Breathless, Bold and Bluesy, the Dozen Ladies Take the Stage on ‘American Idol’ Season 11

by on January 19th, 2011
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It was going to be a tough night for the girls taking the “American Idol” stage for their first vote Wednesday night, since nary a negative word was launched against any of the guys’ Tuesday performances, and the chopping block is bound to make ruthless cuts to get the count to the Top 10, then adding a vote for each of the judges to have a pick to make it Top 13. Some sang as never before under the pressure, and others could hardly breathe. Who were the queens of the night?

It was almost painful to see young North Carolinian Chelsea Sorrell struggle with nerves on her grand night. Her “Cowboy Casanova” may have been intended to stir recollections of Carrie Underwood, but she could hardly carry the lines, and sang through her nose like we never heard through any of her auditions. Being so young and under the gun has got to be tough, and will the voters be tough on a girl who’s a good shot? The judges tried to be kind, with Steven Tyler urging her to “belt it out” on her next song, if she gets the chance. Erika Van Pelt picked a can’t go wrong stand by with Heart’s “What About Love,” and she looked great and strutted her stuff with confidence, but Jennifer Lopez wanted her to “push it” a bit more. This singing DJ left no doubt, though, that her intent was to rock “Idol” to the Top 10. Jen Hirsch melted a few hearts with her profile featuring her “dogter”, Sadie, and she was the first lady to bring some heat and “let loose” as J-Lo phrased it on Adele’s “One and Only.” She’s definitely got pipes deep as the Amazon, and looks like one next to host, Ryan Seacrest, too. She has competition with her song, though, and it may be tough to vote between the two. Brielle von Hugel was a favorite of the crowd and the panel, as she pranced in her hippie chic dress, doing Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ by the Dock of the Bay” with bluesy richness and reverence. She got the highest praise from Randy Jackson, who said her performance was a surprise even to him, before calling her his cherished endearment, “Dude”! Hallie Day hearkened back to the days of the torch singer with “Feelin’ Good,” looking like a cross between Deborah Harry and Marilyn Monroe casual. Baltimore waitress said that seeing the faces in her audience soothed her in her song, but Randy questioned if her selection represented the kind of artist she wanted to be. Good is still good, in any genre.

Nobody told Skylar Laine that country girls couldn’t rock, because this Mississippi firecracker stomped the stage something fierce with a raunchy “Stay with Me” and did her share of head-banging to bring it home! Randy Jackson called her a combination of Reba and Kelly Clarkson, so voters likely will call her good enough to stay. Texas girl, Baylie Brown is beautiful as a Galveston sunset, but her performance of Lonestar’s “Amazed” seemed like a rehearsal instead of a money performance, and the judges couldn’t help but remark about its shakiness and loss of control. She commented that her racing heart wouldn’t let her catch her breath, and this second chance at the “Idol” title may be ending early yet again. Steven Tyler could only comment that she was pretty, and that she is, but it takes more than looks at this stage in the game. Hollie Cavanaugh has always been the little girl with the big voice, and this year she got her chance at the top, and she went for it all with Christina Aguilera’s “Reflections,” prompting Randy to say she tried to “slay the biggest Dragon of the night.” She nailed every note, so now it’s up to the tally. Are you going to say “No” to another girl with such a cute dog? Coffee barista, Haley Johnsen, bit off too big of a song with “Sweet Dreams.” You have to bring the goods to dare tread on the turf of Annie Lennox, and she lost her way. The first really harsh words of the night came from Mr. Jackson, who named it “trainwrecky,” so Haley has to throw herself on the mercy of telephones and texts. Shannon McGrane made a bold statement with her selection of Kathy Troccoli’s “Carry Your Candle,” offering a song of faith into the most mainstream of stages, and she carried it off and captivated everyone. Jennifer Lopez confessed to getting “goosies,” and Steven Tyler said she took it “upstairs,” while Randy Jackson simply called it “swingin.’” The bet is that voters will call Shannon “staying.” Jessica Sanchez ripped into “Love You I Do,” adding a growl that no one had heard in her Broadway-bound sort of performances. Battling illness brought her extra vocal fortitude, and brought everyone out of the seats for standing ovations. This girl “saings,” and the world knows it now.

Jersey girl transplanted to South Carolina, Elise Testone, closed the night with a sultry, smoky “One and Only” of her own, and made it as unique as the room service flower arrangement she absconded for her hairstyle. Her voice and style were at their bluesy best in black from the piano, and left the night with an infectious, lingering memory-it would be shameful not to see more, and hear more, of this lady who sings the blues.

See who’s voted to the Top 13 Thursday on FOX.

Source: “American Idol” telecast, Feb. 29, 2012, FOX TV.

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