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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

'American Idol' singer counting on Hawai'i vote

 •  'Idol' sendoff for Trias
 •  'Idol Chitchat' discussion board

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Jonah Moananu turns 22 tomorrow.

Jonah Moananu
One of the greatest gifts he could receive would be finding out tonight that Hawai'i's hometown pride was strong enough to vote him past last night's particularly strong "American Idol" competition on Fox.

The big man from Kalihi showed confidence, poise and a knack for working the crowd when he took the stage, but his bluesy rendition of Carl Thomas' "I Wish," drew lukewarm to cold critiques from judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.

It was good, but his performance didn't allow him to show the voice range several other competitors displayed. In part, Moananu said, it was because of the song selection.

"It's kind of what I got stuck with," he told The Advertiser last night. "It was not my first choice, or my second choice, which ran a minute and 10 seconds (vocals must run about 45 seconds max). And, ooh, it took a while to brush it (the criticism) off."

Nevertheless, the judges were critical:

  • "I was disturbed by your performance; you didn't show your skills or your range," Jackson said. "You need to shine."
  • Abdul agreed, but added, "it's a stylized song ... your voice sounded good."
  • Cowell was not as vicious as he could have been, saying: "I just don't think you're very good. Your timing was all over the place. (It was) your chance to shine ... I don't think you did."

Though he had the studio audience clapping along, the judges' response probably means he's going to need a loyal Hawai'i vote to join Maui's Camile Velasco in the final 12. Last week, Velasco drew 1.5 million votes from Hawai'i despite Verizon saying the phone lines were overloaded with people trying to call in at the same time — 400 percent more traffic than usual during the two-hour voting period following the show.

'American Idol' results

• 7:30 to 8 p.m. tonight, Fox (KHON-2)

With the history of Hawai'i pride for its idols on his side, nobody is counting Moananu out despite what the judges said.

Sixth in the third batch of eight contestants, Moananu appeared cheerful and spirited when host Ryan Seacrest introduced him. With puka shells on his neck, wearing a black aloha shirt with a white bird of paradise print over white trousers, Moananu was called "the big kahuna" by Seacrest. Moananu even did an impromptu rap to display the breadth of his talent, inviting viewers to "vote 'cuz I can sing."

Moananu's mother, Valerie Moananu, and his aunt, Zonia Moananu, were in the studio audience, sweating out the judges' call. "I think he did well ... but he was very nervous," said his mom in a phone conversation.

With the competition phase over, Moananu said he has had time to "kick back a little and rest."

He finds out tonight — along with the rest of the 30 million viewers — if he gets the nod to advance to the finals.

Two viewers at Eastside Grill last night liked what they saw and intended to dial his code.

"I liked him, and I'm going to vote for him," said Sheri Sekido. "I voted last week till I fell asleep ... but this week's group is a little better."

Nicole Otani said she had planned to vote for Moananu, too. "I would vote locally, no matter what. We have to support our own talent."

It's this kind of faith that would help Moananu advance.

If judges can sway voters, however, Latoya London, of Oakland, will emerge the top vote-getter. Her "All By Myself" rendition brought Jackson and Abdul to their feet with raves such as "star power" (Jackson), "unbelievable" (Abdul) and "superb, outstanding performance" (Cowell).

Apparently, London is one of those "invisible," not-prominently-seen-or-heard contestants, much like the last of Hawai'i's contestants, Jasmine Trias, 17, who competes next Tuesday.

"You kept it secret," Cowell told London.

Maybe they are saving the very best for the very last.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, 525-8067 or fax 525-8055.

• • •

'Idol' sendoff for Trias

Left: Maryknoll senior Jasmine Trias, draped in lei, gets a kiss from school President Michael Baker at a pep rally sendoff. She will perform on "American Idol" Tuesday.

Below: The entire Maryknoll School student body — 1,400 students from prekindergarten through high school — turned out to wish Trias well.

Photos by Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser