possibly be in the house. If a secondary story arc emerged, it was the exceptionally salient feedback offered by judges Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj (and occasionally Mariah Carey). Let’s hope these highly paid individuals continue to “knock it out of the park” and earn their salaries instead of falling back on empty “that was beautiful”/”you look beautiful” platitudes favored the last two years by Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

As for Randy Jackson, on a night where blood spilled freely as a Game of Thrones battle scene, the “fourth judge” somehow managed to avoid being told “goodnight” by Keith and sent to a hasty, tearful retreat down the exit ramp of doom. Oh well, there’s always Thursday night, or one of next week’s episodes, right? (Yes, Nigel Lythgoe, it’s never too late to trim the panelist whose feedback is a haphazardly welded combo of whatever Nicki and Keith already said.)

Anyhow, let’s cut to the set list for the first “sudden death” episode in Idol history — along with my letter grades for every performance:

Jenny Beth Willis: Trisha Yearwood’s “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love” | As someone who’s covered Idol for a living for nine years running, I pride myself on having a pretty good recall of the show’s myriad contestants and their bodies of work. Alas, though, aside from the fact that girlfriend tried to make a public case for the ghastly union of pink tulle and black lace, all other details of her performance have already washed away from my memory banks like common decency and good judgment from the brains of a Kardashian. (Oh, don’t be upset — I’m just kidding: The Kardashians don’t have any brains!) Grade: C+

Tenna Torres: Natasha Bedingfield’s “Soulmate” | In all fairness to Tenna, I’ll admit I had as much of a problem with her piteous song choice as I did her actual vocal. I mean, really, you want to make your first impression on Idol voters with the lyric “most relationships seem so transitory”? Why not sing a few lines from the U.S. Tax Code or the list of ingredients in a can of Red Bull? Anyhow, despite the judges’ praise for Tenna’s “vocal control,” I heard quite a few rough patches in the lower notes of the opening verse, and some hinkyness of tone when her voice opened up on the big, belty parts of the chorus. Still, I’ve got to hand it to Nicki for pointing out that Tenna’s super-heavy hairstyle aged her by a good 10 years. Since she’ll be back on our screens for the semifinals, here’s hoping she also scraps the severe blue eyeshadow and troweled-on clown-blush, too. Grade: C

Adriana Latonio: Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” | I’m not sure why Ray Chew and the Idol band gave Aretha’s R&B classic such a tinny, soulless arrangement, but Adriana brought to it a rich, husky tone and a relatively unfussy delivery that catapulted her from potential cannon fodder to legitimate contender. Keith and Randy’s standing ovation perhaps set the bar a tad low for that sort of thing — what the heck would they have done if confronted by Joshua Ledet’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”? Showered him with hundred-dollar bills? — and left me wishing the judges had instead used their time to give the 17-year-old some constructive advice. Like, for instance, she ought to tackle something upbeat and current on Top 20 night to avoid any dismissive pigeonholing as an old-fashioned or outmoded balladeer. Grade: B+

Brandy Hotard: Travis Tritt’s “Anymore” | I have to admit it took me a few seconds to realize that Brandy hadn’t been tied up in her dressing room and replaced by The Bachelor’s crazy/vicious recent evictee Tierra LiCausi. (Seriously, I wouldn’t put anything past Tierra if it earned her more primetime exposure. Also: She and Brandy could totally be cousins!) Unfortunately, though, that kind of backstage drama wasn’t available to add a little spice to a vocal that was as basic as an egg-and-cheese sandwich at your local diner. Brandy wasn’t terrible by any stretch — as Mariah noted, she had some lovely moments in her middle register — but the psych nurse’s flaws, however, allowed Keith and Nicki to flex their astuteness. The former noted an “emotional-connection inconsistency,” while the latter wondered “why are you smiling when you’re singing ‘my tears, my resistance’?” In Season 12, a “pageant delivery,” as Nicki called it, just isn’t going to hold up. Grade: B-

Shubha Vedula: Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” | Shubha’s performance was as a little like her silver space pants: Not entirely right, but certainly not boring. I loved the way she began “Born This Way” while seated at the piano, slowing the Gaga track down to a cabaret-style ballad. After just a few bars, though, Shubha was on her feet — and the arrangement took on a stiff, midtempo vibe that found the 17-year-old over-enunciating and shimmying arrhythmically while throwing in run after unnecessary run after unnecessary ruu-uh-uh-uh-uhnnnnn-uh. Still, while Keith was right that the performance became “confusing” by virtue of Shubha trying to “cram a lot” into a 90-second window, it has to be pointed out that she deserved credit in three areas: Hitting a good 90 percent of her notes right on the nose; showing some real creativity in reimaging a well-known hit; and choosing to go uptempo on a night dominated by ballads. Alas, though, the judges weren’t quite ready for such a complicated jelly, choosing safer (but blander) performances over Shubha’s flawed but daring effort. Grade: B

