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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Read our recap below!

Image: Supplied.

Things are heating up as we move closer to live shows of Australian Idol 2023. Tonight,

the top twenty four are set to perform in front of the biggest live audience in Australian Idol history. Our 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, have the task of cutting twenty four contestants down to create the top twelve.

Hosts Ricki-Lee and Scott Tweedie announce that the Touchdown is back. Made famous by former Australian Idol judge Mark Holden, the judges can enact a touchdown at any point throughout the top twenty four performances which will send that contestant straight through to the top twelve. It’s a powerful move for the judges, with each allowed only one over the course of the next three episodes “Don’t worry, we’re not bringing old mate back,” says Ricki-lee, before Tweedie gives us his attempt at a re-enactment. Trainor is back on the panel, Sandilands makes a joke about buying back the touchdown, Shark is still looking for the overall package, and Connick Jr. is honoured to be back in Australia.

Amali Dimond. Image: Supplied.

Here to kick things off is 16-year-old Amali Dimond, which is fitting since she was the first to audition for this years season. We’re reminded of her Idol journey so far, something we get for each contestant, and introduced to vocal coach Carmen Smith who will be working with the contestants. Viewers may recognise Smith from her stint on The Voice Australia. Dimond performs Sia’s Unstoppable, and it’s our first glimpse at what to expect from the live shows. Again, Dimond needs to do some work on her breathing but she’s owning the stage. She comes across as a seasoned performer straight out of the gate, shrouded in a red-toned lighting design and up-scale production. Maybe Dimond really is unstoppable, with her powerful vocals and engaging stage presence. “I just know that I never wanna get off the stage. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she tells Ricki-Lee following her performance, and there’s no doubt in my mind she will be.

Royston Sagigi-Baira is next to follow, moving away from the ballad-based performances he’s presented so far, in the hopes of a more playful side of his artistry. He sings Bruno Mars’ Versace On The Floor, starting off a bit shaky and off tune. There’s just something that’s not connecting or translating, almost like he’s not committed to the performance. The song definitely did not showcase Sagigi-Baira’s vocal abilities, and wasn’t too far from the ballads he’s performed in the past. He started to loosen up adding in some dance moves and more interaction which boosted the performance, but perhaps nerves just got the best of him. The judges also comment it wasn’t Sagigi-Baira’s best, but were pleased with what they heard. Following his performance, Tweedie congratulates Trainor on her recent announcement that she is expecting her second child. Congrats Meghan! I promise not to make a cringe joke and call your unborn child your next ‘single drop’.

Royston Sagigi-Baira. Image: Supplied.

When we last saw Noah Cookson, he had fainted on stage due to the stress and pressure of the competition. This time around, he seems calm and ready to take on this next round of the competition. He’s singing The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights, making a pun about the lights he saw just before he fainted. Cookson was a home audition, and wants to make Shark proud which is so sweet. I was a bit skeptical about this song choice, but I really love it for Cookson. It shows a more upbeat side to the musician, who has shaken off the nerves, and shows the light and shade of his vocal texture. It’s a different take and arrangement on the song, which we love to see on the Idol stage and proves that he’ll be able to tackle whatever song is thrown at him over the course of the live shows. Connick Jr. asks who arranged this version of the song, and Cookson replies he did with his father. There’s no doubt in my mind that Cookson will make the top twelve. Sandilands isn’t impressed, making a weird Kath and Kim joke, and Trainor calls him a “cutie-patootie” who is “amazing.”

Noah Cookson. Image: Supplied.

We didn’t get to see much of Anya Hynninen during bootcamp week, but tonight she delivers a chilling rendition of Tina Turner’s Simply The Best. The stripped back rendition builds in anticipation, with Hynninen's compelling vocal performance drawing you in and holding your attention. Shark watches on, looking like she’s in love, and one would imagine the rest of Australia will be doing the same. Connick Jr. was scared about the song choice, but understood her choice after viewing the performance. Sandilands thought it was “sensational” and wished it had been longer. Trainor wrote down “so jealous of her voice” and thought she “slayed”. Like I said earlier, Shark was in love, calling Hynninen “Australia’s Adele” and then delivers the first touchdown. Hynninen deserves it, she stands apart from the other vocalists and is a powerhouse. I do think Shark needs some work on her touchdown skills, but she’s used hers up for this round. Hynninen then dedicates the performance to her mother, who has been unwell and couldn’t make it to the show. Try not to cry, I dare you.

Anya Hynninen. Image: Supplied.

Ben Sheehy. Image: Supplied.

