‘American Idol’ Recap: Reviewing the Top 12 Girls

Welcome everyone to night two of the American Idol Season 11 Semifinals! Let’s face it — Tuesday was a bit of a disaster as far as talent goes, but thank god the girls came along when they did. This is completely the opposite of what happened last season, where the boys delivered an incredible semifinals show while the girls, although still great, weren’t quite up to par. When we thought all was lost for Season 11, the girls come along and prove that tonight’s results show is going to be one hell of an upset whatever happens. So many talented individuals are going to be cut this evening, so please don’t swear you’ll never watch Idol ever again even if your favorite goes home. It’s impossible to stay away for very long! After watching the Top 12 Girls perform, I began to get really excited about the season. In fact, can we have three girls from the Top 13 come from the Wild Card Show? Please, Uncle Nigel?! I doubt it’ll happen (Jennifer is OBSESSED with DeAndre Brackensick AKA Tree of Life), but a guy can dream! Let’s dive right into the performance show that may finally prove the women have as strong a chance of winning as Season Six had, the last season where a girl won (five years ago — that’s old even by Reality TV standards!). Check out my reviews of each of the talented women (with a few exceptions) after the jump!

12. Haley Johnsen, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Eurythmics) — In all eleven seasons of American Idol, I don’t think Randy and I have ever been so much in agreement about a performance. Haley was already cannon fodder before the semifinals began, but she dug her own grave by singing a song that failed to showcase her voice. Whatever intricacies Jennifer may have suggested were drowned out by the band, and Haley sounded flat and terrible throughout. With the stage lit in green, it was like she was impersonating the Creature from the Black Lagoon. She certainly sounded like one. Everything about this performance was a cacophonous mess with a song choice that was not only bizarre but downright risky. Turns out Haley isn’t much of a gambler, because her luck will run out tonight. You can bet on that!

Performance Review: (*)
Want to watch something scarier than a horror film? Check below:

11. Baylie Brown, “Amazed” (Lonestar) — Baylie Brown delivered a performance that was so American Idol 101, it was cringe-worthy in its complete blindness to its mediocrity. I didn’t even detect any country undertones from Baylie’s rendition of this Lonestar hit, and that’s the type of artist she is trying to sell herself as. Everything about Baylie felt robotic and stilted, like she just won a pageant and was about to go join her fellow Stepford Wives of America. I wonder if she even heard how under the melody she sounded, how incredibly off-pitch she was when hitting the high notes. The funny part is, we’ve seen enough of Baylie to know she is a better singer than she demonstrated last night. This was the worst time for Baylie to display her most horrific vocal of the season. I thought she was a seasoned performer, but like I predicted last week when I said she may not match her hype, the Idol stage swallowed her whole, refusing to let her perform on it’s surface ever again after result’s night.

Performance Review: (*1/2)
Can it get any more boring than this:

10. Chelsea Sorrell, “Cowboy Casanova” (Carrie Underwood) — I might have found this enjoyable if I was at a karaoke bar and saw Chelsea wailing out a Carrie Underwood jukebox hit, but on Idol‘s big stage, it seemed so wasteful and amateur to choose a song that does nothing but wallow in average anonymity. It didn’t help that Chelsea seemed incredibly nervous while wailing her way through the song, and she really had a difficult time connecting with the audience. The girl can sing and hit all her notes to perfection, but the connection was missing somewhere along the line as if a wall of ice blocked us from Chelsea. I wanted to like Chelsea because I knew her goose was cooked performing first, but she failed to make anyone take notice. Like Chase Likens the night before, Chelsea’s performance, while vocally not the worst, was probably the least memorable. I think this country girl is about to fall off the saddle when the result’s are announced, and I doubt a Wild Card selection will come to her rescue.

Performance Review: (**)
If you don’t mind some above-average karaoke, maybe you’ll enjoy this:

9. Jen Hirsh, “One and Only” (Adele) — I think the drinking game of the week on Idol would have to be how many times we’ve heard the Brit sensation’s songs be mostly battered to the point of unrecognizable. One performance later in the night slightly remedies the Adele abuse, but Jen Hirsh is just one contestant I have never understood. With so much unnecessary praise that came her way throughout Season 11’s run thus far, not to mention last night’s glowing reviews, I think I need to call 1-800-HELP ME UNDERSTAND! Seriously, why are Jen Hirsh’s screaming wails so delightful, or her pulled faces that seem both desperate and painful, something to be lauded over? I am slightly having a panic attack knowing the judges will fight for Jen Hirsch to make it as their Wild Card choice with the end result being a 13th or 12th place finish. I’d hate to think Hallie Day would be a sacrificial lamb to save this overrated shrieker. She clawed at Adele’s song with agony to my ears, and I just want to understand what’s the big deal with Jen Hirsh. I’m dying to find out, because my ears certainly haven’t discovered it.

