This week, MJ and I discuss which performances from Hollywood Week Round 3 stood out for us, which contestants we thought were robbed of a Top 30 shot (but really, apparently, a Top 20 shot), the 5 guys/5 girls we would ask not to sing this week, and our favorites heading into the semi finals. Without further adieu…
ROUND 3 STANDOUTS
Mac:- Without a doubt, my first standout is Jena Asciutto, who knocked me off my feet with her beautiful original song at the piano. If they eliminate this “dark horse” this week, I’ll be furious. She didn’t have me at first, but everything she’s done during Hollywood week has made me a fan. Emily Piriz really landed on my radar this week with her rendition of Stars. And, I’ll be in the unpopular crowd and pick Briston Maroney, who is growing on me. I thought his Let Her Go was kinda cool, and his voice stands out in a pack of WGWG’s, which is hard to do. Also, while it technically wasn’t a Round 3 performance, CJ Harris blew me away with his sing for his spot solo. I thought Casey would be a goner.
MJ: Jena Asciutto continues to impress me with her artistry and individuality. She’s a young singer who knows who she is as an artist. Emily Piriz hasn’t gotten much screen time, but every time she pops up in the competition, she grabs my attention. She’s a very unique singer. CJ Harris is, at this point, one of my favorites. As a performer he’s mesmerizing and fully inhabits whatever song he’s singing. I still can’t climb aboard the Briston Maroney train. His affected delivery doesn’t feel authentic to me. He’s a bit of a try-hard.
I would add Jess Meuse whose Stevie Nicks vibe I love. I’m also really impressed by her songwriting abilities. Bria Anai Johnson impressed me with her willingness to “get ugly” as Fantasia would saym with an arresting performance of “It’s A Man’s World.” And Malcolm Allen just lights up the stage every time he’s on it. I loved his performance of “Going Down.”
ROBBED OF A SPOT
Mac:Knowing that five guys and five girls aren’t singing this week breaks my heart. Because, even if someone was robbed of a spot, they might have just gone on to be one of the guys/girls not singing. That being said, I really do hope that Sandie Lee reauditions. She sounds amazing, yet I completely understand why she was cut, from a producer standpoint. She’s too similar to Candice Glover, and they’re trying for something else this season. Hopefully next season they’ll be willing to give her a try. Also, David Oliver Willis and Sarina Joi Crowe both had strong performances that deserved to make the Top 30 this year. And for what its worth, I also enjoyed Keri Lynn Roche’s I’d Rather Go Blind. Her performance aspect could use some tweaking, but the vocal was solid.
MJ: David Oliver Willis was totally robbed. David may have been sacrificed for the other country singers in the Top 31 like CJ Harris and Dexter Roberts. I would have preferred David to Casey Thrasher, but the latter has the better backstory (auditioning for Idol in order to take care of his kid). And maybe the slots for returnees were already taken up by Briana Oakley and Brandy Neelly. I would also add Savion Wright to that list, who wasn’t perfect, but worked hard and could have had a nice growth arc throughout the competition. Maybe Savion’s heavy backstory (his brother’s headline-grabbing murder) was too much for the producers who don’t seem very keen on “sob stories” this season.
Mac: For me, when Savion Wright got cut, it broke my heart, because of what that kid was going through in his personal life. A part of me was definitely rooting for him, because he needed a break. The other part of me wasn’t rooting for him because he’s not a strong enough singer. At the end of the day, it comes down to whose music would you listen to, and for me it wouldn’t be Savion.
NOT ALLOWED TO SING?
Mac:This is a hard one for me, mainly with the girls. So I’ll start with the much easier boys, where there is clear cannon fodder, and a few names who shouldn’t even have made the cut. If Ethan Harris sings this week, I’ll punch a baby. He is by far the weakest singer in the competition (sorry to the 17 of you that picked him as your favorite in the competition in MJ’s poll). Jordan Brisbane just isn’t ready for this, and his rendition of Halo wasn’t that great. Emmanuel Zidor has been nothing but comic relief and his performances are far too over the top. I can’t see America voting for him, and giving him a Top 10 singing spot would waste the opportunity for someone else. I think he has a good voice, but there’s something about this fake authenticity that Caleb Johnson has that I don’t like. It’s like he went away to Rocker Academy or something, and came back wearing silly clothes, and felt the need to scream every song. I would cut him, because I fear that the elusive frauen might vote for him. Maurice Townsend bores me. He’s a good singer, definitely, but a boring singer. That brings me to George Lovett, who I also think is a good singer. However, should Neco Starr get America’s vote over Ben Briley, I would pick George to sing over Neco.
