Saturday, December 28, 2013



1) Malcolm Allen--I like this guy in that sort of trip-hop/neo soul vibe of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. And his youtubes show John Legend, Chris Brown's "Don't Judge Me", Frank Ocean, and others. And also, he whistles, scats, beatboxes--that's a very cool touch. Nice falsetto. R&B butter swag. Has the Matt Schuler/Iman Shumpert haircut down pat. Very soulful and creative, good vocals within his box, right in the Burnell Taylor vein. I get the sense that TPTB are trying to pimp him, where Burnell failed a creative guy who owns the image more like Allen can pick it up, but hopefully they don't try to Rough Copy pander for votes by whitewashing his sensibilities to cater to the frau. We'll see how this goes.

2) Dexter Roberts--Sounds like Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia-Line. Chris Daughtry goat vibrato as well, another Southern rawk candidate. For those reasons, and the good musical sensibilities in his "Country In My Soul", I really like this guy--country swag here that's fit for modern country radio. That's a voice ready for radio. Not so sure about the image, but I'd put this guy into the lives just to see if his Daughtry-lent country vocals can get votes. That's a good experiment to test.

3) Neco Starr--A retread who made it very far before the liveshows in AI10. Pretty good  smooth R&B vocals, very recordable sound, Usher swag-image type clone which might be polarizing for the audience, but that's the tradeoff for being more current than the Motown churchy types this show likes to churn out. Kind of like an older Josh Levi, this guy really straddles the line between boyband and solo artist. Probably a solo artist, but had he done X Factor, he certainly wouldn't look out of place in a manufactured R&B boyband (like Trace Kennedey of the Stereo Hogzz in XFUS1). The falsetto high vocals is a bit boyband-y at the moment, but Ginuwine, Ray J, and other R&B types did the same thing in the early to mid 2000s. In the current music climate he's probably six to ten years out of date, because R&B isn't in the in.

4) Briston Maroney--Like a baby-faced, teen idol version of Casey Abrams. Gritty sandpaper voice that actually has a good tonal quality, but more of the vibe above anything else--check his original song "Railroad" as part of his teen band. His group is like Midas Whale--kind of like that 1840s old school Gold Rush prospector sound--with guitar, banjo, harmonica. Interesting juxtaposition of looks and music and I think TPTB will pimp him for that reason. He might struggle navigating through themes, as he might too green to handle through cover songs as part of a band, but we'll see.I'm taking that difference with this ranking, and while he *might* fit with the folk trend here and inject a folk tween in the table, we'll see. Good potential but quite a few stumbling blocks here.

5) Alex Preston--Looks a bit like Keaton Stromberg from Emblem3, which will be a great card to play to get a ton of tween girl votes. Might have fit in a boyband on XF. And also has the same emo alternative rock Yellowcard/Simple Plan/Boys Like Girls derived sensibilities, which means that he's more in the vein of Colton Dixon than David Cook as far as the "rawk" divide, so the votes might not immediately come for him. Alternates between emo beach alternative rock and a soothing uni-tone voice. Has put spins on songs from Taylor Swift (which he has done a ton of). Maybe four to five years out of date, as E3 had a few of the same problems post-show, so we'll see, but this style of music can use more representation in these shows as it is quasi-current, so that's the reason for the rank. 

6) Caleb Johnson--Very confident southern rocker voice. Clean-cut Bo Bice with sunglasses swag, much more confident Casey James type. I think he'd be great to cast--he fills a void, he brings vocal energy and good presence, and the subset of genre is something that hasn't been seen in a while. Also, while he has a cool overall sound, I'm not sure he recognizes his limitations--his screaming loud style of rock is polarizing and it can border on screaming. I think he'll encounter those problems later on, and that's why he's a third time trier--the judges also saw that. Also, I'm not sure the get-up and the vocal style is something that really gets votes for the long haul here. He doesn't seem to have the complete awwwshucks vibe that characterized Allen, DeWyze and Phillips.