Kamaria Ousley: Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know It All” | I hate to side with Randy Jackson on anything, but he was speaking the truth when he said there was nothing redeemable about Kamaria’s vocal this week. As Nicki pointed out, it was as if the experienced background singer decided to put some “throaty-twangy” effect on her voice — my notes read “sounds like she’s swallowing a giant vitamin while singing” — and barely hit a single note in the process. I mean, things were so grim I was actually relieved when Mariah dug deep into her bag of “say something nice” and complimented the woman’s shoes. (Fashion side discussion: Should Idol keep Kamaria on staff to help Kree, Tenna, Adriana and Amber pull their looks together? I’m voting “hell yeah”!) Grade: D+

Kree Harrison: Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” | I’m not sure I quite concurred with Nicki’s assessment that Kree made sweet love to “Up to the Mountain” this week — to me, she sort of tapped into its positive life force via some kind of musical Reiki — but it definitely was the climax of the first Season 12 Vegas telecast, if you’ll pardon the expression. Kree’s got a wealth of experience in her voice and a casual weariness to her delivery that sets her apart from everyone else in the competition. I loved how Keith highlighted that while Kree is being labeled “country,” that there are clear blues and Gospel influences in her voice as well. And just as important, girlfriend never oversells a note or forces a run. If Kree is willing to take some risks with unexpected song choices and daring arrangements, there’s a chance she could do one better than the woman who first brought a Patty Griffin tune to the Idol stage: The incomparable Crystal Bowersox. Grade: A-

Angela Miller: Jessie J’s “Nobody’s Perfect” | Angela certainly ranked among the week’s Top 5 vocals, but I found it fascinating how the judges focused mainly on the self-penned track she performed during Hollywood Week rather than on what she did with a Jessie J cover this time around. “Don’t overdo it. Don’t force anything,” pleaded Nicki, without ever coming out and saying that there more than a few moments where Angela’s vocal got overly bombastic and threatened to veer off pitch. A little constructive criticism about contrasting big notes with softer touches might’ve helped. On the plus side, though, the Massachusetts teenager stalks the stage like a seasoned veteran, and wore the heck out of that little black front-button romper. Grade: B

Isabelle: Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” | There’s no doubt Isabelle’s got a beautiful, robust voice, but I felt like she threw more runs into “God Bless the Child” than Usain Bolt’s entire track-and-field career. That lack of subtlety extended to her phrasing and her peculiar rhythmic choices, too, making the whole number seem as labored as Kree’s felt effortless. As Mariah noted, Isabelle might’ve fared better with no accompaniment aside from a simple upright bass and piano. A last name might not have hurt, either. Grade: C

Amber Holcomb: Rodgers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” | And finally, from The Office of Contestants Uncle Nigel Has Made Sure Were Neither Seen Nor Heard Over the Last Two Months of Idol, we welcomed the very lovely and very talented Amber Holcomb to the stage. I mean, if you’re beasting through a song so easily that Mariah Carey threatens to smack you, then you know you’re doing something right. And indeed, Amber knew exactly when to press down on the gas (vocally speaking) and when to ease up — the contrast between her simple notes and her complex runs was delightful. No, her phrasing was not as delicate or refined as Melinda Doolittle’s back in Season 6 (thus my initial instinct to give her a B, not a B+), but if I’m being fair, Amber is a different kind of singer. I’d like to see what the kid can do with an uptempo Amerie or Toni Braxton track. Heck, she might even be able to take one of Britney Spears’ classic melodies and infuse it with 100 percent more humanity! The good news is, if she continues down the path she began tonight, Amber should have plenty of time to show us what’s in her bag of tricks. Grade: B B+

And on that note…

¡RESULTS!
Put through to the Top 20 by the judges: Tenna, Adrianna, Kree, Angela and Amber.
Eliminated by the judges: Jenny Beth, Brandy, Shubha, Kamaria and Isabelle.
Robbed: Shubha (Okay, the performance was a little peculiar, but at least it wasn’t dull!)

With that intel in your ears, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of the first Vegas round of American Idol Season 12? What did you think of the judges’ feedback in a live setting and how did you feel about their decisions? Who was your favorite? Did Shubha get robbed? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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289 Comments
  1. *I think tonight was pretty successful. I think Kree, Angela and Adriana had great nights. I think Tenna was the weaker of the Top 5, and I think Amber has potential but didn’t win me over completely yet. I think Isabelle and Tenna were just as good as each other, and both had off moments, so that was a toss up. I think all in all it there were very solid decisions made.

    • Bruce Wayne says:

      Angela wins and with her own original songs.

      The season is over as of tonight. Everyone else is participating to be runner-up.

      • The Beach says:

        Hmmm…I seem to remember saying the same thing about Katherine McPhee at this point in her season.

      • Name That Tune says:

        Angela has charisma but she may have peaked too soon. She may hang around maybe make the top 5, but she’s from the North East.

        The real threat is Kree. She is a country artist from the south. Her major competition is Janell . I don’t think we are going to see more than one guy in the top. &I’m guessing he will be either Charlie Askew or Paul Jolley. So a Kree vs Janell finale won’t surprise me. With Candace as the #3 singer.

        • forrest says:

          Wishful thinking. ‘in a perfect world’ – ah, but the voting public will choose a white guy with guitar. Prove me wrong Nigel.