For the girls, I’ll acknowledge that Andrina Brogden is fodder. It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s that she just feels like a space filler, and not a star. She probably needed to wait a few years before making this Idol journey, in order to be a contender. I’m actually not a Bria Anai fan. I haven’t enjoyed any of her performances this far, and I think there are better singes in the competition. I think she did a bold thing, coming out on national television, but I’m ready to say goodbye to MK Nobilette. I don’t think America will “get” her, or her subdued style of singing. Plus, she suffered a severe lack of screentime, and was shown abandoning her group. I don’t think the producers set her up well to be the first openly gay contestant in the Top 10. I’m actually not a Jillian Jensen fan. I think there are stronger singers, and stronger contenders. I had a really hard time understanding what she was singing in her Top 3 performance. Diction is her worst enemy. It’s the last girl that I’m having a hard time with, and as much as I hate to say it, I’d eliminate Jess Meuse, who I like as a person. I think she was given a terrible edit by the producers, and I don’t think America is going to vote her through. Interestingly, she’s 4th on MJ’s poll, but that’s really only a sampling of die-hard fans, who are prone to falling in love to contestants who don’t fit the mainstream, and don’t make the Top 10 (I guarantee someone reading this still isn’t over Kendra Chantelle’s elimination). Interestingly, I would say I’m cutting both MK and Jess, not because of their level of talent, but because I believe the producers edits are insurmountable at this point.
MJ: First, I want to say that I’m pissed that the judges will be eliminating 5 girls and 5 guys from the competition before we even get to hear them sing! It’s a gimmick that’s obviously made to drum up controversy. There’s no way all of the fodder will be eliminated at this stage. There will be controversial cuts and I fully expect to be infuriated at the end of each night. This 180 degree turn season 13 took is odd. While the auditions were all positivity and good vibes, the show suddenly morphed into the Hunger Games at the onset of Hollywood.
The boys are easier to pick off than the girls. Ethan Harris and Jordan Brisbane are young singers not ready for primetime. They shouldn’t be in the Top 15 to begin with. Emmanuel Zidor and his over the top theatricality crosses the line into joke contestant territory. He’s there to entertain? Except that he’s not very entertaining. Interestingly, when Caleb Johnson’s final performance went up for a twitter poll, viewers predicted he would NOT advance to the Top 30. Except. Whoops. He did. Based on that alone, I’d cut him off. He’s like Meatloaf, but without the heart. If the producers were at all serious about having a rock guy in the competition this year, they would have looked elsewhere. My fifth guy would be Casey Thrasher, who is easily the weakest of all the country guys. At this point, he’s all backstory. I would not ditch Maurice Townsend without giving him a chance to sing. I think he has a beautiful voice. As far as the fight for the 30th spot between Ben Briley and Neco Starr is concerned, I’d give the edge to Ben, but I almost threw Neco some votes anyway, because it didn’t feel like a fair fight to pit a country guy against a soul singer. The Idol demo is going to go for the country dude, regardless.
The girls are tougher. I’ve made my picks, but feel like I was forced to choose some good singers. We really only agree on Andrina Brogden–who is clearly fodder at this point. But who knows what would happen if she were given a chance. That’s why I hate eliminating people without allowing them to sing! We also agree on Jillian Jensen, who also seems to be set up as fodder. She didn’t impress me much on X Factor, and so far, my mind hasn’t changed. There are girls in the competition who are better singers. But your other picks? I love Bria Anai’s bold style and spunk. America usually hates chicks with swag, but I still want her to stick around. America may not get MK Nobilette’s subtle style, but she’s my cup of tea. I want to hear more from her. And I’d say that if she hadn’t made the brave choice to come out on TV. Jess Meuse? She’s one of my favorite girls right now, and yeah, her Hollywood edit may spell her doom, but I don’t really care. She’s got a special talent and deserves to sing. Period.
The rest of my cuts are tough decisions. Briana Oakley keeps coming back. She’s determined to make the live shows and compete. I still don’t think she’s ready. Her performances have been inconsistent. I’m also on the fence about Kristen O’Connor. She’s been inconsistent too, although she’s had some fine moments. I think she’s fodder though. Might as well cut her now. She’s been pimped so much by the producers, it probably won’t happen but–Marrialle Sellars. She’s been WAY oversold with positive edits to the point of being annoying. She ain’t all that. Goodbye.
Mac: I was on the fence about people going into this, and after hearing your reasons, I think I’d probably swap out George Lovett for Casey Thrasher (easily the weakest of the three country boys). George did a great vocal in round 3 and deserves to be heard again. And for me, vocally, Marielle Sellars would be in my bottom 5 girls right now. She was one I was definitely teetering on, and after listening to her Wrecking Ball cover, I’d send her home over Jess Meuse or MK Nobilette, giving America the opportunity to vote for someone with a poor Hollywood edit.
