Now that all the 26 finalists are determined, I would need to revise my predictions very slightly as one of those I predicted to land in the Top 10 has been eliminated.  There is one significant rising star that I observed after watching both semifinal performances, and some notes on a few entries.  So here goes:

ROMANIA:  “Zaleilah” – Mandinga.  Everything about the semifinal performance just went wonderfully well for this entry, as all elements fell into their proper places.  As expected Elena Ionescu’s sexiness is well showcased in her very short red minidress (showcasing her lissome long legs)–notice how the top looked like an apron?  And she was able to employ good breath control as she indeed sounded as lilting as the recording.  I first was worried about its Top 10 prospects, but judging from this performance this is a shoo-in and a serious contender to equal or exceed this country’s best finish in 3rd place (in 2005 and 2010).

MOLDOVA:  “Lautar” – Pasha Parfeny.  I forgot to note about Pasha’s resemblance to actor Colin Farrell, though replace Colin’s sex appeal with vocal and musical talent, and put him with five barefoot dancing girls like in this presentation, and we have  a very engaging PG-rated party romp (if you put the girls with the real Colin Farrell, this would easily turn into X-rated territory).  I love this performance that I think this could become a contender for a Top 10 finish.  It’s the last number to perform at the finals.

CYPRUS: “La La Love” – Ivi Adamou.  Yes, I’m glad she made the finals, but my goodness, her vocals are so pitchy!  I cannot treat her as a Top 10 contender anymore…

UKRAINE: “Be My Guest” – Gaitana.  There are fans who are impressed with the performance, but as much as I love this, I felt Gaitana sounded winded.  She needs to learn to employ effective breath control for the finals so she can deliver the magic and perhaps she’ll then be in contention to equal Ani Lorak and Ruslana’s successful showing.

SLOVENIA:  “Verjamem” – Eva Boto.  It’s sad that when it counted, the vocals sounded pitchy.  This is the factor why this entry failed to qualify for the finals.

TURKEY:  “Love Me Back” – Can Bonomo.  I forgot to consider that Germany was voting for the second semifinals, and the expected douze points that were typically given to Turkey by that country was perhaps the factor that allowed this entry to advance into the finals, along with an admittedly entertaining production featuring five male backup dancers forming into a boat at one point in the number.  I still don’t like this song.

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: “Korake Ti Znam” – Maya Sar.  I  suppose her two previous appearances to this contest as a backup performer helped her deliver a confident, polished, and professional performance when it was her turn in the spotlight.  With Slovenia falling this ballad    became the one that would accompany the formidable Serbia as the “other quality Balkan ballad” into the finals.

Here is my revised forecast:






Like millions of Filipinos, last Thursday morning I was glued to the TV screen awaiting with hope for the victory of Jessica Sanchez in American Idol.  Well, unfortunately we didn’t get the victory we hoped for, but we had the consolation witnessing that the finale is practically a Jessica Sanchez show, as she performed four numbers during the finale–the Chaka Khan medley with the other Top 12 girls, her solo number for “I Will Always Love You”, her final duet with Phillip Phillips to Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker’s 1982 smash “Up Where We Belong”, and of course the now-immortal duet with original Dreamgirls star Jennifer Holliday to “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)”.  There could have been a fifth number, as the Top 12 girls were supposed to also do a Donna Summer medley, featuring a climax of Jessica dueting with Kristen Chenoweth on the famous Donna-Barbra Streisand duet “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”, but that was scrapped for time constraints.

A piquant note about that epic duet: doesn’t Jennifer Holliday look like Today Show host Hoda Kotb?  Albeit Jennifer has admittedly more frighteningly freakish expressions than Hoda.

Hoda Kotb (Source: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images North America)

In some ways, it’s also third placer Joshua Ledet’s show, as he also performed five times:  the opening number to Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” with the rest of the Top 12 (sans Jessica and Phillip–note: Joshua performed this song earlier in the competition), a duet with Fantasia on Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot”, a hilarious pre-taped number with the Top 12 (again sans Phillip and Jessica) singing a “phonebook song” and two Top 12 boys’ (sans Phillip in both) performances with a Neil Diamond medley and a Robin Gibb medley.

It was fun seeing Joshua dueting with Fantasia (It’s the Fantasia-Mantasia showdown!), though it is both a hot mess and a lively spiritual experience as they gave a session in major holleration (though it was abruptly cut off in the broadcast).  Fantasia looked strikingly different with a long straight weave and sporting that sequined black jumpsuit.  Unfortunately, Fantasia should fire the stylist who suggested she wore such outfit as this outfit is simply so unflattering to her figure–I had visions of Paula Abdul’s 1991 MTV Music Awards performance to “Vibeology”, where she sported an unforgiving and unflattering sequined leotard wherein the media then viciously compared her to Miss Piggy.

