Mar 30, 2007

Idols West Africa - Top 24 review

Four weeks have gone by since the Idols West Africa Auditions (read my previous post here), four weeks which has meant different things to different people - Entertainment for viewers, tension and pressure for the contestants, "business as usual" for the judges and fun (with his tension-creating attempts) for presenter Mike Majik. Of the 80 who made it through the auditions, 24 were chosen and were divided in 4 groups of 6 contestants each. Each contestant had one (and only one) chance to showcase his/her talents, after which it was left to the voters to decide. For many Nigerians, Sunday nights became something to look forward to as the groups performed. Monday nights saw many glued to their screens as winners were announced. Hot lines received hundreds of SMS messages as fans, friends and family voted their loved ones into success.

Watching the performance of the 4 groups really got me thinking. I wondered where all these talented individuals had been hiding. A lot of music we have out there on the streets today isn't half as good as what was presented by these guys. Most of the contestants were Nigerians and they sang with such talents that I've not yet seen being exhibited by singers in the industry. This is not to say there were no shortcomings, but men, those guys put up a damn good show. I hope those who didn't make it into the top 10 will go back and do something on their own. In short, the performances were great. I'll attempt to summarize them below.

Group 1
Ibitoru Green's rendition of "Like a prayer" by Madonna was wonderful. Her performance was great and her voice was like WOW! The girl could Sing. I was not surprised because I had seen her audition.
Uche Ume sang "Angel of Mine" by Monica. His performance was excellent, he had a good voice and controlled it well. However, he changed the song so much that the original melody was lost... but this time around, it "werked" for Nana.
Timi Dakolo who sang "It must have been love" by Roxette was great up till the modulation after which he tried to take it higher and had to struggle. But he remained on key, and that was impressive. Also, his choice of song was a good choice.
Ekanem Esu did "How do I live without you" by LeAnn Rimes. Her voice was great. She also made the same mistake as Timi. She struggled a bit on the high notes but she was in control enough to bring it through.
Omawumi Megbele was next. I think she put up the best stage performance. In addition, she selected right by singing "That don't impress me much" by Shania Twain. No stress for her, no struggles.
Lara George (nee Lara Bajomo) performed "It's all coming back to me" by Celine Dion. Her performance was good but I was kind of disappointed. I know Lara can do much better in terms of singing and performance. I mean this was the same voice that sang those high notes in the Kush album ... though, some argued that she was displaying maturity but she could have done much more than she did.

I must say it was really confusing selecting who to vote for as all the performances were tight. At the end of the day Omawumi and Timi were voted as first and second. Lara George was third while Uche, Ekanem and Ibitoru did not qualify. Overall, this group had the best singers and I'm sure they would all have been chosen had they been spread among the other groups. Seriously, I don't know what the organisers were thinking when they put these 6 people into 1 group.

Group 2
The ladies in this group did not impress me in any way. The guys did great though.
Eric Arubayi started low and a bit shaky but he built up the feel along the song. His good looks and stage style made him a winner with the ladies.
Jarry Blie had the best voice in this group, his rendition of "Foolish Games" by Jewel was great, although the key got a little uncomfortable for him towards the end of the song but it was barely noticeable.
David Desmond's rendition of "Change the World" by Eric Clapton (a quite complex song) was marvellous. His presentation and voice dynamics was very good. His performance on stage was also good. He could have done more with that voice though.
Oluwadolapo Ogunwale (the Duracell battery of the group) made a wrong decision when she did "I swear" by All 4 one, picking a wrong key for her voice and finally going totally off-key on the last note. She said after the show that "I disappointed my fans". It was true. I expected much more from her. She has a good voice but messed up her one chance.
Jerrilyn Mulbah who did "I don't wanna miss a thing" by Aerosmith didn't impress me much but her emotional story and performance at the auditions was still in the minds of those who voted for her. In my opinion, her performance in the top 24 was just average.
Oge Chigbue who did "Crush" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the dark did much better. Not too spectacular though, but quite good.

