After a rushed Rush Week, I didn’t know what to expect coming in this week’s show. Would the talent we saw in the Auditions and (somewhat) in Hollywood Week finally shine again or would we get another sloppy set of performances where we were forced to pick the best in a bunch of mediocre performances. I prefer nights when even the people I don’t necessarily like perform well because they have the potential to win me over, especially this early in the competition. With that said, let’s talk about each performance, the results show, new rankings and potential song choices for this week—the theme of which is “Home”.
Dexter Roberts – “Aw Naw” (Chris Young) – Dexter definitely knows how to appeal to his fanbase and I think this could have been a good song for him if he just enunciated more. By the time the midpoint of the song hit, I could decipher a word of what he was saying. Fortunately, the judges point that out to him, so I think because Dexter takes himself seriously as a musician, he’ll make an effort to change that in the future. I also found myself agreeing with the judges that Dexter has to avoid putting himself in a box and “Dexterize” an expected song so keep up with some of the more creative talents like Sam and Alex.
Malaya Watson – “Runaway Baby” (Bruno Mars) – Malaya’s energy is a great thing, but she showed last week that she can take it down a notch and focus her efforts into a great performance. This performance, on the other hand, was not great. The song had Malaya gasping for breath the entire time and turned her pitch into something non-existent. I think instead of encouraging her to bust out her infamous tuba, we should just focus on putting her back into a song where she’s comfortable because I still think she’s an interesting contestant.
Kristen O’Connor – “Beautiful Disaster” (Kelly Clarkson) – Well Kristen’s performance began strong, but as soon as she hit the chorus, it was almost like she couldn’t decide how high to take those notes and it left her sharp sometimes and flat others. Almost true to the title of the song, Kristen’s inconsistencies left me luke warm on yet another one of her performances which was part of the reason I declared her this week’s eliminee, given that I didn’t really think she did much to show she deserved a spot in the Top 13 in the first place over stronger contenders like Briana and Malcolm. I was hoping she’d prove me wrong this week by picking something out of her typical pop wheelhouse and just singing it straight but, no dice.
Ben Briley – “Folsom Prison Blues” (Johnny Cash) – Ben, another one of our likeable country guys, picked a good song for him but something went sour in the execution. My theory is either that he wanted to make the song a little more exciting or he wanted to fit a certain amount of it in to his 2-minute performance time slot, and that’s why the tempo going amped up to lightning speed, to the point that it just seemed like a weird cover of the Man in Black’s original, rather than something to write home about. I like Ben and I like his soulful style though, so I hope he can turn it around again next week.
CJ Harris – “Radio” (Darius Rucker) – In a night of either terrible or great performances, CJ’s middling performance of “Radio” kind of disappeared in the mix and that’s why I’m surprised my prediction to put him in the Bottom 3 didn’t come true, especially since he only made the Top 13 on a wildcard spot and is splitting the votes with Ben & Dexter in the country fanbase, but that fanbase is a powerful one. Still, I felt what Harry was saying when he said he wanted the soul that CJ brings to the table. To put it in Simon Cowell terms, this performance was like waiting for your mom to make homemade chicken soup and getting the overly salty Campbell’s packaged stuff instead. It did the job but it didn’t make me feel the same way so I hope CJ heeds that advice for his Top 12 performance.
MK Nobilette – “Satisfaction” (Allen Stone) – After a strong start last week, MK’s smooth tone couldn’t save her this week. Sure, she picked probably the “coolest” song of the bunch, but there’s something to be said for filling in the space between lyrics as some of her fellow performers did. MK often looked lost on stage and it seemed to detract from the overall effect that this song is supposed to have. I think her Bottom 3 stint after this performance just shows that MK is going to need to bring her A game every week to stay in this, unlike some contestants who can probably afford a flub or two.
Majesty York – “Tightrope” (Janelle Monae) – And then, the clouds parted and the sun came out in the form of Miss Majesty. As the judges said, her song choice was perfection tonight and she brings everything to her performances. She was dancing, working the crowd, giving the one-note verses a little flair. Was she in pitch every step of the way? No. But as the judges keep reminding us, sometimes that doesn’t matter if all the other stars align and for Majesty I felt they did. I love seeing that she’s been bringing the uptempo songs from week to week, but I hope her next one takes us back to her Violet Hill days.
Jena Irene – “The Scientist” (Coldplay) – Like Ben, Jena had the problem of turning the tempo up just slightly on this classic Coldplay ballad. Again, I’m not sure if it was a matter of fitting it all in or what, but it may have detracted from what could have otherwise been a rich, slow moment for her. Still, it was definitely one of the better performances. We finally got to see her voice kick into that higher gear with that glory note at the end and it continued her turn from wildcard to contender. I’m still kind of wondering why she didn’t go the piano route though, but maybe she’s saving her instrumentation for future performances.
Alex Preston – “A Beautiful Mess” (Jason Mraz) – I have to start by saying that I thought Harry’s critique for Alex were completely off the mark. His first (“just try to stay in tune”) made it seem like Alex had been out of pitch the entire time when really he had only been slightly sharp right near the vary end. So much so that I only noticed on relisten. His second critique about the withdrawn quality of the performance was also a little poorly worded. Do I think Alex could look up, open his eyes and engage the audience more? Absolutely. But I, like Keith, thought the song benefited from the intimate nature of the performance. Alex took an intricate song (as all of Mraz’s are) and he sunk his teeth into it. Well done. He’s winning me over, for sure.
Jessica Meuse – “The Crow & The Butterfly” (Shinedown) – As JLo said, literally the only thing I could be critical of was that I wished Jessica would loosen up a bit to match the ease of her voices. That gorgeous rasp came out sparingly in another creative song choice by our resident pink haired rocker chick. I think, unlike some of the other competitors, Jessica is so used to singing her originals (she’s done two already on the show) that finding her niche in cover songs will be hard, but if she can stick to this path and develop her stage presence, I think she’s win people over again pretty quickly.
Emily Piriz – “Glitter In The Air” (Pink) – Unlike Kristen, Emily seems to avoid the safe pop route and go for more interesting choices. Even if she doesn’t execute flawlessly, it still makes her a more interesting competitor. I will say her engagement of the audience was the exact opposite of Alex’s and bordering on over the top, but her voice when she got into the higher stuff sounded good. I think she should have started the song in a higher key and avoided the two octave key change though, just so the song would have sat in her pocket a little better, but otherwise it was a decent performance and clearly America liked it enough to keep her safe for another week.
Sam Woolf – “Unwell” (Matchbox 20) – Unlike Jena and Ben, Sam had the opposite problem. He slowed a catchy Rob Thomas ditty down just every so slightly to the point that it became almost boring. Sure, his voice sounded fine but considering Sam was declared an early frontrunner for being interesting and creative, I think he got upstaged by other similar artists like Alex and Majesty tonight. I think next week Sam is going to have to push himself outside of his comfort zone a bit and give us a more lively performance to avoid slipping down the rankings with people outside the teenage female fanbase.
Caleb Johnson – “Pressure & Time” (Rival Sons) – The production pulled out all the stops for Caleb. With smoke machines, a little vocal reverb to amp up the performances and some dramatic lighting and, I have to say, his voice rose to the occasion. Like the judges, I’m still not sold that Caleb is modern enough to succeed on Idol or in the industry, but his show closing performance definitely showed that he can kick it into high gear to make sure you remember him come voting time. Next time though, make sure you use a little hairspray to keep that mop in place, Caleb.
So overall, a good second half of the show. On Thursday afternoon I tweeted my prediction of a CJ, Malaya and Kristen Bottom 3 with Kristen as the eliminee. If you watched the results, you’ll know I was right on all about the CJ pick, who was safe in lieu of MK. Although I like MK, I can’t say I’m surprised and I think the Bottom 3 was fair, if not ideal. As for the performers, Candice Glover delivered a stellar mashup of the first two singles from (“Cried” and “Same Kind of Man”) from her new album Music Speaks which is out now. We also got a taste of Jake Buggs, one of Keith Urban’s finds, who had such a peculiar voice that I was left cold on weather I would take another listen to his songs.
As a side note, I’d love to know how much Randy is getting paid to give inaudible, fairly uninspiring voice overs ten seconds before the performance. I guess it’s better than him judging…
Anyway, let’s get to this week. The theme is “Home” which is about as vague as it gets, so here’s my predictions or desires for the Top 12:
- Alex – Alex is from New Hampshire, which isn’t exactly a gold mine of musical talent. For that reason, he might think outside the box and pick a more general song like “Home” by Phillip Phillips.
- Ben – “Crazy Town” by Jason Aldean would be a great one because it’s all about Nashville, where Ben’s from.
- Caleb – Our resident rocker calls North Carolina home, but sometimes Idol stretches these themes for the sake of a better song pick, so I’m going to say Caleb tackles a song by Florida rock band Anberlin like “Feel Good Drag”
- CJ – Harry wanted more soul from CJ and since CJ calls Alabama home, he could take on “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge, also from Alabama. Oh, and dedicate it to his wife, just for more votes.
- Dexter – “Sweet Home Alabama” is probably the obvious and safest pick for this Alabama native, but I’m hoping for something a little more creative.
- Emily – I don’t know, I’m running out of ideas. Emily’s from Florida too, so something about sunshine?
- Jena – Although Jena hails from Detroit, home of Motown, I could see her doing something unexpectedly and picking a song by someone like Mike Posner (i.e. “Cooler Than Me”), who also hails from the Motor City.
- Jessica – Also from Alabama, Jessica could easily go country again, but I’m hoping she keeps her cool rock vibe by taking on another Alabama resident, Lionel Ritchie and his haunting classic, “Hello” in the style of David Cook from years past.
- Majesty – Majesty could take the safe route and sing something from fellow NC resident Fantasia’s newest album, Side Effects of You, or she could be a little bold and take on the Ben Folds hit “Luckiest”. I’m hoping for the former, in case you couldn’t tell.
- Malaya – Our resident Tuba player is also from the Motor City of Detroit, so hopefully something cool and Motown like a cool rendition of “Superstition”
- MK – MK calls San Francisco home – one of the cities known for it’s gay culture and given that MK is a lesbian herself, she might just dabble in a gay rights ballad like “Same Love” (Macklemore) or “True Colours” (Cyndi Lauper)
- Sam – Probably the most obvious choice for Sam is “Free Fallin'” since Tom Petty, like him, calls Florida home, but I’m hoping for something a little less predictable from our potential front runner.
Okay, that’s my article for this week. I’ll post my predictions on Thursday again at @TheHudsucker on twitter so follow us there and reply with your own predictions! And vote in the poll below for your favourite three performances from this week!