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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 8

'American Idol's final 12 semifinalists take to the stage, perform live


By John Bracchitta, 03/04/2009 

The third and final group of 12 semifinalists from American Idol's Top 36 took to the stage and performed during last night's live broadcast of the Fox reality competition's eighth season.
 
Once again singing hits from the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the final group consisted of Von Smith, Taylor Vaifanua, Alexander Wagner-Trugman, Arianna Afsar, Ju'Not Joyner, Kristen McNamara, Nathaniel Marshall, Felicia Barton, Scott MacIntyre, Kendall Beard, Jorge Nunez and Lil Rounds.

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Prior to the first performance, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest noted that judge Simon Cowell had been very critical of many of the contestants' song choices and asked him why he never had chosen the songs himself.

"I ask myself that question every day. No seriously," Simon responded.

"Why don't you?" Seacrest followed up.

"Well, I will then... Some other time I will. We'll have a 'Simon Cowell Week,'" Simon added to a mixed reaction from both the audience and fellow Idol judges Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Paula Abdul.

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the second group of semifinalists sang.  Also included are comments from each of the four judges -- Kara, Simon, Paula, and Randy -- as well as additional information about each performance.

On Wednesday night beginning at 8PM ET/PT, the male and female semifinalists who received the highest number of home viewers votes will instantly become a Top 12 finalist.  In addition, another semifinalist that had received the next-highest number of votes -- regardless of whether he or she is male or female -- will also become a finalist.

Von Smith, a 22-year-old from Kansas City, MO who currently resides in Greenwood, MO

Song: "You're All I Need to Get By" by Marvin Gaye

Randy said: "You know what's funny about tonight? It's like, the last couple of weeks have stared out kind of rough. But tonight dude I'm telling you what, dude this is the way to kick off a show that was a very hot performance. And dawg let me just say one other thing, you know, I think this was better for you tonight than I remembered you in Hollywood Week. You're kinda finding yourself here, so welcome to Idol baby!"
Kara said: "You're coming into your own Von. You feel more comfortable, it's like you really feel like you know what you're doing up there tonight. And you know, the note was good that Simon gave you, and you took that note, and it's a good thing you did because it's not about how high you can go or what you can do. It's about doing it when it has meaning, and you did that tonight. Good job."
Paula said: "Von, what I love about you is that it's really hard being first. This is going to be a memorable first, and America is going to remember you. And what I love so much is that you know when to pull back, you know when to push forward. You're quite the showman and you're seasoned and I just loved your performance."
Simon said: "Von, I don't know whether you're going to take this as a compliment or not, but you remind me of Clay Aiken, I mean you've got the same dress sense. I mean you look appalling, but actually you sang quite well, actually you know you sang very well. Much better, as Kara said, than in Hollywood. A much better song. But you do remind -- your voice and the way that you perform -- of Clay, which I think could be a good thing for you."

Additional info: In his pre-performance video, Von said he had committed to not "scream" sing as much as he did in Hollywood Week. Von also said he I don't know what to make of the comparison to Clay Aiken, but acknowledged that Aiken had gone on to be very successful. He wore a gray suit with a red T-shirt under it and red sneakers for his performance.

Taylor Vaifanua, a 17-year-old from Hurricane, UT

Song: "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys

Kara said: "So Taylor, it's obvious you have a voice. You've had a voice from the moment we met you you could sing. You hit those notes, I mean you had some issues, but you've got talent. My thing with you is that I want more of your personality to come through. I'm still trying to figure out who you are. What's it like to go shopping with Taylor? I have no incite into you as a person, and that's why that performance leaves me a bit cold."
Paula said: "For me, you have a beautiful gift, you have a beautiful instrument. I'm a little perplexed because we heard you sing this in Hollywood Week, and this is a contest and a chance to show us something new and I just wish you would've taken that chance."
Simon said: "I don't get the shopping thing. Look what my problem was is that I genuinely couldn't remember you from the earlier rounds. I have no idea who you were, and I can understand why after hearing that song because it was very generic. It wasn't terrible, it wasn't great, it was actually a bit bland to be honest with you. How old are you?" She responds that she's 17. "See the same problem, a lot of 17-year-olds try to be older. I think you're going to struggle tonight, and I'm being honest with you."       Randy said: "What they were all basically trying to say is you've got a great voice and you can sing, but the problem is you didn't tell us anything special about you. It was just kinda boring."

