Posted: 6:17 pm Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

‘American Idol’ top 9 performance recap 

By Rodney Ho

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Majesty Rose performs on AMERICAN IDOL XIII airing Wednesday, March 26 (8:00-10:00 PM ET / PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Majesty Rose performs on AMERICAN IDOL XIII airing Wednesday, March 26 (8:00-10:00 PM ET / PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

Let’s focus first on the good news tonight.

All nine singers did well tonight. Nobody bombed out. That’s first this season.

The downside: Nobody really gave us that “oh wow!” moment. The closest was Caleb Johnson and even then, it was not as bracing as Adam Lambert or Chris Daughtry at their best.

Then again, this year’s crew in general hasn’t given us any real “Summertime” feeling. That’s a problem. We’ve heard plenty of good, some very good, not a lot of amazing.

Here are some factors helping them: the weakest links are gone and the band theme was wide open enough to give each singer songs they can feel comfortable with. Thirdly, many are finally getting the hang of working the cameras, the stage and the crowd. And having band close by (as opposed to tucked in the back) can’t do anything but help the singers feel support.

Best of the night? Not surprisingly in a band challenge, Caleb rose to the occasion. His front-runner status remains. I also enjoyed C.J.’s performance. He felt at ease and I felt at ease.

It gets a little fuzzier after them because everyone else did decent to good.

So who goes home? Majesty Rose has been riding the bottom a lot so she’s in trouble again since her performance, while good, wasn’t exceptional. Malaya Watson is vulnerable, too. She has trended toward the bottom as well. Dexter Roberts was solid, too, which may make his fans complacent, without getting anyone excited. So my guess: Majesty. I think Malaya’s song choice might inspire more votes than Majesty’s.

My rankings of the nine singers. 1. Caleb. 2. C.J. 3. Alex 4. Sam 5. Malaya 6. Majesty 7. Jena 8. Jessica 9. Dexter

The singers received advice from Fall Out Boy, a band that has had a string of hits over the past decade. Caleb was especially into asking them questions.

Before the competition performances, the nine singers did a group medley of rock songs. (With a  30-minute results show tomorrow for the first time in eight years and only nine performances stretched out over two hours, it made sense to shoehorn it in tonight.)

Alex sounded off key and kind of weak in his opening of Coldplay‘s “Clocks.” Sam was better. Majesty’s voice didn’t resonate above the band. On the Rolling Stones‘ “Satisfaction,” Dexter was dull. Jessica and CJ played off each other better and sounded better, too. In Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” Jena didn’t light’em up, Caleb rocked it (of course) and Malaya looked like a hyperactive kid in need of Ritalin.

Another observation: the judges are providing good advice, so good you wish they could actually coach these kids. J. Lo even offered good advice and is acting far more measured than she did seasons 10 and 11.  I was impressed that she pointed out (rightly) that Sam needed to connect more emotionally with his song. And the joking between Keith and HCJ is not mean-spirited -just funny. When HCJ was trying to get folks to replicate a “smattering” of applause, Keith cracked, “now that sounds like your concert.” HCJ’s response: “What’s 40 feet long and has eight teeth? The front row of a Keith Urban concert.”

First up: Alex Preston (“Don’t Speak” No Doubt) – He totally Alex-ized this No Doubt hit. It has almost a lounge feel despite a faster pace than the original. For some reason, I liked it more than the judges. I bought what he was peddling. Keith would like him to give more edge in the vocal delivery. J. Lo said it lacked energy. HCJ suggests he needs to move around more on stage. Grade: A-minus/B-plus’

Second up: Majesty Rose (“Shake It Out” Florence and the Machine) – She had some pitch problems during the chorus but otherwise, she pulled this song off with confidence. It’s a very difficult song to pull off because the verses are kind of amorphous and not terribly melodic. But she did a solid job. HCJ said she’s so diverse, it makes it hard for fans to grasp on to her, contributing to her falling to the bottom three twice. He said she’s close to being a performer but isn’t quite there. Grade: B-plus

Dexter Roberts (“Boondocks” Little Big Town) – This song fits into his vocal stylings and he certainly knows the lyrics. And he is always more comfortable with a guitar. This was his best live performance to date. HCJ said it sounded too generic and his song picks are too anthemic. That has been his problem since day one. Keith said if Little Big Town hadn’t recorded it and he did, it could have been a hit anyway. Still, he wants to see another side of Dexter. Grade: B/B-plus