Reflecting on Jessica’s duet with Jennifer Holliday and Joshua’s duet with Fantasia, I noticed some eery parallelisms especially when I remembered Loretta Devine was Jennifer’s Dreamgirls colleague, and Jennifer Hudson (who won an Oscar playing Jennifer Holliday’s role in the movie version of that musical) was in Fantasia’s season of American Idol.  During their stint in the musical, Loretta Devine was slim, and Jennifer Holliday was the heavy one.  In Season 3 of American Idol, Fantasia was slimmer than Jennifer Hudson.

THEN: Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Loretta Devine in Dreamgirls (image captured from
THEN: Fantasia Barrino, LaToya London, and Jennifer Hudson with Ryan Seacrest during the controversial “bottom three” moment in American Idol Season 3 (Source: Ray Mickshaw/Wireimage)

Now, thanks to life-saving gastic bypass surgery in the 1990s, Jennifer Holliday slimmed down (and unlike Carnie Wilson, managed to remain in a slimmer, healthier frame).  Loretta Devine meanwhile became heavier but still remains a well-regarded active actress with guest appearances and supporting roles in various movies and TV dramas.  Jennifer Hudson has Weight Watchers to thank for her now slimmed down frame, while we saw how Fantasia looks now…

NOW: Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holliday, and Sheryl Lee Ralph (image sourced from
NOW: Jennifer Hudson performing during an American Idol results show (image sourced from
NOW: Fantasia at the American Idol Season 11 finale (Source: Getty Images)

I also have to note that after Jessica performed that intense duet with Jennifer Holliday, she followed it up with the tender “Up Where We Belong” with eventual champion Phillip Phillps.  It’s such a sharp contrast as Jessica growled and hollered epically with Jennifer Holliday, then she showcased that sweet and tender high register in her voice in this latter duet–such amazing range Jessica has, no?

Finally, I just want to close my essay with my favorite highlight from the Idol finale, the aforementioned “Phonebook Song”.  Deandre Brackensick’s falsetto, Joshua’s holleration and the reaction from the lower-ranked finalists (and musical arranger Michael Orland) cracks me up every time (I’ll try to find a better resolution copy when it’s available).




Collectively, the group of 4th placers is actually stronger than this group even if it featured three of the best vocalists ever to grace the American Idol stage.  There is a mix of middling contenders who outlived their welcome, some stalwart survivors who saw action in the dreaded bottom three several times on their way to this placement, a well acclaimed underdog, and two front-runners who fans perceived was unjustly eliminated at this stage (in other words, should’ve seen action in the finale).

I will highlight five 3rd placers on this list.  So here are the ones who ranked from 6th to 10th place in my list:

Cinq (5) pwah(n)t – Syesha Mercado (Season 7)

Quartre (4) pwah(n)t – Danny Gokey (Season 8)

Trois (3) pwah(n)t – Vonzell Solomon (Season 4)

Deux (2) pwah(n)t – Jasmine Trias (Season 3)

Un (1) pwah(n)t – Casey James (Season 9)

I know there are detractors out there who would’ve placed Danny Gokey at the bottom of the heap especially with that notorious rendition of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and the way he pimped his dead wife especially during the early part of his Idol journey, but we have to consider that aside from that horrible performance, he was an otherwise strong vocalist.

Six (6) Pwah(n)t – Kimberley Locke (Season 2).  This big-voiced diva so intimidated the other female contestants that no one with the exception of Frenchie Davis would be willing to be grouped with her during Hollywood group round.  Well, I suppose their fears were justified as Kimberley and Frenchie gave a legendary performance of Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold”.   Her Idol journey through the finals was rather bumpy just like Syesha Mercado and Hailey Reinhart, figuring in the Bottom 3 four times.  Well, anyway, at least she finished this high and eventually went on to a sustainable career, with a bunch of chart hits on the adult contemporary and dance charts.  Besides the aforementioned “Band of Gold”, I’ll also highlight her performances of Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind”.

Sept (7) Pwah(n)t – Haley Reinhart (Season 10).  This bluesy growler was not expected to last that long–she managed to get enough votes to make the finals, but the first few weeks she didn’t make a striking, memorable impression, and only managed to survive by the skin of her teeth.  Everything changed during the second Top 11 week, with a scintillatingly sexy and bluesy rendition of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets”.  Though she still had some missteps along the way after that, she then arguably gave her season its best highlights (unlike the Top Two, who simply coasted along with their fanbases without providing any memorable performances).  I had to highlight four instead of the usual three:  besides “Bennie and the Jets”, there’s also the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”, Ben E. King’s “I (Who Have Nothing)” and Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” (the last featuring a literal trip and fall, though Haley recovered quickly).

