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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos

AUSTRALIAN IDOL'S TOP TWELVE PERFORM FOR YOUR VOTES

Watch the recap below!

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Are you ready Australia? It's time for Australian Idol's top twelve to sing for your votes!

As they head towards the number one spot of the competition, the contestants have been tasked with choosing iconic tracks that have spent time at #1 for their debut performance in the top twelve.


As the contestants eagerly await their shot to show Australia why they should be awarded their vote, host Ricki-Lee reveals a twist in the singing competitions format: at the end of the episode the judges, Grammy® award-winning artist Harry Connick Jr.; Grammy® award-winning singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor; eight-time ARIA Award-winner Amy Shark and top-rating broadcaster Kyle Sandilands, will have the ability to save one contestant and put them through to the top ten. That’s a double whammy of information, because yep, I said top ten. That means that two contestants will be eliminated during tomorrow nights episode, with Australia’s votes finally coming into play.


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Kicking off the evening is Jasey Fox, who’s had a mini make-over and dyed his hair a fiery orange. For his first performance in the top twelve, Fox doesn’t want to overdo it with his choregraphy and starts off his rendition of 5 Seconds of Summer’s Youngblood seated on a stool metres away from the judges. His clear and precise vocals cut through the songs pulled back arrangement, before the band kicks in and Fox has pushed the chair to the side of the stage. He darts across the stage engaging with the audience and proving just why he’s made it to the live shows. “You have something I’m so jealous of, you’re so fierce and you look so comfortable,” Trainor shares, impressed with what she’s seen on stage. “I’m also jealous, because you find the camera better than I ever will,” says Shark, adding of his swift move of the chair, “I would’ve thrown that into someones face accidentally.” Connick Jr. admires the restrained choreography and loved the arrangement, with Sandilands thinking it was the ultimate performance to kick off the top twelve. “This is your life, this, you need to be on the stage,” he says. It truly was a great way to kick off the live shows.


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One of the competitions youngest competitors, 15-year-old Angelina Curtis is taking on Aerosmith’s mega-hit, I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing. She’s not used to belting out notes, having been told by previous coaches it will ruin her voice, but she’s wanting to take a risk and hit Steven Tyler’s infamous high note. Shrouded in smoke and pink hues, Curtis delivers a great performance of the track. Seated at her piano, her signature mesmerising tones are the focal point of the performance, pulling you in with her storytelling quality. But I think this belting high note was perhaps overhyped? Yes, she hit those high notes perfectly and sounded great, but I was expecting her to hit Tyler’s piercing high notes. That’s a sentiment also shared by Sandilands, who was left feeling underwhelmed by Curtis’ “big risk.” It didn’t “set his world on fire.” Like I said, it was a wonderful performance, but perhaps the package played beforehand was a disservice. “You’re so comfortable up there, you really were born to do this,” says Shark, and Connick Jr. says Curtis should belt notes out more often.

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Maya Weiss has been a favourite of mine throughout the competition, she’s been delivering solid performances each week and has continued to grow and thrive in the competition. Tonight is no different in my opinion. She took on Pnau’s remix of Cold Heart by Elton John and Dua Lipa, feeling the nerves taking on one of the biggest hits of last year and that her fate lies in the hands of the nation. From the minute she stepped on stage, she owned it. She delivered flawless vocals, engaged with her audience and has a great stage presence. Weiss also put her own little spin on it, delivering new melodies on the well known track. The judges don’t agree with me. They thought it was a bit ‘karaoke’ and not an authentic song choice for Weiss. Connick Jr wonders “how much originality” she’s bringing to dance-pop. “You’re a great singer but there was just something shit about it,” says Sandilands. I think he’s wrong, but I digress. On the flip side, Shark kindly says “the Australian music industry needs you, because you are a powerhouse,” and I agree. She has a distinct voice that stands out not only in the competition, but our industry as well.


