Over the past two nail-biting Episodes of Idols Season 9 the Top 16 Contestants have been battling it out for a coveted spot in the Top 10. The Top 10 took it to a whole new level with the first Spectacular of the Season in the imposing Moreleta Park NG Church Auditorium in Pretoria, in front of a capacity live audience which included the world-renowned South African-born performer, Jonathan Butler.
The musical theme chosen for the Top 10 by the Judges this week was "Cheese", which saw the Contestants rehearsing some of the cheesiest songs ever to hit the airwaves, under the expert mentorship of South African hip-hop icon AKA.
"Just because a song is cheesy doesn't mean that's a bad thing," said Idols Judge Gareth Cliff pointed out. "I love cheese!" said Unathi Msengana. "These are the songs I sing along to in the car!" "Cheese sells," Randall Abrahams declared definitively.
The Top 10 Contestants also each received a brand new voting number this week, which they will keep for the duration of their stay in the competition.
First up to perform tonight was Brenden Ledwaba (19) from Graskop in Mpumalanga, who chose "You Sexy Thing" by the band Hot Chocolate, from the movie "The Full Monty". "You haven't dropped a ball yet," Gareth told Brenden approvingly. "That was an absolutely fantastic start," said Unathi, but she pointed out that Brenden needs to commit to the song from the very start, not halfway through the song. "I'm certainly not going to argue that it was cheesy," Randall noted wryly, but cheesy songs usually are sung by great singers, he pointed out. His only criticism was than Brenden could have stepped forward to interact with his audience more. To vote for Brenden, SMS the number 01 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here, for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
Crystalene Nair (24) from Durban performed the Céline Dion ballad "Because You Loved Me", from the movie "Up Close And Personal". Gareth had to admit that it was very difficult for him to judge because he really doesn't like Céline Dion. "It was passable," he said. "It was also predictable," he complained, and he told Crystalene that he would like her to surprise him next week. Unathi interpreted that as a prediction that Crystalene would be safe for next week. But Randall lectured that this song was written for the big screen, so, "it's big, it's huge, it's massive ..." he pointed out. "You've got to go big or go home," he told Crystalene. "You didn't do that at all – it was tiny." To vote for Crystalene, SMS the number 02 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
Innocent Mabushe (27) from Phalaborwa in Limpopo province gave a heartfelt performance of the sweet Chris de Burgh ballad "Lady In Red", accompanying himself on the piano. "You were so cheesy you could have been in the Eighties, and I loved it!" Gareth exulted. "You were so perfect, you were so in character ..." Unathi raved. She said this performance was exactly what the judges had in mind when they first decided to have a Cheese theme. "Channelling the spirit of Barry Manilow and Luther Vandross!" Randall laughed. "Your piano playing is also really, really good," he added, "and the depth of the chords made it less cheesy." To vote for Innocent, SMS the number 03 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
Benjamin Tainton (19) from Noordhoek in Cape Town also sang a movie song, Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" from the 1991 movie "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", and he had the judges singing along lustily on the chorus. "You made the Top 10 just to sing that, and that was fantastic," Gareth said. "I couldn't help just loving it." Unathi said there is a melancholy and an agony in how Ben sings and that this was the perfect song for him. Randall said the thing most people miss about cheesy songs is that the performance has to be completely overblown, but also completely sincere at the same time. "You sang it with such a level of believability," he said. "So far this is your best performance and I almost guarantee that you'll be here next week."
To vote for Benjamin, SMS the number 04 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
The youngest contestant in this Season's Top 10, 19-year-old Zoe Zana from Bishop Lavis in Cape Town, chose the Eighties hit "Never Gonna Give You Up", by Rick Astley. Gareth called an audience member onto the judges' dais because he said he couldn't make up his mind if he liked it. "No, she was good," the fan reassured him without hesitation. "I love the way that you just commit," said Unathi. "You understand that to be cheesy you've got to bring it, and you brought it." Randall gave Zoë points for her performance, but he said that song can't really be re-interpreted – people expect to hear the exact Rick Astley version. To vote for Zoë, SMS the number 05 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here, for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
Sonke Mazibuko (21) from Soweto chose the cheesy 1980 Air Supply ballad, "All Out Of Love", which was also a more contemporary hit for the boy band Westlife. "When you did that very difficult key change, you did it effortlessly," Gareth praised Sonke happily. "There wasn't one person in here who didn't have goose bumps, and there's not one person in here who cannot say that was the performance of the night," he declared. Unathi remarked that the lesson of this particular musical theme was for the singers to leave their egos in the dressing room and be a vessel for the song. "The first half wasn't great," Randall commented, "but obviously the second half of the song you got everything right." But he cautioned Sonke that he would not get that sort of leeway again in future weeks. To vote for Sonke, SMS the number 06 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
Tumi Lesejane (21) from Midrand performed the Berlin ballad from hit Eighties movie "Top Gun", "Take My Breath Away". Gareth thought it was just okay. "I kind of wanted more," he said, "because you were so unbelievable last week." "Vocally your performance was perfect," said Unathi. "But I wanted to see more emotion, you were very bold," she criticised. Randall noted that many of tonight's songs were from movies. "It's a movie brought to life in a song," he pointed out, and Tumi's performance was too refined for that, he thought. "People go to the movies to be transported," he said, "and you didn't do that." To vote for Tumi, SMS the number 07 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
Bunny Majaja (26) from Florida Glen in Johannesburg sang a Seventies classic from the inimitable Barry White, "You're The First, The Last, My Everything". Gareth thought Bunny started off a bit slow, "but somewhere in the song you kicked into fifth gear and man, you brought it – strong!" he praised. Unathi happily commented that it was like a three-cheese sandwich. And Randall was so transported that he started singing some of the lyrics right back at Bunny ... "Quattro formaggi! [four cheeses]" he yelled out to her. To vote for Bunny, SMS the number 08 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
Musa Sukwene (26) from eMalahleni in Mpumalanga gave the crowd some of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing", which he thought on the cheesy scale was "like blue cheese". Gareth mimed having to revive Unathi, who was overwhelmed by the performance ... "Actions speak louder than words," Unathi admitted, "and the way you're making a grown woman sweat from that performance ..." "I think it's time we called a doctor," said Randall. "It's getting hot in here!" To vote for Musa, SMS the number 09 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].
And last but not least was Christina Williams (21) from Port Elizabeth singing the upbeat hit "Walking On Sunshine" from Katrina and the Waves. "I think you did the very best job you or anyone else could do with that song," said Gareth. But he thought that some songs, as Randall said earlier about Rick Astley, cannot be re-interpreted. "I think you deserve to go through," he added. "You had fun, we had fun," Unathi commented. Randall agreed with Gareth that Christina had done enough, but he warned that if she survived the vote on Tuesday, she would have to make sure her song choice next week is better. To vote for Christina, SMS the number 10 to 37400. [R1.50 per text] or vote online here for free. Fans can also vote on Mxit [25 moola].