Posted: 6:05 pm Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
By Rodney Ho
After the disappointing night we had last night with the ladies, the guys picked up the pace and gave us a fun night overall.
The men in general are a more seasoned group and that may have made a big difference. They also had the advantage of seeing the women the night before and that may have also helped them strategize themselves.
Ten of the 15 semifinalist males sang, including one Atlantan: Emmanuel Zidor, whose over-the-top style turned off a lot of viewers. I’m not sure he did enough to move on.
There were some solid performances tonight, including those by C.J. Harris, Sam Woolf, Alex Preston and Ben Briley. (My obscenely early prediction: he will win “American Idol” season 13. Why? Sam Woolf fits the WGWG mold perfectly. He’s young and sweet like Scotty McCreery with a similarly humble personality of a Kris Allen or Phillip Phillips coupled with confidence befitting of a David Cook. And he can certainly sing better than Lee DeWyze.)
I’d say those four are in, possibly with pretty boy Spencer Lloyd, since he was given the pimp spot and the girls seem to love him.
Worst performance of the night: George Lovett. One note, as Harry Connick Jr. said. He’s a goner for sure.
I’m not sure we missed much with the other five guys who didn’t perform. I thought the judges were fair and critiqued well tonight overall.
Here are the singers in order of performance:
First up: Caleb Johnson (“Stay With Me” The Faces). Smart to bring up first a guy who has spent a lot of time on stage, knows who he is and has no problem dealing with the lights and the cameras. He does a competent, old-school rocker performance. I’m not sure he brings anything really new to the equation but he’s entertaining. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
Second up: C.J. Harris (“Shelter” Ray LaMontagne) This Alabama soul-country combo singer is a favorite from the get go for a reason. He brings sincerity and charm to anything he sings. This song requires pain and longing and he does it effortlessly. Adam Lambert tells him to dump the guitar because it was distracting. It’s true. His voice holds its own. J. Lo said it’s beautiful. HCJ said he has a tendency to go sharp and should watch his intonation. Keith compared him to a unique combination of Jonny Lang and Dobie Gray. Grade: A-minus
Third up: Emmanuel Zidor (“Best of My Love” Emotions) He has confidence and likes to twist his hips around. It was fun and vocally okay. He didn’t go cray cray like he tried in rehearsals. HCJ: “You remind me of performers I saw in New Orleans… I’d recommend you heed the advice. Stay in your lane. The performance started to go off kilter.” J. Lo expressed her version of disappointment as well. I think he’s in trouble .given that type of negative feedback. Plus, he came after two strong performances and his may be long forgotten by the time the show is over. Grade: B-plus
Fourth up: Sam Woolf (“Babylon” David Gray). Here was another early favorite who the judges loved the instant they heard him. He looks cute, he brings youthful vigor but a quiet confidence. Plus, his voice is distinctive and clean. His David Gray cover just brings a smile to my face. He is a shoo-in for one of the five public votes, along with Harris. Keith: “You have that voice that is money.” HCJ wonders if he can gain more confidence. (does he lack it?) Grade: A
Fifth up: George Lovett (“Grenade” Bruno Mars) I don’t particularly like his style or his voice even though he has a slight Usher-ish feel. It just seems too much and lacks the sincerity Mars brought to the equation. And the swaybots are driving me nuts. J. Lo found his vocal stylings distracting despite how much she loves him. HCJ says he over-sang and “spun out of control… It didn’t have a lot of dynamic. It was very one note. I heard you sing better.” Keith critiqued his song choice. Grade: B/B-minus
Sixth up: Dexter Roberts (“This Ole Boy” Joe Nichols) I haven’t had a deep impression of him up to this point. He has an easygoing style that is pleasant but I don’t know if I feel a star here. HCJ said he’s a solid, likable performer, a typical modern-day country performer. He wonders what will set him apart from “Idol.” He’s going to have a tough time to garner votes. Grade: B-plus
Seventh up: Alex Preston (“Volcano” Damien Rice) – Phillip Phillips has sung this song! Alex has an odd-looking face and seems the epitome of the phrase “band geek.” That may hurt him in terms of generating votes. But he’s memorable. And that could help him. Keith said it was the right song for him and playing the guitar was smart. J. Lo said it had a great groove. HCJ said he really liked the fact Alex treats music like a religion. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
Eighth up: Malcolm Allen (“Coming From Where I’m From” – Anthony Hamilton) He is another one of the favored children. He is a little rough in terms of his stage presence but he has a ravishing R&B voice. It’s an uneven performance overall. He should have hit an emotional peak at the end but failed. Still, he may be good enough to get him through to the top 13. J. Lo felt he didn’t quite connect. HCJ said there were too many of the same runs and goes way too sharp. Grade: B
Ninth up: Ben Briley (“Soulshine” Allman Brothers) After all that brouhaha of almost missing the top 15 guys, he gets his shot. And can he outdo his buddy Dexter? He’s a more interesting vocalist, more soulful and more memorable, period. I think he has a better shot of bringing in the votes. I don’t think he is going to win the competition but he could end up in the top 13. “Idol” needs a country presence on the male side and he’s it. HCJ: “You did a great job. I think you’re really interesting and powerful.” He also found Ben’s tie knot ridiculously large. J. Lo said he came alive with the audience. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
Pimp spot is for pretty boy Spencer Lloyd (“Love Don’t Die” The Fray). He is a man who knows how to work the crowd. Despite a bit of a “douche” arrogant quality to him, he has a good voice. Keith didn’t think that was his best vocal but he knows the crowd responded to him. HCJ said this was not his strong suit. “This was not good,” he said. Grade: B-plus
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.