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'Academy Idol' Recap - Season 5: Episodes 3 & 4

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'Academy Idol' season five judges. Photo by Bob Toy.

Episode 3: October 14, 2015

Week one’s Academy Idol contestants are back for another round. Sadly, Zachary Santos was the first contestant to be eliminated. The judges were curious to see how the contestants took their critiques and applied them to their latest performances.

Episode three kicked off with a week one favorite. Janel Chanté  seemed to have zero nerves as she took the stage. In her pre-performance video, she mentioned how being on stage makes you a different person. She wants to find who she is as a person and find her sound. Janel belted out the lyrics to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Lauryn Hill with endless energy and movement. She started off the night with a great vibe and totally woke up the room.

Judge Kiyomi Mitsuda said that she loved the energy level. Judge Matthew Cesca offered a slightly different opinion, saying, “I have to disagree a little bit with Kyomi. At the start it seemed to me you gave a little less energy, and I was even thinking, ‘Wow, this isn’t better than last week.’ But as the song got going and your voice got going, it was definitely your best performance thus far.”

Judge Keanna Moody agreed and said,  “It started off a little the chill side, but once the song started going, it was very exciting. Your energy, it just makes me want to get up and dance with you. I loved that song, it was great! I can’t wait to see what you bring next week.”

Overall the judges had positive feedback for McDowell and are very confident that she will be returning for another performance.

Hawaiian native Acetyn Emayo was next, and he had a surprising twist for the audience. When host Frank Diaz was interview Emayo backstage before his performance, he mentioned that he also lived in Tennessee. The country vibe grew on him, and that is what inspired his performance for that night. From Hawaii-beachy vibes to a country hit, the opening notes of Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” filled the room.

Moody summed up the performance perfectly. “I broadened my horizon with music, and I like how you did different types of songs so we can hear how your voice is with different tempos,” Moody said. “It sounded like you were mumbling, maybe you were a little close to the microphone. I love your guitar playing, great job.”

Slam poet extraordinaire Von Bellows was up next. Mentioning that he wants to continue poetry outside of school, Bellows showed a true connection and devotion to the artform. With the first verse, he had the audience hooked. His goal with this performance was to create a piece that everyone could relate to.

Judge Elizabeth Sweeny validated this goal, saying, “Thank you, that was enlightening. Specifically when you brought up the line, ‘Spirit and state’ that is what really hit home to me. Great job, and I can’t wait to see what else you bring.”

Judge Alexis Moore let Bellows know that his expectations were met by saying, “Last week you blew my mind with your first poem, and I didn’t know what to expect this week. I knew it going to be great, that exceeded my expectations. Like everyone said, you carried the entire performance with strength. You had everybody in tune with it, and you made it relatable. I think that was what was really important.”

Singing “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5, Pricilla Tuuholoaki took the stage with the biggest smile on her face. Her soft and soothing voice connected perfectly with her happy aura.

 When it was her turn to face the judges, Moody shared that she was impressed with Tuuholoaki’s improvements. “I thought you had more confidence this week,” she said. “I can hear you smiling when you sing so you should do it more often. I thought you did great.”

Cesca commented, “I think you took our critiques, you looked very confident up there. You were smiling the whole time, you can really tell in the performance that you were enjoying it. For next week, let loose with your voice and just let it go.”

Mitsuda was the one to provide constructive criticism, saying, “You do need to amp it up a little bit. Your voice is just so soft that I feel like it will be difficult, but I feel like you can overcome it.”

This next performer was hands down my favorite of the night. Her performance was a total transformation from her last. Lauren Tacderas mentioned that she grew up doing musical theater. It taught her to put her whole self into a son. This mentality filtered through into her performance of “They Just Keep Moving the Line” a song from the former NBC show, Smash. If you have ever heard of a vintage glam vibe in a voice, this girl has it.

The judges were blown away, and Mitsuda was the first to make the connection to her theater background. “That was a complete turnaround from last time,” she said. “From your bio, that was a totally theatrical performance and you owned it, you hit those notes. It was overall just amazing.”

