‘Rising Star’ Recap: Josh Groban, Ludacris and a Whole Load More Cat Banter Lights Up Episode 3

ABC/Bob D'Amico
Rising Star: Ludacris, Kesha, Brad Paisley and Josh Groban

ABC hasn’t turned the lights off on Josh Groban, Kesha, Ludacris, Brad Paisley and their motley crew of wannabe stars, which means the wall must still rise, the sad background stories still abound, and the cat banter continue on until Kesha has locked down a fleet of felines and some sort of funding for that cult.

And while the rhythm of the show has continued to improve with more performances, smoother transitions and personable showings from its judges and host, the talent just isn’t quite there. With so many other, more popular outlets for getting a record contract via televised competition these days, it seems the contestants either didn’t show up or didn’t show out for Season 1 of Rising Star.

"Rising Star" recap: Episode 1

Tonight saw one of the best performances of the live auditions yet, and undoubtedly the worst…and that still feels like it means very little. By not laying out a clear structure for how this competition would play out after the audition rounds, and by only giving us a handful of contestants to really root for, this late in the game, everything still feels pretty inconsequential. Perhaps the Duels can change that next week.

But once you’ve gotten over hoping any of these people might become the Next Big Thing, you can kind of just relax and play this thing out like Kesha, which is to say, show up, listen to people sing fairly well, vote yes when you feel like it, and just cross your fingers that one of the triplets in the zippered sweatpants might take his shirt off. Spoiler alert: he will not!

In the final audition round, the contestants sing a lot of Rihanna, wear a lot of confusing outfits, and are maybe already Youtube stars. Strap on your high-waisted leather shorts and let’s check them out:

Dana Williams, “Stay”

Dana’s father, a guitarist for Michael Jackson, cultivated her love for music and recently passed away, so she’s singing for him. She kicks off tonight’s unofficial theme: performing good songs that are bad song choices. Even though “Stay” never really builds anywhere, Dana works well within its haunting melody, causing Kesha to declare that she thinks she could win the competition. She also says, “Your story is sad, I’m so sorry for you.” It was a weird night for Kesha and…words.

Status: advances with all three judges, and 87% overall

Unselfish, “Some Nights”

Unselfish has the look and vocal components to be the next Boyz II Men, and the name to perform at Bar Mitzvahs until the end of time. Unfortunately, their performance of “Some Nights” correlates more with their name, and they get Kesha’s vote mostly because she deems them, “like, the cutest ever.” Luda and Brad tell them that their harmonies were inconsistent and it needs a lot more work. But hey, at least their choreography was far less cringe-worthy than singing competition choreography usually is.

Status: rejected with Kesha’s vote and 46% overall

"Rising Star" recap: Episode 2 

Cliff Cody, “I’m Gonna Be Somebody”

Cliff is a big ole loveable 39-year-old Registered Nurse with a family who gave up his stable career to follow his music dreams on the road. Everybody wants to like him, but his “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” took too long to come together and reads very karaoke. 

Status: rejected with Brad’s vote, and 49% overall

Audrey Kate Geiger, “Stay With Me”

Audrey is all shoes-off free spirit in her intro package, but she takes the stage in a prom up-do, pencil skirt and popped-collar denim jacket. It’s a nice outfit and a surprisingly in-tune performance of a great song that the judges deem “unique,” but they also get stuck on her look detracting from “the real Audrey.” I guess we can look forward to Audrey’s peasant blouse, maxi skirt, and flower crown in the Duels.

Status: advances with all three judges, and 84% of votes

Oh.M.G., “Lights”

They met at a house party, they fell in platonic love over the last year, they named their duo in a panic once they booked this show (presumably), and they kind of sputtered out on stage. The female counterpart’s voice was much more suited to the song and, well, professional singing in general, but the judges all agreed her male buddy was holding her back. In reference to his brief solo, Luda said, “You can’t exploit your weakest link.” Ouch, and also, true.

Status: rejected with Kesha’s vote, and 33% overall

Gabrielle Nicole, “My Man”

Ah, yes, now this is an audition. Everything about Gabrielle’s intro package was charming: She used to hate singing! She won’t accept mediocrity! She wants to raise the wall “as much as people want gas to go back to 99 cents a gallon!” And raise the wall she does with a performance of “My Man” that Josh, close personal friend of Barbra Streisand, says Babs would be proud of. She earns the fastest yeses of the completion thus far, kicks that mic stand out of the way, and goes to town the second the wall goes up. 

Luda tells her she can go ahead and start requesting all yellow M&Ms in her dressing room, which was a funny little diva joke, until a couple of segments later when Gabrielle tarnished her perfect performance by coming off, ahem, a little less than humble. Josh asks the women who have made it through thus far who they’re most scared of going against in the Duels and after most politely giggled that everyone is so good, Gabrielle said, “Can I be honest?” (Uh oh.) She thinks they should all be scared of her. That’s one way to make yourself stand out.

Status: advances with all three judges, and 90% overall

Karen Hornsby, “To Love You More”

Karen’s performance needed a lot of work, and the judges told her as much. They also all told her—Kesha through tears—that they mostly voted her through because her intro package told her harrowing story of raising her daughter battling brain cancer. Her performance packed an emotional punch for sure, but she’ll have to really show all she’s got in the Duels.

Status: advances with all three judges, and 82% overall

TX3, “Keep Your Head Up”

Oh TX3…the less said here, the better. These triplets were fine in their intro, talking about their topless Hollywood Strip dancing days, but there was nothing fresh or cool about their performance. Luda straight up tells them they have no stage presence, and Kesha tells them she voted yes in the hopes that one of them would take their shirt off, which is actually much more insulting. They handle that, at least, with grace.

"Rising Star: The Billboard Cover Story

Skye Griffin, “Only Girl in the World”

Skye’s performance wasn’t as rough as some have been, but she was pretty much doomed from the moment she paired her skintight lycra booty shorts with 10-seconds of “la la las” at the beginning of her performance. Luda and Kesha agree that she has something in her she wasn’t able to show, and Brad says it came down to the wrong song (drink!).

Status: rejected with Kesha’s vote, and 28% overall

Morgan Higgins, “Alone”

You can’t discredit Morgan, a 16-year-old, for singing Heart, but you can be weary that she probably learned it from Glee, where she also seems to have learned her backstory and sound. Her voice was clear though, and Luda liked the way she turned it on once it became unclear if the wall would rise.

Status: advances with Kesha and Luda’s votes, and 79% of overall

With little information about anything beyond the auditions in the first two episodes, no one could shut up about the Duels tonight, especially the judges, who will take over Josh’s mentoring hat (glasses) next week. If Brad Paisley is to be trusted, the duels begin next Sunday and will take place in a Roman coliseum where the contestants will be armed with muskets…this might be just the shakeup Rising Star needs!


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