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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

"American Idol' recap of 1st 12 semifinalists performances: rush, rush!

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Squeezing twelve performances in 42 minutes is not easy. That's probably why "Idol" chose to pre-record it.

If that's the issue, why not make it a top 20 so the ten performances can breathe a bit? That would also enable them to do it live and maybe let America vote!

Instead, we get this absurd, unnecessary rush job.

The 12 singers, with one notable exception, were not awful. Nobody pulled off a killer Adele-level performance but a few showed they have the chops to make the top 10.

Only seven of tonight's performers will survive tomorrow's judge's cut. Five will go home.

Next week, we'll repeat with the other 12 semifinalists. Out of the final 14, judges will pick eight for the top 10. America will select two out of the remaining six.

As a viewer, I'm not happy how little power we have to decide the top 10. And the whole set up is clunkier than an Ikea instruction manual.

Jordan Sasser, who will duet with Fantasia on Thursday's episode, is the only Atlanta resident still in the running. Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be sticking around much longer.

Here are my predictions:

The six who are certain to get through based on how the judges reacted and my personal opinion: La'Porsha, Thomas, Avalon, MacKenzie, Sonika and Jeneve.

Three battling for the last slot: Gianna, Jenna, Stephany (My personal pick would be Stephany but the producers and judges seem to have the hots for Gianna.)

Three certain to go home: Emily, James VIII, Jordan

Poor Emily. She picked the wrong song and/or nerves got to her and/or she was sick. That was a performance nobody should have to hear again.

(Spoilers for the top 7 here if you dare.) These are tight performances. They each get all of 90 seconds on stage.

Stephany Negrete ("Mama Knows Best" Jessie J) - She looks like a pop star and she brings some real attitude on stage. I like her voice, too. I'm leaning toward yes. Keith: "It was good to see you on a stage. As loose you were, you could have been even looser." JLo: "You have the full package. But it still has to be connected to what you're singing." HCJ: "I felt something was missing." Grade: B-plus

MacKenzie Bourg ("Say Something" A Great Big World") - This man's a natural singer songwriter. He evokes last year's Alex Preston. Not as good a voice but a more bracing presence. JLo: "Very natural." HCJ: "The lyrics were important to you." Keith: "I can imagine that's your song." Grade: A-minus

Jeneve Rose Mitchell ("Angel" Sarah McLachlan) - I'm not sure this was a smart song choice but it was cool to see her use the harp. And I mostly listened to her vocals. She always makes unusual vocal twists and they work most of the time. HCJ felt the harp wasn't a good move here. Keith loves how she takes risks. JLo: "I was not sure about you." But she had "goosies" everywhere. Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Jenna Renae ("My Church" Maylen Morris) - I barely remember this woman. She has spirit, a decent voice and good stage presence. What's she missing? Star power. It's just not there. Keith: "I'm still curious to hear other sides of you. A lot of ying and ying." JLo: "I felt you were really in your element." HCJ: "What I liked was the energy. There's a fine line between singing as enthusiastically and shouting. Your pitch was sacrificed." Grade: B

James VIII ("Love Lockdown" Kanye West) - Another person "Idol" has barely paid attention to. Is he fodder? He brings some slinky sexiness and cool confidence to the equation. He was very steady but he needed just a wee bit more edge. HCJ said it felt good but when is going to get more complex? JLo didn't feel it deeply. Keith said it was too chill. Grade: B/B-plus

Sonika Vaid ("Safe & Sound" Taylor Swift) - The best vocalist in the competition who is clearly short on the stage presence. This felt like a very safe and sound song for you. HCJ: "Really accommodate the words even more." Keith: "Your voice is so good." Grade: B-plus

Gianne Isabella (I Put a Spell On You" Annie Lennox) - It's hard for me to take her seriously. She really does feel too young for the types of songs she sings. A good vocalist but she can't possibly put a spell on me no matter how many vocal tricks she throws at me. Keith: "Voice is undeniable... Inconsistent." JLo: "The voice is so real." HCJ: "You hit big loud notes in the right places. How can you arc your performance?" Grade: B

Emily Brooke ("I Am Invincible" Cassadee Pope) - Yikes. Her opening is horrific. Off pitch and shaky. That's her entire performance. One of the worst I've heard in ages on the "Idol" stage. JLo said it played in the wrong part of her range. HCJ: "You have to sell those lyrics. I didn't feel it." Grade: D

Avalon Young ("Love Yourself" Justin Bieber) - I love her voice and her no-makeup hoodie look and attitude. She brings brightness to this Bieber tune. One of favorites so far. HCJ said it was terrific and strong. JLo: "You had the whole audience in the palm of your hand." Grade: A-minus

Jordan Sasser (Celine Dion's "All By Myself") That's a pretty ballsy option. A little shaky at points but he does hit the big notes. Keith felt it was too theatrical and missed the heart. HCJ said he has a great voice but it was too show-offy. My grade: B/B-minus

Thomas Stringfellow goes for Radiohead's "Creep" but his vocal tics are really distracting. Truncated notes and strange enunciations galore. JLo said he sang with emotion and that worked. HCJ thought that was "tremendous." My grade: B-minus/C-plus

La'Porsha Renae tackles a tried-and-true Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" and pulls it off. A smart move to show off her soft and upbeat side in 90 seconds. HCJ calls her "captivating." Keith said she is natural. JLo calls her a joy with a voice she dreams about. I grade her a solid B-plus/A-minus



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Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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