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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 30 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 9 Band Together

Last week we saw the Top 9 take on the theme “I’m With The Band”. I’m still unclear what this theme meant for song choice, but I did enjoy having Rickey Minor and the band up front with the contestants. For some, it brought out the best in them and for some, it did nothing to raise their game. So let’s talk about who truly fronted that band.

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

1. Alex Preston – “Don’t Speak” (No Doubt) – While I liked the Mraz-like spin Alex put on this well-known track, I do agree with the judges that it felt a little sleepy. The song requires a little bit of the anger, conviction and edge that Stefani always brought to it and as cool as Alex’s scatty and guitar-beats were, I just didn’t feel like he meant the words at times. I think it might be because I hold him to a higher standard than the other competitors given his consistency so, while this wasn’t bad by any means, I expect better out of Alex.

Rating: B-

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

2. Majesty Rose – “Shake It Out” (Florence & The Machine) – I loved that Majesty came out with a tambourine and heeded Harry’s advice to get into the performance a little more. Again, like Alex, she picked a song I didn’t expect and while there were parts where her lilting tone really breathed new life into this great song, there were other parts where her belting went a little off the rails and made her big finish seem a little less than what it could have been. I think the judges are right though that this performance didn’t remind people of what they loved Majesty in the first place and that might be a problem.

Rating: B-

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

3. Dexter Roberts – “Boondocks” (Little Big Town) – Unlike the two previous performers, Dexter did what he always does. He picked the most obvious song he could and he sang it in a way that made me just want to go listen to the original. I totally understand the frustration of the judges that someone like Dexter can come out week after week and give us literally nothing more to go by and keep skating through. It’s frustrating, especially since his performance of Lucky Man and some of the stuff he did in Hollywood Week showed that there might be a more inventive musician in there. C’mon Dexter…

Rating: C-

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

4. Malaya Watson – “Long & Winding Road” (The Beatles) – I feel like Malaya is polarizing. You either love her or you don’t and the more I see, the more I like her. Sure, this song choice seemed a bit weird at the outset and with the sleepy beginning I thought it might be her first misstep in a while, but by the end she found her own and really, as Randy used to say, “sang the *bleep* out of it”. It was almost like she made the Beatles just a little bit gospel and I like that and I think the voters do to. Considering I expected her to be one of the first few contestants out, she’s really come into her own.

Rating: B

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

5. Sam Woolf – “Hey There Delilah” (Plain White Ts) – Like Dexter, Sam coloured within the lines this week with another obvious song choices. And, like Dexter, Sam is likeable enough that it’s hard to dislike him, but it’s equally frustrating that someone who came into this competition with frontrunner status can’t seem to give us a reason to see why. I’m almost more inclined to Majesty’s approach of throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. At least she, unlike Sam and Dexter, doesn’t seem dead in the eyes when she gets up on stage every week. Like JLo said, Sam needs to find that connection and make us feel what he’s singing or else. Say what you will about the White Guy With Guitars phenomenon – but David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips all brought feeling to their performances and that’s what endeared America to them. 

Rating: C+

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

6. Jessica Meuse – “Rhiannon” (Fleetwood Mac) – It seems tonight is a battle of predictable versus unpredictable song choices, and Jessica settled on the predictable side. That said, I can’t be mad at someone for making a predictable song choice if they deliver it in a superb fashion and Jessica did an okay job with hers. One of the judges, I think Keith, gave an astute critique that when Stevie Nicks sings this song, it’s got a dream-like quality to it and I think Jessica’s nerves had her singing just a touch too loud to do that. She needed to reign it in a bit and show she has the dynamics to go from 4th or 5th place to a potential contender.

Rating: B

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

7. CJ Harris – “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” (The Steeldrivers) – CJ picked a cool song and one covered recently enough by Adele that people weren’t totally foreign with it, but I think everyone in America could tell that he was sharp the entire time. It’s actually kind of weird that he’s that consistently sharp. Hopefully Harry is right and that it’s just CJ’s nerves getting the better of him. Because if that’s all it is, he can rectify that and give a better performance next week, otherwise I’m beginning to think that his time is up. 

Rating: C-

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

8. Caleb Johnson – “Dazed & Confused” (Led Zeppelin) – Like I said, predictable can be a good thing when you really kill it and that’s exactly what Caleb did. Like the judges said, he led the band all the way to the promised land with this performance. Was it any better than anything we’ve seen before from him? Not particularly, but the vibe of the song really drew me in and I felt what JLo was feeling when she was dancing in her chair. You have to give credit to Rickey Minor and the band on this one – it was clear they were having fun and finally got a chance to rock out, thanks to Caleb.

Rating: A

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

9. Jena Irene – “Bring Me To Life” (Evanescence) – I almost felt bad for Jena having to follow Caleb because it kind of made her performance seem less epic in comparison, but she still did a great job with (once again) an obvious song choice for her. She too utilized the band and sang the hell out of the song and after a few consistent performances I’m beginning to think she might be the female frontrunner over Jessica now. She gets me excited and I look forward to her performance and I think that’s something America’s feeling too, based on the sudden turnaround on votes for her.

Rating: A-

During new half-hour results (Praise Kelly!) we got a less than coherent performance by Janelle Monae and then some quick results from the big screen. Sam, Majesty and CJ were our Bottom 3 and while I had been hoping Dexter would be there, I wasn’t surprised. I did predict Majesty to be at the bottom of the pack, but I really thought the judges would  save her so when they didn’t, I was quite surprised. I’m mostly frustrated because I feel like she had more in her and I feel like the Top 8 theme, where the contestants will re-sing their auditions songs, would have helped her get back on track.

With all that said, they may as well start the next show with a montage of the contestants set to “Live Or Let Die” by Paul McCartney because I truly do feel like America is voting based solely on the performances in front of them that week (minus Dexter). It’s no longer about cute boys or bringing out children or grandparents for sympathy votes. It’s really sing or get sunk and that makes this season both exciting and scary. I’ll be interested to see how the contestants utilize the band to take their auditions (especially those that auditioned with original songs like Jess and Alex) to another level.

Now it’s up to you, my fair readers. Vote in the poll below and tell me who gave the best performances of the night…

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2 Comments on “American Idol XIII: Top 9 Band Together”

  1. Elizabeth Rosalyn The April 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Caleb and Jena really excelled with this band theme! They picked the perfect songs to showcase themselves as true leaders of the pack.

    I’m really going to miss Majesty this week – I would have loved to see her reprise her amazing audition song. :( I’m excited to hear Jessica and Alex’s original songs again, and get them on iTunes later!

  2. Todd April 2, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    I feel the same way you do about Jena! At first, I wasn’t so sure, but she is quickly winning me over. I think she’s my favorite female this year. Alex is my favorite male. The two of them would make a fantastic finale, because they’re both so unique and so artistic. They’re similar in that aspect. It would be fun seeing them go head to head. I don’t think the two have a chance of making the finale together, though. :(

    I want to see Jena sing something by Lorde, possibly Team. She has the same quality Lorde has about her, and I think she’d do really well with it.

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