It’s another edition of Idol Chat with Mac and MJ. This week, we choose our Top 5 and Bottom 3 singers in the Top 13, our favorite performances from the Top 30 and biggest disappointments. Read on for more.
1) Our Top 5 Singers In The Top 13
Mac: 1) Jena Irene– I like that she’s discarded her hard-to-remember-how-to-spell last name for a much more manageable middle name. I actually enjoyed her Paint It Black, even though it wasn’t one of my faves, but her wild card performance should have elicited an immediate spot as a Wild Card. Were the judges thinking that 3 of the remaining 4 performances would actually be good enough to justify cutting Jena at that point? No wildcard has ever won Idol, and only Clay has made the finale. Let’s see if Jena can at least match the success of Clay. I wasn’t originally a fan, but I’ve become a huge fan.
MJ: I love a good Italian name! But I understand why she dropped it. I guess one hard to pronounce name is enough! I was impressed that Jena was able to step up to the plate when she was called back as a wildcard. She did what she needed to do at that moment. I am also really impressed with her songwriting abilities, her poise and sense of herself as an artist at only 17. I didn’t think her “Paint it Black” performance was bad at all, even if it wasn’t her best. But she’s only my #2 contestant at the moment.
2) Majesty Rose – I still love her, even if Happy wasn’t my favorite performance of that night. Much like Alex Preston fans, I love Majesty Rose because the glimmer she’s shown me was enough for me to expect big things.
MJ: My #1 spot is reserved for the majestic Majesty! She frigging walked out on that stage last week and owned it. There’s a spark in her that’s special, along with her exquisite vocals and ability to pick the perfect cover. Besides Corinne Bailey Rae, she gives me some Janelle Monae feels too. I love her!
3) Alex Preston– I feel like he definitely earned his spot in the Top 13 this week, delivering probably the strongest male performance of the night (sorry Sam Woolf fans). In the battle of the WGWG’s, Alex is probably winning right now. Again, I see a lot of potential here.
MJ: Alex is my #5 overall pick. For some reason, he may not be translating well on TV. Sam is younger, better looking and the camera LOVES him. And that’s going to help him go a long way. But I think Alex has raw talent and musicality–head and shoulders over Sam. I hope America “gets” Alex, and he’s not tossed too soon.
4) CJ Harris– My former #1 pick is slipping a bit for me. I’m tired of Ray Lamontagne songs, and I didn’t think his wild card was very good. That being said, I also didn’t think he should have had to sing for a wild card spot. I don’t understand how CJ wasn’t Top 5 boys. That concerns me a lot about what America is looking for this year.
MJ: CJ is #4 on my list. He’s not a perfect singer. Yes, he has the tendency to lose pitch when he’s in the middle of a performance. But this guy EMBODIES every song he sings. His heart and soul belongs to country blues. I love his grit. The judges comments were pretty harsh after his Top 30 performance. I don’t think that helped him.
5) Ben Briley and Dexter Roberts– My two country boys are tied this week. I thought Ben outperformed Dexter this week, but Dexter is usually my more favorite of the two. I need another performance to really figure out which country male I’m rooting for. I felt bad for Dexter, since the costume designers on the show sent him out in a shirt that clearly wasn’t covering his undershirt very well. I’m also putting MK Nobilette on notice as a possible future Top 5er. I need another performance from her, which says more about her lack of screentime than anything else. The six above her just have a deeper body of work for me to appreciate.
MJ: Neither of these guys are in my Top 5, but I think they are fine singers. I give the edge to Ben right now. He’s got a streak of originality I admire. Countrifying Grace Potter’s “Stars” was genius. I’m thinking we can expect some pretty cool covers from Ben. I have high hopes for MK, but I agree–we haven’t seen enough of what she can do to judge if she’s in this thing for the long haul. I will say that she absolutely deserved to advance on her delicate, emotional performance of John Legend’s “All of Me.”
Jessica Meuse – She’s #3 on my list. I didn’t love her Luke Bryan cover. And I’m a little nervous she’s going to have trouble singing other people’s songs. But I still think she’s a raw talent, a great songwriter and compelling performer. I hope she can get over the nerves that were obviously on display last week.
Mac:I actually liked Jess’s cover. She’s someone I’d like to see stay around for a while, but she’s stuck in the mid-pack for me right now. Probably 8th or 9th.
2) Bottom 3
Mac:Personally, my bottom 3 is Kristen O’Connor, who I find to be a little too pageant-like for me. I also wouldn’t have allowed her to sing for the wildcard over someone like Malcolm Allen, nor would I have given her a Top 13 slot over the more promising Spencer Lloyd. I’m not sold on Caleb Johnson, who has yet to convince me that he bleeds rock music as opposed to someone who attended a ‘rock school’. Now, there’s a huge gap here, but my bottom 3 would also include Sam Woolf, who I just don’t get. I don’t think he emotionally connects to his material, and I think his voice isn’t as strong as Alex’s. As far as my anticipated Bottom 3 this week, I’d probably go with Kristen, Jess, and either Emily or Malaya. I think even though CJ is the wildcard boy, that just him being a boy will be enough to keep him from being in the bottom 3 in the first week. I’d be very surprised if any of the boys were in the bottom this week.
