Idols SA: Solo performances leave us breathless

17 August 2015
Top 29 Idols step up at Sun City to earn a spot in the Top 16
Idols SA: Solo performances leave us breathless Image : 575
This week it was make or break for the 29 singers who survived the long queues at the nationwide Idols SA auditions as well as the ruthless cuts at this season's harder-than-ever-before Theatre Week. To secure their place in the coveted Idols Top 16, they had to give their all with a solo performance in front of the harshest critics imaginable – the four Idols judges, the media and the biggest Idols fans from across the country, who were brought to Sun City courtesy of Telkom.

Elwira Standili (22) from Worcester, who Somizi had loved so much at the Cape Town auditions, opened the day with an impressive, confident performance of Jennifer Hudson’s “Giving Myself”, with piano and percussion accompaniment.

“You gave me the first goosebumps of the season!” Somizi Mhlongo told her. “You nearly gave me an Unathi moment!” And even the toughest judge Randall Abrahams was impressed. “This was a very considered performance,” he noted happily. “Just enough soulfulness, just enough feeling where necessary.”

Elwira had set the bar high for the rest of the contestants and it would be a while before Randall would be that generous again. “I get the sense that you think it will be all right ... you don’t have to do too much,” he told 25-year-old Phila Madlingozi from Johannesburg. “I felt that you were cruising.”

“I will take the notes and I will do better when I get to the Top 16,” the unflappable Phila joked afterwards backstage.

During the Masterclass workshop Gareth Cliff had predicted that 20-year-old Nadia Herbst from Paarl would never make it all the way through Hell Week, because of how she fell apart after her Cape Town audition. But after working on her song with vocal coach Malie Kelly, Nadia felt confident that she could prove him wrong. “Everything is just perfect for me!” she said happily. The 20-year-old beauty queen crushed her performance of the Shakira hit “Can’t Remember To Forget You”, and even Gareth had to concede that she had “pulled it off really well”. “I also enjoyed it,” said Unathi, but Somizi had a little warning for Nadia to “be careful, my child, that the key and you don’t go divorce ...”

“When I came to Idols I said to myself I am achieving my destiny,” said 24-year-old Siphelele Ngcobo from Durban, who gave a lovely jazzy swing to Zahara’s mega-hit, “Loliwe”, much to the delight of the judges and the fans, who rewarded him with a standing ovation – Somizi even standing on his chair. “To think that you were this close to not making it to this round!” he exclaimed. “You m-u-r-d-e-r-e-d it!”

But not all of the solo singers came off stage in triumph. The judges were scathing about 18-year-old Bridgitt Leahy from Creighton, who sang Lorde’s “Team”. “Visually you look amazing,” Somizi praised her, but “unfortunately this is not ‘America’s Next Top Model’. It’s about singing.“ “I don’t think you have the legs for a competition like this,” said Randall, reducing the 18-year-old to tears backstage. “I let myself down,” she sobbed.

And even the usually supportive Somizi thought 29-year-old Amy Lombard from Cape Town’s performance of CharliXCX’s “Boom Clap” was “... sooo karaoke, like a bar in Bronkhorstspruit ...” “We’re looking for an original talent that ultimately is going to become a recording artist, and this ... this was not it,” said Randall. “Not by a long shot ...”

But Amy still got off relatively easy compared to fellow Capetonian Matthew Kent (22). “I think you’ll be embarrassed to watch it,” Gareth told him. And Somizi chided poor Mlondi Mkhize (25) from Illovo that he sounded like “a speaking, singing cat being strangled,” in the falsetto bits in Maxwell’s “Bad Habits”.

Johannesburg’s 25-year-old Shenay O’ Brien was confident before her performance, noting that her rehearsals had gone “immensely well”. Shenay performed David Guetta’s “Lovers On The Sun” with just some acoustic guitar and percussion accompaniment, and left the judges divided. Unathi loved it unreservedly. “You killed it! I love your vocal control,” she raved. But Gareth was more careful. “You, more than anybody else, have to be so careful not to stray into cabaret or pastiche territory,” he cautioned Shenay gently. “Please stay on this track. The minute you do something too flamboyant they’re going to say it’s a comedy show. You deserve to be taken seriously,” he said. But Somizi respectfully disagreed. “Be you, a hundred percent,” he encouraged Shenay. “If you don’t make it to the ‘Top Whatever’, you will have been yourself. Trust me – there is a market for you. You slayed!”

