WATCH: 'Idols SA' inspirational performances pay tribute to Thami Shobede
Last week, we saw the "Idols SA" top 17 contenders whittled down to 10 would-be Idols.
The stage has now officially been set for a really tight competition, starting this week, under the theme "Inspirational hits" – those songs that make you want to stand up and take a stand.
The theme comes at a very delicate time in South Africa, following the recent xenophobic attacks in SA and outpouring of anger towards gender-based violence (#WeStandWithWomen).
It also comes at a fitting time for the "Idols SA" family, which is mourning the death of season 12 runner-up Thami Shobede, who died last week.
His untimely death has robbed the country of a talent who still had so much to offer to the music industry. But, as host and executive producer Proverb said, we will all continue to be inspired by his music.
His death gave this week’s show a sense mortality, with the judges’ overall message to the contestants being that they should make the most of their singing talent. After Sunday's performance, two clear facts have emerged: this year’s talent is particularly exceptional, and it will be difficult to pick a winner.
Whether it was a gospel or anthem song, the performers, who were accompanied by the Tshwane Gospel Choir uplifted both the judges and the audience.
The contestants started the show by accompanying guest performer Dr Tumi, who sang his spiritually uplifting hit, "Nothing Without You".
The first contestant, Dinky Kunene, sang "One Wing" by Jordin Sparks, was praised for a calculated performance that set a high standard for the evening. Somizi Mhlongo said she was proof that dynamite does come in “small dinkies”.
Viggy Qwabe was praised for her performance of Miss Pru’s "Phumelela", but Mhlongo advised her to add dimension and variety to her performance.
Luyolo Yiba’s rendition of Adele’s "Set Fire to the Rain" was well-received by the judges despite the odd off-pitch moment. Randall Abrahams praised him for being able to make the song his own.
Come-back kid Nqobile Gumede drove Unathi Nkayi to tears as she encouraged her to remember she deserved to be on the stage and should embrace her talent. Her performance on Mary Mary’s "Can’t Give Up Now" was a reminder that she had not given up on her dream.
Sneziey Msomi once again impressed the judges, with a Tshwane Gospel Choir song, "Heal my Soul". Nkayi said the performance was phenomenal and Abrahams praised her for her restraint.
He went on to give her a subtle “Whoo Shem”. Mhlongo said she had given an amazing performance and it was an amazing ministry.
Virginia Qwabe’s performance of Benjamin Dube’s "Yebo Linamandla" was called special by Abrahams, while Mhlongo called her the full package.
Nolo Seodisha brought back some fun and dancing to a very emotionally charged evening as he sang Joyous Celebration’s "Modimo Ke Lerato".
The judges, of course, were excited by his performance, with Mhlongo saying he brought the variety he was looking for, and Abrahams saying he was certain he would still be on the stage in two weeks time.
Innocentia Sibi got kudos from Nkayi for attempting Beyoncé’s complex "Ave Maria". Mhlongo loved the high notes, but Abrahams felt she needed to be more commanding.
Nkayi Mangaliso Gumbi lived up to her name with Benjamin Dube’s "Ngangingazi". Nkayi said she was a marvel (a loose translation of the name Mangaliso), while Mhlongo called her the underdog who could upset the competition.
The performance of the evening was the last performance of the evening. Micayla Oelofse sang Andra Day’s "Rise", which was dedicated to her mother who died recently.
Mhlongo said hers was the performance of the night, while Nkayi was moved to tears. She said Oelofse’s parents would be proud of her performance.
It is now up to the fans to decide who gets to return next week as part of the Top 9.