Performance Review: (**)
Tell me if you think I need an earwax removal kit:

8. Brielle Von Hugel, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” (Ottis Redding) — This girl never had a chance thanks to her obnoxious mom that obliterated any ounce of likeability from Brielle. Brielle was my dark horse going in, but I’m not sure that a decent, yet ineffective version of Ottis Redding’s classic Motown hit will garner in any new fans. The song choice did nothing to define Brielle as an artist. She certainly can perform, but at this stage all the contestants can perform to some level, so even this feat isn’t as essential as before. I can’t help but think if Brielle had picked a more interesting song to show her style off, things may have been different. Nope, the mom still would have been the lynchpin to her downfall. The fact that the judges didn’t even voice Brielle as a standout when Ryan asked all three who their favorites were of the evening means Brielle has no Wild Card shot come tonight.

Performance Review: (**1/2)
Listen to Brielle’s swan song below:

7. Erika Van Pelt, “What About Love” (Heart) — Erika certainly is a lot stronger than I had previously imagined. She has a powerful voice and knows how to balance it’s pop sound with rock inflections. She’s definitely going the route of Kelly Clarkson and Pink, and I think she would be a nice addition to their music scene. Unfortunately for Erika, her version of Heart’s beloved rock power-ballad was delivered too straight-forward. I would’ve wanted to hear the arrangement changed up a bit, or Erika to inject some more soul and angst instead of just the meat and potatoes approach she delivered. It was such a sound-alike version that I have a feeling it got lost in the mix of decent performances, and was probably forgotten by night’s end. I am teetering in my predictions on whether Erika will be a Wild Card choice, but stay tuned. There may yet be hope for this rocker gal.

Performance Review: (**1/2)
Check out Erika’s not-so-different take on Heart’s Classic Rock Ballad:

6. Skylar Laine, “Stay With Me” (Faces) — This little rascal of a country performer had already sparked my interest during Hollywood Week, but now she’s won me over fully. I dig the honky-tonk vibe she gives off which feels surprisingly refreshing. I much prefer her to last year’s Lauren Alaina who, although had a better voice, was not nearly as energetic and confident on stage. Skylar’s song choice may not make me run for the tissue box, but she certainly knew how to entertain and make viewers at home get their groove on. I could have used less spastic shaking and a slightly more poised approach, but Skylar isn’t afraid to be anything but who she is. If there’s one country star that’s probably going to steal a lot of votes this season, let it be Skylar Laine. I think she has a great chance of making the Top 13.

Performance Review: (***)
Skylar’s boots were made for walkin’ and voice was made for singin’. Check her out:

5. Elise Testone, “One and Only” (Adele) — If Elise’s voice wasn’t overwhelmed by emotion during the second half, she might have cracked my Top 3 of the night. I love her soulful rock sound that is really a throwback, but at the same time fairly relevant. Of anyone in the Top 12 Girls, no one seemed to want this opportunity as bad as Elise. Even though I had predicted her as cannon fodder during last week’s Top 24 Announcement article, she may have just crawled her way into America’s hearts. There was something so earnest about her commitment to Adele’s song that when she was on the piano, she sounded every bit the legend she could possibly turn into. Elise has to keep her emotions in check and have deeper control over her vocals, but she’s definitely one who will grow on me as the season progresses. Having the pressure of ending the night on a great note, Elise exceeded that expectation and proved to me she is one we should all be inspecting closely.

Performance Review: (***)
Watch how Elise puts Jen Hirshs’ version of the same Adele song to shame:

4. Hallie Day, “Feeling Good” (Nina Simone) — How Hallie Day managed to pull off not only my most hated overused Idol song, but as well my most hated song of all time, with such panache is beyond anything even I can comprehend. Damn, girl, damn! Hallie’s opening verses really brought me back to a jazzy era in a dark nightclub. She reminds me of a cross between Veronica Lake and Jessica Rabbit with her luscious looks and sultry voice. Was I in a film noir, and Hallie Day the femme fatale who lured me in with a seductive, entrancing  voice? It certainly felt that way. The performance would have been perfect if Hallie didn’t fall off-key near the end, but she is definitely a performer, and like Jennifer Lopez mentioned, looks like a star. I’m really concerned Hallie is going to miss a spot in our Top 13, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a Wild Card opportunity could potentially save her. I am a genuine fan of Hallie Day.