The top three in this round are arguably among the best vocalists ever to grace the American Idol stage.  The points scored do not reflect the caliber of their talent or how close they are level-wise–in many ways ranking these three incredible singers is a matter of splitting hairs.

Huit (8) Pwah(n)t – Elliott Yamin (Season 5).  When I saw his name amongst the ones who made the Top 24 in his season, I was thinking he would be like cannon fodder.  It didn’t help that his looks in the early stages (especially his audition and Hollywood week)  lacks any kind of charisma.  But his voice has proven to be the ticket for him to win the audiences over that as the weeks wore on he turned into an underdog who is capable of usurping the front-runners.  It also helped that from that unfortunate crew cut he grew his hair out that he looked close-to-handsome at the end of his Idol journey.  In terms of record sales, he eventually became the second-biggest selling artist from his season behind Daughtry, and had a big Top 20 hit with “Wait For You”.  The three main highlights from a great body of work include Leon Russell’s “A Song For You” (which Simon Cowell labeled a “vocal masterclass” and reduced Paula Abdul to a weeping mess), his semifinal performance of “Moody’s Mood for Love”, and his take on Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream”.

Dix (10) Pwah(n)t – Melinda Doolittle (Season 6).  Until the outcome of this season’s Top Three results, this lady ruled the roost amongst the third placers.  For consistency, it is hard to find anyone whose body of work are universally of a high caliber as hers–she was never in danger of being eliminated until she was shockingly booted out at Top Three.  It was supposed to be a showdown between her and Jordin Sparks, so in some ways as much as I saluted Blake Lewis’s innovations, I resented him for blocking Melinda’s destiny in the finale.  Anyway, though she doesn’t sell as many records as Elliott Yamin, she still remains in extremely high regard, and I just simply adore her commentary and insights on Michael Slezak’s Idology on  Three standout performances from a universally excellent body of work are the Great American Songbook standard “My Funny Valentine” (originated by Mitzi Green), the bluesy “I’m A Woman” (originated by Christine Kittrell, popularized by Peggy Lee), and “taking it to church” with Bon Jovi’s “Have a Nice Day”.

Douze (12) Pwah(n)t – Joshua Ledet (Season 11).  I’m reluctant to remove Melinda from her top perch to pave the way for this guy, but even Melinda herself was more than willing to relinquish it as she’s a huge fan of him–just watch the viral video of her watching his performance of “When A Man Loves A Woman”.  He got a reputation of being a “standing ovation generator” with the 15 or so ovations he received from the judges for his live performances, and with his intense gospel-based singing style early on he was compared to Season 3 champion Fantasia Barrino, and was given the nickname “Mantasia”.  And the judges could not help but speak hyperboles after almost every performance of his, with J. Lo even declaring that he’s one of the best singers of the past 50 years.  Is he deserving of such hype?  I think he did earn at least half of those standing ovations, and he was really effective in channeling those soul legends of yore–vocally he is indeed up there with the likes of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Jackie Wilson.  But I think all those hyperboles given by the judges was the factor that led to Joshua’s premature boot.  As much as Melinda gave a more consistent body of work than this fellow, this guy indeed generated some intense, genuinely soul-stirring performances, with four of them (which I shall highlight below) belonging among the best performances of all time on American Idol.  Besides the aforementioned “When A Man Loves A Woman”, other major moments from this guy include James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”, Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama”, and to counteract criticism that all he does is scream and holler, his delicate take on India.Arie’s “Ready for Love”.

Garnering the dreaded nul (0) pwah(n)t?  Season 1’s Nikki McKibbin (I still could not forgive her for outlasting Tamyra!).

Joshua made Season 11 continue to pull further up front of the pack.  But let’s see how the other seasons stack up:

1.  Season 11 – 72 points

2. Season 5 – 62 points

3. Season 10 – 58 points

4. Season 7 – 50 points

5. Season 4 – 43 points

6 (TIE). Season 3 – 40 points

6 (TIE). Season 8 – 40 points

8. Season 6 – 31 points

9. Season 1 – 24 points

10. Season 9 – 23 points

11. Season 2 – 21 points

The American Idol season finale is upon us.  How would this year’s Final 2 stack up against all other seasons?  We’ll find out after the final results are announced.