Ten Stony Brook Idol finalists battled for the title and $200 prize during Campus Life Time on Wednesday, April 12, on the Staller Steps. But Khairika Al Sinani, a senior theatre major, won it all with her rendition of “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera.
Stony Brook Idol is a tradition that is over a decade old. This year, the competition was bigger than ever, with twice as many students as last year auditioning. Traditionally, there are only seven contestants who make it to the finals. However, due to an overload of talent, a record 10 students made it through, William Taylor, the program coordinator for the last two years, said.
“It’s grown in terms of quality and variety of music,” Taylor said.
Hailey Greif, a freshman sustainability studies major, who is a member of the Stony Brook Pipettes, opened the night by singing “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. The judges praised her for her bravery and warned the other contestants that they were apparently competing against serious talent.
Olivia Banting, a sophomore sociology major, took on “Halo” by Beyoncé. Her smooth high notes garnered uninhibited applause. Veronica Fox, a junior biomedical engineering major, mixed it up by singing “Creep” by Radiohead in an old-time jazzy fashion, complete with deep baritone and almost theatrical expressions. Eshani Goradia, a sophomore biology major, brought soul and emotion with her rendition of “Writing on the Wall” by Sam Smith.
The performances were heard from the Academic Mall. With each song, more people filled the steps until there were barely any open spots left to sit down. Students stretched their necks and shifted their positions to see past the several umbrellas that opened when it started to drizzle.
“I think the crowd is staying even through the rain because the performances are so high quality,” Taylor said.
Senior biomedical engineering major Alex Arthur, also known by his stage name Aamen, hyped up the crowd with an original song titled “Aamenboi.” He was the only male and the only rapper to make it to the finals.
“You remind me of an alum, JUS, who’s got a good career right now,”Jeffrey Barnett, judge and interim associate dean of students, said. “I think you have a great future ahead of you.”
Arthur released his first songs on SoundCloud this past summer and has been taking advantage of every chance to practice performing in front of large audiences.
“When I heard about this, I didn’t even realize it was a competition, and all I heard was that it was an opportunity to perform,” Arthur said. “Then I realized it was a contest and that I’d get to perform multiple times, so that’s even better.”
Fans could vote for the winner by walking down to the concession stand and placing a blue ticket in a bucket with their favorite artist’s name on it. While they were there, they could also get free popcorn and cotton candy.
Along with Sinani’s first place win, Goradia was awarded second place and $150 and Fox took home third and $100.
“I could feel my jaw tighten up when this one bit I was scared of was coming up, and I just told myself, ‘You did it before, you did it in the car, you can do it again,’” Sinani said.
She was shaking when she finished the song, but her apparent nerves could not be detected in a single note during her seemingly flawless performance. It amassed high praise from the judges who said they were unsure about the contestant’s ability to take on a Christina Aguilera song.
“But you showed us and everyone here what you can do,” Eduardo Diaz, one of the judges and the associate director of residential programs for apartment living, said.
Along with the $200 prize, which Sinani said she will most likely spend on food, she also won the title of Stony Brook Idol 2017 and the opportunity to sing at Earthstock on April 21 and the Shirley Strum Kenny Student Arts Festival closing ceremony on April 20.
“Last year was really good,” Taylor said. “But I think this year it was a level above.”