Performance Review: (***1/2)
Check out a star in the making:

3. Shannon Magrane, “Go Light Your World” (Kathy Troccoli) — Shannon took one of the biggest risks of the evening singing a virtually unknown song and making us believe it’s been a national ballad for decades. I usually hate sentimentalism within songs, or songs that contain some sort of spiritual message, but Shannon’s performance and vocal acrobatics elevated the song to one of great interest. She took so many liberties with her voice that even though she remained stationary for almost the entire duration of the song, I still felt like I had gone on a journey. I love how Shannon still unleashes her jazz growls once in awhile, as she is someone who knows the power of her voice through and through. Aside from her performance of “What a Wonderful World” in Hollywood Week, this was Shannon’s shining moment. I know there will be a lot of haters and skeptics of Shannon from the get-go, but like Haley Reinhart, I stuck with her at the beginning when people were crying fowl after she made it into the Top 13, and look who had the last laugh! I respond to Shannon in a very similar way. The pointing of her index finger straight at the camera with such intensity won me over completely, and was something the fearless Haley Reinhart would have done as well. I can’t wait to see what this exuberant teen does next.

Performance Review: (***1/2)
Check out someone I deemed a potential frontrunner from Day One of Season 11:

2. Hollie Cavanagh, “Reflection” (Christina Aguilera) — This may not have been the best performance of the evening, but it was my personal favorite. I love Hollie’s boldness in picking a song from one of the greatest voices of our time, the incomparable Christina Aguilera. Despite a few sharp areas, Hollie’s voice soared to heights only an Idol winner would dream of reaching. I can’t get over the phenomenon of not one, but two girls in this competition who are so tiny but have some of the biggest voices Idol has ever heard. Hollie even performed this version at a superior level than when Idol champion, Jordin Sparks sung it all the way back in Season Six. I loved every moment of this song, from the soft beginning, to the soaring middle, and back to the whispery final note. To steal a catchphrase from J. Lo, I got “goosies.” Hollie has officially become my new favorite of Season 11.

Performance Review: (****)
This is the girl from Season 10 who may come back and win this year:

1. Jessica Sanchez, “Love You I Do” (Jennifer Hudson) — Best teenage talent ever to grace the Idol stage? Check. Best voice since Jennifer Hudson? I wouldn’t argue with you if you said yes. How the hell has Jessica Sanchez not been discovered yet? Her voice alone could probably stretch all through Manhattan. Everything that a perfect performance should have, “Love You I Do” contained in spades. It had passion, energy, and a voice that commanded every microsecond of singing time. Can I take credit for being the first Idol blogger that compared Jessica Sanchez to J. Hud back in the Vegas rounds? I think I deserve to! Jessica Sanchez could have gone a predictable route by singing ballad, but she wisely proved to be the anti-Pia Toscano by first demonstrating she can handle uptempo songs with just as masterful a stroke as her haunting ballads. While “The Prayer” was still Jessica’s high point of the season, she doesn’t even have to try all that hard, even with swollen vocal chords, to spew out the best performance/vocal of the semifinals week. I was on to something when I said last week that Jessica had a guaranteed spot in the Top 13. I think a finale between her and Phillip Phillips could be a very real possibility.

Performance Review: (****)
Listen to J. Hud’s Secret Twin:

Wow, I am floored by the talent from the Top 12 Girls. Am I wrong in saying they wiped the floor with the guys? With such remarkable talent, it’s going to be very hard saying goodbye to many talented individuals tonight. It’s not going to be easy, but here are my final predictions for the Top 12 Girls:

Predicted to Make Top 13:
1. Jessica Sanchez
2. Hollie Cavanagh
3. Elise Testone
4. Skylar Laine
5. Shannon Magrane

Wild Card Possibilities: Erika Van Pelt, Hallie Day, and Jen Hirsh

That’s it for my recap and review of the Top 12 Girls on American Idol’s semifinals week. Tune in tonight to see who goes home in a suspenseful two-hour results show! Please post your thoughts on last night’s performance show. Who are your favorites and who will make it into the Top 13? Share in the comments section below!

What do you think?

AC Fan

Written by Joseph Braverman

My name is Joseph Braverman. I am 31 years old and a graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. I love watching and analyzing films and television shows. I live in Los Angeles, CA, enmeshing myself in the movie industry scene in any way possible. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @JBAwardsCircuit.


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