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What I like about the packages played before each performance is they can sometimes give you a glimpse of each contestant outside of the context of the competition on stage. Joshua Hannan is also looking for a style revamp, saying “My sisters are probably the more stylish of the siblings,” whilst they put some looks together and critique his ‘jorts’. Then he goes and delivers quite possibly the best performance of the night. He sings The Fray’s You Found Me, standing resolute centre stage whilst charming illustrated visuals appear on screen surrounding him. Hannan’s vocals could rival even the most seasoned vocalists. There’s a vulnerability in his diction and phrasing, but when those powerful vocals hit in the chorus it’s undeniable that Hannan is one of the top contenders to take out the competition. The arrangement was perfect, and the harmonies from the bands backing vocalists were beautiful. He captures the emotions of what he’s singing and really takes the listener on a journey with his performances. This was further amplified by the decision to keep still on stage instead of traversing across it, which lured us in as audience members. “You’re ready to go as far as I’m concerned,” announced Sandilands in reference to Hannan’s ability to become a working musician. Speaking of his song choices, Connick Jr. says, ”You have been able to strike this perfect balance between poetry and accessibility,” and he’s spot on. Hannan is really showcasing the artist he wants to be, and is pulling it off effortlessly.


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We’re a quarter way through the top twelves performances, and it’s Amali Dimond’s time to shine. She’s taking on Bruno Mars’ Grenade, and Idol’s vocal coach Carmen Smith wants the budding singer to find an emotional connection with the song to elevate her performance. Dimond says her connection to the song is “I’d catch a grenade for my music career.” Smith feels it’s a bit forced, and wants her to connect to the more emotional side of the track. As always, Dimond gives a strong performance. She owns the stage, beginning the song in a purple hued room before stepping out on to the stage, and brought her inner passion to the song. She’s great at using the stage and never seeming awkward, which will take her far in her post-Idol career. The judges loved it and feel she’s ready to take on the world. However, Connick Jr. wants her take piano and guitar lessons as much as she can to build her musicianship and education, so that when she gets in the room with producers and other musicians she has a deeper understanding and can hold her own. It’s also time for a name drop from Sandilands, telling everyone he knows Mars and his manager “very, very well.” Later in the show he’ll talk about the time he was on a boat with Sting and received an intimate performance of one of the iconic musicians hits. Maybe we should start a game for every time Sandilands drops a name?

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I was so excited for this next performance, because we got another taste of the enigmatic Ben Sheehy. “The judges think they know Ben Sheehy but they’ve got no idea, I’m gonna keep them on their toes,” he says, hoping to show them his versatility as an artist. He’s singing Bon Jovi’s Blaze Of Glory. Yes, it’s still a rock song, but it’s vocally more solid. There’s less booming high notes and vocals that lean towards screeching (I say that in the most admirable way possible, it’s hard to do successfully!), instead it’s more melody-based. Again, he delivered a compelling and incredible performance, and his vocal tone is insane. There’s truly no one like him within Australia’s music scene, someone so mysterious who can hit these rock God notes. He’d often lift his arm and do movements that resembled Queen’s Freddie Mercury, and he just looked at home on stage. Now for the first time in the competition, Amy Shark has lost me with her comment, “I don’t know that you can win Australian Idol, but I want you to know that you’re a fricking rock star.” Yes, I understand what she means, but really you can’t be sure anyone will. Let’s not forget when Ricki-Lee was tipped to win her season, but her Idol journey was cut short and she was eliminated. Shark goes on to suggest he may be more suited as the frontman of a band, which most definitely makes sense, but I want to see Sheehy in the grand final first. Connick Jr. reminds the nation of the importance of voting for your favourite contestant, so don’t forget to vote!

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Next up, Noora H takes to the streets to busk and gain more experience in front of a live crowd, something that is so smart as her first time performing in front of an audience was only last week in the top twenty four performances. This week, she’ll be singing Lady Gaga’s Shallow from A Star Is Born. Starting off the song with the audience right behind her, phone flashlights soon begin to sway and create an atmosphere for Noora’s vocals to run wild within. She soon turns around, surrounded by spotlights, to see the crowds interaction and is pleasantly surprised. Now, I’ve said this before with Noora but I find her lower register to be weak. Connick Jr. thinks she intentionally will finish her phrases sharp to create tension within her performances, but there’s still something disjointed for me. When she moves into that powerful chorus, there’s barely anything to fault. There’s one vocal run that is a bit shaky, but the power in her vocals is undeniable and it’s such a joy to watch her onstage. I just wish Smith would work with her on her lower register, and then she’d have the potential to be unstoppable. The judges loved it, with Sandilands sharing he hates that song and the film it was written for, but loved Noora’s rendition.


