Tonight, 5 girls will be cut from the Top 15. Only 10 will perform! Plus we find out whether Ben Briley or Neco Starr won America’s vote to take the last spot in the Top 30.
When I took a look at the list of the Top 15 girls and noticed nearly all of them were teenagers, I wondered if they’d have the maturity and confidence to handle the pressure of the big Idol stage. Unfortunately the answer to that question is–mostly no.
The girls were a total bundle of nerves tonight, mostly giving uneven, amateur performances. The best of the night was definitely Majesty Rose, who bounced onto the stage first and made it look all too easy. Emkay Nobilette surprised me with her quiet, solid confidence. She was a calm presence amid a sea of fluttering sails. Everyone else had issues born out of nerves, whether it was over singing, pitch problems, or lack of confidence and/or connection. If these girls don’t get it together, they aren’t going to be very fun to watch.
Uneven, but with merit, was Malaya Watson who brought solid chops and a goofy charm to stage. Also, Jena Irene still managed to make “Paint it Black” interesting, despite her nerves.
The worst of the night was Marrialle Sellars, whom I can’t believe the judges and producers keep trying to make happen. Her vocal ability is average. She has pitch problems and limited range. And her performances don’t come across as authentic. To be honest, I think, at this point, she elicits a great big WTF from viewers. I don’t expect her to advance.
A real disappointment was Jessica Meuse, my favorite singer coming into the semis. When she’s singing her own songs, she’s an able and compelling story teller. But with a cover, she stumbled badly tonight. She had zero emotional connection to Luke Bryan’s moving ode to his late siblings. Yes, Jessica was singing about dead people. Not that you’d get that as she smiled nervously through her performance. Jessica may simply not be able to sing other people’s songs. Or, she was just so nervous singing live on stage, she lost it.
For all the time spent in “workshops” with Randy Jackson and the staff, these contestants seemed woefully unprepared to sing live. The new stage LOOKED intimidating. With the 360 perspective, and the band and audience all around, it had to be daunting. Don’t get me wrong–the workshop is a good idea and makes for interesting TV. I especially liked the return of alums Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert, who shared what they’ve learned over the years with the young contestants. But, the producers need to start OUT with contestants who are ready. A crop of singers who are nearly all 20 and under is bound to end up being amateur hour.
A final thought on the girls who weren’t asked to sing. I wish the judges gave some insight on WHY they were eliminated. Kenzie Hall had been a real standout in her audition and Hollywood. So what happened? Brandy Neelly also had some very good performances. I would have appreciated the opportunity to make up my own mind. I can’t help but think that the eliminations were a gimmick engineered to cause outrage and tons of twitter and water cooler talk. If a couple of talented singers had to be sacrificed, so be it. Poor Andrina Brogden, we hardly knew ye! And I’d say the same the same about Jillian Jensen, if I didn’t know her already from X Factor. Austin Wolfe had an impressive resume, yet she wasn’t allowed to sing. Why? And by the same token, why was the competent, but boring Kristen O’Connor given the nod by the judges? We’ll never know, which irks me to no end.
Here’s hoping the boys fare better tomorrow. Speaking of which: A moment of silence for Neco Starr who didn’t stand a chance against the type of contestant the Idol demo consistently loves–Ben Briley.
Ryan Seacrest, bathed in white light, stands in front of the 13 chairs that will be occupied, by the end of Thursday, by the Top 13. NO MORE SHINY STOOLS!
We’ll find out the result of Ben vs. Neco a little later. DRAG IT OUT AS LONG AS POSSIBLE OF COURSE. First, though, we meet our SUPERSTAR JUDGES. The new stage is very…round.
HELLO GIRLS. Uhm, I mean Jennifer, who has some serious cleavage going on tonight. We meet the Top 15 girls via some snazzy graphics.
Ryan reminds us that only 10 will sing for America’s votes tonight. The Top 15 are waiting together in a “chamber.” The judges have reviewed the tapes, and watched dress rehearsal. They will ONLY call up 10. Since the names are spoiled, I’m hoping the girls know already. Just for the record: I would never post result spoilers that would spoil the contestants themselves. That’s NOT a fair way to get bad news!
THE GODFATHER Randy Jackson joins Ryan on stage. Time to chat about the workshop. Randy says he wanted to give each of the contestants an opportunity to improve and prepare for what lies ahead. YO YO YO DAWG DAWG DAWG says Ryan. Just like old times.
Now, for a clip of from the workshop. Randy wants the group to have the best shot at winning the show. In attendance: The vocal coaches, musical director Rickey Minor, the stylists, movement coaches (NOT CALLED CHOREOGRAPHERS), and a husband ans wife team who are billed as NON DENOMINATIONAL SPIRITUAL ADVISORS. Uhm. ooookay. And finally, Idol alums, Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry.
The judges are introducing the performers chosen to sing.
Majesty Rose – Happy by Pharrell – At 19, she stopped singing gospel. We see Majesty working with the coaches. Adam thinks “Happy” is the perfect song for her. Majesty wants to play guitar AND move around. Majesty is delightfully animated as she sings. She can play guitar AND SHIMMY AT THE SAME TIME! Happiness is Majesty Rose SANGING ON MY TV. Wow. So much ease on stage with this girl. She throws her guitar back and slaps her thighs as she brings it home. Then she hits AN AMAZING HIGH NOTE. She ends with a puckish look on her face, eyes looking skyward. She is absolutely adorable. Jlo says she’s ready for showtime. She has the confidence she’ll need. An amazing job, she says. Harry feels very fortunate that Majesty set a fantastic tone. Keith loves her breezy style. 1-855-4-IDOL-01 text 1 to 83676
Kristen O’Connor – “Turning Tables” by Adele – Randy tells her to emote OUT to the audience. Chris gives her pointers on staging and phrasing. She’s got a lovely alto, but there’s something missing from her delivery. She was obviously nervous, but still, her demeanor is pageanty. She’s not connecting. She can hit some killer notes, though. Harry thinks she did a nice job. Keith calls her range “killer”. He noticed her nerves, but says she settled in the middle. Jlo loves her special tone. She can “hear you recording records tomorrow.” When Harry introduced her as “a nurse” she JUMPED out of her seat to take the stage. I guess that gave it away! – 1-855-4-IDOL-02 text 2 to 83676
Briana Oakley – “Warrior” by Demi Lovato – Keith introduces her as a girl with a lot of “fire and passion.” Randy remembers Briana from last year. This is her 3rd year at the rodeo. Randy suggests she lighten up. The vocal coach can hear the emotion in her voice but doesn’t see it in her eyes. She’s staying on pitch tonight! This is a decent performance. She reminds me a little of Jordin Sparks. I wouldn’t call her voice and phrasing amazeballs, but I bet it records well. She needs to work on truly connecting to the song and get out of her own head. Keith loves the clarity in her tone and compares her to Irene Cara. She finally got into the zone at the end, he says. Jlo thought she looked scared at first. She compares her to a young Whitney Huston. Hm. But she still has to work on the connection and performance quality. Harry says high notes are not triple axels. He tells her to be careful not to show off. – 1-855-4-IDOL-03 text 3 to 83676
Jena Irene – I guess she’s ditching the Italian last name! She tells Randy she’s the only one in her family musically talented. She wants to learn how to work a mic. In other words…sing without an instrument! Chris says she has to work on her confidence. She has to remind Randy 3 times that it’s JENA WITH A LONG E. This performance is very weird, VERY WEIRD, yet compelling/ She does this thing, where she sings from the back of her throat to create a really interesting tone. Jena hasn’t performed one song that she hasn’t made her own. Having said that, she was obviously really nervous. She’s performed before with more confidence. She’s one of Jlo’s favorites. Ohhhh. Harry asks her what SHE thinks the song is about. She answers “Darkness.” He wasn’t sure what she was singing about, but appreciates the intensity. Keith enjoys her poise. He loves the way she holds the mic stand. – 1-855-4-IDOL-04 text 4 to 83676
Bria Anai – “Wrong Side of Love” by Melanie Fiona – She’s a big fashion geek, if you didn’t know. She wants to be remembered as the girl with the lips. Her mom says she dresses like “an appropriate Rihanna” Of course Adam was on hand to give her some tips. Tonight her lips are bright red. I would really love to see a pop R&B female, with some swag, succeed on Idol. Bria has spirit, and I like that about her. She’s not afraid to get ugly, but the downside, is that she gets carried away and it pulls her off pitch. Harry thought it was shouty. He gets booed for that! He’s got a point though. She needs to calm down. Keith felt she kind of overshot the runway. But she has the lips! Jlo thinks she has star written all over her. She notes the first night jitters. The crowd can get out of control, says Jlo “But you can’t.” Harry notes that each of the judges said basically the same thing, but he’s the one who got booed! – 1-855-4-IDOL-05 text 5 to 83676
Marrialle Sellars – “Roar” by Katy Perry – The stylist thinks she can pull anything off, including a purple stripe in her hair. Adam advises her to take her time with the song. Randy says to make sure her humbleness and sweetness come out when she performs. She takes the stage without her guitar. She’s rushing the beat a little. Whoa. This performance has major pitch problems, especially in her lower register. I do not get the love affair the judges and producers have with her. She’s not that great. She nearly tripped over her very high heels. Keith said it was not the best song or tempo for her. Oh, thank god the judges are calling her out on a terrible performance. Jlo says she should have played guitar. Harry says she has to try to sing in tune and in the pocket. It was a mistake to turn her performance into a big production number. Her only good performance was her first acoustic performance in front of the judges in Detroit. Otherwise. YAWN. – 1-855-4-IDOL-06 text 6 to 83676
Four more spots. Ryan is backstage with a group of very nervous contestants.
Jessica Meuse – “Drink a Beer” by Luke Bryan – She’s going country. Chris admits he wished he could have played the guitar on camera back in season 6, but being without it, forced him to be engaged. He thinks her singing is better than her guitar playing. Nevertheless, she out on stage with her guitar! I’m not surprised. Hm. She’s smiling all the way through this song. Didn’t Luke write this song as a tribute to his dead brother and sister? When he sang this at one of the award shows, it was absolutely heartbreaking. Jessica is really nervous, but there’s a total disconnect going on here, and I wonder if she can handle singing covers. She’s so much better performing originals. Jlo sees the softness and heart. She connects to it. She likes her country tone. Harry calls her fresh and exciting. He notes she went sharp tonight (yes). He didn’t feel what she was singing (neither did I). Keith loves the song, but calls her out on smiling through the lyric. Smiling while singing about dead people. What’s interesting, is that she does not smile through her own dark material. – 1-855-4-IDOL-07 text 7 to 83676
Emily Piriz – “Paris Oh La La” by Grace Potter – Randy notes that Harry doesn’t like the young girls singing this song. Adam suggests she hits the chorus more aggressively. The song won’t work if she doesn’t sing it like a rock star. Emily promises that she will be practicing and practicing in front of a mirror. Harry doesn’t look happy! Heh. I don’t like this song pick for her, either. She’s like a little kid playing rock star. I’m not buying this at all. Harry notes that she’s 18 , so maybe it’s OK that she sing the song, technically. But he presses her. Is it REALLY what she wants to sing about? Emily is exposed. She’s really not paying attention to the lyrics. Keith says artistry is about expression. It’s not about standing in front of a mirror and “pretending” to be a rock star. She has the ability to dig deep. That’s what she should be doing. PREACH KEITH. Jlo loved Emily’s more personal approach in Hollywood, but feels she did what she did tonight very well. She liked her confidence. – 1-855-4-IDOL-08 text 8 to 83676
Emkay Nobilette – “All of Me” by John Legend – Emkay wants to work on connecting to the song. She and Adam high 5 over San Francisco, her home town. She’s singing to SOMEBODY in the audience who is in tears. This is so sweet. Other than Majesty, MK is the only contestant to come out and sing with confidence and emotion. This is really gorgeous and heartfelt. There’s a real subtle, quiet beauty at work here. I hope America gets it. The crowd goes wild! Keith thought it was the perfect song choice. Her humaness came through. Effortless, he says. Jlo felt she gave true sentiment and feeling. Harry thinks she’s an elegant, articulate singer. She’s lost her defeatist attitude. “You belong here,” he says. – 1-855-4-IDOL-09 text 9 to 83676
Before the last performance, we find out the winner of the Ben Briley vs Neco Starr throwdown. MILLIONS OF VOTES CAME IN, claims Ryan. And the winner is…..Ben Briley. Of course. Who didn’t expect that? Idol demo lurves their white country boys. Neco didn’t stand a chance.
Malaya Watson – “Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)” by Ray Charles – She plays tuba. She’s all about bassline! Her sound is “Slyance,” a cross between Sly Stone and Beyonce. She’s wacky. But in a good way. The best possible way. Chris calls her voice “Stupid.” But it’s a total compliment. The vocal coach tells her to look up when she sings. Malaya tosses her head, and is all “I GOT THIS. She’s NOT your average girl, she warns. The confidence exhibited from the workshop doesn’t translate exactly to the Idol stage. Like most of the girls tonight, she seems nervous, especially at first. But she comes into her own by the end. She’s got some pitch things happening, unfortunately, but makes up for it with a performance full of sol and energy. She’s a weird one, this Malaya. I’m glad the judges saved her. Jlo notes that this group seems more nervous than the previous two seasons she judged. Hm. Harry wants to eat a big ole donut on behalf of the nervous contestants! He’s looking forward to Malaya settling her into a space. Yeah. She went of the rails to bit, like an overeager toddler. Keith says she makes glasses and braces seem so cool.
The girls who did not sing: Austin Wolfe, Andrina Brogden, Kenzie Hall, Brandy Neelly and Jillian Jensen take the stage. Pissed they didn’t get to sing.