It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Finally some real performances. No more 20 second acappella wonders!
The show opened with judges Mary Mary performing their hit “God In Me” with Kierra “KiKi” Sheard. I wasn’t mad. (That song is my own personal theme music.) But I did chuckle a bit when the 20 finalists came out to “reprise” it. I think the “oddness” (is that a word?) of it had to do with their nerves. This was the first real performance of the entire competition. I’m not going to hold that against them. I’m going to congratulate them for making it this far. Like I’ve said before, they have more guts than me!!!
Before I get into the performances though, I know Bebe Winans must have felt some kind of way when the contestants appeared. Those cardigans, dress shirts, and loosely worn ties looked awfully reminiscent of Clifton Ross’ geek chic audition outfit that he didn’t like so much. Oh yeah, and nice glasses Bebe! Ha!
Let’s dig in, shall we?
First up, Tammy Turner. I had high expectations for Tammy because I remembered her DC preliminary auditions. She had some of those judges split on whether to advance her, but ultimately got to sing for Mary Mary and BeBe Winans. I thought she was “good” last night but I think my expectations probably got the best of me. That’s also a hard song to sing, so I’m still giving it up to her!
Next, Clifton Ross. That dude sang the life, death and resurrection out of that song! Clifton is one of those tenors with an amazing high range, but the placement of that song is still pretty difficult for even the highest and strongest of voices. But hear me, HE SANG THAT! And who knew he had a “growl” in him?! Amazing!
Camille Betton followed with a rendition of one of my favorite old school hymns, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.” I agree with one of the judges in that I probably wouldn’t have necessarily chosen that song because it doesn’t showcase all of the amazing voice she has. (I know, because someone got me a copy of her demo and it’s now in rotation on my iPod!) But by the time she got to the vamp, she was in her element and saved what could have easily been just an OK song.
I must admit, Jeff Spain wasn’t necessarily on my list of fav’s in the competition. Normally, I’d advise most male singers to stay FAR AWAY from a lead vocal made famous by Walter Hawkins, especially someone new to gospel! But he definitely tailored Donald Lawrence’s “Seasons” to his voice and made a believer out of me. I’m curious to see if his lack of “church chops” will prove difficult for him in the long run. You know how y’all church folks can be!
Sidebar: Did anyone catch Danetra Moore on stage on background vocals? I told you you’d see more of her! She may have gotten turned down in all 3 audition cities, but homegirl got a gig out of the deal. *Tap ya neighbor and say it with me: “I’M NOT MAD.”*
It’s no secret that Jessica Reedy is one of my favorites in this competition and last night she did not disappoint. “Just A Prayer Away” is another hard song to sing. Yolanda Adams? Hello? You could hear a bit of a rough patch in the beginning of the song, but she worked it out. Her vocal control really is something special and she’s so sincere. Did you catch that low note on the end? Range goes both ways folks. Yeah, I’m a fan, sue me!
Now somebody tell me how Jonathan Johnson slipped by me. I don’t remember him from the audition episodes at all. He surprised me with his David Ruffin-esque rendition of “The Lord Will Make A Way.” (For those of you under the age of 30 or who have never watched Vh1 on a Saturday/Holiday, David Ruffin is the late and GREAT lead singer of The Temptations. Study to show yourselves approved asap.)
Latice Crawford laid me ALL THE WAY OUT with her almost flawless rendition of “Peace Be Still” made most famous by the vocal powerhouse that is Vanessa Bell-Armstrong. I watched the show at a friend’s house and almost got put out because I started throwing things! She did have this one “praise dancer” move she kept doing with her left hand that made me laugh, but that could not take away from her utter demolition (in a good way) of that song! She even gave me a little something to take with me throughout the week when she ad-libbed “He doesn’t abide by rules!” Oh yeah, Latice, last night was yours! What tongue was that you were speaking in BeBe? Ha!
Kalind Haynes sang Richard Smallwood’s “Center Of My Joy.” It wasn’t bad. Yeah, I want to say something else, but umm, that’s about it.
Audrey Lewis sang the Andrae Crouch and Sunday afternoon service solo standard, “Amazing Grace Shall Always Be My Song Of Praise.” Audrey’s voice and style are so youthful. When you see her, you don’t expect that voice to come from her. There’s something about her I just like. Can’t call it, but she makes me smile!
Zebulon Ellis took it straight to church and closed out the show with “God Is Standing By.” I would have left the high note out of the end, but he really sang well. He reminds me of that singer in your church that you wait for. It’ll be a long and drawn out service where you’re ready to hunch over, put up your right index finger and “tip out.” But you don’t, because you know Zebulon is on the program and you just have to hear what he’s going to do, and it will all be worth it.
So next week, we’ll find out who the 5 finalists from last night’s group will be. Here are my predictions:
1. Clifton Ross
2. Jessica Reedy
3. Latice Crawford
4. Zebulon Ellis
5. I can’t call the 5th one, but it’s between Jeff Spain and Camille Betton
What do you think? Did I get anything wrong? Let a brotha know!