Normally I would revel in a theme that would force the contestants to pick modern songs or ones that hadn’t been done on the show before, but this season we haven’t really been having that problem. Still, this week’s theme forced our contestants to show they could be current and relevant to today’s music scene. So let’s get into talking about how they did, how the judges did, and how America did when it came time to vote…
1. MK Nobilette – “Perfect” (P!nk) – While I appreciated MK’s sentiments when picking a song that appealed to the misfits that comprised her fanbase, I thought it was a pretty boring song choice for someone with an interesting tone. Still, her opening in front of the mirror allowed her to convey emotion and sing well but as soon as she stepped down closer to the crowd, she flubbed the lyrics to the chorus and everything derailed, from her pitch to her composure. I felt bad for her because she was clearly on track for at least a decent performance, but as the judges said, if you make a mistake like that you can’t let it show.
2. Dexter Roberts – “Cruise” (Florida-Georgia Line) – Well Dexter at least tried to make the song different but like the judges said, slowing down this tune was about as appetizing as chocolate syrup in a tuna melt. It just didn’t make sense and detracted from what could have been a middling performance. Before this, I stood strongly by my opinion that Dexter would be able to escape danger for quite a while with not-great but not-awful performance but I think this performance turned his country fanbase off by messing with a track that they were all familiar with.
3. Jena Irene – “Clarity” (Zedd feat. Foxes) – Something I appreciate about Jena is that, regardless of the song she picks, she stays true to herself. Sure, every performance isn’t always the hit that Decode was, but I find them that much more enjoyable because she’s able to be versatile without trainwrecking like Majesty and Sam did last week. That said, this performance was good, but not great. Her voice, as always, sounded great and she took a catchy track and made it her own. I think the staging (i.e. having her walk through the crowd) was a little much but it was still fun to watch.
4. Alex Preston – “Story of My Life” (One Direction) – I don’t think Alex took on a daunting song, but it was definitely one that could polarize many viewers if done wrong. I’m happy to say, however, that Alex pulled it off with (what seemed like) ease, but was probably more the by-product of a lot of practice. He made some smart vocal decisions that let him show off his higher register and told the story behind the song in a way that I never got from the British boyband, and I say that as a casual fan of them. But I think this performance was yet another example of why Alex could now be consider the frontrunner in this pack of players.
5. Malaya Watson – “When I Was Your Man” (Bruno Mars) – And speaking of people making runs for the title, Malaya proved her worth and wiped our memory of her previous Bottom 3 appearance by singing a heartfelt and spot-on rendition of Bruno Mars song. Last season’s winner, Candice, took the same approach but I think I’m not the only one who thinks that Malaya version easily lived up the the standard set by the current holder of the Idol crown. I think this performance captured exactly what I said Malaya needed to do – she maintained that playful nature with her bits with Ryan and the roses, but when it came time to perform she showed she’s serious about the music – something that resonates well with voters.
6. Caleb Johnson – “The Edge of Glory” (Lady Gaga) – In contrast, Caleb’s upward trajectory stalled a bit this week with a sleepy arrangement of a Gaga track. While I think his voice sounded as strong as ever and the track was a smart choice for him, I think Caleb drained all the life and anticipation from the song. When Gaga sings it, it’s almost desperate, like any moment her life could change but Caleb’s seemed to just be going through the motions, delivering the words and showing off his voice. While his self-indulgent vocals have kept him safe thus far, I think he’s going to need to stay interesting to stay safe.
7. CJ Harris – “Invisible” (Hunter Hayes) – After a strong showing last week, CJ slipped back into his old habits this week. Again, he tried to pick a country song with a heartfelt message but I think he and Hunter Hayes are quite different. Harry was quick to point out the obvious – that CJ was unpleasantly sharp throughout the performance. I can’t understand how CJ remained safe after a performance like this, but clearly his likeability and southern roots are keeping voters on his side.
8. Jessica Meuse – “Pumped Up Kicks” (Foster The People) – Normally I think Harry is pretty on-point but after Jessica gave a pretty thorough explanation of this song (upbeat but creepy) before her performance and Harry still didn’t understand why she was smiling while singing the semi-disturbing lyrics, I was baffled. I thought Jess did exactly what she set out to do and sound good doing it. The problem I still have with Jess is that I’m comparing her to past female rockers on the show and many of them were one of the most charismatic, bold contestants during their season (Kim Caldwell in Season 2, Carly Smithson in Season 7, Allison Iraheta in Season 8). I think Jessica should go back and watch a few of their performances and come out next week with something as bold and daring as them. That said, all three of those girls were Bottom 3 dwellers, whereas Jess has yet to find herself in danger, so maybe she is doing something right? But I think she needs to do more to win.
9. Majesty York – “Wake Me Up” (Avicii) – After a rough week last week, Majesty needed a major comeback and given that she found herself in the Bottom 2 this week, this might not have been exactly what the doctor ordered. I think JLo was spot on when she said that Majesty looked scared for the first time. If you haven’t, go back and watch this performance and you’ll see what I mean. As Majesty goes for those notes that are usually the most interesting and cool parts of her performance, you can see a little apprehension on her face. I think Majesty needs to shake that, be confident in her abilities and go back to the fun and vibrant performer we know her to be. She’s an understated talent who ought to be on top of the pack. That said, I liked this performance otherwise. I thought it was true to her and, unlike Keith, I thought the subdued arrangement worked for her and drew me in. That said, there’s a difference between what she did here and what she did with Violet Hill and she needs to find a way to get to that deeper level again.
10. Sam Woolf – “We Are Young” (Fun. feat. Janelle Monae) – Sam, like Majesty, needed a hardcore comeback this week and while this was enough to keep him out of the bottom, I still don’t know if it was his full potential. He still looked a little intimidated and didn’t connect fully with the lyrics (and understandably so because they were about drinking and domestic violence) but, that said, the song did have a bit of that rock edge that he tried to go for last week but kept it in his wheelhouse. Hopefully Sam can crack his shell and avoid falling prey to the same shortcomings as MK.
When all was said and done, I didn’t predict the Bottom 3 well, but I got the eliminee spot on once again. I didn’t expect Dexter to be there because he’s that typical middle-American southern contestant that voters love and generally forgive for weaker performances but as I said before, I think Dexter polarized his fanbase by messing with a popular country song. Majesty’s Bottom 3 appearance kind of shocked me, but I think putting her before Sam and with her current state of timidness left the voters a little cold on what could have been a good performance. That and the pack is thinning and with 3 of 10 contestants in danger, we’re sure to get a few surprises now and then.
The best part of the night, for me, was that the JLo seems to have finally hit her stride and is giving some great feedback for these kids. Hopefully they’re take it all in and take advantage of next’s weeks vague, open-ended theme (“I’m With The Band”). Until then, vote below and tell me which 3 contestants gave your favourite performances.