Kim Cooper and James Johnston Make Australian Idol Finals on Wildcard Night

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After a few days off, I was having Australian Idol withdrawals. Tonight’s show didn’t disappoint, with some of the best talent getting a second chance. But first up it was time to announce our newest finalists. After Thursday’s show Kim Cooper and James Johnston were voted through to the top 12. After some rapid-fire wildcard contestant announcements it was time for the performances.

Lucie Johnson started the show with “Boogie Wonderland.” I really liked her song choice, and I thought the introduction was sublime. But I think when she started to move, she lost it a little bit. Of course you need to dance in “Boogie Wonderland,” but it’s when a few breath and pitch issues crept in. Even with those flaws, she sounds better than most people, but those little flaws distracted me a little. I see a lot of potential in Lucie, but this is going to be one tough night.

Casey Barnes was up next with “Never Say Never (Don’t Let Me Go)” by The Fray. It was an interesting song choice, not so commercial approachable but a lot more believable. The falsetto wasn’t the greatest, but his voice is solid. It was definitely an improvement on last week, but he still feels a little middle-of-the-road.

Aliqua Mao was up next with “The Power of Love.” It was an incredibly dumb choice. If the judges slam you for singing big ballads that are beyond your capabilities one week, you don’t front up and do the same thing for the wildcard night. Celine and Whitney both share the space, and it’s one far above what Aliqua can do. What a wasted wildcard opportunity.

Lauren Street was already on the right path, although she turned down the volume a little tonight. “Low” by Kelly Clarkson was a smart choice. By showing a more vulnerable side, she might just have scored the votes of the people scared off by the Alanis act! Another solid performance that makes me pretty certain the judges will put her through even if the judges don’t.

Tim Johnston was pretty lucky to get another start after the whole “white boys can’t do soul” debacle. He made good on the judges’ faith with a really solid version of The Beatles “Yesterday.” This is where he should be, delivering soulful versions of songs that aren’t straight soul standards. The arrangement was a little cheesy, but this was a massive improvement on last week’s efforts.

Ed Zaidan was one of the people I was most excited about getting a wildcard. But I was disappointed. I really enjoyed his take on “Foreign Land,” but his version of “White Noise” wasn’t up to the standard. Pitch, intensity, performance: everything was a little less. The song choice was confusing to me. The judges told him last week that they preferred that softer, vulnerable side, and I think he should have taken that advice. It’s encouraging to hear he’ll reveal that softer side if he gets through in the competition, but is it too little too late? I think he could have earned some new fans with a different approach tonight. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, but I really hope we get another week (or more) of Ed.

I was excited when I heard Tenielle Muslin was singing Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me.” It was really suited to her voice, yet it really lacked something for me. I felt like she was maybe a bit nervous; there was a stiffness and awkwardness about her performance. I think that stops her really breaking through to the audience. I agree with Jay Dee that she really needs time to develop her voice: then she’ll be a knock-out.

Toby Moulton is another of those singers I’ve taken into my heart. I am not a massive U2 fan, but I was pretty excited when I heard he’d chosen “With or Without You.” I really liked this. It was understated and genuine. There’s an authenticity about him which is just so endearing. I really hope he earns a place in the finals.

Hayley Warner’s
top 12 snub in the semis was one of the competition’s great injustices. I like her an awful lot, and her performance of “I Do Not Hook Up” only cemented that impression. It’s hard to believe she’s still in her teens. She seems like she was born to be on that stage.

I think Hayley and Lauren are shoe-ins. I’d like to think Toby might join them, because he’s growing and learning as he spends time here. It’s hard to say who’ll join them in the finals, but after his massive turn-around I think it might be Tim. I can’t believe I have to wait until next Sunday to find out!