Additional info: Taylor cried what she called tears of joy through much of her time being critiqued by the judges. Kara clarified that her shopping comment was meant to mean that she wanted to more of what Taylor was like as a person and her personality.

Alexander Wagner-Trugman, a 19-year-old from Studio City, CA

Song: "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" by Elton John

Paula said: "You certainly are the showman. You are certainly the showman, you gave us our money's worth I just don't know how much money that we spent. You are certainly entertaining, we had fun watching you, we really did. And I'm glad you got to channel your inner rock star on that stage."
Simon said: "Well we had fun watching you, just not listening to you because the ridiculous growling halfway through was just stupid, along with the kicking over the microphone. You know, you are like a little hamster trying to be a tiger. It just was actually a bit stupid, to be honest with you. I think you've taken the Joe Cocker thing way too seriously and it just didn't work."
Randy said: "Well you know I gotta half agree with Simon a little bit, it definitely was sort of crazy in a buck wild sort of way. The whole dropping the mic stand, 'What was he going back to get? Did he lose something back there?' What were the moves dude? It was so wild. And the vocals, dude, you can actually kinda sing but you just screamed that song."
Kara said: "Here's the positive thing, at least you do you. You're Alex, you get up there, you're just a fun guy. The choreography, you can't pay for that choreography.. But if you come back again ditch the [growling], that kinda stuff, No more of that.

Additional info: Alex said that he hadn't meant to knock over the mic stand during his performance and added that he was just trying to "have fun."

Arianna Afsar, a 17-year-old from San Diego, CA

Song: "The Winner Takes It All" by ABBA

Simon said: "There was a certain irony to that lyric wasn't there? The winner takes it all after that performance, because it was absolutely terrible in most parts. It was a huge, huge mistake. That song was way, way, way too big for you and it was an incredibly dreary arrangement. It was like being at a funeral [for] the first half. It really was awful. And, you know, I liked you when I first saw you, but once again it's like everyone's gone into a time machine tonight... It just didn't work at all, it was your worst performance by a clear mile."
Randy said: "The thing is, you being 17, this is the time when America's really seeing you coming into your own. You wanna show them that you're young. You can still sing big songs and notes, but you even tried to do more with it vocally than is really there and it's just really not the song I would've ever chose for you to sing. It just wasn't the right song for you baby, it wasn't good."
Kara said: "You know Arianna, you walked in to that audition and you were like a beam of sunshine. That's what we fell in love with, the young, vivacious... You know 'Cute as a button' is a compliment. We're not saying 'Oh, she's cute as a button,' and tonight it was dark, it was kind of depressing and it's not who you are as a person. I mean look at that beautiful face and that smile. Be young, touch people, that's what you could do. But tonight it just went too serious."
Paula said: "I'm not gonna go as far as that. I think you had some bright moments to the song, I think you had some really nice moments. And I do believe that the song was a little old fashioned, and I appreciate the fact that you took the liberties to change and riff and change some melodies. But a song like ABBA... sometimes it's better to just stick to the melody, because it's a song full of melody."

Additional info: Arianna said that she knew she had chosen an old song, but added that she had tried to make it contemporary, to which Simon responded "it didn't." Paula said that she still "had a shot" in the competition if she sang the right song.