TOP FIVE CONTESTANTS RIGHT NOW
#1 – CJ Harris: This is just a guy I can get behind. He’s a “different” type with regards to the winners of the past. He’s an incredibly nice guy who seems like he could really use this break. He’s also uniquely talented, and not in an overpolished way. American Idol was created to find that small town waitress with a good voice, and he’s the equivalent of that. He didn’t even audition in a major city, they got him on the bus tour. He really truly is an undiscovered talent, and he’s blown me away every week.
#2 – Majesty York: Love this girl too. I’d be OK with her winning also. She’s unique, and it seems like she’s a great storyteller of the lyrics she’s performing. She had a hiccup in round 3, but I think we’re going to see big things from Majesty. She feels like an authentic original.
#3 – Jena Ascuitto: Probably a little more “polished” a performer than the two above, but still definitely someone who deserves her spot in both the Top 30, and the Top 10. She kept knocking me out in Hollywood Week and made me a believer that she’s not an Adele wannabe, but just a singer with a similar voice, and an entirely different style.
#4 – Kenzie Hall: There has been a lot of hubbub about the boys, and I’ve already picked three girls. I love how Kenzie can take a song, even if you think it’s not right for her, and turn it around so that it is. Again, not the strongest week 3 performance, but I think she shows a lot of promise. If the theme weeks aren’t horrific this week, Kenzie might be a contender.
#5 – Spencer Lloyd and Dexter Roberts: I’m cheating, I know, but I couldn’t pick one over the other. Spencer’s first solo in Hollywood on Say Something was my favorite performance in Hollywood Week this year. Dexter is someone who has consistently shown me who he wants to be as an artist, and also brings a soulfulness to his vocals. I think Dexter is more versatile than people think, even moreso than Scotty McCreery was. If Idol is looking for another country superstar, I think Dexter is the pick.
Honorable Mentions: I think Emily Piriz came onto my radar just this last round. I’m anxious to see what she performs this week, to see if she can build on her upwards trajectory. Alex Preston continues to underperform for me, but I remain a fan of the stuff I’ve seen of his on youtube. I don’t know why he’s not connecting for me on the show, but I keep hoping he’ll turn it around. And I may be the only fan of Briston Maroney at this point. I’m kinda anxious to see what America thinks of his obviously affected tone, as he’s really not like anyone who has ever been in the Top 10 before.
MJ: Our lists are similar. Really similar. Except I think Spencer Lloyd is destined to be the return of Tim Urban. I’m not sold on his talent. I like Dexter Roberts too, for the same reasons you do, but he’s just outside of my list. Emily Piriz could be a dark horse in the competition, but I wan’t to see more before I name check her.
#1. Jess Meuse – Love this girl’s raspy voice and intensely dark songwriting. I can’t look away when she performs. I’ll be mad if her Hollywood edit ruins her chances. But on the other hand, she doesn’t seem like the sort of person who takes direction well? There could be clashes down the road. She may be too much of an iconoclast to succeed on Idol. I still want her to have the opportunity.
#2 - CJ Harris – CJ is authentic down to his bones and a true original. His performances are like a punch to the gut. He’s definitely one of my favorites at this point. I agree, he’s unpolished, but in a very beautiful way.
#3. – Jena Asciutto – We haven’t had a rocker girl this good since Allison Iraheta in season 8. But I’ll go one step further to say Jena knows herself much better as an artist than Allison did at this stage. Jena has made every cover she’s performed uniquely her own, and has also displayed some songwriting prowess. Love her.
#4. – Majesty York – Majesty stumbled during her final solo, which I hope isn’t a sign that she’ll wilt under pressure. She’s got a Corinne Bailey Rae vibe that’s intriguing and a knack for choosing the perfect covers to showcase her unique talent.
#5. – Malcolm Allen – Malcolm delivers a performance while making it look so easy! He’s a bit of a throwback to greats like Motown’s David Ruffin, while being thoroughly contemporary. His charisma and humor makes him a total package.
Honorable Mentions: Kenzie Hall stumbled a bit in Hollywood, but there’s no denying her vocal talent and musicality. There’s something about Sam Woolf that makes him more than just a cute WGWG. I’m drawn to his performances. And, Alex Preston isn’t translating on TV as well as he could, I’m afraid, but I still love his confidence and individuality.
Mac: I also love Malcolm Allen, but Sam Woolf disappointed me in Round 3. I don’t think his original song was very strong, even if it came from the heart. Maybe he’ll change my mind this week.