The final set of Rising Star duels features four pairs battling for five slots. It’s a fast hour.
Morgan Higgins vs. Maneepat Molloy
This duel of teenage besties begins with Morgan tackling “Edge of Glory” by Lady GaGa. She is warned in her mentor session that she needs to get to the power of the song faster, so she frontloads her arrangement with the chorus of the song. This is why “Edge of Glory” is a terrible choice for singing competitions—you need to build to the chorus otherwise it comes across as insincere. The 90-second performance format does not allow for the build to happen. It also doesn’t help that Morgan has fallen back on her musical theater training, giving what I think is a highly affected performance. Brad Paisley liked the performance, as did Kesha, but Morgan only mustered 45%.
Maneepat has chosen “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. I am not familiar with this track, so I’m not sure if the original track is as boring as this arrangement. The song has a bit more range than “Edge of Glory,” so Maneepat is able to show a bit more range, albeit in a pitchy way. In terms of raw skill, Maneepat outranks her opponent, and she crushes the vote. Ludacris and Kesha add 14% to the 52% the audience gave her, so Maneepat definitely advances.
Shameia Crawford vs. Unselfish
This is a battle of second chances. Shameia was one of the two contestants rescued by the West Coast in the audition rounds. She chose to go first in the duel so that she had the opportunity to see the audience (since she didn’t get to last time). Shameia and her husband rearranged the standard “Cry Me a River” for this performance. I get a little bit of a Shirley Bassey / Bond theme vibe from this performance, which might not be the best showcase for Shameia’s voice. It gets a little shouty at parts, but she’s hitting the notes. It is certainly the best vocal of the night so far, and the panel all vote for her. Shameia finally reaches the 70% threshold.
Since an odd number of contestants advanced from the auditions, Rising Star tagged the act that received the highest score from the non-advancing acts. Any way to get a group into this stage of the competition, I suppose. The four harmonizers from Atlanta have chosen “Payphone” by Maroon 5. Kesha warns them that the harmonies need to be on-point, otherwise the song will fall like a house of cards. The song begins with falsetto and does not leave that register. Then the guys stand from their stools at the chorus. No, no, no, you stand up at the keychange. No one is feeling this performance, though Kesha does throw a pity vote their way. Unselfish scores 33%. Sorry guys.
Dana Williams vs. Audrey Kate Geiger
Dana isn’t sure how to market herself since she likes to do soul and folk. The mentors (and me) think that fusion is exactly what she should do. With her guitar, Dana attempts “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by Carole King. What I love about this performance is that Dana doesn’t overpower every other phrase, which is usually what happens with this track. There are a few bum notes here and there, but Dana has a unique point of view. Kesha and Ludacris throw support her way, giving Dana a score of 67%. Brad thought the performance felt like a rehearsal, so Dana will need to amp it up if she advances.
Audrey Kate will perform “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele. That’s the first risk, but then she announces to the mentors she will open up the song a cappella. Audrey Kate has the greenest eye of the tiger. We may have a potential frontrunner: this performance is fantastic. Though the start gets dangerously close to an Adele impersonation, Audrey Kate’s voice has an Ellie Goulding quality about it and the performance is near-flawless. Audrey Kate scores 88%, which will be the high score of the night.
Karen Hornsby vs. Joshua Peavy
Karen continues to play the supermom narrative card, which leaves me cold. Very few of the contestants continued to harp on their sob stories in this round of the competition, so not that we’re at the end of the duels this ploy sticks out like a sore thumb. Karen adds some more money to Carole King’s royalty check by singing “Natural Woman” in the style of (OMG IT’S) Kelly Clarkson’s American Idol performance. Spoiler: Karen is no (OMG IT’S) Kelly Clarkson. Though there isn’t an opportunity to do runs, Karen seizes the opportunity to turn every note into a power note. It’s total kitchen sink, but the mentors don’t seem to mind. All three support her and she finishes with 67%.
Joshua Peavy, who was the first contestant in the auditions, will close out the duel round. Originally he was going to sing “Life is a Highway” but Ludacris suggests trying a different song. The backup: “Too Close” by Alex Clare. My appreciation for this song is purely ironic1 and I wasn’t blown away by Joshua the first time around, but this was a perfect match between song and singer. Kesha didn’t vote for him because she wanted to keep Karen, but Joshua scores 75% and automatically advances.
Ludacris practically guarantees Karen she will be saved by the West Coast, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Dana and Karen both scored 67%. The West Coast voting has been almost equal with the main show voting, so it could be either woman moving on to next week. In the end, it is Dana Williams who has moved on in the competition.
Next week on Rising Star: The round of 13! Everyone will perform, but only eight will survive. It’s going to be a two-hour2 battle royale.