MJ: It wasn’t only picking Kristen O’Connor for the wildcard that annoyed me, but that once she blew her second chance (she was awful) the judges pulled their punches. She was obviously intended to make it no matter how she sang. I’m with you on that, she can (sometimes) hit the notes, but doesn’t convey emotion. Caleb Johnson impressed me more this week than he has previously. He’s a throwback rock singer who will undoubtedly appeal to the Idol demo. I’d like him to sing more contemporary material. Sam Woolf hits the notes and has a beautiful tone, but I waffle on him. I thought his David Gray cover last week was boring. I’d put Emily Piriz in my personal bottom 3. She’s got some talent, but has no idea who she is as an artist. I’m not going to predict a bottom 3 until everybody sings this week!
3) Fav Performances
Mac: I definitely think Jena’s performance of the wild card was my favorite of all of last week. I also really enjoyed Alex and MK’s performances last week as the standout guy/girl. There were a couple of other “good” performances, but mostly the night was blah for me.
MJ: MK Nobilette’s “All of Me” Top 30 performance and Jena Irene’s wildcard performance of her original song were easily the two best performances last week. Both were completely in the zone and connected during their performances. It’s something most of the contestants struggled with this week as they set foot on the live Idol stage for the first time. Alex Preston’s cover of “Volcano” was also very good.
Mac: OK. This is where shit gets real. We were told that judges picked the 10 girls/guys who sang based on their dress rehearsal performances. Then why was Marielle Sellars allowed to sing? What made me want to strangle someone was the implication that someone actually heard Marielle’s performance, which was awful, and decided that still none of the other five girls was worthy of a shot. I’m super pissed that Kenzie Hall wasn’t allowed to sing, but I would have appreciated any of the girls as long as their performance was strong. Marielle’s performance was so bad that I couldn’t ever imagine a time when it was good. At least with Bria, I could chalk up her errors to performance jitters, or Brianna’s struggle to stage fright. Marielle had neither performance jitters or stage fright. She was easily the strongest performer (in her ability to use the given space), yet her vocals were like a cat trapped inside of a bag. Roar earned a freakishly low 9 score on What Not To Sing. Equally, Emmanuel Zidor shouldn’t have wasted a spot on the guys side.
I was also disappointed that Bria Anai was offered a chance to sing for the wildcard spot. Her vocals the previous night were not enough to warrant a spot over someone like Malcolm Allen, who delivered a much stronger vocal, but chose the wrong song. To that note, also, I don’t understand how the producers could force the singers into just reperforming their round 3 song. It basically killed Spencer’s chance. Had he been allowed to reperform Say Something, he probably would have landed a Top 13 spot.
Knowing what I know now, I still believe the Top 13 is missing Malcolm Allen and Kenzie Hall. I would swap them in a heartbeat for Caleb and Kristen. Had Spencer had a stronger solo last week, I might feel like fighting for him, but instead he sang twice, and they were both pretty bad. It proved he was a one trick pony.
MJ: I think the entire Top 30 format was a misstep. Why give us a Top 30 if 1/3rd of them were not going to get the opportunity to sing? The judges said they picked based on their dress rehearsal performances. It would have been a meaningful twist if we had actually WATCHED the judges working with coaches and the kids so we had some insight on why some were cut, and others weren’t. Instead, we were left to wonder WHY Kenzie Hall, who shined throughout the competition was denied the chance to compete over seemingly inferior singers, like Marrielle Sellars (I’ll never understand why the producers kept trying to make her happen. She never landed another good performance after her initial audition).
The competition started off feel-good and then inexplicably veered into a very Hunger Games like vibe. It didn’t sit well with fans. Not THIS fan, anyway. The exclusion of Malcolm Allen from the Wildcards was a huge disappointment! Spencer Lloyd proved to be a light weight, as I suspected. He had ONE good performance, “Say Something.” His Top 30 performance was so weak, even the friggin pimp spot didn’t help him advance. Based on that alone, why waste a wildcard on him? At least CJ Harris got through, despite criticisms from the judges. I agree that the Top 13 is missing both Kenzie and Malcolm. Kristen is total cannon fodder and could very well be the first to go.
Mac: The good news is that I have no idea who will win this season. Unlike previous seasons where a frontrunner emerged immediately (Scotty), or a pair/trio of front runners (Philip/Jessica, Candice/Kree/Angie) that stood out, I think this season could easily go to a handful of people. Sam and Alex both hearken from the WGWG style that helped Philip win, and Ben/Dexter both come from the Scotty side. Majesty is clearly different enough, and everyone loves her. I think even Jena has a shot. I’d even call MK and CJ darkhorses. Maybe not winners, but they might make the top 3. Even though the Top 30 format was a fail, the fact that this season seems wide open is a win.