Posted: 7:01 pm Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
By Rodney Ho
With the theme tonight current songs, some singers brought their points of view to fore. Others felt flat. Really flat.
Malaya Watson surprised me with my favorite performance of the night after two less-than-enthralling performances. She finally connected with a song and didn’t go loco on us. Close behind, I enjoyed Alex Preston, Sam Woolf, Majesty Rose and Jena Irene to various degrees. Sam needed a decent showing and pulled it off. Majesty came back from a couple of shaky weeks. Jena is solidifying herself as a contender. Alex knows who he is and highlights his nerdy persona week in and week out.
Unfortunately, the other five ranged from mundane to plain bad.
MK was barely passable. Dexter started strong, then slipped into a stupor. Caleb was forgettable at best for once. CJ was literally invisible after showing some life last week. Jessica looked more comfortable but it felt more glib than invigorating. I’m losing patience waiting for Jessica’s breakout performance. Will it ever come?
My bottom three? MK, Dexter and CJ. Who will go home? It’s about time, MK. It’s about time.
My rankings: 1. Malaya 2. Alex 3. Sam 4. Jena 5. Majesty 6. Caleb 7. Jessica 8. Dexter 9. MK 10. CJ
My thoughts on each performance in order:
MK Nobilette (“Perfect” Pink) – Pink is very hard to do for the reason that Pink puts real pain into her vocals. MK can’t possibly approach that. She has pitch issues, then in her effort to improve her stage presence by shaking hands with audience members, she lost track of the song and never quite back on track. Grade: B-minus
Dexter Roberts (“Cruise” Florida-Georgia Line) – He opens promising with a slower start than the actual song. I expected he’d speed it up, maybe even throw in a rap interlude. Instead, he made it a bit faster but not enough to lift it beyond lethargic. He took a crowd pleaser and made it feel stale. Grade: C-plus
Jena Irene (“Clarity” Zedd) – She seems to have found her voice, as HCJ said. She can do pop pretty well and in this case, she pulls of the electronic-pop sound and gives the song enough heft and individuality to work. Keith said it was the best performance of the night, though that’s not saying much. HCJ was impressed. She’s definitely a riser. Grade: B-plus
Alex Preston (“Story of My Life” OneDirection) – This is a really good pop song and Alex gives it enough of his own quirks to it to make it engaging. Solid song pic. He won’t be going anywhere. Keith said it sounded like American Authors merged with OneD. JLo said it felt comfortable and he owned the stage. Grade: A-minus
Caleb Johnson (“Edge of Glory” Lady Gaga) – I was expecting him to take this down a notch and really give it that David Cook/Kris Allen twist. But instead, it was just a mid-tempo okay version. I thought it felt a bit flat. HCJ liked it but thought he has seen him better. JLo felt he wasn’t feeling it. Grade: B/B-minus
Malaya Watson (“When I was Your Man” Bruno Mars) – Surprise! After some shaky live performances, she rose to the occasion, hitting the right tenor, the right emotional feelings, the right everything. She certainly saved herself this week by picking a song she connected with. And not moving around helped her. Keith liked how she was able to put some control in her performance, for once. Grade: A-minus/A
CJ Harris (“Invisible” Hunter Hayes) – This felt heavy, tired and out of tune. Keith felt he nailed it in rehearsal but didn’t do it well live. HCJ said he felt the lyrics but he was off pitch, too sharp again. Grade: C
Jessica Meuse (“Pumped Up Kicks” Jessica Meuse) – She decided to go really chipper on a song with very dark lyrics. I give her points for owning this song with a smile but it felt off to me. HCJ wasn’t sure how she was interpreting this lyrics. “I wonder where the cry is. I wonder where the joy is.” He felt it was one dimensional. “I want to see more intricacies and weirdness.” Keith liked it. Grade: C-plus/B-minus
Majesty Rose (“Wake Me Up” Avicii) – I really enjoyed her take on this. She brought some interesting sadness to this take on Avicii. I was on board, like HCJ. Keith disagreed with Harry. It was too folksy to him. JLo said she felt fear, which is not good. Grade: B-plus
Sam Woolf (“We are Young” .fun) – I thought Sam is still not busting out just yet, but his voice worked with this song. I felt he brought a solid performance, certainly good enough to survive. HCJ felt it was too timid. 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.