          • Name That Tune says:

            Going to be hard to do that. You willt see at least 2 WGs cut tonight. I think the only 2 WGs left will be Paul Jolley & Charlie Askew. Devin Vekez is a good Puerto Rican name &we know that Lozaro is from Cuba
            So those are your choices as the WGs this year. And I haven’t seen either one of them break out a guitar. One is a nerdy guy, the other is gay (so they say). One sings country music , the other doesn’t. They are both from the south. They have a good choice of making it to the top 4 but the deck is stacked with talented girls from the south. The kind of girls that produced the commercial success of Carrie & Kelly.

          • deedee says:

            Not when they eliminate all the good contenders, forrest.

      • Mary says:

        I thought her performance last week was better than this week, I think Kree might just sneak in there for top contender, especially because the producers are trying to hard to make it happen and I hate to say it but it will backfire on her, not fair, but the truth.

      • deedee says:

        Nonsense. Angela might soon be a victim of her own over-hype. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, she may need to deal with Andrew Garcia syndrome – constantly trying to live up to her audition performance, and never quite matching it again.

        • deedee says:

          **my above “nonsense” post was in answer to Bruce Wayne.

        • beth says:

          my thoughts exactly. I got worried when she decided to sing a Jessie J song(THREE times now) last night. when the judges were all blabbing about her original song audition—classic Andrew Garcia syndrome right there. I fell in love with Kree instead. i hope things will get better for Angela though.

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Oooohhh…Andrew Garcia and “Straight Up”. I also loved Garcia’s audition – he sang Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning”. It was all downhill after “Straight Up”.

    • Tedatbent says:

      Totally agree that it should have been Isabelle over Teena. Shubha needs another year to work on her stage presence. Did anyone else notice that Teena looks like she could be the daughter of Stacy Francis from season 1 of X Factor?

    • Dane says:

      I don’t know what is up with Tenna… I thought she was awful on group night.. and she less than average with her solo. I am wondering WHY they are keeping her. I can’t help but feel it’s a ‘casting’ decision rather than a talent decision.

      • KB23 says:

        Don’t know if this has been posted yet but I think the reason they are keeping Tenna is because she attended Mariah’s singing camp – Mariah wants her – so to keep the Queen happy she has been put thru this round – once America starts getting the vote she will be one of the first to go!

    • syb says:

      Yeah I agree with your top 3, although I felt Angela wasn’t quite up to the other two. I was not as impressed with Amber either. Too-oo many ru-uns..

  2. Pat says:

    Isabelle was robbed more than Shubha. Isabelle’s got a BIG voice. What the hell did Tenna (who I will now call Threea due to her 3/10 vocal) do to advance?

    Amber, Adriana, Angie, and Kree all deserved to move on in my books.

    • HTGRWHOM says:

      Tenna had a good voice although it wasn’t my style and it didn’t excite me, but she wasn’t bad vocally.

    • Amber says:

      Tenna’s voice was fine, but she bored me to tears. I agree that Isabelle was robbed more than Shubha, but overall I thought the judges did good with who they sent home.

    • Guitar Blue says:

      Agree, Isabelle was better, has more to offer in the long run.

    • Mary says:

      I think the producers are trying to mix it up so the country singers are not going to take away votes from their chosen one. I personally enjoyed her more than Tenna but I don’t think she would of lasted that long.

      • Elaine says:

        Absolutely would have picked Isabel over Tenna. 100%. Gonna miss Shuba. I really enjoyed her. Too bad she picked the wrong time to overdo it.

  3. Josh says:

    I loved Shubha in other rounds but she was HORRIBLE tonight…The judges were right. She did way too much…but saying that, overall, counting overnights and just her voice in general tonight, she is better than the girl that was sent in over her. But that was a hot mess.

    • Evan says:

      Agreed, but she’s shown more talent than most of the girls tonight (say, six or seven of the ten) have shown us. I’d certainly put her in over Adriana and Tin-Eared Tenna.

      • Evan says:

        I should say though, that once I get beyond the opening to Tenna’s song, I think it gets better. I kinda even like it.

        • Tom22 says:

          Teena’s make-up and hair was very off-putting to me. I played back the song with my eyes closed and I was really pretty impressed. She was very connected to the lyrics .. with my eyes closed I pictured some girl singing the song in very plain clothes.. maybe without even make-up singing from the heart.

      • Joy says:

        Shubha’s mad talented, and creative to boot, but I think we’ve also seen that her judgment is very hit-or-miss — which would almost certainly end up sinking her by the time we were a few weeks into the finals. On the other hand, given her age, her judgment is almost certainly going to improve by leaps and bounds over the next year or two, so she could be a solid top-five contender (at least) next time she tries out. At that point, I think she’d have a much better chance at coming away with a recording contract and real career than she would have this time around. So I’m actually glad that they cut her now, while she’s still eligible to come back — maybe she and Brandy Neelly can room together in the Idol mansion next year. :-)

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Good point, Joy. I would have kept Shubha or Isabelle rather than Teena Torres, but the judges probably did them a favor by cutting Shubha and Isabelle now.