Ju'Not Joyner, a 26-year-old from Baltimore, MD who currently resides in Bowie, MD 

Song: "Hey There Delilah" by The Plain White Tees

Randy said: "So check it out man, you know what's really cool what you just did? People look at you and they think 'Oh it's this R&B dude doin' his thing up there,' but you took a Plain White Tees song 'Hey There Delilah' and you switched it up man. And you really pulled back for much of the song, which I really appreciated, so it was actually a smart kinda choice for you. Dude, I loved it."
Kara said: "Yeah, I liked your spin on that song, it's very smooth. It just felt really fluid. And the thing is I think you could bust it out even more on the next song, you know. Just kill it, go for it, because it felt like you were holding back but I know you got ridiculous pipes. So next time just let it loose."
Paula said: "You know, I was a little hard on Taylor for singing the same song in Hollywood. What was great about your performance is that you changed up. And you must've heard me saying 'You're singing the same song," so you must've had that going in your head 'Oh God I gotta change it up.' But what your liberties that you took, they paid off. They really did, nice vocal."
Simon said: "Actually I've got to tell you... Ju'Not, that was actually better than I thought it was gonna be. I just wish that you had stripped the whole song down though, I think you could've had a moment there. It was a little bit safe, but you know, you're nervous and I know how much this means to you."

Additional info: Ju'Not said he had intentionally held back on the song to pay respect to the artists who wrote it. He added that he had an asthma "issue" that led to him getting a cortisone shot "right in the butt" prior to his performance, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Kristen McNamara, a 23-year-old from Napa Valley, CA who currently resides in Nashville, TN

Song: "Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman

Kara said: "So, I'm liking the hair much better. This is better on you, you got rid of that purple stuff, I wasn't feeling that so much. You know, you are a great singer. You can hit those notes, you got a great tone. The thing is I could see you doing more of a Kelly Clarkson song, like a 'So What' by Pink, more that thing. A little bit more of a rock edge, because you do have that in your voice. I'm not sure that was the perfect song, but it does show that you can sing. You still gotta dial in that outfit a little more, I'm not sure you got it perfectly."
Paula said: "When you were in Hollywood you sang  Kelly Clarkson song 'Because of You.' That showed the range of your voice. That was what I expected from you. This song was a little more safe for you, but what it does show is that you've got a hell of a range, you really do. Great vocals."
Simon said: "It's just puzzling out who this girl is. Because from the atrocious first outfit [and] look from when we first met you, to now looking like your mum's styling you [for] like a pageant or something, with quite an odd song choice but you do have a  good voice. So I'm slightly puzzled about you. I don't think you're quite comfortable, given the smile you're giving me right now, you don't feel as if you know who you are, and I'm not quite sure I know who you are at the moment.""
Randy said: "Yeah, I gotta agree with Simon there. I'm not really sure who you are, and the funny thing about the song that you chose, it's a very easy song for someone with as good a vocals as you have, but you tried to even do too much with it. I felt like I was kinda at a karaoke thing with you. I don't know."

Additional info: Kristin said that she saw herself recording songs similar to Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis. She added that she has always had trouble creating her own fashion style and "always kinda looked crazy" and should probably hire a stylist but can't afford it.

Nathaniel Marshall, a 19-year-old from Malone, NY

Song: "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meatloaf

Simon said: "I think you probably would... kidding. Some people will probably quite like that, the minority. The majority, probably like me, thought that it was verging on excruciating because I just can't get this terrible image out of my mind. You know, the awful Olivia Newton-John headband and everything else, it was really almost uncomfortable, the whole performance, and a weird song choice. On the positive note, at least people are going to remember you... Look, to be fair I've been a bit unkind there. You actually are fun, and I like you, you're a fun person."
Randy said: "I like you too. This is the funny thing to me, I'm just curious about that song choice... Because I mean of all the songs, and I love the song... But listen you definitely can sing, I just... it's hard for me to imagine as a recording artist what kind of record we would make with you, I guess I'm just trying to wrap my head around that... I know you like having fun though, that's what I like about you dawg, you like having a good time."
Kara said: "Yeah I could see him busting out into a John Travolta move. The thing is, you've got a voice. If you wanna be taken seriously, I think if you make it through you're gonna wanna pick a song that really shows that more serious side of you, because everything is kind of fun and dancy. Maybe we could see another side of you, so you could show us. But right now you're the guy I wanna go to karaoke with. That's my karaoke buddy right there."
Paula said: "You know I love you. I loved you in Hollywood Week because, and not to be the historian here, but you were serious, albeit you had your guitar. But you sang 'Disturbia' and that was so cool, it made you cool... and I thought that was a bold choice. It made you relevant.  But here's the thing, this song, it was more like the Boy George version  of this song, and it takes that coolness factor away, and I love Meatloaf and I just think you've got to be really wise when picking your songs."