But Shenay was only one standout in some of the best individual auditions in Idols SA history. The judges and fans were blown away by the assured, mature performance of 16-year-old Loyiso Gijana from Uitenhage, singing Usher’s “Good Kisser”.

Nonhle Mhlongo (29) from Chesterville in Durban sang Alicia Keys’ epic “Empire State of Mind Pt 2” and Randall was uncharacteristically enthused. “You brought the street ... you brought the Brooklyn,” he raved. “And I think that you got the feel of the song right. It wasn’t perfect,” he noted. “But doesn’t have to perfect.”

But he was soon scowling again after Sizwe Mthalane (20) from Cato Ridge’s rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”. “It’s a bit overwrought,” Randall told him. “And I think that’s the problem with all of your performances. It’s too much drama.”

And Tebogo Louw (23) from Stellenbosch, who Unathi said delivered a perfect audition in Cape Town, stumbled at the final hurdle. “I haven’t seen any change on what you’ve done between last year and this year,” said Randall. “You sing one-dimensionally,” he complained. “After about two or three weeks people will be tired of you.”

Karabo Mogane (24) from Nelspruit had an opposite reversal of fortune with his performance of Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings”. After calling him “depressing” at the Pretoria auditions, “with a dishwashing-water personality”, this time Somizi declared that he was Karabo’s new Number One fan! “You sound so seasoned!” he declared. “You have a tone that people would do anything to have. In my books you’re probably one of the best male vocalists in the competition.”

And after ticking all the boxes for a perfect Idols SA contestant in the regional auditions, and getting rave reviews in the Groups phase, 24-year-old Lungisa Xhamela from Cape Town continued on his winning streak with his individual performance of Michael Jackson’s “Love Never Felt So Good”, earning a standing ovation from the judges. “It’s my favourite performance so far of the whole day – you left everybody in the dust,” said Gareth. “You did a great song do the work for you. It was perfect because it was simple, and we could hear how good your voice is.”

23-year-old Mmatema Moremi from Zebediela in Limpopo was part of the group that blew the judges away with their performance of TLC’s “Creep. And with her performance of Demi Lovato’s “Scyscraper” as the final solo performer of the day, she proved that that was no fluke. Somizi was literally jumping up-and-down with joy and hugging himself.

“Who are you?” he exclaimed in wonder. “Where are you from? How did you make it here before we noticed you? Your gods are with you, my sister, your ancestors are with you. You scyscraped!”

Unathi was reduced to tears. “You reminded the 28 people who sang before you that they had one chance,” she sobbed, “and for a lot of them that once chance wasn’t enough because you came, and you shut ... it ... down.”

But despite that triumph, Mmatema still had to wait an agonising 24 hours, along with all of the other contestants, to find out if she would survive the final cut to the Top 16, and get to perform for the fans’ votes at the State Theatre in Pretoria this August.

That result will be broadcast next week, Sunday the 23rd of August, on M-Net, channel 101, and Mzansi Magic, channel 161, on Dstv. And as always all the performances are still being played on the Idols SA Extra channel, channel 199 on DStv.

29 Contestants In The Individual Auditions:
Amanda Antony (21) from Port Elizabeth
Amy Lombard (29) from Cape Town
Bridgitt Leahy (18) from Creighton
Busisiwe Mthembu (22) from Springs
Chrystal Worship (26) from Cape Town
Daniel Minnie (19) from Port Elizabeth
Dineo Moseki (21) from Vryburg
Elwira Standili (22) from Cape Town
John Niel (24) from Pretoria
Karabo Mogane (23) from Nelspruit
Lihle Buthelezi (27) from Ladysmith
Loyiso Gijana (16) from Uitenhage
Lungisa Xhamela (24) from Cape Town
Mandla Bacela (29) from Butterworth
Matthew Kent (22) from Cape Town
Mlondi Mkhize (25) from Illovo
Mmatema Moremi (22) from Pretoria
Nadia Herbst (20) from Paarl
Ndumiso Mahlangu (21) from Carolina
Nina Terblanche (17) from Nelspruit
Nonhle Mhlongo (29) from Durban
Phila Madlingozi (25) from Johannesburg
Rhema Vairrie (20) from Alberton
Ruan Grobbelaar (24) from Cape Town
Shenay O’ Brien (24) from Johannesburg
Siphelele Ngcobo (24) from Durban
Sizwe Mthalane (20) from Cato Ridge
Tebogo Louw (23) from Stellenbosch
Thami Shobede (26) from Johannesburg

Watch Idols on M-Net and Mzansi Magic on Sundays at 17:00. It will also be available on DStv Catch Up once the show has aired.

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