Last night Idols SA became real as the number of contestants went from double digits to singles. Mzansi spoke, and the Top Nine was revealed in a thrilling two hour-long show that had tension running high throughout, not only for the contestants, but for the judges as well.
This week’s theme of Judges’ Choice pitted the four – Randall Abrahams, Unathi Msengana, Somizi Mhlongo and Gareth Cliff – against each other in a duel for bragging rights as the one with the most songs chosen.
The first person to breathe a sigh of relief and make the Top Nine was the ambivalent Terra Cox, who was so overwhelmed he was left speechless. He soon found his voice though when he opened up the stage with New Flame by Chris Brown, which was chosen Randall.
Host Proverb then announced the next contestant. Noma, the often shy teacher’s assistant with the sparkling voice, became the first female of the Top Nine. Her song choice was Rihanna’s Russian Roulette picked by Somizi. Gareth did not mince his words and declared her his favourite contestant for Season XII.
The most watched Idols returnee, Tebogo, could hardly contain his excitement when his name was called up. His performance of Black Coffee’s Superman feat. Bucie – chosen by Unathi – had the judge bubbling over with glee and gushing his praises none stop. Even Randall called it his best performance EVER on any season of Idols.
The diminutive Nosihe was next up on the stage, singing John Legend’s All of Me which was chosen by Unathi, putting the judge in the lead on the scoreboard. A confident and relaxed Nosihe breathed new life to this popular wedding ballad, which solicited a smile of gratitude from Randall. “Thank you. You reinvented the song, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is my performance of the night,” he declared.
To give everyone a reprieve from the high tension, the State Theatre in Pretoria was momentarily turned into a nightclub when DJ Mshega and Busi N came on stage for their banger Get Down. It was a much-needed but short-lived break as Proverb returned to business.
When Bevin’s name was called, the teen’s relief was palpable after last week’s comments from the judges left him in danger. This week’s song choice, which finally got Gareth onto the scoreboard, was Justin Bierber’s Love Yourself. It received an all-round nod of approval from the judges.
The next name to be called on to the stage was Lucia’s. Looking every bit the glamorous pop star, the husky-voiced Lucia performed Breathe Again by Toni Braxton, a second song suggestion from Randall that tied him with Unathi on the scoreboard. The judges’ reactions were a mixed bag – Randall said it smouldered, Somizi said it didn’t take off for him, it was in a safe space for Unathi and Gareth called it magic.
Claiming his spot in the Top Nine next was Keegan, who burst a move when his name was called out. His song? Kiss It Better by Rihanna. It was a slow sensuous showcase that had the audience on their feet, clapping and screaming. The judges heaped praise on him yet again, with Somizi predicting he will be in the finale.
The bubbly Valentine made the Top Nine with one more seat to spare. Her song choice was Alicia Keyes’ Doesn’t Mean Anything. Gareth, who suggested the anthemic slow jam, said he believed anyone who chose it would be brave. “And you, Valentine, are brave. That was magical!”
With Thami and Sanele as the last two standing, you could cut the tension with a knife. Both had not had the best performance the previous week, but South Africa spoke and voted to give Thami another chance.
After his name was called, Thami promised Mzansi that he will never forget lyrics again. He then performed his heart out as he sang Robbie Malinga’s Sobabili. Basically leaving his all on stage. The long applause, standing ovation and chanting made it clear that Mzansi had forgiven him.
Unathi, who had suggested Thami’s song, was pronounced the 2016 winner of the Judges’ Choice competition, gaining her bragging right for the rest of the season.
Next week, the Top Nine will be shaved to eight, and it’s all up to the voting public to keep their favourites in the competition. Let’s get voting!