Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reality Singing Shows: 25 Best Performances of 2013

American Idol. The Voice USA. The X Factor Australia. The Voice Philippines. The X Factor UK. The Sing-Off. The X Factor USA. Yes, I've been reviewing most of these shows for a couple of years now, and this is the only moment where I figured why not make a definitive list of top performances for the year as if it's the Olympics of Reality Singing Shows!

True, I had a hard time doing that on their specific shows, so the task of coming up with a year-end list of 25 Best Performances would be almost next to impossible, but I was up for the challenge. That being said, just like many other lists or countdowns, this one is extremely biased. It's based on personal preferences. There will probably be some performances that are nowhere to be found on your list that may be as high as 10 or something on here - actually I guarantee it. But please respond maturely, flames don't make me particularly happy.

Now, we pay tribute to the LIVE reality singing competition performances that made these shows worth watching - and reviewing!:

25. Wake Me Up
Taylor Henderson
The X Factor Australia 5

AWESOME! I didn't doubt Taylor vocally on this one, but if I'm being honest, I was more worried if he could pull off something this upbeat, but he managed to combine strong vocals with some undeniable charisma and great stage presence. He looked like a legit popstar. Who knew?

24. Straight Up
Josh Levi
The X Factor USA 3

Not sure about the song choice at first, but Josh killed it! He made the song sound current with a bit of R&B and pop inflections in the arrangement, his vocals were fantastic, and there's a freshness to his stage presence that some compensated for some of the flaws in his performance. This actually reminded me of Chris Brown before all the mess that happened to him. Very nice.

23. Adorn
Cole Vosbury
The Voice USA 5

No guitar? No hat? A Miguel song? Whoa, Cole! This would look like a total disaster on paper, but he made Adorn work for him. He stepped out of the box and pulled it off with flying colors. I love that his transitions were smooth and his voice was tender but had enough rasp and grit to add dimension to his version. This was just an all around fantastic performance.

22. Bottom Of The River
Vocal Rush
The Sing-Off 4

Outstanding! Not familiar with the song, but they absolutely sold this performance. The lead vocal was brilliant, the arrangement flowed beautifully, and I was most particularly impressed by the group's musicality. I enjoyed the intricacy of their sound and their harmonies were solid. Plus, that breakdown was fantastic complete with some interesting choreography.

21. Jiordan Tolli
The X Factor Australia 5

Brilliant interpretation. Impeccable phrasing. Outstanding vocal dynamics. This was fabulous. Well done.

20. Stronger
Kree Harrison
American Idol 12

Her rendition of Faith Hill's Stronger was, well, very strong. There’s something raw about her, something undeniably authentic. Her vocals were on point, her tone was gorgeous on this song, the delivery was effortless and it was apparent that she knows how to interpret a song outstandingly. As good as she was, I also loved that Kree wasn't over-polished and had room to grow, which was important for her to Idol trajectory.

19. You Keep Me Hanging On
Janelle Arthur
American Idol 12

This was the week Janelle officially regained my interest. Armed with subtle lighting and an original arrangement, Janelle accompanied herself on guitar and flipped what could have been a very boring song choice into something kind of magical. I found her dark, acoustic driven arrangement of the song to be one of the most interesting performances this season. She connected with the song impeccably well and this was Janelle's best performance, hands down! Without this, I doubt she would have gone as far in the competition as she had.

18. One
Dami Im
The X Factor Australia 5

Unique staging. Outstanding build up. Great intensity. Pristine vocals. This was probably Dami's best performance on the show, and arguably the finest one of the entire season.

17. Sam Bailey
Power Of Love
The X Factor UK 10

During this point, I was pretty sure would end up like Mary Byrne from Season 7, but she managed to pull off outstanding performances throughout the season and her best one was her rousing rendition of Power of Love. This was so good I almost thought I was listening to a studio recording. Maybe a few diction issues, but that would be easy to clean up. This was fabulous.

16. Who You Are
Angela Miller
American Idol 12

It was around this week in Season 11 when Phillip Phillips went from being middle of the road blah to slowly growing on me until I was genuinely fine with him winning the show. I personally think Angie is that contestant this year because while her vocals on Who You Are weren't perfect - she sounded a little breathless in parts - there's a certain believability and connection with the song that was palpable here. This somehow solidified her status as an "artist" who was current enough to sell records. Powerful and emotional.

15. True Colors
Michelle Chamuel
The Voice 4

A total departure from her usual jaunty performance, but this was a refreshing change from her. I questioned about the song choice at first, but she changed it up enought to make it her own. I liked that her take was raw and unpolished and there's an authenticity to the whole performance. No affections whatsoever.

14. Jar Of Hearts
Morissette Amon
The Voice Philippines

She had a beautiful moment with her performance of Jar Of Hearts. Her voice was pitch perfect, the phrasing just oozed natural ability, and there was fierceness to her delivery that urges you to root for her. I think she's a very dependable vocalist that if she was able to keep up this momentum and got better as the weeks go on, that’s a really ominous sign for the rest of the contestants. Of course, that didn't happen, but her interpretation of the song - very different from the original - backed with strong vocals just made it the best performance of the season.

13. Say My Name
Alex & Sierra
The X Factor USA 3

This song choice went out of nowhere, and I was more than thrilled, I peed. Haha. This was probably one of their finest moments. Their solos were outstanding, their harmonies was tighter than Sierra's pants, and shockingly, Sierra's vocals sounded strong on this with enough sass and attitude and great phrasing. 