        • Tommyo2000 says:

          Agreed … Right thing to do … Think if they would have cut Hollie Cavanagh last year and said work on it more … she would be back this year and a favorite to win the whole thing … same with Candice … her cut was unfair last year, andno way she makes it to the top six last year … This year she does …

    • ado4586 says:

      I wish Shubba would have stayed at the piano and infused the vocals with some East Indian runs (she gave a hint of it 2/3 into the song and it grabbed my attention.) If she had done that arrangement, the end result would have been more artistic, shown off her vocal prowess, and made her more distinctive from the pack. And I bet she would have been chosen to move on.

      Michael – If you have Shubba on your Idololgy show, can you request she do this?

  4. David7118 says:

    Tenna over Shubha? Worst decision of the night!

    • bj says:

      I totally agree!

      • bj says:

        The problem I had is that Shubha didn’t get any help or guidance from the choreographers whatsoever — someone could have helped her out a little on the dance move front. Her vocals have always been solid though. Tenna on the other hand has barely squeaked through in the last round. That was the only mistake on the top 5 in my books. Tenna conspiracy maybe at play?

        • Mary says:

          I know it is a conspiracy theory but I think producers are putting in a few how should I say it, not fantastic performers so they will be voted off first and hopefully the top contenders will make it through to top 20, or shall I say who they see as top.

          • LeahKittyS says:

            That’s not much of a conspiracy theory. They do that every year. It’s only fair; send some good ones home so they can come back when the competition isn’t as tight.

          • Tom22 says:

            Dito with Lenn. They always have some “fodder’ who can easily be ignored compared to better singers that appeal to the same demographic/music style group and also get some votes based on talent from outside their demographic/music style group.

            One tricky thing will be that Pillipino’s watch the show in out sized numbers and vote in even more out-sized numbers. From the all the extra and positive screen time on top of superior voices it is pretty clear that it will be Angela, Cree, Janell, and Candace that make it to the final 10 . That would leave one spot up for grabs, and with that voting block Adrianna will have a major advantage to edge into that last spot over the rest of the six who haven’t been pushed as hard.

        • Mafs95 says:

          I believe that one of the factors they put Tena in the Top 20 is her age (28), but it can also be because they need cannon fodder so their favourite ones can achieve the Top 10.

          • Stacey says:

            Agreed. She can’t come back next year. But someone like Isabelle or Shuduba could, and use the year of seasoning. Although I would have picked Isabelle instead of Teena or Shuduba. But being 28. As she said in her package, she had hit the age limit. And it was a complex song. Although next to Jenny Beth, it was better by next to Isabelle, it was still weak. But they need medicore like Teena to be able to be voted out. Although coming from Alaska, and being Pilopino, might get Adrianna voted through the finals…

    • ben says:

      Cutting 40 to 20? I don’t think so. Gotta believe there will be some reprieves here for people who are ‘eliminated’, to get the number up to 24. So it’s not a surprise to me that there might be some ‘snubs’ at this point.

      • deedee says:

        There’s no top 24, though. They’re putting 20 through to a voting round, and then the voters will eliminate half for a top 10. The only thing that might happen after that is a wildcard round for a top 12 (even though Nigel insists there will be no wildcards this season).
        .
        But I guess you could be right – they might have the wildcard round before top 20, and put 22 or 24 through to the first live vote. Oh, who knows what they’ll do, haha. Sometimes they just make up the rules as they go along.

        • ben says:

          Yeah – it’s not what they say, it’s what they do. I simply don’t buy it’s a top 10, not a top 12 (at least). When is the last time they had fewer than 24 go before America for a vote? It doesn’t seem likely to me. But then, who knows, I can be surprised.

          • deedee says:

            Is that what they’ve done in the past – put 24 in front of America to vote? Or do they get their top 10 through America’s vote, and then add 2 (or more) wildcards? I honestly don’t remember past procedure. (??)

  5. John says:

    with 40 people you’re gonna get some bad ones, that’s expected.

  6. bj says:

    Hey Slezak, you’ve got a typo on it’s never “too” late :) Great recap. It was a solid show.

    • Michael Slezak says:

      Gah! Fixed!

    • krh240 says:

      Also, I don’t think Crystal was the first to bring a Patty Griffin song to the idol stage. I think that was Kelly Clarkson, who sang “Up to the Mountain” during Idol Gives Back in 2007. Kree’s version last night was essentially the same arrangement without the impressive belting and with one or two unique runs. I think Crystal’s, too, pales in comparison to the original idol’s, but at least she did something different with the song.

      • J says:

        You’re right Kelly Clarkson was the first to sing Up to the Mountain on Idol Gives Back. And Kree copied Kelly’s arrangement to the note.

  7. Mel31602 says:

    I am likely in the minority but I don’t get the appeal of Adriana or Kree. Would have cut them and kept Shubha and Isabelle. Those two plus Tenna were my faves of the night (interested to hear why you didn’t like her, Michael). But Even though the judges made me mad w their dismissal of Shubhas risk I appreciated their constructive criticism and detailed notes

    • fortheloveoflanguage says:

      I don’t get Kree either. Shubha I think would end up like another Shannon Whatsherface from last season. Over rehearsed and trying too hard.