At the half way mark, Sandilands then asks the crowd, “Who wants to hear some noise, some rock ’n’ roll?" I DO! Because rock ’n’ roll means we’re about to see one of my favourite contestants, Ben Sheehy. “This is loud,” Tweedie promises. He’s tackling Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin, a track he cites as the reason he fell in love with Led Zeppelin. “I don’t know if Australia is ready for rock god Ben Sheehy, but I’m coming to get ya,” he says. WE ARE BEN! First off, I love that he’s using a mic on a lead. It such a rock star token. It’s a hard song to sing, but he crushed it. I just wish he he used the stage a bit more, but as Sandilands said, “it was sick.” He also commented, “For a moment I thought I was teleported back to some weird club in Germany back a decade ago.” Which is a wild thought. Trainor loves his power pose, and Shark was taken on a journey. She’s also interested to see him take on other styles and genres, which would be cool, but he doesn’t need to - he’s a rock star. Connick Jr. comments on how comfortable he seemed on stage, and speaks of how Led Zeppelin frontmen Tony Thompson and Robert Plant have different approaches to performing Immigrant Song. Sheehy is just such a breath of fresh air in the competition, and deserves a spot in the top twelve.

Piper Butcher. Image: Supplied.

It’s then Piper Butcher’s turn to impress the judges, who also takes the stripped back route with her version of Madonna’s Like A Prayer. Taking centre stage with guitar in hand, Butcher’s full vocals are on display, but I’m not sure I love this song choice for her. She sounds good and has such a deep and haunting tone, she seemed comfortable on stage and delivered a solid performance. But when compared to those who have already taken to the stage, I’m not sure Butcher put her best foot forward. Connick Jr. would’ve liked her to raise the tempo and groove as the song built, and I agree. It just seemed to stay at one level. But overall, it was a solid performance by Butcher. Sparky James Vawser is next to take to the Idol stage, choosing to sing Thirsty Merc’s 20 Good Reasons, an Aussie classic. “I’m gonna give the judges twenty good reasons to put me through to the top twelve,” he says, before listing a few. This is probably Vawser’s best performance throughout the competition. He has a Shannon Noll vibe about him. His vocals are great, he’s using the stage and showing an emotional connection to the song. Gone are the nerves that riddled him during his audition, and they’ve been replaced with buckets of confidence. The crowd erupted in cheers and lapped up every second. Connick Jr. can’t even get a word in with how loud the crowd are cheering. “We probably won’t see you again after tonight so I’m glad you sucked up all that energy on the stage,” says Sandilands, who seemed visibly annoyed that the crowd are in love with Vawser. The crowd start cheering for Trainor to give him a touchdown. Connick Jr. and Sandilands’ feedback was a bit harsh. They’ve been much nicer to contestants who gave less impressive performances.

James Vawser. Image: Supplied.

We’re then forced to endure an accent competition between Connick Jr. and Scott Tweedie, with the former insisting his Australian accent is better than Tweedie’s American accent. Tweedie won. The final contestant for the evening, Bec Voysey, reveals she has an arcade game obsession and has spent many hours earning thousands and thousands of tickets. She says she’ll be applying this competitive nature to the Idol competition. She sings Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars, and I wasn’t blown away. There were off notes and her falsetto was shaky, and a lot of it was just vocal runs and acrobatics. I also think nothing has really changed for Voysey throughout the competition. I guess this is her most upbeat performance, but it’s a lot of the same-same - which is something the judges reprimand others for. It probably comes down to a wrong song choice, something the judges seem to think, but the performance just fell flat for me. I think throughout the competition so far, I haven’t felt a genuine connection from Voysey. Maybe it doesn’t translate on screen?

Bec Voysey. Image: Supplied.

Now comes decision time. Shark, Trainor, Connick Jr. and Sandilands will choose three contestants to join Hynninen as the first four contestants through to the top twelve. My prediction is Amali Dimond, Noah Cookson and Ben Sheehy. Trainor announces the first singer through is Royston Sagigi-Baira, followed by Sandilands revealing Dimond will be joining him. It’s all down to Connick Jr. to make one last Idol hopefuls dream come true. He gives a big spiel about finding a superstar, and says all the contestants remaining on stage have his respect and that some of them have a “special talent.” He announces Sheehy is the final contestant of the night to make it through, and with that a third of the top twelve have been revealed. I’ll be honest, I don’t love this format. There’s a real chance that the four eliminated contestants tonight will have given better performances than all eight contestants who take to the stage tomorrow night. Let’s see what happens.

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


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