We’re almost at the end of Rising Star, y’all! Sunday, six contestants competed but only four advanced to next week’s Finale. Who wants it the most and who made the wrong song choices?
Josh Groban gave us a quick rundown of the Rising Star proceedings while taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge. The experts’ votes will only count for 1% each, Josh and the experts mentored the contestants, and Josh nominated all six semi-finalists for the challenge.1 Here is how the contestants finished, from first to worst:
He opens his mentoring session asking Brad to offer some clarification on his critique last week. Brad Paisley sums it up as he doesn’t want Jesse to come across as a one-trick pony. Jesse nods, then says “I’m doing a song called ‘Billie Jean'” but at least has the presence of mind not to follow that statement with “you probably haven’t heard of it.” I’m not trying to be contrarian since he will most likely win, but I have become completely disenchanted with this kid. His performance begins and there are strings and a slowed-down arrangement, but he still goes to the growly/shouty place he visits in every single one of his performances. There was less spectacle with this one since Jesse decided to go acoustic, but the idea of an album or concert of twelve tracks of this is exhausting. He finished with 83% and up-votes from all three experts.
Austin opened the show with his version of “Love Runs Out” by OneRepublic. Brad and Josh are encouraged by the high energy of the song, while Ludacris and Kesha think this is an opportunity for him to engage the audience (specifically, the screaming girls). Austin turned it out this week. He got rid of 90% of the affectations2 and delivered a solid vocal on the track. It was a good way to kick off the evening and continues to build on the momentum he has developed throughout the competition. He scored 81% with support from all the experts.
Dana made it into this week by the skin of her teeth and recognizes she is the underdog of the competition. She has opted for Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” but has given it a Billie Holiday twist, as Groban described it during the mentoring session. All she needed was a giant flower in her hair to complete the look as she performed. The piano was somewhat overwhelming, as if the player thought he was in a lounge and needed to compete, but overall the arrangement had a bluesy/jazzy vibe that served both song and singer. Kesha tells Dana she still thinks she can win and that this was her best performance to date. I agree with half of that. Ludacris praises Dana for doing her homework since last week and showing off her eye of the tiger in wanting to win this. Dana secured her spot with 75%.
Joshua closed the show with “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts. Brad convinced him to switch from a John Lennon track because Joshua should be in the country genre rather than adult contemporary. He is the only contestant to start the song off with the power line/note from the song, which was a bad idea. First, everyone gets to do extended versions of their songs, so building to moments is a possibility. Second, Joshua is so amped up during the first verse that it becomes uncomfortable to listen. He does calm down by the end of the first chorus, but it was not Joshua’s best performance. Brad and Kesha voted for him, but that only brought Joshua up to 72%. Ludacris says he voted no because he felt Dana wanted it more. Interesting how going last may be a disadvantage.
Audrey Kate Geiger
Oh, my beloved Audrey. She is so grateful for all the advice and support she receives from the experts and the people voting at home. She has chosen “Killing Me Softly” for this week’s performance. She goes with the Roberta Flack version, though I was secretly hoping Audrey would have opted for the Fugees’ cover. Frankly, that may have been a better choice. The Flack version is so somber and kind of meanders while Lauryn Hill’s vocals are a better match for Audrey’s particular style. Also, the twang added in the arrangement would have offered a nice pop to complement the overall performance. The experts love her, but Audrey scored only 69%. Brad says she should be saved, and I agree.
I was so bummed to see she edged out Shameia Crawford by a single percentage point for last week’s West Coast Save. That disappointment grew when I saw that Maneepat was going to attempt to sing “Chandelier” by Sia. That is a really difficult song for anyone to attempt, but Maneepat in particular may lack the life experience to actually get to the meat of the song.3 Kesha advised Maneepat to pretend to throw a drink at the “1-2-3, 1-2-3 DRINK” part, but on-stage Maneepat didn’t commit to the action and it looked half-assed. The vocals also were a mess, but part of that is degree of difficulty. Maneepat will not be saved: she earned only 27%.
Next week on Rising Star: It’s the finale! Jesse Kinch, Austin French, Dana Williams, and WCS receiver Audrey Kate Geiger4 will battle it out one last time for the Capitol Records deal and $100,000.