      • The Beach says:

        I thought Kree was very good on her song…not Crystal Bowersox great on the same song, but good. I also thought that as good as Amber was on My Funny Valentine she put in too many runs and not enought nuance. Melinda Doolittle is still the gold standard for that song on Idol.

    • Mary says:

      I guess it different strokes for different folks because I never cared for Shubha at all and tonight just validated my feelings.

  8. deb says:

    Do not agree with advancing Tenna who I felt was being advanced on previous performances but thought they were pretty awful too.

  9. Jasmine says:

    Something fishy is going on with Teena. She’s been terrible from the get-go. In my opinion, it’s 100% the Mariah Carey Camp story. Shame Isabelle went home and not Teena. Shuba was atrocious tonight.

    • Stacey says:

      They need to put a subpar one in, so it’s easy for her to get voted out in the top 20. Since only five females (pending any wildcards) goes to the finals… Teena or someone else would be more easily voted out… Unless they have American voters support.

  10. sg54 says:

    Yes, she did get robbed! It irks me so much that Shubha left and Tenna stayed. As a matter of fact, both Isabella and Jenny Beth would have been better than Tenna. Not only was Shubha’s performance interesting and different, but she had the vocal power to back it up. Sure, she seems like one of those contestants who imitate their idols, but that is not always a bad thing! Tenna’s performance had so many flat notes, not to mention her tone isn’t nearly as refined as some of the other girls that went through. She seems inauthentic.
    Other than Tenna, I love the five that were chosen. I love the new Vegas week because the contestants get extra practice performing for a live audience and we find the true talent early on. More group rounds would have prevented that. And these judges are on fire! Keith and NICKI and Mariah and even Randy sometimes! They know what they’re talking about, and even though i definitely disagree with the sometimes, i’m happy that they’re telling the truth and giving helpful criticism. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

    • HTGRWHOM says:

      Jenny Beth and Shubha were two of the worst tonight. Perhaps Shubha did enough on other weeks but that is another matter.

      • vincentdante says:

        Jenny Beth is mad talented but inexperienced with the kind of pressure Idol brings. If she gets more seasoning, I’ll probably see her again in a few years on this show.

  11. Annie says:

    Shubha deserves another chance. She was messy tonight, but so far, as always, the girls side lacks diversity. They need someone who isn’t afraid to skip doing a ballad every week.

    • LeahKittyS says:

      Which is why I’m kind of glad she was cut now. The competition is so tight now; if she was put through tonight and then voted off, her fate would be sealed. Now she has another chance to come back and try again.

      • teatime says:

        That is a good point. With Isabelle (I think it was Isabelle) they made a point of telling her this is not her year. It seems like we are still early in this competition but the next time we see any of them will be the first voting round. So no one can come back next year once they make it thru this stage.

  12. Teeny Bikini says:

    I really, really, really love Keith and Nikki judging. Wow, just to have some honest feedback changes the whole show for me. They even made Randy raise his game to something – that was not completely dumb – I mean for you for me. You know? I think I love this show again – I can’t believe I just typed that…

    • Mariah had a tough time tonight. She started with those “you look beautiful tonight”, “what did you think of your performance” annoying stuff that Jennifer Lopez did when she wanted to let some people down, instead of just being straight up. But then again having to go 4th out of 4 people that pretty much said what you wanted to say or close to it makes it tougher. Maybe during Live Rounds they will rotate, like they did last season with the judges. Makes it a bit fairer, and it allows each judge to have their own opinion rather than sometimes just tag-teaming with another judge. Loved Nicki tonight. A lot.

    • Joline says:

      I actually thought Mariah was great! She was nice with a couple cliches but liked her advice to Angela to keep writing, the first contestant about singing in her register and Kree getting lost in the song. A thousand times better than I ever expected.

      • Teeny Bikini says:

        For sure. And I think it’s going just keep getting better.

        • Matty says:

          I wish Nicki was half the judge Michael Slezack seems to think she is lol. All I saw was quite lot of repeating or rephrasing Keith’s comments. And being blunt doesn’t make her the most honest judge. I know it makes for good tv, but it’s not necessary. At least Simon made it amusing at times, but Nicki just bugs me for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s because I feel like she’s trying too hard to stand out as a judge, or she’s really not qualified to be there, or most likely both, but I just can’t take to her for some reason. I will say that at least she toned down her crazy a little tonight and was far less annoying than her usual.

      • forrest says:

        Ms. Lopez started out strong with insightful critiques at this stage of the competition. My hopes were high. And we know how that turned out. I am surprised by Nikki. Being first to opine gives her free reign to be totally on the mark or totally off in left field. She’s not afraid to be critical. Hopefully she continues this. Good job. I agree being third or fourth in line does mean you may be repeating what has already been offered, but you can still support what has been said before. Just sayin’.