12. Ring of Fire
Home Free
The Sing-Off 4

While they played it safe with yet another country song that week and the arrangement felt a little too cutesy for my taste, their execution and delivery of Ring Of Fire was just impeccable. Their sound was slick, the harmonies were tight, and that note the bass singer hit was outstanding and quite brilliant. This performance won me over completely.  

11. Hallelujah
Matthew Schuler
The Voice USA 5

Despite the tired song choice, Matthew somehow magically managed to breath new life to Hallelujah. He coloured the song brilliantly well, he did enough to differentiate himself from the other renditions, there's a great amount of outstanding vocal dynamics and his falsetto was just gorgeous.

10. Underneath It All
Tessanne Chin
The Voice USA 5

SO GOOD. This was a brilliant song choice and the reggae arrangement fits Tessanne to a tee. The performance was entertainingly unique, nobody else on this show can do it, it made her stand out, and there's confidence and fun to her performance that I haven't seen before from her. 

09. I'm Alright
Home Free & The Filharmonics
The Sing-Off 4

Just the fact that I was still grinning like an idiot a couple of minutes AFTER their performance proved that they did something awesome with their performance. Their version of I'm Alright was just delightfully entertaining, they sounded amazing, and I liked that they were just having fun with the performance.

08. Say Something
Alex & Sierra
The X Factor USA 3

Say Something was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable performances this season of the X Factor. This performance was magical. True, it wasn't any different from the original, but who cares? They sounded magnificent, their chemistry was overwhelming, how they both played instruments was genius, and everything else was brilliant.

07. Skyfall
Amber Carrington
The Voice USA 4

Skyfall is a very well known song and I don't think people fully appreciate how difficult this song is to sing, but what Amber did with her voice on this particular song was extraordinary. She had some big shoes to fill, and while she fell short of a few bigger notes towards the end, this was still pretty stellar. Her phrasing was sublime, her pitch was mostly spot on, and her range was insane. I liked that she she has shown true versatility, and that she could sing more than just country music.

06. As Long As You Love Me 
Caroline Pennel & Anthony Paul
The Voice USA 5

This was a weird pairing, but both made it work. I was actually shocked that they sounded absolutely fantastic together despite having different vocal stylings. Caroline's quirky inflections sounded terrific on the song especially the choices she made with her phrasing. Plus, she actually has a powerful side to her voice, which was surprising. Anthony has a smooth tone that was very soothing and the liberties he took with the melody was equally awesome. This was an odd match made in heaven.

05. A Case Of You
James Wolpert
The Voice USA 5

I intially questioned why his voice kept on trailing off after each phrase on A Case of You, but I figured it's intentional. It gave his rendition some character despite the rawness of his delivery - especially during the verses. His vocals were absolutely lovely, his transitions were sublime, it had a quiet power to his delivery and that tone was everything I wanted in life. This was obviously one of the most underrated performances this season and, to me, the performance of the season. It was SO good, I had to include the studio version in the blog's monthly playlist, which I don't usually do.

04. One Of Us
Sarah Simmons
The Voice USA 4

Judith Hill may have the most overhyped blind audition this season - or EVER! - but when Sarah opened her mouth to cover this song, I just blurted out, "Judith Hill who?" Haha. This was fantastically awesome. I love the rasp in her voice, she has an amazing control and her vocal dynamics were top notch. She did some twists and turns with the song that was unexpected, but worked perfectly well. Definitely my favorite blind audition EVER, and my number one pick as the best single performance of Season 4.

03. I Who Have Nothing
Candice Glover
American Idol 12

A rare moment! How often do we see someone who tackles a reprise and improved on it significantly? Kris Allen did that with Ain't No Sunshine and it was pretty surreal to see Candice repeating that feat with I (Who Have Nothing). I admit, I honestly felt like reprising this was a stupid decision, but I figured her strategy and it was brilliant. She made a few adjustments with the arrangement, switched the first verse to an sublime acapella and further locked in the soul of this number. This performance physically assaulted every other performance of the season. Literally. It grabbed every "great" performance we’ve seen over the past few months and slapped them into submission. To me, her reprise of I (Who Have Nothing) was a culmination of a great record of performances

02. Gravity 
Alex & Sierra
The X Factor USA 3

This was a stupendous version of Sara Bareille's Gravity, that it had me bawling at the end of their performance - and yes, I NEVER do that. Their musical chemistry was unbelievable, their voices sounded fantastic, their phrasing was impeccable, and just their connection to the song was powerful. The arrangement with just the piano was brilliant, how Alex transitioned to his falsetto and then back to the grit of his voice was terrific, and Sierra's glory note and that beautiful tone ending the whole performance. I could on and on and on and on, but I don't think I have enough adjectives to further prove how much I loved this version.

01. Love Song
Candice Glover
American Idol 12

Candice had a handful of shining moments throughout the season, but Lovesong single handedly obliterated all of it. I sat there in stunned silence as I watched an incredible singer that American Idol was lucky to find stand there and take a song and make it her own. Viewers of this show are often looking for a water cooler moment and they found one with this stellar performance. The vocals were powerful and impeccable and the liberties she took with the melody was like watching a vocal masterclass. Heck, even the demon couldn't contain itself from reacting during her performance. Haha. We might not remember much about this often off-kilter season, but I have no doubt, that this will be a performance that won't be forgotten anytime soon.


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