7) Sam Woolf--Clear confident voice, and recordable vocals...and mad props for covering that John Mayer song. His stylistic choices are a bit generic, and might lack confidence, and probably needs seasoning. Feels a bit like youtube-cover at the moment, but there's some potential. Has a very good sound, even if a bit HAC-ish inspiration-y type, so I'd really question whether he can jam up with up-tempo stuff, since the whole vibe feels a bit singular minded at the moment. Even Allen, DeWyze and Phillips did loud up-tempo stuff in the show, so we'll see. There's the basic ingredients for a frau stampede here.

8) Ben Briley--Looks like Seabass from "Dumb and Dumber". Bit of a generic country twang, but decent sound. Plays piano and wields guitar. Takes a lot of vocal chances, going for high notes with his twang and showing veritable emotion, falsetto and screaming within his range. Song choices are a bit old school, with Elton John and the Eagles, classic rock type stuff. Seems very much like Gavin DeGraw, who is completely irrelevant in today's scene, so fairly limited upside. As a bit of a piano player, and seems like he does overextend his vocal boundaries, so there's a bit of Matt Giraud here.

9) George Lovett--AI11 Hollywood, and this is his fifth time auditioning for Idol--he's been around. Attempts to be very inspirational to the point it sounds almost Disney-esque--sounds like he has a lisp, and also sounds nasally. R&B inspirational type vocals with a good base of songs including The Fray, Sevyn Streeter and Drake, so there are attempts to be current. His voice sounds a bit churchy and a bit too cheerful in overall tone, so it sounds hard to believe. Processes his vocals, but not really to a modern effect, more like for the sake of doing it. Eh.

10) CJ Harris--Churchy rather than pure R&B type, and some of his work is sleep inducing. Really, really churchy. Youtube choices are very singular church minded and really don't show much of anything, except for one Taio Cruz song. Just decent vocals at best, try-hard in his attempt to be inspirational, but lacks vocal flourishes, dynamics and has a bit of a lazy approach. Lacks marketability.

11) Jordan Brisbane--Churchy young Ruben Studdard clone who reminds of perpetual AI9 cut Thaddeus Johnson. More eager-eyed soul type than any real soul at this stage, and needs seasoning. Melisma addict. From a structural standpoint, both in get-up and song style, lacks marketability.

12) Emmanuel Zidor--Likely TPTB is going to treat him as the joke contestant like JDA was treated in previous year. Sings a ton of Beyonce songs in his youtube, but it comes off as an imitation of those singers as opposed to injecting anything new into them. Still, better than Ethan Harris.

13) Ethan Harris--A quick run through of his youtube songs and I'm already bored. He reminds me of a Will Makar eager beaver who is trying to make music really happen but it does not really come together organically. He's very much adult contemporary with all the schmaltzy inspirational songs, with a few country twangs here and there, some belting, despite the fact that he's an East Coaster. The beats, the by the book choices, the whole get-up--it's very predictable, not marketable and try hard.

Can't rank for now:
Maurice Townsend--Jordan Dorsey/Chris Watson hybrid?
Spencer Lloyd--Cool hipster. That's points, but we need to see more.


1) Jena Irene Asciutto--Now this is what a current rawker chick sounds like. Sounds exactly like Hayley Williams rather than the approximators we have had in previous years. Her band roots shows, and likely better in a band. The whole vibe is Paramore meets Evanescence--apocalypto rock. There's an opening for this, for sure.

2) Jess Meuse--Really sounds like Patti Smith from the Patti Smith Group in the '80s. World-weary gritty rocker chick voice that's very expressive--it might be a bit dated, but with your AWOLNATIONs and Of Monsters and Men littering the scene, her folksy type of rock might fit in. Vocals tell a story. Looks like Hayley Williams from Paramore. She's probably far better fronting a rock group, but we'll see. In the vein of faux XF'er Elizabeth Grace.

3) Marialle Sellars--Looks like a pop star, but switches it up with folky renditions with a guitar. OMG17 in the words of Randy Jackson. Reminds  me of faux XF contestant Mariah YJ. TPTB probably think the combination of that=potential. Combines Tamera Foster with Phillip Phillips. We'll see.

