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.
The American Idol audition tour stopped in JLo’s hometown—down one judge but up one new judge taken directly from Idol’s uber-talented alumni pool: Mr. Adam Lambert. I’ll get to what I thought of Adam’s presence on the panel in a bit, but first let’s talk about some of the standout auditions we saw tonight:
Jax (18) singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles – The judges hit it on the head for me when they said this girl had a quiet confidence about her. She’s good and she’s sure of it, but she’s still humble. That alone made me like her, but combine it with her “my dad was firefighter during 9/11” back story and you have a potential front-runner.
Najah Lewis (20) singing “Payphone” by Maroon 5 – Najah definitely has the look. She dresses well and presents well and reminded me of successful contestants in the past like Season 7’s Syesha Mercado. But there’s something more contemporary about her – armed with her guitar and toning down Maroon 5’s megahit to the point that it drew you in, just like Harry said. I’d stop if I heard her in the subway, for sure. Definitely a cool contestant.
Qaasim Middleton (18) singing “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder – Qaasim’s rendition of this Stevie classic was everything and a bag of chips. He sang it well, he beatboxed and scatted the parts without words. He’s a one-man band and I can totally see him tackling some other big hits on the way. I think he might be someone to keep an eye on. His personality makes him really likeable.
Travis Finlay (20) singing “Stay” by Rihanna – I totally understand why the judges swooned over Travis’s voice. It was strong, soulful and, despite having heard this Rihanna song a million times, he breathed new life into it. Travis is definitely the type of contestant Idol likes, looks and personality-wise and his strong voice bodes well for the amount of time he has on this show.
Hollywood Anderson (23) singing an original song called “My Best Friend” – Like the judges, I did not expect “Hollywood” to be quite as brilliant as he was. His original song was moving and his delivery of it was spot on. I believe I heard Harry mumble something about wanting to record it right on the spot and I agree. Hollywood has an interesting voice that could make him stand out from his competition.
Besides the five I’ve highlighted above, we also got some other interesting characters. I don’t think Sinatra impersonator Sal Valentinetti (19), who sang “Fly Me To The Moon” has much more up his sleeve. I thought a few of the others we saw, like J. None (24) who sang “My Perogative”, Shi Scott (19) who sang “Valerie” and Eric Lopez (19) who sang “Show Must Go On”, are polished enough for the competition.
I did, however, agree with the judges to put through returning country girl Maddie Walker (16) who sang “Suitcase”, who showed improvement over last year’s audition, as well as their decision to let Nick Fradaini (28) who sang “In Your Eyes” go through, but not his girlfriend Yanni (23) who sang “Cups” go through, based on what we saw.
As for the judging panel, I think Adam was a welcome presence on it. He gave good feedback to the contestants, whether he was saying yes or no, and I think that’s important for the sake of their personal growth. He was also fun and his critiques were refreshing. I would be more than fine with him returning later in the season, either to judge again or maybe to mentor the contestants. I will say, however, tonight I also realized just how far JLo has come since her first season as a judge. She now gives great, wholesome critiques and has her own opinions and I think that’s part of the reason that this panel of her, Harry and Keith has turned into what I would consider a very successful one.
Anyway, with that aside, I want to hear your take. Who were your favorite contestants tonight? Let me know in the comments below.