  13. schu says:

    I came into this episode half way through and did anyone else that did the same have no idea what was going on? I couldn’t tell if it was actually live or not since there was a studio audience and at the end I was completely baffled at why there had only been 10 girls who performed, it was on for 2 hours right? All I was thinking was, “Where’s Candice!?” Maybe I really just phase out any time Ryan tries to make things all dramatic since I’ve heard everything he’s ever said the past 12 years (not to say he isn’t a good host). I was just so confused by the setup of this round. I must say though, Nicki is thoroughly impressing me with her judging/public persona, but other than her, I really feel like this season is kind of sinking, especially since Randy is still around, he really is just the worst.

    • teatime says:

      Only 10 of 20 girls performed tonight. The other ten perform next Wednesday. For the guys 10 are performing this Thursday and the other 10 next Thursday.

  14. HTGRWHOM says:

    OK, with what down, shockingly I agreed with Randy maybe as many as 8 times, sometimes agreeing with him even when he went against others!?! (although I did see some signs of he will still be willing to say anything if he needs to to fit the program)
    .
    The two I cared about the most tonight were Angela and Kree and they made it.
    .
    The three that struggled the most tonight, Jenny Beth, Kamaria and Shubha didn’t make it.
    .
    I wasn’t as down on Brandy though.
    .
    I’m stunned Shuba got a B above! She was well off track and weak tonight. Maybe the B is counting other weeks as well? Because tonight that was just not good, although stronger than Kamaria.

  15. Jon says:

    They intentionally cut Shubha so she goes back next year.

    • Timmah says:

      I kind of had that same feeling, that they really liked her but felt she needs another year to mature. She’ll definitely have a better shot to win next year.

  16. Missme says:

    Oh wait. You mean Idol cut the part where the contestants come in one by one and they sit with the judges and they tell them if they’re through or not?

    What???

  17. Annie says:

    So glad Brandy and Isabelle are gone. This is the first night I’ve watched and man, even though those 2 can sing, I was like “they are going to annoy me FAST if they make it through”. Too pageant-y and with irksome personalities. I picked the top 5 pretty easily based on tonight’s performances.

  18. Scott says:

    I thought the choices were pretty good. Whoever said upthread that Shubha was a hot mess tonight was spot on. She was throwing everything out there hoping something would stick. Sorry — that’s distracting. I thought Kree was the best of the night, and I love Funny Valentine, and it was sung well, so those two were gimmes as far as I am concerned.

  19. teatime says:

    Michael, I enjoyed your write-up more than I enjoyed this episode. The show was a bit of a snoozer tonight. Hopefully it is all up hill from here.

  20. Jordan Stacey says:

    I was texting my mother during the show and predicted the top 5 during the commercial after Amber went. I loved all the top 5 except Tenna, she wasn’t horrible like Kamaria or Shubha but she was bland. I honestly don’t see her making it into the top 10, if they really cut it down like they said they’re going to.

    Amber was awesome and definatley the best of the night for me, Adriana was really good too and I couldn’t believe they haven’t shown her up til now. Kree and Angela are just great no more needed. I would’ve switched out Tenna for Isabelle, she was a little old fashioned but she had a better voice than the rest of them.

    I felt so bad for Jenny Beth Willis, she was obviously not ready for this stage of the competition and it makes me wonder how she got so far over some more promising talent they showed cut earlier.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      That was odd about Jenny Beth Willis – Trisha Yearwood is one of the more accomplished vocalists in country music. Jenny was trying to sound like her but unfortunately she just paled in comparison. She wasn’t as bad as Kamaria Ousley, though.

      • The Beach says:

        I agree on both counts. Trisha Yearwood has a fantastic voice and Kamaria was dreadful. Were any of her notes on key?

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Not many. Kamaria’s vocal seemed very forced and it distorted her vocal. I don’t know if she plays the piano but I think she would have done better to sit at the piano, slow the tempo down a half-beat, and dial back the volume.

  21. Phan says:

    I’ll go out on a limb and say that based on the performances, the right 5 went through.

    I don’t really think Tenna will make it past the Top 20, but tonight she brought conviction and looked polished, despite being out of tune in spots. If I were to compare her to Shubha, I would have split the difference. Shubha’s young, didn’t know exactly how to rearrange that song, and took too much of a risk. Tenna does not have the voice Shubha has, but Tenna knows what to do with her voice; Shubha needs more experience. Hopefully the contestants that get cut here can come back again.

    Isabelle also had a better voice than Tenna, but Isabelle was clearly rooted in standards – she sang Summertime twice, and now GBTC tonight. She wasn’t going to grow out of that.

  22. BarbL says:

    I’m confused. Last I knew there were 20 girls, but only 10 are shown singing, and tomorrow the boys sing? What happens with the other 10 girls–do they sing next week? What did I miss?

    • Dee (@Prima_Donna) says:

      Pretty sure they said girls tomorrow, and boys next week. But I could be wrong and maybe it’s girls/boys/girls/boys. (10 a night to get 40 down to 20)

      • HTGRWHOM says:

        they said guys tomorrow and then the other half of guys and girls next week

      • Name That Tune says:

        It’s guys tomorrow. They filmed the boys tonight & it’s already been leaked who they cut & who’s going through. They will shoot the rest of the girls next Tuesday (expect a leak by Tuesday evening &the rest of the guys next Wednesday (with a leak by Wednesday night (,

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Thank you for not posting names!

        • deedee says:

          Yeah, Timmah. The spoilers are a bit depressing, imo, but I’ll live ;).
          .
          For some reason, I’m not really getting into this season. Something feels “off” for me. :-\ . Maybe it’s the over-manipulation to stack the deck in favour of the girls. Sure, the show always manipulates shamelessly, but this year it feels way overdone – all in an effort to break the winning ‘Caucasian males who play a stringed instrument’ streak (not writing the annoying acronym). It doesn’t help that I find most of the girls uninspiring so far. Some of them actively annoy me. This is reminding me of how I felt about season 9, which ended up being the only year I didn’t watch every episode of the show.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            I’ve had that feeling the entire time, deedee. “Girls, Girls, Girls” (hey, that was an Elvis Presley song). I ended up loving Casey James from season 9. he wasn’t the greatest vocalist but he was absolutely the best stringed instrument player Idol has ever seen and his album is very good!
            By the way, you all are making it really, really difficult to not look at the spoilers.

          • deedee says:

            Hmm, I forgot that Casey James was on S9. Too bad, because he was very good, and on any other season I might have been rooting for him. But my apathy toward S9 extended to him as well. Kara’s drooling was also a massive turn-off for me, btw, Blech!

    • teatime says:

      10 guys tomorrow. The remaining 10 girls next Wednesday. The remaining 10 guys next Thursday. We vote the following week.

  23. duke says:

    Kree, Angela & Amber were fantastic and Adrianna was good!

  24. Dee (@Prima_Donna) says:

    I still don’t understand how Tenna made it passed group rounds, let alone advance to the Top 20. Poor Shubha! Maybe it was cluttered, but I still liked it. Especially that bit at the piano and the eastern influence in the arrangement and some of her runs. Here’s hoping she gets a wildcard, as long as no one I like more gets cut! But besides that, I was happy with everyone else who advanced. Kree and Amber were my personal highlights!

  25. BarbL says:

    I absolutely loved Amber’s performance, and Kree did great too. I was disappointed with Shubha, but hopefully she’ll try again next year. I thought the judges made a mistake with Isabelle. In general, the girls are strong this year, and I’m enjoying AI more than i anticipated.

  26. Teeny Bikini says:

    I am watching the taped show now. The only singer I care about now is Kree Harrison. Love everything about her. I mean – dayum. I just watched her performance 4 times. I love her.

  27. Jules says:

    Nicki, Keith and Mariah were all interesting, on point and constructive tonight. Who knew??

  28. Shubha was robbed, definitely.

    • Stacey says:

      It was upbeat sure. But there was too much pushed into the performance. Although I disagree with the judges, I though she got better when she LEFT the piano.

  29. Owen says:

    Kree was very good. But the ONLY girl that excited me tonight was Amber.

  30. marie says:

    For me, I’d have kept both Isabelle and Shubha over Tenna, but not sure who I’d cut of the remaining four to do that.
    The real standout for me was Kree, whom I hadn’t really noticed up to now.
    I had been apprehensive about the format change, anticipating a situation as on The Voice, which I quit watching in part because I didn’t like the judges having so much power, but tonight I realized that this change actually allows us to hear mite full performances than we otherwise would have with the former Vegas show format. Whittling down to 20 vs. 24 is not such a big deal, so I have to say this “sudden death” format is fine with me.

  31. Dan says:

    Who do I have to kill to get someone to sing an up tempo song?

  32. pylgrym says:

    Randy really hits the jerk–o-meter when it comes to his long draw out negative speech on someone who went through, I wanted to B# slap him. Wanted Brandy to go through-so she smiled-you dump someone you better be smiling. Don’t think judges should give standing o’s, it’s a dead giveaway.

  33. EVPandHC says:

    I thought Shubha was atrocious. That was a terrible arrangement. Yuck!

  34. James says:

    Loved loved amber’s take on my funny valentine. Adrienna was amazing. angela wasnt that great tonight but her original song carried her through.Shuba had a horrible arrangement of born this way.

  35. Jess says:

    Thankfully they didn’t edit Mariah out of existence like they have been; and, yeah, going last out of 4 means it’s hard to say something that hasn’t been said.

  36. Matt says:

    Stuff like this shows Mariah has been funny and engaging but has been heavily edited:

    Why wasn’t that stuff shown in the episodes?

  37. Lourdes says:

    Slezak, can you find out whether contestants cut during this round are allowed to return to compete in future season?. Because Shubha really deserves to make it to the live rounds. Such unaffected charisma and a wonderful voice!

  38. They can come back next year those who are cut this week and next week.

  39. Callum says:

    Dang, I did not like Tenna at all. I would’ve put Isabelle or Shubha in before her.

  40. Teeny Bikini says:

    Wow. I think Isabelle was robbed. Tenna, girl, I hope you do better – ’cause this wasn’t your best…

  41. Waffles says:

    Isabelle should have stayed and Tenna was awful and should have been dumped. None of the five selected tonight excite me. If this is supposed to be the girls’ year the next five better be a lot better than what we heard tonight.

  42. Msmoore says:

    I’m with Nicki here: I’m in love with Kree Harrison. She is the real deal.

    Also: way to go new judges! I feel like the first time they comment live is always a big test and Keith and Nicki get A++ from me and Mariah maybe a B+. It’s funny, she’s by far the biggest star but she seems very nervous and self conscious on the panel. There were a couple of times she broke thru that; maybe she just needs to get one live show under her belt.

  43. Matt says:

    What are you all seeing in Nicki? Please give me an example of 2-3 comments she has made that could actually help a contestant improve.

  44. Natalie says:

    Up to the moutain is on my most played list, that song is just so amazing to me. Kreme really did it justice and I didn’t really feel any of the other contestants as much as her. She was my sweet redeemer.

  45. Dan says:

    Even though Shuba’s arrangement of Born This Way was strange and she over sang, she did isn’t sing a single sour note. Tenna is another matter…

  46. teatime says:

    This was Nikki’s best look.

  47. Billie says:

    Adriana was amazing but she reminds me of an early Pia Toscano or even early Jessica Sanchez having tendencies of pageant mannerisms. Good thing, she can really emotionally connect though.

  48. forwarddad says:

    I absolutely cannot stand Angela.! While she has a pretty powerful voice her stage presence is so damn annoying. She looks like a contestant in a Miss America pageant. Think she may have a problem connecting to the tween girls.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Do what I did – close your eyes and listen to her, LOL.

    • Name That Tune says:

      LOL. Angela will be the “shocking elimination” of Season 12. Wrong demographic for this audience. And it won’t be the tweens. It will be adult females over the age of 34 who will be her undoing.

    • deedee says:

      She drives me crazy, too. Like one of the perky people who lived in “Seahaven” – the town in “The Truman Show”. (“and if I don’t see you later, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!”)

  49. Name That Tune says:

    You could tell by the edits Idol loves Angela & Kree. They favor Tenna (not sure why). Of the remaining 10, you know they love Cristabel, Candace, Janelle, &Melinda. That gives us an interesting decision. Do they give that final spot to Zoanette?

    We’ve seen so little of Adriano & Amber. Not sure if we’ll get much chance to get to know them.

  50. Bob says:

    I’m shocked to see so many people on here who loved Amber’s performance. I thought it was dreadful. Folks, go back and listen to Melinda Doolittle’s profound rendition of “My Funny Valentine” for comparison purposes. Melinda INTERPRETED the song. All of her choices were spot on. There was restraint and nuance along with the fireworks. It was an absolute thing of beauty. Amber paid no attention to the lyrics. For her, every line was merely an opportunity to try out some random vocal theatrics. The rendition was all over the place and nothing about it felt right. She also missed many of the big notes. I fear this season is going to be hard to watch. The fact is, no one on the panel is qualified to judge singing, and they are all ridiculously biased in favor of the belters, whether or not they can carry a melody or interpret the lyrics in any way.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I’m with you, Bob. I thought it needed to be dialed back several notches. It’s not an 80s power ballad. Amber had the potential to be a good vocalist – just not on that song.

      • The Beach says:

        And once again we agree. I’m starting to become very afraid:)

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          :-)
          Honestly, last night’s judging was an easy call, IMO. It’s clear from reading the comments most people are in agreement with the judges, although based on what we saw here many believe either Isabelle or Shubha should have gone through rather than Teena Torres; however, I do agree with the folks that think the judges may have done Shubha a favor, as she can come back next year. The same goes for Isabelle – I don’t remember how old Isabelle is but she’s younger than she looks. Not that she looks old – she just looks more mature than Shubha.
          .
          Adriana and Amber were good but I always find it a tad distressing to see these young girls singing old songs. It’s odd since I love both of those songs. I just can’t put my finger on it – at least they didn’t wear a Lennon Sisters/Lawrence Welk ballgown. I found it interesting Isabelle was criticized for being “old fashioned” and “pageanty” (or something along the lines of pageanty), yet there was no such criticism for Amber and Adriana, although I think the judges did question Amber’s song choice. I do understand the need to sing a song that shows off your vocal ability, which was Brandy Hotard’s undoing. For those that aren’t country fans they should listen to the original “Anymore” by Travis Tritt. Tritt is not the greatest vocalist in the world but man, can he put feeling into a song.
          .
          Back to my “young girls singing old songs” comment – I guess that’s what I liked about Shubha. People either loved or hated Shubha, but she stepped away from the Diva Ballad Catalog, sang a contemporary song, and at least tried to do something a little differently. I hope she comes back in a subsequent season and knocks it out of the park. I really like her. Okay, I’ve droned on long enough. Shutting up now.

    • deedee says:

      I’m with you, too! We’ve been spoiled over the years by truly great singers (like Melinda Doolittle), so Amber’s level of okayness just doesn’t cut it.