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Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the next contestant, Harry Hayden. He performs a stripped back arrangement of Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know, which Sandilands labels as a “disaster.” His vocals often fell flat and off-tune, resulting in a shaky performance which is disappointing because it was such a beautiful arrangement. Usually Hayden delivers more confidence, but he cites nerves as the reason for his unsteady performance, and that’s understandable - it’s his second time performing in front of a packed out live audience. “I have off days myself, we all do,” says Shark, reminding Hayden that not every performance will hit the mark. She suggests maybe they’ll save him, but Sandilands quips back that they’ll want to save the best contestant. Connick Jr. says he should over hydrate before stepping on stage so his mouth isn’t as dry, which results in Ricki-Lee bringing Hayden a bottle of water. He nonchalantly passes it back to her, and she says “I love it, he’s passing it to me like I’m his assistant.”


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It’s hard performing towards the end of the live show, because it does incite nerves. Surrounded by pillars of light, Anya Hynninen performs Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach, which I found to be the absolute wrong choice. The track was slowed down slightly to a tempo that just made no sense, and the song didn’t allow for Hynninen to show off her vocal chops. There were pitchy moments as well, but it wasn’t a terrible vocal performance. It just wasn’t Hynninen's strongest offering. The song choice was her undoing here, which is disappointing to see because she’s one of the powerhouse vocalists within the competition. But again, everyone has off days so I hope she gets the chance to come back stronger next week. The judges know she can do better than that, and Shark commends her for being brave for taking on this song and giving it her own spin.

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It’s Sash Seabourne’s turn to impress Australia, wanting to move away from people ‘making a thing’ out his long hair and making his vocals the only focal point. He’s taking a risk by performing The Police’s I’ll Be Watching You by the book, opting not to change the arrangement or deviate from the original melody too much. Production wise, this has been one of my favourite performances of the night. With the stage shrouded in smoke, Seabourne is standing atop an oceanside dock appearing like he’s levitating. With his hair tied back, he delivers another outstanding vocal performance. He has such a deep and resounding tone that is so strong and formidable, and his artistry is undeniable. I also enjoyed that he sung it as originally written, even if it doesn’t please Connick Jr.. I do hope the judges occasionally remember that Australian Idol is kind of the ultimate karaoke competition. The contestants have to sing covers each week, and yes it’s nice to add your own take on it, but it’s not always necessary. You don’t need to prove your musicianship and understanding of variation in each song. Sometimes it’s nice just to hear and play a song the way you know it. “Don’t be scared of a signature hairdo okay? Lean into it almost,” says Shark, sporting her signature half-up-half-down do. Sandilands makes a good point, that Seabourne is doing so well in the competition and changing such a popular song too much could’ve derailed him.


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15-year-old Phoebe Stewart performs Labrinth’s Beneath Your Beautiful, and is there any doubt in our minds that she killed it? Of course she did. Emulating Florence Welch in her flowing gown, her full vocals filled the Idol auditorium, accompanied by the house band and a string trio. Stewart never puts a foot wrong, her song choices are always on point and her vocals never fault. She effortlessly moves between her middle register and falsetto, and has a mesmerising stage presence. You could barely hear Connick Jr. give his feedback over the crowds cheers. I’m impressed, the judges are impressed, and I have no doubt you’re impressed. To close the show, Royston Sagigi-Baira is taking on Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror. We’ve hit another fun production staging moment, with the contestant surrounded in circular mirrors. Sagigi-Baira is another contestant who never seems to fault, delivering a big vocal performance that transitioned into an epic key change. He used the performance to send a message to clean up our act as climate change continues to impact worldwide, and in particular his cultural homeland of the Torres Strait Islands.


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With that, the final twelve have performed for the first time, and it's now up to the judges to choose which contestant they’ll be saving. As the twelve contestants return to the stage, the judges commend them all on their efforts tonight and congratulate them on making it this far in the competition. Host Scott Tweedie also reveals that the winner of Australian Idol will sign with Sony Music Australia, a very exciting prospect for the budding contestants. It’s up to Connick Jr. to reveal who they’ll be sending through to the top ten, and that vocalist is Phoebe Stewart. As for the remaining eleven contestants, it’s up to Australia who decide which nine vocalists will join Stewart in the top ten. Voting is open now!


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Watch Australian Idol on Channel 7 tomorrow night at 7:30pm AEDT. Stream it on 7 Plus.


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