Additional info: Nathaniel said he wanted to "touch people" with his music, and had chose the song because he used to always sing and dance to it with his mother. He was joined at the performance by his grandmother and aunt, both of whom enjoyed it. He added that he was on the competition to "have fun" and "if you wanna have fun every week, vote for me."

Felicia Barton, a 26-year-old from Virginia Beach, VA

Song: "No One" by Alicia Keys

Paula said: "Felicia, isn't it funny how the universe works? You're not only gorgeous [on the] outside, your talent, your gift, is unbelievable. I am  so glad we brought you back, and I hope we bring you back next week, and next week, and the week after, and the week after."
Simon said: "Well good, I mean you certainly came back to prove a point, didn't you? I thought the first part of the song was better than the second half. My only criticism would be it's a bit copycat. I'm not as enthusiastic as I think Paula is."
Randy said: "I loved you when I first saw you, I'm really happy that you're back. I think you got an amazing voice. And the thing is you got something a little different, and Simon picked it up, you got something a little different from Alicia, go with that because you got a little different tone than her, let yourself go with that. But I thought it was hot, you're looking great. Welcome back baby!"
Kara said: "This is by far your best look, you had attitude, you had presence. You had a few problems with some of those notes, but, you know what, I noticed you tonight for the first time. I really noticed you. You just feel like you were just letting it out tonight, you just were not gonna have any excuses. You stepped into it girl."

Additional info: Felicia was initially eliminated from the competition, but rejoined it after Joanna Paccitti was disqualified. "I feel so blessed to be here, and I'm having the time of my life. This is crazy, who gets to be on American Idol. I do!" she told Ryan.

Scott MacIntyre, a 23-year-old from Scottsdale, AZ

Song: "Mandolin Rain" by Bruce Hornsby

Randy said: "This wasn't the most perfect vocal, there were some problems I had with it, but the parts that were great were really, really great for me. When you had to hit the big notes you really hit them. And you know what I love, every time I see you sing and hear you sing, I can feel the passion just pouring out of you, how much you love this and want this. So props to you man, job well done."
Kara said: "You know what Scott, you move mountains when you step on that stage. You do what you love, you're passionate about it, and you don't make excuses. And when you have issues with the vocals it doesn't matter because it's coming from your heart. I want America to see you play and sing because that's when they're really gonna see Scott. I hope they give you that chance."
Paula said: "Listen, whatever challenges you've faced to get here, I'm just so happy and proud that you've made it. You're a genius at the piano and I can't wait for people to hear you play. You've blessed us all with your gift and you're one of our finest."
Simon said: "I'll be honest with you, I wasn't crazy about the song, particularly some of the lyrics. But I have to say Scott you're growing on me, you really are because I think you're starting to believe in yourself. I didn't see that when you first came in. And I think there are better singers in the competition... but in a sea of forgettable people tonight you're the only one actually I think I'm gonna really remember, though I actually think it's got some relevance. I'm going to be amazed if you don't sail through to the next round young man."

Additional info: Scott told Ryan that "loved" being onstage in front of the audience and hoped for the chance to get behind a piano and perform in future rounds. He also told Ryan that he needed to give him a high five "at a stationary target," referring to Ryan's initial attempt to high five an unknowing Scott -- who is blind -- after his initial Idol audition last summer.

Kendall Beard, a 24-year-old from Lufkin, TX who currently resides in Austin, TX.

