Season 1 | Episode 9 | “Semifinals“ | Aired Aug 17, 2014
Last week: Eight contestants were reduced to six during another awkward game of musical chairs. Questionable song choices sent a couple of favorites home (you’ll be missed, April Lockhart!). Kesha did NOT show up with rainbow hair on the previous episode, which set the tone for a somewhat underwhelming evening. Now let’s see what’s cooking this week on Rising Star.
The show opens on our remaining six competitors standing onstage as Josh Groban narrates. We cut to see Josh in the greenroom in front of Ludacris, Brad Paisley and two buckets of water. I think anyone with a Facebook account knows where this is going, but in case you don’t: Brad and Ludacris gleefully soak Josh as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Josh then nominates the semifinalists to take the challenge.
Josh (or “Joshua Tree,” as he calls himself) is now onstage, miraculously dry. He announces that Kesha changes her hair color more than Brad changes underwear (although this doesn’t really apply tonight, since Kesha’s hair color is a repeat of previous weeks). Josh also confirms that three of tonight’s finalists will be saved by the East Coast, while the West Coast will get its regular bread crumb of saving one (for a total of four finalists). Also, each of the experts will get only 1 percent of the vote, so it’s up to YOU, intrepid at-home judges.
This week, Josh and the experts are tag-teaming each contestant with their expertise. Josh and Brad are handling the vocal and musical side of the performance, while Kesha and Ludacris are coaching on choreography and stage presence.
First up is newlywed Austin French. His “Love Runs Out” is high-energy and looks great thanks to some helpful coaching during rehearsal. It also sounds great (the vocal doesn’t suffer at all from the added movement). There is no doubt that this guy has one of the best voices in the competition. Viewers and the experts agree, giving Austin 81 percent of the vote.
Tonight’s second performer (and last week’s West Coast save) is our youngest, Maneepat Molloy. Her pick, “Chandelier,” is not the ideal choice. The song is too wonderfully weird to be handled with musical-theater gloves, and while the upper notes that cause most people to stumble are spot on, Maneepat struggles with her chest/head voice mix throughout. That struggle shows in her 27 percent total vote.
After commercial, we return to current frontrunner Jesse Kinch, and revisit last week’s commentary from Brad saying he’d like to hear something different from Jesse. Brad clarifies, explaining he’d like to see a softer side, and Jesse gives him that with a dynamic cover of “Billie Jean.” I absolutely love the idea of flipping this song, but this oddly metered version takes the wind out of the song’s sails. However, Jesse still cuts through the neutered arrangement, slaying it and earning 83 percent of the vote (the highest of the night so far). With that, we’re reminded that Maneepat is in the hot seat, and we see a return of the old leaderboard, telling us that the next contestant will need more than 27 percent to raise THE WALL and secure a place in the finals.
THE WALL comes down for the next contestant, Dana Williams. She calls herself the underdog of the competition, and Kesha sweetly consoles Dana when she has a tearful crisis of confidence during rehearsal. After all of that, Dana’s torchy version of “Sunday Morning” is gorgeous and unexpected, and it successfully raises THE WALL with 75 percent of the vote. Even Ludacris responds to Dana’s comeback, giving her a “yes” vote. Being a fan of Dana from day one, this basically makes me feel like giving everyone a box of puppies. However, this does mean Maneepat has been ejected from the hot seat and shuffled to the bottom 3.
Um, apparently everyone is getting in on the bare lightbulb trend reinforced by this show. Check out this car commercial that aired tonight. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Bare lightbulbs make everything sexier.
Our fifth contestant tonight is sultry songstress Audrey Kate Geiger, whose performance of “New York State of Mind” was one of last week’s biggest highlights. Audrey’s “Killing Me Softly” makes me happy (it was the last song I performed on The Voice, so I have a special connection to it). Her smoky rendition is lovely and understated and true to the original. While I love it, viewers at home seem to have a harder time connecting to it (maybe they’re more familiar with the more soulful remake?). Voting moves slowly and only gets Audrey to 69 percent, relegating her to the bottom 3. THE WALL stays firmly in place.
Since we’re nearing the end of the evening, now’s the time for the hosts to get wacky. In response to a Twitter dare, Josh pulls out some crazy wigs for Brad and Ludacris to model in honor of Kesha. This is the end result. Please do enjoy.
Tonight’s final performer is family man Joshua Peavy. After Joshua rehearses his initial song choice, Brad recommends he switch gears and go country, covering “What Hurts the Most” instead. While Joshua sounds great on this song, he looks physically uncomfortable and seems to be working a bit harder than usual vocally. His 72 percent is not shabby, but it’s not enough to steal the hot seat from Dana, and Joshua moves to the bottom 3.
Josh closes the night by revealing this week’s West Coast save to be Audrey Kate Geiger. Aw, good choice, West Coast! That ice cream I promised is back ON.
Things I learned this week: Kesha needs to change hair color stat, or we’re all going to forget that’s her thing. Dana Williams is the little underdog that could. “Chandelier” is never the right choice for a singing competition, and Jesse can make just about any song arrangement sound compelling. Additionally, I want to walk around all day long with bare lightbulbs behind me, because they bring the sexy.
Who were your favorites this week, and who are you rooting for in next week’s finals? Do you agree with the West Coast save? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll see you again next week for the season finale of Rising Star.