American Idol: PJAE and Malik Heard Make Showstoppers History

PJAE, Malik Heard - American Idol 2023 Showstoppers
(ABC/Eric McCandless) PJAE, MALIK

American Idol 2023: PJAE and Malik Heard perform a Showstopper sing-off first!

American Idol Season 21 Hollywood Week wraps up this week with two episodes dedicated to Showstoppers. The top 55 will be whittled down to a top 24. We mainly saw singers make it through tonight even though a lot of them struggled including some forgotten words, confidence issues, and more. Fake outs were at an all-time high with the judges making contestants think that they were going home, and the show featured a twist as the sing-off returned. (Read our Recap)

Last season, the sing-off made its debut with Ava Maybee beating out Yoli Mayor, and Dan Marshall beating out Dakota Hayden. It heightens the drama, when singers perform the same song with minimal rehearsal, and can hide behind nothing but their voices. Sunday, the sing-off returned in both the cliffhanger with Paige Anne and Megan Danielle, and with soul singers PJAE and Malik Heard. Some of the more passionate vocals of the night came via the sing-off, but before I get to that, I want to recap their showstoppers.

PJAE impressed the judges with his audition and continued to impress in his duet round with a jazzy duet with Wé. Tonight, he sang “I Want You” by Luke James. His range is impressive, and he let loose a few soulful growls, but his tone at times was unpleasant and grating. He has all the tools, but he needs to reign it in, as he has shown some incredible skill throughout his Idol journey. Katy Perry seemed to agree with me as she thought he stayed in his higher register too long.

Malik Heard’s smooth “Can We Talk”

Malik Heard was first aired last week singing Yebba’s “My Mind,” but that is all we have seen from him, so it’s a bit foggy to remember him. If you don’t, you may recall his run on The Voice Season 10 where he made the Knockouts. This time, he brought some old-school R&B finesse with a cover of Tevin Campbell’s “Can We Talk.” The performance had Katy grooving along. It was very smooth, and he brought stage presence. It felt a bit loungey, however, and he went for some high notes, but didn’t always hit them. Katy said, “he needs some more mid, low-end anchor.”

Each singer’s showstopper had some flaws, and led the judges to some disagreements, so they had the two who call each other friends sing-off to see who has the best R&B voice. The judges have them choose between, “Best Part” by Daniel Caesar and “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish, and the two opt for the Eilish hit.

In the sing-off, Malik starts off with a gorgeous emotive tone. It’s surprising he hasn’t been aired more as the vocal he gives here is one of the best moments of the night. He was nailing it until he opted for his falsetto which is a bit thin. He reworked the song to show off some jazz and soul touches that are in his repertoire.

PJAE delivers loads of emotion

PJAE’s tone is more pop forward, and his rendition starts off nicely, but he is throwing a lot of runs into his performance. It gets dramatic midway through where he lets loose and delivers loads of emotion, but once again, his tone is a tad grating. Either way, both singers are very talented. I would lean towards Malik as his vocal was cleaner, but PJAE may have a smidge more vocal potential as he seems to be able to create big dynamic moments in his performances.

The judges deliberate, and Katy says, “I want to change my mind,” noting, “the person we were thinking about is out.” Luke Bryan says it was PJAE’s best, even though Katy calls it not as “controlled” as Malik. “Astounding” is how Katy described Malik’s performance. Both singers advance with PJAE going through first, and Malik being told that he got a spot due to them moving another singer out of the top 24. It isn’t revealed who that other singer is. This moment makes history as the first sing-off where both singers move on.

This sing-off was a great moment, but the night offered some other highlights too. Kaerya brought fierceness with her rocking Bishop Briggs “River” cover, and Wé Ani showed why she has front runner status with Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way.” Also, the sing-off cliffhanger intrigues for Monday night as Paige Anne nailed her sing-off rendition of “Easy On Me”.

About Blake Busch 272 Articles
I am a graduate of Drake University with a BSBA in marketing and minor in data analytics. My favorite shows to follow are American Idol and The Voice. I also love crime thrillers, Top Chef, and Masterchef. My hobbies include cooking, baking, playing basketball, and watching sports.