Surprisingly, Eric and Jerrilyn were the chosen ones for this group. I had thought the duo would come from Eric, David and Jarry, because the ladies performances were nothing to write home about. Unfortunately, voters thought otherwise and David, Jarry and Oluwadolapo had to leave while Oge placed 3rd. Coincidentally, this group had the highest number of guys (3 as against just 2 in other groups)

Group 3
Condifence Rufai (daughter of ex Footballer Peter Rufai) who did "Thank you" by Dido did a great job but someone ought to have told her that Dido's songs are not the best for this type of competition. She had a unique and strong voice, and I wish she had sang something else.
Ama Ejisu-Akropong did "Strong Enough" by Cher but was just average. Way into the song, she went off key and stayed off.
Ernest Darkwa did "Amazed" by Lonestar. He's a very good singer. He had good voice dynamics and a strong voice and he carried the song through very well.
Michael Alao had a great voice and started off great singing "Take a Bow" by Madonna. His intro and his dance steps automatically had everyone's attention. Unfortunately, he lost it when he started going off key and couldn't get back on track. I was disappointed because I had actually looked forward to his performance.
Jodie Odiete was my favourite in this group. She performed "Have you ever really loved a woman" by Bryan Adams. She was great and had arguably the best performance, giving the song a new feel. She had a strong voice and was quite confident.
Mercy Nwankwo's Performance was powerful. She did "Nothing compares to you" by Prince taking her highs and lows quite seriously and giving her spirit to the song.
The winners from this group were Jodie and Mercy. I was not surprised at Jodie being chosen. I knew right from the performance that she would sail through. I also thought Ernest stood a chance ... but I guess I was alone in my thoughts. The voters decided otherwise.

Group 4
The two guys in this group were just great.
Tony Ighofose performed "More than words" by Extreme (A very difficult song) which he did justice to. He slid through the keys with ease.
James Brendan did "Show me the meaning of being lonely" by Backstreet Boys. His voice and performance were great. He delivered the song his way ... and he did deliver.
Omodele Fatoki who did "Love is all around" by Wet, wet, wet had great singing talents and a great voice but the remaining ladies were just average.
What worked for Temitayo George was her style, dressing and performance. She sang "Searchin' My soul" by Vonda Shepard. Her singing was average but she knew her limits and stayed off them.
Joan Ekpai who did "Show me heaven" by Maria Mckey had a good voice (Remember she blew the judges' minds off during the audition) but nothing spectacular came out here. It just didn't "werk" for me.
Sokari Briggs' rendition of "Still the one" by Shania Twain was just OK. From watching her
interview just before she sang, I expected a lot more and I was disappointed.
Well, they did their part and the voters were left to do theirs. They did, and Temitayo and Joan were chosen. I was disappointed when neither Tony, James nor Omodele was announced, but it's not my decision, so I let it pass.

Next came the big surprise. 2 extra candidates were to be announced to complete the top 10. People initially though there would be a kind of 3rd place match where they would vote for 2 out of the 4 people who placed 3rd from each group ... but were surprised when it was announced that the 2 would be chosen at the Judges discretion. Omodele from Group 4 was selected - Good choice. Uche from Group 1 was also selected. According to the judges, a strong male voice was needed and there was contemplation between Uche and David Desmond ... but David could get lazy, and much to everyone's surprise, Uche got the vote.

Unlike in the auditions, I think the guys in the top 24 put up a better show than the ladies, and more guys should have been chosen. Perhaps it's just as well that it's all unpredictable. In any case, the next round shall commence this Sunday on Africa Magic and MNet West at 7pm Nigerian time and Mnet East at 6pm Nigerian time. For those not in Nigeria or West Africa, you can catch some of the action online at MNet's Idols West Africa website available here. Top 24 performances are also available. Watch this space for info on the Top 10 performances.

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