Malaya Watson (“The Long and Winding Road” The Beatles) -  She is making the most distracting arm movements that seem oddly unnatural. Otherwise, a very good vocal performance with a touch of soul. Keith said that song showed her spirit. HCJ said she’s consistently improving. Grade: B-plus/B

Sam Woolf (“Hey There Delilah” Plain White T’s) – Sam is lite rock all the way. And Plain White T’s are light rock in that Goo Goo Dolls vein. This is an insanely pretty song sung by a pretty boy. It highlights his pretty voice very well, too. He is improving his stage presence, looking a wee bit more at ease each week. I do wish he would do just something a little extra vocally to make it stand out a bit more. J Lo said he needs to connect a little more, that he was singing to his Delilah. Keith said to stop thinking of each note and make them more communicative. “Be looser with you voice. It’s there for you. Glide around those words.” Grade: B-plus

Jessica Meuse (“Rhiannon” Fleetwood Mac) – I think the problem I’ve had with her besides pitch issues in the past is her lack of warmth. Despite millions of hours working bars, that hasn’t translated well to the “Idol” stage. She is hardly there yet tonight but that was a very passable version of “Rhiannon.” Almost pleasant. HCJ said he saw a different side of her and felt focused. Keith said she has to learn to be comfortable without an instrument. J Lo said she has to bring more performance beyond the voice. Grade: B/B-plus

C.J. Harris (“If It Hadn’t Been For Love” Steeldrivers) – He got to pick a song in his wheelhouse. Bluesy, mid-tempo without a lot of range but plenty of emotion. I like the hat. It worked for him. “A clever choice,” Keith said. “It allowed you to tap into the soulful side of you.. Be careful you don’t confuse the sound of expressing with the feeling of expressing. It’s easy to make our voices sound like we’re expressing something. Passion, this or that. It has to come inside and out with the voice. If you do that, the response will be very different.” HCJ: “Work on your pitch.” Grade: B-plus

Caleb Johnson (“Dazed and Confused” Led Zeppelin) – He is perfect to front a rock band and dominated the stage. He felt comfortable, brought it home and as J. Lo said, he brought some sultriness to it a la Robert Plant. And vocally, he was in the pocket. Grade: A-minus/A

Jena Irene (“Bring Me to Life” Evanescence”) – Caleb was a tough act to follow. She did a respectable cover version of that song. I do agree with J. Lo: it should have been messier. She needed to show even more intensity, more grit. Grade: B-plus

 

488 comments
lydiasid
lydiasid

I said it before, but I will say it again, Sam reminds me of Ricky Nelson.  Anyone remember him?

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

D: The Michael Johns video has disappeared, at least from my screen. Was going to watch on my tablet when I get home - boo.

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

I'm glad we have finally reached the 1/2 hour results show - getting pretty boring, and hopefully from now on there won't be any more time for JLo's writhing, oily angst to be displayed onstage.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

Next week's theme is Audition Songs.  Huh?  I guess these would be the songs that each contestant thought was most likely to get them to Hollywood.  MJ has been kind enough to figure out who sang what during their first audition with the judges.  This might be the song each must choose although they also auditioned before Idol minions and in Hollywood.

Not even gonna bother with a spoiler alert here:


Jena Irene
 – Rolling in the Deep by Adele
Sam Woolf – Lego House by Ed Sheeran
Malaya Watson – Ain’t No Way by Aretha Franklin
Majesty Rose – Violet Hill by Coldplay
Jessica Meuse – Blue Eyed Lie by Jessica Meuse
Alex Preston – An Original Song
CJ Harris – Soul Shine by Allman Brothers
Dexter Roberts – I Like to Drive by Casey James
Caleb Johnson –  ”Into the Void” by Caleb Johnson

Of course, one of these people won't be singing next week.


Jenny11
Jenny11

And as far as last night's show, I thought Caleb was the best, with Jena in second.  Malaya was pretty good too.  Jessica was finally not as nasal!  And she did a pretty decent job with one of my favorite songs.  :-)  The rest were all fine.  I don't feel strongly enough about them to rank them, really. 

Jenny11
Jenny11

The performances over the years I think were truly "Wow"?  In the order I'd rank them:

Katharine McPhee's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" 

Adam's "Tracks Of My Tears"

Adam's "Mad World" 

LaKisha Jones' "And I Am Telling You (I'm Not Going)"

Carrie's "Independence Day"

Fantasia's "Summertime" 

Jessica Sanchez' "I Will Always Love You"

Blake Lewis' "You Give Love A Bad Name" (This makes the list because it's the very first time we saw someone truly, truly twist a song around. I couldn't stop rewinding it. My husband, who didn't like Blake at all, even said "Wow.")