4) Austin Wolfe--Piano player. Pretty cool voice with good original songs in the vein of Sara Bareilles. Really excels in dreary ballads, but instead of just singing it the way it was, very expressive in a way that was similar to Evanescence's Amy Lee. Recordable quality and believable emotion, especially for her age. My bet is TPTB is after this one.

5) Malaya Watson--Piano player. Very expressive upper register, especially for OMG!16 even if her song choices are antiquated and gospel shouty types like Aretha and Chaka Khan and Whitney. Has covered Ciara though, so props there. She simply needs better songs. Between get-up and song choices, and even stylistic choices, seems trapped in a time machine that took her back somewhere between 1970 and 1980. Very good expressive voice, especially for her age, is what really puts her up top here. She really, really needs better songs, even if she reeks of in the bubble contestant.

6) Emkay Brazil--Fairly unique folksy style, wields guitar. Somewhat sleep inducing at times, so I'm not sure if it really cuts through, but still, enough to be above a few underwhelming girls below.

7) Kristen O'Connor--Looks like a pop star, but like Marialle wields guitar--does guitar twists to pop songs. Very confident approach to singing, makes very good stylistic choices within songs. Has the root ingredients to be a pop type, but doesn't really have any real distinguishing qualities that cut through being generic.

8) Bria Anai Johnson--Churchy energizer bunny OMG16--Generally likes songs that swells up into big notes, in the diva way. Big voice in the OMG16 way, but we have heard it all before. Does have stage presence nad "swag", but stretches its limits from church-imposed boundaries. Whole style feels somewhat dated, and the whole schtick is overplayed in these competitions, even with the presence.

9) Kenzie Hall--I only ranked her this high because she actually covered "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore, but her voice really sounds like something that would be shoved in a girlband on X Factor. Seems to like to put Sara Bareilles-pop like twists to CHR pop songs in the Tori Kelly vein, but hasn't cut through the clutter of youtube artists that are trying to ape the same thing.

10) Jillian Jensen--Piano player. Her XF audition sounded like very forced rasp instead of something that was organic, and it was the same case for her judge's houses song. She gives every song 110% but she needs to modulate it where at least a lot of it feels more naturally organic, instead of being a bit pandering. She covers a ton of current songs in youtube, and after XF she did a couple of local shows with faux up and comers in the East Coast, so she's definitely one of the more planty contestants AI has had in a while. The whole get up seems to be like singing for youtube, or singing for fun, or singing to inspire, rather than this being organic, and her cover songs make her appear like a cover singer as well.

11) Emily Piriz--Piano type. Has a higher confident voice with musical voices that range in indie folky pop types like Sara Bareilles, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Bon Iver. But it's a bit by the book and especially with the Voice we have absolutely seen a ton of these types. Seems to ape some of the singers that sing those songs. Nothing all that special at this point.

12) Majesty York--Good churchy vocals, again, but it seems like something that just clusters like a bee to a beehive in American Idol. It just runs together to the point of interchange-ability. Majesty's work appears to be all churchy religious inspirational type music, so she's trying to represent an incredibly small niche in radio and a fairly small buying audience. That's enough to discount her at this point.

13) Brandy Neelly-Neelly is what we'd call an Idol lifer--waiting until she was 16 to audition, then auditioning every year until she actually got into the liveshows. This is her third attempt at auditioning. Very confident old school country singer, but her song choices are utterly and completely generic--from Travis Tritt, to Sarah McLachlan to Whitney Houston. A bit self-indulgent. It's like tunnel vision for the competition and not doing much outside of it. She's a bit of a pageant belter and a country twang hybrid, combining the two overdosed genres in this competition.

14) Briana Oakley--Has a controlled confident voice that can modulate but nothing that we haven't seen before from all the precocious Rachel Crows and Carly Roses that populate XF. Heck, appears like a less personable Rachel Crow, and sings a bit like her. Her youtube just reveals that she likes old fashioned belting songs. Good for frau voting for precocious girls within the show, as seen by Jacquie Lee, but off the show? Disaster. We've seen this type before.

15) Andrina Brogden--Good voice, but her song choices are at the bottom of the overdone scrap heap diva belting type songs like Whitney and Alicia Keys. By the book stylistic choices within songs. Nothing to work with here.

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