Ten Idols contestants have achieved what all aspiring singers in South Africa can only dream of: they are in the Top 10 of South Africa's biggest competition! For the next nine weeks the stage at the Home Of Idols, the Mosaïek Teatro in Fairlands, Johannesburg, will be a battleground as the Top 10 unsigned singers in the country perform their hearts out to win the fans' votes.
The musical theme for the first Season 8 Spectacular tonight was "Old School / New School", with the contestants performing their own updated interpretations of classic songs, and their musical mentor this week to help them prepare for tonight's performances was the lovely Louise Carver.
Nosipho Mngomezulu (21) from Soshanguve kicked the evening off with the Patti Labelle classic Lady Marmalade, which was updated for the movie Moulin Rouge! by Christina Aguilera, Lil'Kim, Mya and Pink. "At certain points in the song it sounded almost like you were fighting the song," was Gareth Cliff's only concern. Unathi Msengana advised Nosipho to hold on to those unique touches that make people fall in love with her. "That's a really big song to take on for the Top 10," Randall Abrahams commented. "I really think in your case the gamble paid off. You also have a really great personality – people don't only listen to voices, they fall in love with personalities."
Obakeng Ramaboa (26) from Munsieville went out on a limb and chose Kiss, originally a hit for Prince and the Revolution but given a new lease of life in 1988 by none other than Tom Jones. "I think you might have taken a little more inspiration from the Tom Jones version, which is maybe a pity," Gareth thought. "You have a very sexy, sultry voice, but you have to watch that it doesn't go into cheesy." But he did award Obakeng 8 out of 10. Unathi thought it was the perfect song choice for Obakeng and that it would have teenage girls running wild, "And that's the vote that counts, right?" she teased. But Randall warned that two things would be of the utmost importance for this year's Top 10: "You can't ever have a bad week because everyone is just so good," he warned, "And the second thing is song choice, and in this case I think your song choice let you down."
Monde Msutwana (30) from Pretoria impressed his female fans with the Barry White standard, Can't Get Enough of your Love, Baby. Gareth said he was even more worried about Monde straying into "cheesy" territory than he was about Obakeng. "There was nothing New School about that," he complained. But Unathi disagreed. "You're a joyous performer," she praised, and she thought that Monde brought the song into 2012. Randall said Monde's singing was really good. "But the dancing combined with the singing was a problem," he complained. "You don't always need to perform," he advised. "You're a really, really good singer and I think you mustn't underestimate that."
Cape Town's Chloe Kiley (23) put her own spin on John Waite's Missing You. "That is the best song choice of the season so far! You surprised me with your treatment of it," Gareth raved. "I've never heard you sound as beautiful as you sounded right now," said Unathi. "See you at the Final?" she speculated. "I imagine that is probably the most consummate performance of the night," Randall predicted.
Simphiwe Gwegwe (23) from Port Nolloth performed the Manhattans classic Kiss and Say Goodbye with a fresh new Reggae flavour. "Out of all the song choices yours was the one that worried me the most, but I loved that little bit of Reggae. It worked!" was Gareth's enthusiastic response. "Do you understand that you could win this competition?" Unathi raved. "You have an absolutely incredible voice that nobody can front on," she said. But she berated Simphiwe for singing the song with a smile and missing the meaning of the lyrics. "I'm completely unimpressed with histrionics," Randall criticised. "It works with a crowd but it won't work on a record," he warned.
Jozi boy Dominic Neill (19) re-interpreted Aloe Blacc's I Need a Dollar. Gareth admitted that this performance didn't have the "energy" that he's used to from Dom. "There were moments that I really enjoyed but there were moments that I felt you were just going through the motions," Unathi agreed regretfully. "Quirky is what you've done so far and quirky is what you did tonight. I think it's wearing a bit thin," Randall complained.
Melissa Allison (23) from Port Elizabeth tackled Stevie Wonder's classic, Superstition. "A song like that is such a double-edged sword," Gareth worried. "You weren't the priority there – the music took control," he complained. "We know you as a belter but tonight you gave us light and shade," Unathi complimented. "The difficulty with a great song is that it needs a great singer," Randall lectured. "You tried to show us what you could do vocally and you lost sight of the song completely," was his criticism.
Khaya Mthethwa (25) from Durban threw himself into the Spectacular phase with gusto with the big Aerosmith ballad, I Don't Want to Miss a Thing. "Khaya," Gareth said once the roar of approval from the audience died down a bit, "I thought that was good. I didn't think it was amazing." Unathi's comment was short and sweet: "Claps once," she said simply, employing slang for being rendered speechless. "I thought you were really flat in parts," Randall criticised. "It may not translate in this venue," he said, "but it might on air."
Shekhinah "Sheki" Donnell (17) from Durban hoped that Tina Turner's Simply the Best would hold true for her as well! Randall asked Gareth if he could deliver his comment first for a change. "Once again the audience was overwhelmed, but I'm not," he told Sheki sternly. "I think you were completely overwhelmed by the audience. Just wanting to sing the big notes is not enough," he lectured. Gareth agreed. "It's very easy to get carried away," he counseled. "You were distracted and you weren't at your best." Unathi asked kindly how Sheki was feeling, having finally reached the Mosaïek stage that she'd been dreaming about for so long. "The beautiful thing about a challenge is when you own the fear and you use it," she advised. "Good luck for next week."
Tshidi Tenyane (28) from Thokoza closed the show on a high note with her upbeat version of the Whitney Houston hit, How Will I Know. "The question you posed in that song was 'How will I know'?" Gareth said. "Baby, I know! That was the performance of the night!" he praised, making Tshidi cry… "You took a song that Whitney killed and then you killed it in a rock vibe!" Unathi praised. "I agree with Gareth – for me it wasn't even song of the night… song of the season! Randall was dancing!" she marvelled. "Magnificent!" was all Randall said and for the first time in eight seasons of Idols he insisted on an encore – which got him up and dancing behind the judges' desk again!
The voting lines for the Top 10 Spectacular opened at the start of last night's show and will close at 10pm on Monday, 6 August. The results of the vote will be announced in the live Top 10 Results Show at the Mosaïek Teatro on Tuesday, 7 August, at 7.30pm, which will also feature a special guest appearance by this week's mentor, Louise Carver.
Who was your favourite, and who needs to go? Sound off below!