Song: "This One's For The Girls" by Martina McBride

Kara said: "I'm gonna start with the positives. You've got a big personality and I think it comes through. You picked the right lane because you're definitely a country girl, wouldn't you say that? But you had some issues, definitely with the notes there was some flat stuff going on. But you got that personality that we saw that we really liked. There were some issues though in that performance."
Paula said: "Kendall I'm gonna say you take the prize on the best outfit, you look awesome. It was a great thing, I mean your parents must be so proud of you... Well I hope you enjoyed it, I really do. I think you did a good job and you're definitely a country artist and I think that shows through, you're adorable."
Simon said: "I think you probably did the right thing tonight. You are what you are: you're cute, you obviously love country music. I'll be honest with you, halfway through I couldn't wait for it to end, personally, because it all got a bit kinda shrilly towards the end. I think you could've chosen maybe a song which better suited your voice... But strange things happen on this show, and there are a lot of people who watch this show who love this kinda stuff so we'll see. Just not my cup of tea. Nothing personal."
Randy said: "I actually happen to love country music. The song choice was good, I think the outfit is great, you look amazing, you dialed in who you were and all of that. The real issue for me was it wasn't your best vocal performance. You had some nerves jumping off, some of the notes you overshot a little bit. But all in all, listen, you told us who you were and what you were and it was a good song."

Additional info: Kendall said that her mom had put together her outfit. Simon added in that he agreed with Randy's comments after he had finished.

Jorge Nunez, a 21-year-old from Cidra, Puerto Rico who currently resides in Carolina, PR

Song: "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" by Elton John

Paula said: "I am so proud of you, I am so proud of you. People have no idea how hard you've worked. When you took our advice you worked with it, [and a] dialect coach. There's no telling, you can't even tell, you worked so hard and you sound so good and this is what it's all about. You're fulfilling your dream and God I just wanna squeeze you!"
Simon said: "I think we were wrong to say to you that you shouldn't sing with an accent, because why should we? You're from Puerto Rico, you've got a good voice, it makes you different, I think you should be who you are. You're actually a very, very good singer. And I like the fact that you sound a bit different. I mean there are, believe it or not, Spanish artists who've actually done incredibly well. They have an accent because they're Spanish."
Randy said: "Listen, accent or not, dialect coach or whatever, it's the vocals that matter. This wasn't the perfect vocal, but it was really, really good dude. Hollywood Week was a little rough on a lot of people, but I think you vindicated yourself of Hollywood Week dawg. Nice Jorge, nice one baby."
Kara said: "You were born to sing, that's your thing, that's your gig. You're a singer. It comes from [the heart] to us and we feel it, and you have that gift of touching people when you sing because you really believe it. It comes from your heart."

Additional info: "It is so amazing to be here" Jorge said during Kara's comments as he broke down into tears.

Lil Rounds, a 24-year-old from Memphis, TN

Song: "Be Without You" by Mary J. Blige

Simon said: "I'm gonna keep this very brief, brilliant. My favorite performance by a mile. I wouldn't have chosen the song, by the way, because you sound too much like the original and I think it's very important that you show basically what you sound like. But I think you have great, great prospects in this competition and I think you are undoubtedly one of the best singers we've found so far. I like you"
Randy said: "I've gotta agree with Cowell, you are one of the best that we've found this season, hands down, and you know what I love about what you did tonight is we've been making this reference to Keisha Cole and Mary J. Blige and all this kind of stuff, but you're definitely an R&B flavor for current. But you kept your swagger on, you didn't lose your swagger tonight, you were like "Yeah, what!" That's what I'm saying, you've got unbelievable vocals and you definitely know who you are. I loved it baby, loved it."
Kara said: "You were a powerhouse the first day we met you and you still a powerhouse, let me tell you girl. You are great, and what's good about you is you actually have been Lil from the minute we met you until now, you've been a steady, steady boat going the same way. I can't wait to see what you're gonna do next week, and the week after that."
Paula said: "You are first class, you are first class my dear. And you know what? I have a sneaking suspicion we're gonna see you for many more 'Lil Rounds.'"

Additional info: Lil said that the judges comments felt "so great" and thanked the judges for the "opportunity of a lifetime."

(Photo credit Fox)


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