I absolutely loved Candice, but didn't think she really gave us a wow moment last season.  Not even with the Cure song.  I'd also disagree with Kris Allen (too coffeehouse, though I liked and downloaded his "Ain't No Sunshine".) 

This season, I don't think we've seen anything even close to a wow moment…. I think that's what's missing for me.  :-(

Jubie
Jubie

For me Scotty Mccreery. He was a wow moment every single time he performed. Even the night of his first audition.

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

Deirdre: Ahem, I'm at work - this is for the privacy of my home!

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

Kelly's "Stuff Like That There", "Don't Play That Song" & "Without You"

Clay's "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Solitaire", "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me"

Michael Johns' " It's All Wrong but It's Alright - you're so right Deirdre!

David Cook's "Music Of the Night"

Adam Lambert's "Mad World"

To a lesser degree:

Kimberly Locke  "Where The Boys Are"

Phillip Phillips  "Home"

Highlander1
Highlander1

Oddly enough, although Daughtry is one of my favorite past Idols, I can't remember any Wow moments from him. Maybe he was just solid all the way through just as  Caleb is now.

And as much as we complained of how tired we were of the same old themes, I'd like to see some of them back now. They provided more structure for the show. Right now, song selection seems to be mostly grab-azz!  And if they bring back some of the original themes, they could still ban certain over-used songs.

Woodpappy
Woodpappy

Ok, Adam's Mad World was a Wow moment for me.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

Good question:  "Wow" moments.  How many can we list that we all agree were wow moments?  I bet there aren't more than 5.  Something that is a wow moment for me may not qualify for you.  Most people will agree, like her or not, that Fantasia had a wow moment with Summertime.  I think Carrie had a wow moment with Independence Day.  Agree?

I have some moments that were wow for me but I don't think a lot of people would agree. 

Michael John singing It's All Wrong but It's Alright......I had a visceral reaction to it that I don't think many men would have had.

Melinda Doolittle singing Home(others might pick My Funny Valentine)

There are just a couple more for me.  What about y'all?

Rickster_
Rickster_

Of COURSE Rodney like's CJ's hat.

RK_
RK_

"No one gave us a WOW moment".  That's how I feel about Idol now.  It's very pedestrian and amateurish -- and not just the singers.  The smaller arena makes it look like season 1 -- cheap.  The band is just in sync with the singers -- they have had way too many problems this year.  You don't see that -ever- happen on the voice.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

To me, Sam is the perfect argument for raising the age limit.  Here's a kid with a beautiful voice but who sings without expression.  He doesn't know what he's singing.  Last week he was singing a song about a girl with a scar that he gave her with no remorse, no feeling at all.  He listens to the tunes, likes them and sings them note-perfect but that doesn't make him a good singer.  Will he ever care about the songs' meanings?  Who knows, but right now he doesn't have a clue.

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

I'll give Malaya credit that she respected the song and didn't wreck it - not great, but passable.

I love "...Delilah", and Sam was my favorite - think he did a good job with it. JLo embarrassed him about girls.

Caleb is the best - but I was not familiar with that particular song, and didn't like it. Still Caleb rocked.

Jessica ok - her nasality fit into that song.

Alex - just didn't care for it at all

Jena - didn't know this song and didn't like it either

CJ - could barely hear parts of his song, and liked bits of it, didn't like bits of it - he'll likely be gone

Majesty is so cute, but not living up to the promise she showed in the first rounds, sadly

Dexter:  GO HOME please

Woodpappy
Woodpappy

CJ, Sam, and Dexter should be in the bottom 3 tonight.  If I miss one, insert Majesty Rose in there.

BigAintheBigA
BigAintheBigA

Ricky Minor and the band are safe. 

Caleb and Jena had the most compelling performances. Jessica performed another song from her setlist wheelhouse. As did Dexter. Good for them but I still want to see a Sinatra Nite where these guys have to sing something out of their comfort zone. We're not really seeing much of a talent contest here. Oh well, goes without saying I guess. CJ? I just don't get it. His performances are cringeable. He can't help but try to over emote and gets all over the place. Great guy and I love him but he needs to go home and practice up for the summer tour. Majesty still has a leak somewhere and is still sinking. Sam has reached his level of incompetence (he's only 17) and is toast inevitably. Alex is the truest to form and Malaya is the dark horse of the bunch. "America" will decide however. Google's definitely the best way to vote now and oddly enough voting is still open til 10AM today.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

I'm taking a wild guess at bottom three and saying Majesty, Dexter and Sam.  

Jenny11
Jenny11

@Highlander1 - my favorite by him was "I Walk The Line".  I actually debated whether to put it on my list above.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@Woodpappy  I thought Mad World was terrific.  I preferred Tracks of My Tears.

JTesla
JTesla

@DeirdreC There was a "Wow" moment last season that many at the time said was bigger than Fantasia's. Easy to forget when trying to tear down the show. I think people are tired of the show and no longer are in it as they were, so it's easier to harken back to the Golden Age of Idol and miss that there was a lot of mediocre in seasons 1-5 just as there was touch of talent in later seasons.

Highlander1
Highlander1

@DeirdreC For me (for you), Carrie's "Wow" moment was Alone (Heart), showing she was capable of more than just Country.

David Cook's version (actually Chris Cornell's version) of Billy Jean, Adam's Mad World, Kris Allen's Heartless, Kat McPhee's Over The Rainbow.

G_
G_

@DeirdreC

LOL!  D, I like your fighting heart for the show. But of all the 12 seasons, where does this one rank?  I think that's the bottom line.  For me, about at rock bottom. 

I don't believe I remember another season that amateurs on the show, kind of stayed stuck there.  Some of them have grown just a bit, but not nearly enough to lift anyone's brow. 

In terms of "WOW"............Fantasia's Summertime comes to mind, Candice "Straight Up", and Ruben Studdard's "A House is Not a Home" and "Superstar". 

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@RK_  It's hard to remember because we have come to expect it but there are hardly ever wow moments.  That's what makes them "wow".  The first few seasons had more than one "moment" but after that, not so much.  Every now and then we get a "holy cow" moment or a "what was that" moment but "wow" moments are rare and wonderful.  Something we can all agree on rather than just some of us.

Highlander1
Highlander1

@DeirdreC But at the same time, Jena is younger, isn't she? Still in high school. So it's more an individual thing. The fault has to lay with the judges and producers for not seeing Sam's shortcomings during Hollywood week. ...Or maybe they thought Randy would whip him into singing shape during the show. .........Nah!!!!

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

@DeirdreC I agree, Deirdre. He isn't old enough. He probably has never had a long-distance love to pine over that he could funnel his energies for a song like "Hey There Delilah."

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@BigAintheBigA  Just want to mention that Jessica said she had just learned that song and was relieved that she remembered the lyrics.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@Jenny11 @Highlander1  I agree that his Walk the Line(which was excellent) didn't get its moment designation.  Probably because he got hammered by fans of the band whose arrangement he used without crediting until the results show

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@JTesla @DeirdreC  I could start posting some of the seriously awful performances in seasons 1-5 but nobody wants that!

MercedesS
MercedesS

@G_ G - if  you call this season the worst, I take it you didn't watch last year's idol. The Manipulated Idol.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@G_ @DeirdreC  Not trying to save the show or the season.  It's a legitimate question.  Wow moments are rare so why should we expect them every season?  Many winners have not had wow moments while some non-winners have.  Doesn't mean whoever won shouldn't have won, just that a singer stood out as utterly special for one performance.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@Highlander1 @DeirdreC  I think Jena and Sam are both 17 with Malaya being the youngest at 16.  Not saying that all kids are unable to connect but Sam is without any connection to anything he sings.  Maybe he never actually thinks about the words and what they mean.  Maybe he just isn't capable(and never will be) of sharing the emotions he feels.  

Jenny11
Jenny11

@DeirdreC - Oh, that's right, I forgot that happened.  People are so ridiculous.  Everyone has to be so darn quick to criticize.  I hate that.

He was only about my fourth favorite that season, but I loved that performance and was annoyed that he got hammered!  

(Good grief, I'm sure they get pulled in so many directions that it's easy to mess up.  They don't have a ton of time, Ryan's pulling at him, the judges are talking... and he did fix his mistake the next night!  Poor guy.)   

G_
G_

@DeirdreC @G_

Thanks D!  Ruben had so many I enjoyed, but those songs came to mind first. 

Jenny11
Jenny11

@DeirdreC @G_ - I think that the seasons without Wow moments are the ones we don't like as well.  Ideally, a season would have a huge moment fairly early that everyone would be talking about.  I miss those days.... 

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@G_  Although I will say that I thought Caleb's version of Skyfall came pretty close.

MercedesS
MercedesS

@DeirdreC @Highlander1 Boy, you guys (and girls) are down on poor Sam! Maybe being brought up by his grandparents has made him less of "modern" teen?