It goes without saying that ABC’s singing competition series Rising Star has pretty much been a failure. Not only is it tanking in the ratings, but the overall talent on the show is pretty weak. However, that doesn’t mean there’s not any bright spots. Just look at The X Factor, which didn’t always have the strongest talent but sometimes there were fantastic acts like Alex and Sierra.
And the same can be said for Rising Star. During this week’s Quarterfinals, there were bad notes all over the place, along with some terrible song choices. But one singer stood out to me — and that was Audrey Kate Geiger, who performed Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” When she performed this tune, I was reminded of previous covers on shows like American Idol and The Voice.
Kimberly Locke performed “New York State of Mind” back in season 2 of Idol during none other than Billy Joel week at the Top 7. Even though Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken were the fruntrunners that year, there was no denying that Kimberly was one of the most talented singers of the season. Her soulful voice is is beatiful to listen to, and she showcased that on this song.
Billy Joel week rolled around again during the Top 10 of Idol season 11. And Erika Van Pelt took on “New York State of Mind.” This was the week that Erika cut her hair short and dyed it black — such a marked departure from before. Unfortunately, she not only landed in the Bottom 3, but was also eliminated from the competition. Did she deserve to be cut? Take a look at the performance:
Put simply, Erika should not have been eliminated or even been in danger. It didn’t help that she went second. The thing about her is that she was very much underappreciated during her time on Idol. She had one of the best voices in season 11, yet she was never close to being a frontrunner. And that’s really a shame because as you can tell in the above performance, there’s so much soul and depth to her voice; like with Kimberly’s, Erika’s voice is beautiful as well. Yes, there were a couple notes in her lower register that were off, but it didn’t detract from the performance at all.
If I had to choose a winner from the American Idol performances, I would go with Erika’s rendition.
“New York State of Mind” has also been performed on The Voice, most notably by Sisaundra Lewis, but she wasn’t the first. Back in season 3, Bryan Keith sang it during the Top 10. And like Erika, Bryan was also eliminated the following night.
There’s both positive and negative things to say about this performance. On the positive side, he’s got quite the voice. The vocals were strong throughout. But having said that, there were parts of the performance that felt slow and boring.
Now back to Sisaundra Lewis, from The Voice season 6. Her take on the Billy Joel classic aired during the Playoffs. Fortunately, she did advance to the next round, which didn’t come as a surprise considering her unbelievable talent.
I mean, Sisaundra has one of those powerhouse voices that’s hard to match. She can belt it out like no other. Some probably thought that those big notes towards the end were taking it a little too far, and I can see where they’re coming from, but I don’t feel like it detracted too much.
Of the two Voice performances, Sisaundra is obviously the winner. As good as Bryan’s voice was, you can’t win against Sisaundra, especially if you’re a little boring.
And that brings us to the Quarterfinals on Rising Star. Most of the singers suffered from pitch issues. Only two or three did not — and one them was Audrey Kate Geiger. She performed in the first half of the show, which meant she didn’t have to sing behind the wall. All three judges voted yes, and Audrey ultimately received 85%, the highest of the night so far, which meant with only three performance left to go after her, she was guaranteed to move on to the Semifinals.
Audrey has one of the most unique voices in the competition. I know Idol judge Harry Connick, Jr. doesn’t like it when people say that something is jazzy, but that’s what her voice exudes. She knew how to control her voice and be one of the few to stay on key. There was just something about this performance that I kept thinking about even after the show was over. It was small and simple — the way that it needed to be.
I have to say, this is a tough one to choose a winner for. It’s obvious who we can narrow it down to: Erika Van Pelt, Sisaundra Lewis and Audrey Kate Geiger.
But then how do you pick a winner between these three? There are legitimate reasons I can give for each one of them. Erika and Audrey connected to the song, Erika showcased her soulful voice, Sisaundra did what she does best and belt it out, and Audrey delivered a fantastic and unique rendition.
I almost want to make it a tie between at least two of them, but I’m ultimately going to choose Erika Van Pelt as the winner of this music battle. I’ll say it again: she was very underappreciated on Idol and did’t get the attention or respect she deserved. And that’s unfortunate because she has one of the best voices to come out of the show.
Which cover of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” is your favorite? Did Sisaundra’s powerhouse vocals give you goosebumps? Do you agree that Erika should have received more support on Idol? And is Audrey Kate a contender to win Rising Star? Vote for your favorite rendition in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Rising Star airs Sundays at 9pm on ABC.
(Images courtesy of FOX, NBC and ABC)