Posted: 6:26 pm Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
By Rodney Ho
Nerves clearly got the best of the ladies tonight.
I think the set up where only 10 of the 15 were going to perform live made the situation even worse. Uncertainty is not a good set up for great performances. There’s already enough pressure going on a live stage for the first time.
I hope they don’t do this again.
There were no real blockbuster performances, nothing to get Jennifer Lopez to feel those “goosies.” There was some mediocrity, some over-reaching and a few bad notes.
The producers saved the best for last in Malaya Watson, the teen girl with glasses, braces and lots of youthful verve. She busted out some Ray Charles and gave it enough power to energize the crowd.
There was only one real dog of a performance: Brialle Sellars just tortured Katy Perry’s “Roar.” What a mess!
On the bright side, the judges continued to work well together now that we see them live and Harry Connick Jr. provided some sage advice.
We also found out if Ben Briley or Atlanta’s Neco Starr made it to the top 15 based on public votes. No surprise based on the polling I did last week, but Briley got the votes.
First up: Majesty Rose (“Happy” by Pharrell Williams.) She has cool hair and exudes confidence. She starts slow and doesn’t seem quite so confident while on stage while using the guitar. Once she dispensed with the guitar, she felt freer and broke it open. Overall, I felt the song, while upbeat and befitting her personality, did not really showcase her vocals well. J. Lo was all positive. HCJ: “I feel very fortunate you have set this tone and did a fantastic job.” Grade: B
Second up: Kristen O’Connor (“Turning Tables’ Adele). Cute and professional looking, but she didn’t really bring out the emotion. It was just okay. HCJ: “Nice job.” Keith: “You have a killer range. You had a lot of nerves going on.” Grade: B/B-minus
Third up: Brianna Oakley (“Warrior” Demi Levato). For a teenager, she feels very old. She’s a good singer. It was a solid performance but ultimately forgettable because the song doesn’t really bring much special to the table. She will struggle to get votes from that performance. J. Lo noted her nerves. Grade: B/B-plus
Fourth up: Jena Asciutto. (“Paint it Black” Rolling Stones). She’s very sultry and she sings it that way. It’s a little overdone but I found it entertaining. Keith: “There’s a poise about you. You’re very calm and confident.” Grade: B-plus/B
Fifth up: Bria Anai Johnson (“Wrong Side of a Love Song” Melanie Fiora) . Our Lithonia girl made the cut! “It felt very very shouted,” HCJ said. “The specificity of what you were trying to sing was lost.” Keith: “You overshoot the wrong way… but you still have the lips.” JLo: “You have star written all over you.” Grade: B
Sixth up: Brialle Sellars (“Roar” Katy Perry). Oh my gawd. That was just horrid. Her voice sounded weak and shaky all over the place. Keith: “Not the best song for you or the best tempo for you. It was too karaoke.” J. Lo:”You should have done that with the guitar.” HCJ: “You have to sing in the pocket. I didn’t see any of that superstar.” Grade: C-minus
Seventh up: Jessica Meuse (“Drink a Beer” Luke Bryan) . I found her natural and comfy with this song despite some nerves. With me grading on a curve tonight, she wasn’t bad. HCJ said he intonation meant she tended to go sharp. “I wanted to feel what you were singing. I didn’t feel you were settled into what th song was about.” Keith: “Be really really careful when singing a song about that subject matter. I can’t believe you’re really gone and you’re smiling. That’s the disconnect. You have a believability in your voice.” Grade: B/B-plus
Eighth up: Emily Piriz (“Paris (Ooh La La)” Grace Potter & the Nocturnals) – I remembered her doing more soulful singer songwriter stuff or maybe my memory is faulty. She goes aggressive with this edgy Grace Potter song. She does an okay job with it but it feels very karaoke. HCJ really questions her hard about the rather sexual lyrics and whether they’re apropos for someone who just turned 18. She defends it saying it’s a female empowerment song. Keith said don’t hide behind an act, bear your soul. J. Lo said she loved what she did on the piano and the ballad but also did this very well. Grade: B/B-plus
Ninth: MK Nobilette (“All of Me’ John Legend) She has a pretty voice and she’s open. But she lacks dynamism on the big stage. She isn’t quite ready for prime time. I’m shocked she made the top 10. It was good enough for her to make the top 13, I’d fathom. Grade: B-plus
In the pocket: Malaya Watson (“Hard Times” Ray Charles). She brought it with energy and conviction. Sure, the notes weren’t all that clean at times but she knew she was the last one in and that’s a compliment. HCJ: I look forward to seeing you settle and finding your space.” Keith: “You make glasses and braces look so cool.” Grade: B-plus/A-minus
About the Author
I'm the media writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and ajc.com. I've been following radio since 2001, TV since 2005. I cover everything from the local radio and TV news scene to shows shot in Atlanta ("The Walking Dead," "Real Housewives of Atlanta") to networks based here (CNN, TBS, Up, Weather Channel) to celebrities who visit town.