I didn’t think she was fully formed when I first heard her. She sounded more like she was imitating singers than being a singer. I don’t think it registered to me that she was 20, not 15 or 16, when she auditioned. She looks so much like the rest of the teeny boppers that I never thought about it.
I still don’t think she really knows what she is singing so much as she is imitating her idols, like Celine Dion in her brilliant showcase performance, but she has such a good voice that the voters might not mind that she’s faking it a little.
Sonika’s showcase performance:
Most of her videos are pretty old – from when she really was a teenager – but they show her playing the piano. Jenna Renae, who also plays the piano and sings sappy ballads, might be her direct competition; the Idol stage – actually the Idol finalist list – might not be big enough for both of them.
Semifinal performance: “Safe and Sound” – Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars
Most years Sonika would have competition for her style but she seems to be the only one who sings the movie themes and whatever Celine Dion just put out. She stuck the ending like a champ, which should make everyone forget a couple of wonky notes in the middle. Her tone was beautiful, and she nailed her dynamics.
Sonika with Caleb Johnson “Skyfall” – Adele
Sonika bonked her head on her glory note in the middle, which is a pretty big mistake, but she was terrific the rest of the song vocally, at least. The prelude, where she talked about her lack of professional experience, might have been a bad idea. Anyone watching her with that in mind – like me, for instance – had to notice her timidity, her missed glory note, and the way she deferred to Caleb on the stage, especially at the end when they were singing together.
She’s still terrific, and she’s moving to the next round – of course she is – but we might look back and remember this performance in a few weeks. The Idol winners, other than Scotty, maybe, have come into the show at least a little hardened by experience. Sonika needs to grow that extra skin in a hurry if she wants to last beyond the next layer of fodder.
Sonika Vaid, “I Surrender”
Her first performance of this song is on her bio page, and if you listened to it you know she wasn’t nearly as good tonight. She nailed the higher register parts, but her phrasing was all over the place and her rhythm sense was so bad that I thought the band was going to have to stop and wait for her at one point. Her tone when she first came out gave it away: nerves, nerves, and more nerves. As she warmed up her beautiful tone came out, but she never really got the nerves tamped down. She needs to relax even more than Lee does.
Judges: Jen blathered like a vacuum cleaner salesman, making sure the voters knew who to vote for.
Sonika brought it, choosing the perfect song and singing it beautifully – and a little ferociously. She wasn’t perfect – her phrasing was a little inconsistent and that last note was at the absolute edge of her effective range – but she dropped her knee-buckler putt right on top of La’Porsha’s 90 foot bomb. No fear.
Judges: Gushed, as they should have.
And then there were 8
Sonika Vaid “Since U Been Gone” Kelly Clarkson
She was over her head, trying this song, and she should have at least done the song in a lower key.
Judges: “Sing better.”
And then there were 6
5: Sonika – Avalon looked a smidge more comfortable, which broke the tie between them
She blew the doors off. Ok, Jen, how are you gonna talk ‘em into keeping Avalon now?
Judges: Jen is trying to sell Avalon, of course. We’ll see who is wearing the pants on the judging table in a minute.
Audience – loud, sustained applause, like they were going “author, author!”
And then there were 5
Sonika has a country club and a cataract and laser volunteer program among her fan clubs. How’s that for diversity?
Not to worry, judges, Sonika delivered a mostly strong performance. She missed a few notes and her low range ain’t much better than Tristan’s, but she was the better of the two.
Judges: Harry was mildly critical, but overall they were pretty positive.
Sonika might be a little better right now, but if I had to bet money going forward mine is on Tristan. She is only 15 and still learning how to do just about everything, while Sonika is already 20 and way too good looking to have to be a singer. Pageant queens in prom dresses don’t win Idol, mostly because they don’t have to.
I actually dunned Tristan earlier in the season for this – she seems like she has a ton of other things going for her besides music – so they might both end up being successful in careers that don’t require a reservation in celebrity rehab.
Her blurb… I’ve seen videos of Sonika playing piano and singing when she was Tristan’s age, so I’m not sure where the whole “I didn’t decide to do this until last week” narrative comes from. To her credit, she did seem like a total dork when she was Tristan’s age.
I still think Sonika is probably going home next week – she was saved two weeks in a row, so the voters aren’t loving her – but (1) she is female while the other three non-Chias are male, (2) she was good tonight, and (3) she is really, really good looking. I still think she’s going home next week – the guys are all either too good (Trent), too cute (Dalton), or both (Mac) – but she gave herself a chance with a strong performance.
Judges: Mostly positive. They didn’t sell her or dismiss her, so it will be up to a voting public that has been pretty sage this season.