Moore said, “Last week when you performed, I knew you had a voice. I just thought the song choice didn’t fit you. This week was completely different. Everybody was in tune, I didn’t expect that kind of power. You really have talent.”

All together the talent that evening all showed improvement and gave amazing performances. This only adds to the excitement to see what the others are going to bring to the table this season.


Episode 4: October 21, 2015

With such positive responses from the Academy Idol talent and judges last week, there was an eagerness to start this next show. The judges wasted no time in expressing that stage presence and energy is still important. They want to see the “It Factor” and something that sets the contestants apart from the competition.

Up first was Sabrina Anderson. Before her performance, she mentioned that she chose “Bust Your Windows” by Jazmine Sullivan, because she was very comfortable with the song and loves the artist.Nerves seemed to be running high for Anderson that night, causing her to stumble over the lyrics, resulting in cutting her performance short.

Judge Keanna Moody lifted Anderson’s spirits during her critiques by saying, “I thought your performance was great. I know that [the rest of the judges] said don’t be nervous, but sometimes nerves are good. Put that towards your performance and you’ll be just fine.”

Anderson’s performance is proof of the importance of the saying “The show must go on!” Judge Alexis Moore said, “Solid. Really solid! Like the rest of the judges said, just keep it going. I thought you were going to continue, I was kind of bummed when you didn’t. You have a very nice voice, I am very excited to see what you bring next week.”

Even though Anderson had a rough ending, the judges still had a ton of faith in her capabilities as a performer.

Next up was powerhouse Francisse Bondoc. She chose the song “Still Into You” by Paramore, because she refuses to be seen as a one trick pony. Though she loves ballads, that is not the only style she is capable of. Her dream is to record and produce her music in her own studio and to also discover new talent and get their music out there. Just like last week, she wowed the judges and the audience with her powerful and memorable vocals.

Judge Kiyomi Mitsuda said it best: “Your performance last time was amazing. This time you definitely brought a whole new step, and you have improved so much more and you owned it and hit those notes. It was, overall, just great.”

Bondoc even had non-Paramore fan Alexis Moore singing her praises. “I have no idea what Paramore sounds like, but if they sound like anything as good as you I’m sold. Very, very good overall!” Still holding her title as a top competitor, Bondoc will undoubtedly be returning for another performance.

Singing “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson, the soft and sweet Mansy Yang gave this week’s performance her all. She obviously took previous critiques of bringing more energy to heart, but the performance didn’t leave a lasting impression on the judges.

Moore said, “I didn’t think you necessarily did bad, but nothing really sold me about the performance. I think if you’re back next week, try turning up the energy or maybe choose a better song for your voice.”

Moody was just not impressed, “Song choice is definitely important, and this is a powerful song. Your voice isn’t that powerful, so you didn’t have me with this one.”

When the crowd heard Rick Robinson was about to perform, the energy in the room went from 10 to 20. As “Just A Friend” by Mario flowed through the room, Robinson’s dance moves were activated. He utilized every part of the stage in what seemed to be more of a dance routine than a vocal performance. Robinson was not afraid to get up close and personal with the audience and had each one of the judges smiling and dancing along.

When it came to critiques, Elizabeth Sweeny was sort of at a loss for words. She finally commented, saying,  “Wow! That was a great performance and entertaining for sure. Vocals…I’m not really sure. I didn’t hear too much singing, but you are really entertaining.”

Robinson said he didn’t want to top his last performance, but to just continue putting on a show. Hopefully that mentality will give him a spot in next week’s performances.

The final contestant of the night was Mariyet Abuban. Wanting to show a range in her voice, she chose “Officially Missing You” by Tamia for a more mellow effect. The performance started off a little slow, but as Abuban got comfortable with the song and audience, her true capabilities shined through. What turned out to be a stellar performance, the audience and judges were pleased once again.

Mitsuda said, “I thought the beginning was a little slow, your voice was still very nice. When you progressed into the song, it really showed the power. It was great after that!”

Cesca said, “I think the song was supposed to start off slow like that and get bigger so I thought that worked pretty well. You hit all of your notes perfectly, so I thought it was a good performance.”

Overall, the judges were pleased and their votes showed it. Abuban’s future looks very bright.