'American Idol' semifinals recap - a bevy of blah week 2 (VIDEOS included)

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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It's another one of those one-hour quickies. "Idol" again sped through 12 performances in an hour.

Even before the show, I picked seven I thought the judges were already favoring: Dalton Rapattoni, Jenn Blosil, Olivia Rox, Shelbie Z, Trent Harmon, Lee Jean and Tristan McIntosh.

After the show, I am still confident those will be the top 7. While CJ Johnson put in a passably good performance, I just don't see that as enough to supplant any of the others.

Unfortunately, with the exception of maybe four performances, tonight was a sea of so-so singing and forgettable song choices. Harry Connick Jr. was pretty dissatisfied with most of them. Keith Urban, while more chipper, kept on harping on bad song picks. Tough night overall.

My rankings for the night:

  1. Dalton 2. Olivia 3. Lee 4. Trent 5. CJ 6. Shelbie 7. Adam 8. Amelia 9. Manny 10. Kory 11. Tristan 12. Jenn

Shelbie Z ("Work Harder Play Harder" Gretchen Wilson) - She has stood out by being a mix of rock and country, singing Heart songs. This time, she takes an artist who is known for her aggressiveness and she is just a wee bit too laid back. It may also be the song but this performance lacks fire. The judges tend to agree. Grade: B

Manny Torres ("Adventure of a Lifetime" Coldplay) - This is a song without a great hook or melody. While he puts on a decent stage and vocal performance, like Shelbie, it comes off fairly forgettable. A less-than-great song didn't help him at all. HCJ dings him for not really connecting with the lyrics. Grade: B/B-minus

Kory Wheeler ("Let It Go" James Bay) - Compared to Bay, his voice is a wee bit too light and frothy for this. He's pleasant and his eyes are pretty. Like the first two performances, this was passable but nothing to write home about. HCJ: "It was pretty good. It wasn't great. It wasn't particularly special or moving." JLo: "It was the most comfortable you were on stage." Keith liked his mix of confidence and vulnerability. Fodder. Grade: B-minus

Amelia Eisenhauer ("Wake Me Up" Avicii) - Decent sultry opening but it felt a bit calculated. She perked up once she hit the main part. Still, I didn't really feel it as much as I wanted to. Keith said she was trying to mix things up. JLo said she's a "special girl" but didn't like the song pick. HCJ said she needs quirkier songs. Grade: B/B-minus

Jenn Blosil ("Sorry" Justin Bieber) - I have had a hard time connecting with her. I don't particularly like her voice or "quirky" personality. At least she knows how to emote properly. HCJ: "You're a breath of fresh air." But he said it was very out of tune. Keith commended her originality. JLo said it was a risky arrangement but she did fix it partway through. C-plus

CJ Johnson ("I'll Be" Edwin McCain ) - I don't think this guy has any star power whatsoever but this was a good vocal performance. It was the most energetic of the night. Keith liked it. JLo said it was a great song and vocal. HCJ: "What I recommend is make sure you sing it in tune." Grade: B/B-plus

Lee Jean ("Runaway" Ed Sheeran) - He has a great voice, wonderful tone. I've liked him every time I've seen him. And this confirms that. Keith didn't like the song choice. (I tend to agree.) JLo said he sounds great and has rhythm. "It's all working. Everyone is picking songs that are not big hits everyone wants to sing along with." HCJ said should practice playing and singing at the same time. Grade: B-plus

Trent Harmon ("What are You Listening To" Chris Stapleton) - A bit too much vibrato for my taste but he brings soul to the equation. JLo: "When you sing, it really gets to my heart." HCJ said it wasn't the best Trent. Keith liked the song choice. Grade: B-plus

Tristan McIntosh ("Good Girl" Carrie Underwood) - She has a pretty good voice but there's something very undeveloped about her. Every time I see her, it feels very high school pageant. The last note was solid. JLo said she seemed to be thinking too much but loosened up toward the end. HCJ said she's super talented. He likes her singing loud. Bad news is most folks are doing "okay" performances. Keith: "You have so much talent and you look like a million bucks." Again, he didn't like the song choice yet again. Grade: B/B-minus

Adam Lasher ("Black and Gold" Sam Sparro) - He has been virtually ignored by "Idol" producers. Given the blah performances today, he brings at least a smidge of edge to the proceedings. It felt consistent but needed just a bit more kick. HCJ: "You know very well that was a shuffle. There's a certain intensity. It's your job to set the groove for them. I felt like you were a buoy on the ocean. You were wishy washy on that." Keith: "I'm baffled why you'd choose that song." JLo: "It could have been better." More fodder. Grade: B

Dalton Rapattoni ("Rebel Yell" Billy Idol) - He adds even more angst to an angsty song. This dude has charisma, which made this more compelling than it deserved to be. And the crowd reaction? Wow! JLo looks relieved. Someone finally brought it! "That made me feel someTHING." HCJ: "A phenomenal performance. A great interpretation of that song." Keith: "You never disappoint." Grade: A/A-minus

Olivia Rox ("Confident" Demi Lovati) - She has some star potential. She's confident, pretty and magnetic. She is also chipper to a fault on stage. But you know exactly why the producers gave her the pimp spot after many many so-so performances. HCJ: "Really really strong. Only nitpicking. Make the rhythm paramount." Keith: "And the show starts now!" JLo: "You have to get that inner rock chick out." Grade: A-minus

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho