We’re live blogging the American Idol XIII Top 11 as they tackle “Songs of the Cinema”. Join us right here!
Tonight’s performances were an improvement over last week’s but not as much as the judges would have us believe. It felt like the panelists were pulling their punches–Harry in particular. Could he have ACTUALLY missed every horribly off-pitch note Majesty sang? Did Maylaya’s uncontrolled caterwauling really sound good to his trained musicians ears?
I think two things were happening here. The panel was pulling back after last week’s criticisms that they they were too harsh. Oh wait. That was Randy. And by extension, probably the producers. With this year’s crop developing the reputation for mediocrity, something needed to be done, right? There was an awful lot of lip service paid to the strides the contestants made this week compared to last.
There were improvements. Sam Woolf is trying to enliven his performances. MK Nobilette did a batter job of connecting. CJ is beginning to choose better songs. Caleb went full-throttle theatrical and Jena got her butt behind a piano.
But Malaya and Majesty still had pitch problems. So did Jessica, though no fault of her own. The band botched their entrance and threw Jessica off. It was a shame–she was on her way to a solid performance at the very least.
Which leads me to ask a question. Is something going wrong behind the scenes? I agree with Harry. Well, not that it’s the best Top 13 EVAH, but there is talent in this group. But it’s not being fully realized on the Idol stage. Could the process be broken? Is Randy’s behind the scenes mentoring to blame? Honestly, how much time could he be actually spending with these kids? There is an entire team of people working with them–including freaking spiritual advisors. But for some reason, the contestants aren’t shining like they could be. SHOULD be. Are the new producers to blame?
There were some wonderful bright spots this week. The best performances were from Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson who gave spellbinding performances. CJ Harris’ soulful rasp completely held my attention. Honorable mentions go to Alex Preston, MK Nobilette, and Ben Briley.
There. I said it. Ben’s performance of “Bennie and the Jets” was out of the box and underrated. I can’t quite figure out why the judges hate him. Maybe this week’s agenda is to get rid of a boy instead of the 3rd girl in a row. Hence, criticizing Ben’s perfectly solid performance and propping up weak ones from Majesty and Malaya. Hm.
With last week’s remaining bottom 3–MK and Malaya–getting a little boost this week, I’m going to have to sleep on my picks for elimination.
In a search to find a big star! You are writing the ending! RYAN IS READY FOR HIS CLOSE UP Y’ALL. Here come the Top 11 to take their seats in the pit.
The TOP 10 SUMMER TOUR IS HAPPENING. ‘They’ll be playing sold out tours night after night,” says Ryan. Uhm. In an alternate universe, maybe.
The judges talk about what a great opportunity the summer tour is. Jennifer, in her shockingly pink dress, says the singers have to have that “fighting spirit” to win. Harry announces that he made up a catch phrase! It took him a minute to remember it. “You need to be in it to win it” he says. “I made it up!” says Harry. Ah ha ha. Ripping on Randy and his cliches. Love it
The video packages prefacing each performance feature edits of the Idols shooting a “screen test” to play each performer. Some of these “impersonations” are really cute! Posted to the Idol Youtube channel, I embedded them below.
Ryan interviews each performer to learn which movie their song came from and why the singer was inspired to choose it.
Sam Woolf – Come Together by The Beatles (Across the Universe) – This is not terrible. He’s bringing some energy–he could give more, but this is the least bored I’ve been during a Sam performance since the finals began. It’s very smart of him to mix it up a little. He’s sans guitar, and he’s even attempting to engage the audience. He’s trying. He really is. He didn’t seem entirely comfortable up there, but it’s a step in the right direction. Keith loves the way he’s loosening up. Jlo calls it “baby rockstar.” She wanted more personality. Harry thought it was an average performance, but he’s on the right track. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 12(1 855 443 6512) or Text 12 to 83676
Jessica Meuse – The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel (The Graduate) – She plays this song often in her set. She likes it because it’s a deep and introspective song. The song kicks off with Jessica playing acoustic guitar. Please, bandzilla. Don’t ruin this. It’s gorgeous, haunting. Jess’ rasp is perfect. And yep. As soon as the band kicks in, it’s like she can’t hear herself. The timing is off and she’s pitchy as hell. It’s as if the band is playing a different song. Sigh. That was good for a minute. The WTF look on Harry’s face when the band went off was priceless. Jlo thinks it seems like the perfect song for her, but she never got the groove. Jlo believes she can win, if Jess can be consistent week to week. Harry blames her problems on the band (I think he’s right) and has every confidence she’ll improve week to week. Keith gives her some tips on playing with dynamics. Keith’s judging is SO good this year. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 10(1 855 443 651o) or Text 10 to 83676
CJ Harris – Can’t You See by the Marshall Tucker Band (Blow) – CJ has been singing this song for 5 or 6 years. He also got a brand new guitar! – CJ’s rasp is PERFECT. If he’s sharp again this week, I really don’t care. He’s bringing some country blues realness to this performance. These are the kinds of songs CJ needs to sing. The judges give him a standing ovation. Harry thinks he just picked and sang his way to the forefront of the competition. Very very strong, says Harry. “Killer man” says Keith. “You completely nailed that.” Jlo was celebrating the whole time. “You’re a front runner baby,” she says. Well, I wouldn’t go THAT far. But it was a very strong performance. Harry adds, that he was sharp this week, but it didn’t matter. Preach. – Call 1 855 4 IDOL 05(1 855 443 6505) or Text 5 to 83676
Oh look. Randy’s on stage. But not in the video packages. I’m OK with that.
Dexter Roberts – Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (Forrest Gump) – Well, this is crowd pleasing, if not very original. Vocally, Dexter is comfortable, his rich tone in full force. Great intonation. But, he’s not bringing anything new to a song that’s been covered over and over and over again. It’s safe song choice. Safe. Safe Safe. And it will probably get him a ton of votes. Keith likes that he’s loosening up. He needs to find places to make it his own. Jlo senses that he’s beginning to believe he could win. Harry calls him really really smart as far as ticking off what will tickle the voters (Can you say pander?). But, Harry thinks he needs to be bigger than the song. I agree. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 01(1 855 443 6501) or Text 1 to 83676
Ben Briley – Bennie and the Jets by Elton John (27 Dresses) – Ben LOVES Elton John (so does his mother) and when he saw the song, he just had to sing it. This could either be a trainwreck, or kinda brilliant. Ben is sitting at a baby grand! I appreciate that Ben is always thinking outside the box when it comes to song choice. An interesting performance, he brings a twang and a soulful vibe to his rendition. When the band kicks in he gets up and works the stage. His falsetto could use some work. But other than that? A risk that worked. Jlo is a little confused that he’s not country this week. She thought it was a good vocal performance. She’s dissing him for stepping out of the box. Oy. Harry thinks he needed to pound the piano more. He calls the performance purposeless. Harry thinks his voice is affected. Keith is missing the easy authenticity. He’s wondering who he is as an artist. Hm. The judges dissed Ben last week too, and once again I disagree. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 04 (1 855 443 6504) or Text 4 to 83676
Some real time results – Male vs Female:
Male voters – 1 cj 2 jess 3 dexter 4 sam 5 ben
Female voters – 1 cj 2. dexter 3. jess 4. sam 5. ben
Majesty Rose – Let it Go by Idina Menzel (Frozen) – She starts out VERY breathy on the verse, and it it doesn’t improve. How many different voices can a singer employ in a song? The vocal is all over the place. Big Diva songs are not in her wheelhouse. I’m sure she relates to the lyrics, but the song is eating her alive. Pitch problems galore, and again, when she goes for the big notes her voice does not have the heft to pull it off. Oh Majesty. You have to pick better songs. Somebody needs to sit her down and tell her she doesn’t need a big moment! Her phrasing is exquisite. Less is more, Majesty! She’s a mystery to Harry. He’s starting to lose sight of who she is. Yet, he thinks tonight was a strong performance. HUH? That was pretty terrible. He’s purposely soft pedaling this performance. Keith calls it a big song to sing. She needs to ease into it, not attack it. Jlo thinks Majesty can do anything, and that she can choose. She totally skips critiquing her vocals. The judges DELIBERATELY avoided calling her out on a bad performance. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 07(1 855 443 6507) or Text 7 to 83676
Caleb Johnson – Skyfall by Adele (Skyfall) – Skyfall isn’t a rock song, but its big and dramatic and PERFECT for Caleb. I’ve always maintained that Caleb is a theatrical singer. I could see him on the Vegas or Broadway stage. After last week’s underwhelming Rush cover, Caleb did exactly what he had to do. That he chose a song originally recorded by a women meant there would be no comparisons to the original artist. Caleb has had issues coming off karaoke. He couldn’t help making this song his own, and it was fantastic. He really delivered. Keith says it was not predictable, but dependable. Jlo says she’s been waiting for a performance like that all season. Harry still stands by his assertion that it’s the best Top 12 ever. The competition begins tonight with Caleb’s performance, he says. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 13(1 855 443 6513) or Text 13 to 83676
MK Nobilette – To Make You Feel My Love by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood (Hope Floats) – FYI: Harry starred in this film. This week, MK doesn’t look like she’s about to poop herself. But she’s still got that furrowed brow thing going. Other than a few pitch things here and there, it’s a sweet, understated performance. Oh look! There’s Emmanuel in the audience, with a friend. The song ends with MK in front of the judges table, serenading them. Jlo compares her to KD Lang in her subtly. Harry thinks she has star quality. He cautions her to nail any runs she sings. But he liked the performance. Keith thinks she looks like a star. There were glimpses of who she could be as an artist, he says. He thinks she’s really really good. The judges have been criticizing her lack of connection. Singing straight to them was smart, because it allowed her to connect, but on a smaller, less scary scale. It also flattered the panel. It’s tough to criticize when someone’s delivering a song right at you. 1 855 4 IDOL 06(1 855 443 6506) or Text 6 to 83676
Alex Preston – Falling Slowly by The Swell (Once) – Pretty ballsy to sing a song that’s been immortalized by an Idol winner (Kris Allen). He does bring his own vibe to it. But to be honest, this has been covered so much in the years since Kris sang it, I’m a little underwhelmed. It’s a solid effort, and right in his wheelhouse. I like the quirk’s in Alex’s voice. But I prefer him singing originals. He finished the song with a very beautiful flourish. Harry loved the lack of fireworks. Simply stated and elegantly done, he says. Keith appreciates the raw, fragile quality of his performances. He loves his artistry. Jlo calls it “beautiful.” Call 1 855 4 IDOL 09(1 855 443 6509) or Text 9 to 83676
Jena Irene – Decode by Paramore (Twilight) – FINALLY Jena is behind the piano. And it’s paying off. Someone tie this girl to her baby grand, because it’s where she shines. Finally, she nails it with a powerful performance. The one I KNEW she could deliver. She’s really killing it. Great dynamics, phrasing. This is the best performance of the night. So glad that Jena is back. No way is she bottom 3 this week. Jlo is bouncing in her seat! The crowd goes nuts. Keith says there’s a ferocity in the way she performs. Exhilarating. Jlo says she’s got one of the best voices here. “This girl is the real thing.” Harry calls the performance very very strong. – Call 1 855 4 IDOL 08(1 855 443 6508) or Text 8 to 83676
Malaya Watson – I Am Changing by Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) – Whoa. Girlfriend. You were doing fine until you decided to scream the last third at us. I thought her performance last week was fairly controlled, but once again, Malaya is trying too hard. She’s not the singer she thinks she is. Nevertheless, the judges are impressed. Jlo calls it a perfect song, and a perfect way to end the show. Harry says she showed everyone she’s a big belter. Really Harry? Are we soft-pedaling the criticism a little this week? Keith felt the song played to her strengths. She could reign it in, but it’s just the adrenaline. He knows it may come off differently in people’s living rooms, but he notes a palpable energy in the studio during the performance. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 02(1 855 443 6502) or Text 2 to 83676
More real time votes broken down – male vs female
Male Votes – 1. Caleb 2. Jena 3. Alex 4. Majesty 5. MK 6. Malaya
Female Votes – 1. Caleb 2. MK 3. Jena 4. Alex 5. Majexty 6. Malaya