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The 3 Gs of American Idol: Week 1, Part 1

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In a departure from our normal content, we will be guiding you through this season of American Idol from The A Cappella Blog’s perspective. We’re going to do this through the 3 Gs format.

Great/Good: Represents my thoughts on the best performance(s) of the night—these are the starmakers, the tearjerkers, the ones we’re all going to remember.

Gone: Represents my thoughts on the contestant(s) who I think is most likely to be going home (not necessarily the one I think should be going home).

Give it a second look: Represents the act(s) you might not remember, or that we might not have expected much from, but which delivered just the same, and deserve another listen.

Here are my thoughts from tonight’s episode:

GREAT

Lilly Scott weirds out with The Beatles. Particularly in these early weeks, American Idol is not about being the best, but about standing out. In this performance, Lilly was both in the upper echelon of the night’s performers and, by far, the most distinctive contestant. This was the perfect song choice to assert her individuality and start developing an alt-chick-rock niche among voters. What’s more, she actually sounded good for the duration of her performance, which is more than half of tonight’s field can say.

Katie Stevens is “Feelin’ Good.” While the little idealist in me wants to think that the performance order for this show is truly random, it can hardly be a coincidence that acts like this tend to get the money spot, wrapping up the night. This performance reminded me of Kelly Clarkson in season one, Jordin Sparks a couple years ago--not so much in terms of style or voice, but in how she carried herself. Katie was classy, confident and professional. What’s more, she’s young and beautiful, and as much as this is a singing competition, those factors never go unnoticed. The icing on the cake came when she respectfully accepted all the nay-saying from the judges about how the song choice was too old for her, further establishing herself as humble and likeable. Mark my words, Katie will go far in this competition.

GONE

Paige Miles is not looking so “All Right Now”: So, the judges were pretty keen on the night’s first competitor, which some folks may think will lead her to safety. The problem is that she got just enough praise that voters won’t feel desperate to help her survive, and she was otherwise unmemorable. Her position on the show only amplifies that. On top of all of this, she just wasn’t all that good, spending her entire performance striving to be the big, bad belting diva, which is a crown that others—most notably Michelle Delamor on “Fallin’”—soundly displaced her for. Paige’s prospects are not looking so good.

What about Janell Wheeler?: Janell, you’re a pretty girl, and you covered Heart, which will generally place me in your corner as an Idol contestant. To be frank, she had the opposite problem of Paige—rather than the relentless power vocal, we got the girl who never went big. The result was not only a mediocre performance, but probably the single most forgettable number of the evening.

GIVE IT A SECOND LOOK

Didi Benami insists that you take her the way she is: OK, so, as the judges pointed out, “The Way I Am” was probably a bit too mellow in the context of the first live Idol of the season. What they failed to acknowledge, though, was that she offered up the most unique vocal stylings of the night. Didi took Ingrid Michaelson’s quirkly pop style, and turned up the quirk a bit more. I felt that Didi’s interpretation of “Terrified” was one of the truest highlights of Hollywood Week (and so much better than the Katharine McPhee’s original), and I think she’s establishing herself as someone who knows how to picks songs to complement her abilities. Her standing in the competition got hurt a bit by having Siobhan follow her, representing a similar vibe, but Didi remains a real diamond in the rough at this stage of the competition. Give her a few more weeks, and she’ll really be turning heads.

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