Rising Star: Live Duels Week 1

Josh Groban and Jesse Kinch bask in the spotlight on Rising Star.
Rising Star (Photo: Eric McCandless / ABC)

Rising Star enters its next stage as the successful audition contestants start battling each other. Which contestants hit the wall and which ones raise it?

This week’s Rising Star features the first of three duel rounds. Two contestants of similar skill sets pair off and face each other in a variation on the competition we have experienced so far. The winner of the coin toss goes first, singing a full version of a song without a wall in front of her/him. The home audience and the panel vote and whatever percentage is established is the score to beat. The opponent will sing a full version of a different song behind the wall. If that contestant meets the threshold established earlier, the wall will rise and the second contestant wins. As for the West Coast, their votes will be used to save one of the non-winners, so four contestants will advance.

Alice J. Lee vs. Lisa Punch

Alice was the musical theater singer1 and won the first coin toss. She takes on “Wings” by Little Mix2 and it’s…okay. I find Alice’s vocals to be rather thin, but she was able to maintain the momentum behind the song, which is not easy considering the original track features four singers. All three panelists vote yes for her, boosting Alice’s score to 69%.

Lisa got to watch the performance from the sidelines and had to sing immediately after Alice received her mostly positive critiques from the panel. In her pre-package, Lisa reveals she’s new to terminology like “pitch” and “key.” Girrrrrrrrrrrrl. She attempts Pink’s “Perfect” and immediately demonstrates problems with key and pitch. Lisa recovers and has a rich vocal delivery. I think her voice is much more marketable than Alice’s, but Kesha seems to be the only who agrees. At the end of the song, Lisa has only 66%, so Alice advances. However, if we remove the panel’s votes, Lisa would have had 59% and Alice would have lost with 48%. Hmmmm.

Megan Tibbits vs. Sarah Darling

You may recall Megan as the woman who played the harp and was eventually saved by the west coast during Rising Star‘s second week. This time she takes on the classic “Summertime” while standing and playing guitar. Her rendition is breathy and reminiscent of Jewel—I do not care for it. Part of it is this song has been overdone on these shows, but this particular arrangement was more annoying than fanciful. Ludacris, Kesha, and Brad Paisley voted for it, pushing Megan’s score to 71%.

Sarah Darling, a contestant I have zero recollection of even though she scored 89% in week one, attempts “I Hope You Dance.” This song matches Sarah’s voice nicely, though her stage presence seems to lack charisma. All three panelists wait a long time to register their votes, but only Brad throws his support Sarah’s way. Kesha admits to panicking, and I wonder if she and/or Ludacris got locked out by the clock. Sarah finished with 69%, which may be a sign of hope when the West Coast plays. I would like to note Sarah had a raw score of 62% to Megan’s 50%.

Will Roth vs. Jesse Kinch

Bearded rocker Will Roth steps outside of the box with a cover of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. This could be amazing or it could be a disaster. Will manages to find a middle ground: the song choice is a cute idea, but it doesn’t go anywhere. There’s a growl to his voice, but he more or less covers the song note for note. Brad and Kesha support Will, but he sets a rather low threshold of 57%.

Jesse Kinch, one of only two contestants to score a pure 70% in the auditions, takes on “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers. This kid knows his strengths and plays to them expertly. All three panelists vote for him within seconds and Jesse raises the wall before he even gets to the second verse. He closes the show with a 90% rating. Unless he punches Josh Groban in the face, I’m pretty sure Jesse’s going to win this thing.

How are the Rising Star duels overall?

There is a lot to like about this format. I love that the contestants get to perform full versions of different songs. What bugged me about the battle rounds on The Voice was that it isn’t much of a sing-off when the songs are arranged as duets. Having the full song also allows for a better evaluation of the singer. I held off on voting for Sarah because I wanted to hear how she hit the chorus of the song first, and I knew the arrangement wasn’t go to rush to that point or do anything else unexpectedly.

What I don’t like at this stage is how much power the panelists have. Two of the three contests were decided because of the 7% boost each panelist can provide. That means the show’s gimmick—that the audience is the judge—has been undercut. What would make more sense is if the panelists’ influence diminishes through each phase of the competition. Auditions have a 7% boost, duels have a 5% boost, the mid-levels have a 3% boost, and the finals give each panelist a 1% boost. If this system were in place, Lisa would have beat Alice (64% to 63%) and Sarah would have beat Megan (67% to 65%). Of course, with the West Coast save in play, this may be more gnashing of teeth than is necessary. Lisa ended up advancing, so it’s only Sarah who got royally hosed.

Next week on Rising Star: Adam Jaymes (Week 2) duels Austin French (Week 2). April Lockhart (Week 2) battles Sonnet Simmons (Week 2). Macy Kate (Week 1, #1 Seed) challenges Gabrielle Nicole (Week 3, #3 Seed).


  1. I think? I was called away during her first round appearance  
  2. A group born from X Factor UK  

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About Mike McComb 1219 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv