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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 28 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

American Idol XIII: Top 11 Perform – Movies and Shakers

After a sleepy night of performances during the Top 12, the judges were fired up and trying to push the contestants harder to deliver better performances. So, naturally, I was pretty pumped myself to see if they could live up to the challenge during the Top 11 “Songs of the Cinema” theme. Perhaps the most interesting lesson of the week, however, came out of the results show, but we’ll get to that after we talk about the performances one by one…

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

1. Sam Woolf – “Come Together” (The Beatles from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) – I think the judges hit the nail on the head when they said that Sam was lacking the personality to pull this song off. I mean, leaving aside the fact that it’s been done to death (and well) on the show by Carly in Season 7, Kris in Season 8, Crystal in Season 9 and Candice in Season 12, it still can be done well enough to garner votes but it wasn’t the right song for Sam right now. He’s still growing and coming into his own and until he does, he should avoid tackling songs this big and stick to something that let’s him show a little bit of personality and playfulness like Train’s Hey Soul Sister. As for Sam’s Bottom 3 trip, I’ll deal with that in just a bit.

Rating: C

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

2. Jessica Meuse – “The Sound of Silence” (Simon & Garfunkel from The Graduate) – What could have been a potentially great performance from our resident pink haired rocker turned into a lukewarm offering when Jessica and the band seemed to suddenly be on different wave lengths mid-song. I don’t blame the band or her, I think they had probably just rehearsed it one way and one of them tried to keep up with the other and we ended up with a bit of a mixup, which is a shame, but I can’t really punish Jessica for it – I just wish we could see the rehearsed version. Maybe if she makes the finale she’ll choose this as her reprise and show us what could have been.

Rating: B

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

3. CJ Harris – “Can’t You See” (Marshall Tucker Band from Blow) – CJ came back roaring this week with a return to his soulful side and only a few minor pitch problems. But it’s what I’ve been saying for weeks about CJ – he does the country soul thing really well and I’m really not sure why he ever veers out of that for John Mayer songs and the like. Sure, I just told Dexter to not be predictable, but I think there’s a fine line between doing what you’re good at and being boring, and I think CJ (and a few others) found the good side of that line this week.

Rating: B+

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

4. Dexter Roberts – “Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd from Forrest Gump) – Remember back in Hollywood Week when Dexter and the “Backstreet Cowboys” did a countrified version of a Backstreet Boys so and we all got excited because Dexter promised to “Dexterfy” more things in the future for us? Yeah, neither do I because this performance was about as basic as it gets. Sure, Dexter coloured between the lines, but adding “Roll Tide Roll” to a break in the song doesn’t make the song your own anymore than adding packaged icing to a Betty Crocker cake makes it homemade. I mean sure, Dexter knows how to pander to his fanbase in the same way Scotty McCreery did and look how well that worked out for him, but if Season 13 is really going to be all about exciting talent, I want more!

Rating: C

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

5. Ben Briley – “Bennie & The Jets” (Elton John from 27 Dresses) – I tweeted during the show that Ben is the most interesting contestant this season and, after watching an interview with him by Michael Slezak of TVLine, I found out why. Ben, unlike Dexter and CJ, didn’t want to be labelled as “the country guy”. He wanted the audience to look forward to his perform every week because it wouldn’t be predictable and while I commend him on that, I think this performance was all wrong. Although Ben said he didn’t want to mimic Elton or Haley Reinhart’s breakout moment from Season 10 with this song, I think it still came down to what Harry said. It felt like he was holding back and not really giving us himself filtered through the song. I know Ben said he was also considering “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites and while I think that might have been more predictable, I think it might have also bought him a spot on the tour.

Rating: C-

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

6. Majesty Rose – Let It Go (Idina Menzel from Frozen) – As the title to this piece implies, there were some huge shifts this week and Majesty was probably the biggest. The girl who stumbled last week but still maintained her front runner status went full on kamikaze this week with a terrible song choice. I know the judges seemed to hold back on the criticism, but I truly think Majesty bit off more than she could chew with this one. I think even if she wasn’t running/skipping around the stage and trying to embody the Disney princess role the entire time, she still would have had a hard time matching Idina Menzel’s powerful rendition of this song. If she was going to pick this song, she’d have to strip it down and give it a different look, but as it was, it was truly a misstep for her.

Rating: D

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

7. Caleb Johnson – Skyfall (Adele from Skyfall) – On the other hand, I think I can officially declare Caleb a “sleeper”, as Harry Connick Jr. said to Jena during Hollywood week. Caleb has been super consistent and this week he finally gave me what I was asking for. He stepped out of his rock genre comfort zone and turned an Adele song into a power ballad that he could sink his teeth into. It was unexpected, it was fresh and it was exactly what the judges have been asking him to do and for that reason, I think Caleb might be the smartest contestant of the group right now.

Rating: A

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

8. MK Nobilette – To Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan from Hope Floats) – MK redeemed herself this week after a sleepy performance last week but just going back to her roots. This song felt like a testament to her success with the John Legend tune, All of Me from Rush Week. It let her show off her tone and she finally connected to the lyrics of the song again, which helped her shake that “deer in the headlights” look she sometimes has and dig herself out of what seemed like a perpetual ride in the bottom group.

Rating: B+

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

9. Alex Preston – Falling Slowly (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová from Once) – Like Sam, Alex had been shoes to fill with this song. In Season 8, Kris Allen had an intimate moment with this song, and in Season 9, Lee and Crystal cemented themselves as the undeniably Top 2 with a duet to this track, so Alex had to find a way to make it slightly different and I think he did. The way he handled some of the phrasing felt right for him and I felt like he went back to that inward intimacy from A Beautiful Mess that really sold that performance. All in all, I thought it was a good pick for him even if it didn’t really showcase that he had anything new in his roster.

Rating: A-

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

10. Jena Irene – “Decode” (Paramore from Twilight) – After a Bottom 3 scare last week, I had a feeling Jena would come back swinging and she sure did. With the piano, the fog and the undeniably rock dynamics of her voice, Jena sunk her teeth right into the song and delivered such a powerful version of it that I think she’s still one to watch in the same way Elise Testone was back in Season 11. Sure, she may not win, but if she keeps delivering good performance, she could make a run at a Top 4 or 5 placement.

Rating: A

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

11. Malaya Watson – “I Am Changing” (Jennifer Holiday from Dreamgirls) – While I still think Malaya had some pitch problems, I think this performance was decent enough for me not to be upset about her making the tour. I think the more success she has, the more I feel like she knows who she is as a performer. She’s gospel and R&B, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously, so she’s still likeable. The one thing I’m worried about is that, if she does stick around for a few weeks, she might become boring if she picks the same ballads, so she needs to find a way to sing something uptempo without having another “Runaway Baby” incident.

Rating: B

After all was said and done, I found myself agreeing with the judges that this week was a massive improvement on the prior week’s performances. The one thing I will say is that the limited voting seems to be working. For the third week in a row, the Bottom 3 was compromised with what I would argue was the three worst performances from the previous night and while Ben was the right eliminee, I was kind of hoping it would be Majesty or Sam, forcing the judges to use the save and keep all eleven around for the tour and another week of ultra-competitive performances. Still, I can’t be too mad that America seems to finally be figuring out how to vote. Hopefully the trip to the bottom three will be a wakeup call for both Sam and Majesty, previously our front runners and two of the three members of my Top 3 from my post-Rush Week Rankings. On that note, now that we’ve hit Top 10, I think it’s time to rerank them:

1. Dexter Roberts (No change) – Still at the very top is our country boy who, despite a few bad performances didn’t find himself in the Bottom 3, as expected. He’s shown he’s capable of some good things with his performance of “Lucky Man”, but if he’s really going to win this thing, or even get close to the final in this ultra-talented group, I expect more from him.

2. Caleb Johnson (+11) – Caleb was originally right at the very bottom of my list, but he’s shot to the type by being one of the only consistent contestants and, so far, managing to be one of the few to (rightfully) avoid the Bottom 3. I’ll be interested to see if he can deliver more performances like “Skyfall” but so far so good.

3. Majesty York (-1) – After a mega stumble this past week and a bit of a slip with her Coldplay cover, I’m starting to doubt that Majesty is really confident in her ability to deliver songs like she did in her audition. Hopefully she learns from last week and keeps it simple by singing songs that just let her show off her personality and tone without sacrificing one for the other.

4. Jessica Meuse (No change) – Jessica stays high on the list by being the only girl to have, thus far, avoided the Bottom 3 and by having shown that she’s capable of rock, country and pop. That kind of versatility when keep her drawing in new fans as other contestants are eliminated and I think if she can avoid a trainwreck performance, she might just be the last girl standing.

5. Alex Preston (No change) – Alex also doesn’t change for having delivered some great performances (even if his Gavin Degraw cover was a little questionable) and having the judges and voters on his side. He, like 3 of the 4 people above him, is also one of the lucky few to have avoided the bottom group, so as long as he can remain consistent, I think he’ll be a contender in the coming weeks to. And, like Jessica, his style seems to translate well to the various themes.

6. CJ Harris (+4) – While I still don’t think CJ is as much of a vocal powerhouse as some of the other contestants, his country roots and likeable personality have kept him out of the bottom as well despite some hit or miss performances. I’m still not convinced he could win, but he definitely gets points for redeeming himself last week and proving to me that he knows himself.

7. Jena Irene (-1) – Jena falls for having landed in the bottom and having shown that she’s only REALLY good when the pressure is on (i.e. when singing for a wildcard spot or when having landed in the bottom 3 the week prior). I think Jena needs to remember that this competition is always on and that one bad performance can send you home. Hopefully if she keeps that pressure on herself, she can keep delivering greatness and prove me right.

8. Sam Woolf (-6) – The guy who was once a serious contender for the title is officially inhabiting the bottom half of my list. Sam hasn’t really delivered a show stopper since the finals started and if he doesn’t do that soon, I’m worried that not even his tween girl fans can keep him afloat. The thing is, I know Sam has a fantastic voice but he just can’t seem to find that right song. Hopefully someone can whisper in his ear and give him the perfect pick for the next week to put his name back in people’s minds as a possible winner.

9. Malaya Watson (No change) – I truly don’t think Malaya has any chance of winning, despite having a good grasp on who she is as an artist. She seems like a sweet girl, but her bubbly personality sometimes comes off as not serious about the whole thing and America likes someone with the fight in their eyes. I think what Malaya needs to do is figure out how to sing uptempo songs and how to show that she really does want this, despite being the class clown of the group.

10. MK Nobilette (-2) –  MK has had two trips to the bottom 3, but managed to dig herself out last week. I still think she’s fighting an uphill battle with her open sexuality on a middle-America driven reality show, but her Bob Dylan cover this week demonstrated a more vulnerable, emotionally mature side that I think really works for her. Like some of the other contestants, if she can play to her strengths, a few good performances might buy her a few more weeks in the competition.

And with that, I turn it over to you. Tell me who your favourite contestants were in the poll below and comment if you think I got something wrong or missed something. I’d love to hear from you!

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2 Comments on “American Idol XIII: Top 11 Perform – Movies and Shakers”

  1. Elizabeth Rosalyn The March 19, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Jena and Caleb were the clear leaders last week – those were two powerful performances! I was happy to see CJ and MK make a comeback as well. I was sad to see Majesty and Sam falter, but hopefully they can bounce back during Top 10 week. I think the lesson learned here is that the voting limits makes it anyone’s game now. Every single person has to bring it every single week!

    • Andrew Rogers March 20, 2014 at 11:24 am #

      I totally agree with you that it is a tight race and that, based on the voting patterns thus far, good performances week-on-week are going to be key for this competitors. I think, at this stage, anyone could make the Top 5 and at that point, the voting patterns could have shifted dramatically so if I were these kids, I’d be taking this show very seriously right now.

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