Eight songful dreamers came to Los Angeles and when it was all over, the dreams of four continued while the others were cut short.
It was the semifinals of Karaoke Battle USA on ABC, pitting the best guy and girl karaoke singer of four regions across the country against each other, and in the end it was the semifinalists who took the biggest chances that reaped the biggest rewards.
The battle started with west-region semifinalist, 45-year-old music teacher Sammy Vijarro-- the self-confessed old guy of the group. "I'm 45 years old, and it's great to be able to compete with these youngins," Sammy said. "I hope that speaks to middle-aged people out there to continue on with what you love." The judges were afraid Sammy would not shine through his performance and make his song his own, but after a rousing rendition of "Unchain My Heart," they were proven wrong. "I got a little more of a sense of who you are tonight, I really did," said judge Joe Levy.
Meredith McHenry followed, promising, "tonight I'm going to step out on that stage and show the judges a side of me they've never seen before." And she did not disappoint, belting out Alicia Keys' "No One." It was a novel choice, well out of Meredith's comfort zone, and judge Carnie Wilson noticed. "You seemed a little tiny bit hoarse to me," she said, "a little bit straining to me at times." But judge Brian "The Cowboy" Scott didn't hear the same, congratulating Meredith for "your energy, your vibe," calling her, "just a special, special lady."
Next, it was the south's turn, with big man RL Bell leading the way. The highly-competitive body builder psyched himself up before taking the stage, telling our cameras, "for the semifinals, I'm going to try and bring something that I feel the other guys can't bring and that's the strength of singing. I'm not playing around. I really want this." Much to the dismay of the judges, however, RL chose another down-tempo ballad in "Georgia on My Mind," continuing with a trend he's maintained throughout the competition. Judge Carnie noted, "I kinda wish you did, like, an up-tempo song because we've seen it before." Judge Brian quipped, "a man cannot live on ballads alone."
Then, Nashville transplant Charlotte Hicks took the stage with Judge Joe Levy providing this advice to the big-voiced singer: "Tonight for Charlotte the challenge is working in another mode than 'overkill.' Can she do friendly, can she do loving, can she hold the audience's hand and let them know she cares, not just that she's going to blow them away." Charlotte chose the Janis Joplin classic, "Piece of My Heart," which didn't appear to follow judge Joe's advice. He complained, "I got a little too much Janis at times" and said Charlotte growled too much during the performance. But Carnie and Brian disagreed, with Carnie calling it, "unflippin' believable," and Brian flirtatiously telling Charlotte, "you can growl for me any time."
North semifinalist Josh Scholl dedicated his performance to his Grandma Rose, saying she's always with him in spirit. And Josh seemed to make the most daring choice of the group, giving up his self-admitted big "80s cover band" style for the softer, more thoughtful "Drops of Jupiter" by Train. In the end, the gamble really paid off, with Carnie calling him "the most comfortable performer in this entire competition on stage, you are incredible."