Our writer and Idol expert, Andrew Rogers is back this season covering the popular FOX reality show, “American Idol“. The pressure is on and the stakes are high as the musical competition searches for a real superstar in its fourteenth year. With weekly recaps discussing the contestants’ performances and choices, Rogers looks ahead at what’s in-store each week in his exclusive Idol recap series.
Season 14 started with a bang. After a summer filled with discussions of a slimmed budget, personnel changes (goodbye, Randy Jackson) and a potentially different format than last year, we knew little of what to expect and the first few minutes of Wednesday night’s episode seemed to follow that same theme.
Ryan told us we would get a preview of the Top 24 before the auditions even began. My initial reaction was surprise because I thought that would ruin the suspense of the auditions—which of these talented singers make it? But the preview we got was far more interesting than I expected. We got to hear the 24 singers that will grace the big stage in a few weeks time sing the classic “Feeling Good” (by Nina Simone) together, but not see much more than a few glimpses—some unique hair colors, fashion and some voices that stood out from the crowd. The result was a good way to hook the usually heightened audition watchers into sticking around for a few more weeks. That, combined with a totally new intro to the show and you can color my interest piqued.
Then we launched in to the auditions and they followed relatively the same, successful fashion as last season. There was a focus on the talent, giving each singer a chance to sing a significant portion of a song before the judges cut them off and delivered their verdict. Only a few “duds” were shown, but we also saw some real talent with real potential. Here were some of my favorites:
Cameron Bedell (Age 26) singing “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne – Ray LaMontagne is a super stylized singing and always seems to have longing in his voice, so I was worried but intrigued when Cameron chose one of his songs and he didn’t let me down. He had some beautiful licks in his voice that showcased technique and range that, I hope, will serve him well in the next round.
Kory Wheeler (Age 26) singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt – The judges said it perfectly when they said Kory sings “like” some people, but there’s no one quite like him. I’d recognize that sigh in his voice the second I heard it on the radio and I think that’s what makes “The Guy From The Coffee Show Across the Street” so interesting. He has the emotion, the voice and the look.
Michael Simeon (Age 20) singing “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith – Michael won a few brownie points with me (and probably the audience) for slow dancing with J.Lo, but that gimmick aside, he handled Sam Smith’s power ballad of late 2014 with an ease that makes me thing he has talent. He could have oversang it, as I’m sure many people in the audition rounds did, but instead he held back and let his lower, softer voice and guitar speak for him. And it spoke volumes.
Emily Brooke (Age 15) singing “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood – I, like the judges, had reservations when Emily said she’d be tackling one of Carrie’s biggest songs. It’s a song that’s easy to oversing and beat the audience with a mallet, but Emily did just enough to the song to show that she had some great range – low in the voices in and higher and crystal clear in the chorus, and I think that is why Harry proclaimed her as “the one with the most potential” after she left. Because she’s young and knows what she’s doing. She can only grow from here.
We also saw Amber Kelechi Walker (Age 15, singing “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley), Priscilla Barker (Age 19, singing “Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker) and Riley Bria (Age 17, singing “Georgia Woods” by Keith Urban). I thought while Priscilla had a unique tone, it wasn’t rock solid all the way through, which gave me reservations. Riley, like the judges said, sung well but needs to dig a little deeper to convey the kind of emotion Keith does when he sings his own songs. I need more than just a basic rendition of a song. And Amber, while she has the “music saved my life” back-story that had me weeping, she has a lot of growing to do so I hope she makes good on her promise to Harry to give the competition everything she has.
Overall, it was a good first night of auditions and actually left me wanting more, which is something Idol hasn’t done it a while. Normally it frustrates me, or gives me two hours of filler and by the end, I’m glad it’s over. This time, it left me looking forward to Thursday night’s broadcast, so kudos to Producer Per Blankens on that one.
Who were your favorites from night one? Share with us in the comments below.