Thursday, February 20, 2014

American Idol XIII – Rush Week – The Guys (Recap & Review)

Wed & Thu 8/7c on FOX
Credit: FOX
Rush Week continued Wednesday night with the guys performing for America's votes. Five girls from Tuesday's performances and five guys from Wednesday night's will make up ten of the Top 13 to be announced tonight on FOX. The remaining three chairs will be the Wild Card spots picked by the judges.

I do have to say that the judges seemed to make a few better choices on which ten of the fifteen guys would perform than they did with the girls. Although nerves would still be a factor, I believed the guys would have had a slight advantage in being on the second night of the two-night premier. With that in mind, I did have slightly higher expectations for the caliber of last night's performances, and that may be why I was disappointed with more than a few of them.
The Top 10 guys took the stage one by one, and here's what happened:

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Caleb Johnson – Song Choice: “Stay With Me”
He wanted to bring some 'rock 'n roll' to the show, and that's exactly what he did. For the first performance of the night, he really rocked the stage and set the bar rather high for the next nine guys. Caleb's personality and energy was only matched by his amazing 'rock' tone. He worked the stage and engaged the audience in a way that made it feel as though he'd been doing this his whole life. The crowd was clapping and singing along with him. Caleb made everything look so natural and effortless. Really, an amazing way to start off the night and pretty much a sure thing in making the Top 5.

C.J. Harris – Song Choice: “Shelter”
Although C.J. hasn't had much professional training, you wouldn't know it by watching him sing. His country and soul influences throughout his life showed during his performance. He had a great bluesy and raspy tone in his vocals that matched perfectly with his occasional gritty country sound. C.J. Is very likeable and has the vocal power, but this song choice didn't allow him to completely showcase his full range. Although it was really well done, I'm not sure it was enough to advance him to the next round, however.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Emmanuel Zidor – Song Choice: “Best Of My Love”
He has a unique and interesting voice and is extremely energetic and personable, but that energy seemed to overtake his singing last night. It was a good song choice for him, as it allowed him to show us his strong vocals and broad range. But like I said, his energy got the better of him, and in a sense, he lost control of the performance. Although I don't think he will be voted through, I think the judges like him and his talent enough that a Wild Card spot may be waiting for him.

Sam Woolf – Song Choice: “Babylon”
He started off quite nervous and very stiff but eventually started to loosen up. Vocally, Sam is very strong and capable, but I feel his nerves had too much of a hold and held him back from what he really can do. He had good tone and pitch, but we didn't see much range with his song. The judges liked him and his performance, but it was lost on me... maybe hearing it live rather than over television... I'm not sure, but in regards to last night, the judges and I were on very separate pages with him.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
George Lovett – Song Choice: “Grenade”
Again, song choice is crucial in how America will vote. George came on stage last night with amazing confidence, and it showed in his performance. His pitch was okay (there were a few problem parts), but there was no expansion of range with the song. While you could see he was trying to convey the emotion, it still fell a little short. I think it was a result of song choice... he just didn't really connect. George's finish had the power and was completely solid. Though not one of his best, I think there's enough past success to put him into the Top 5.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Dexter Roberts – Song Choice: “This Old Boy”
When he began to sing, it was easy to see that any nerves he may have been experiencing were absolutely under control. His tone was purely country, and although he went a little high in some places, I think it was more an intentional effect rather than loss of control. I felt some Brooks & Dunn mixed with a little Alan Jackson. Overall, it was solid and just amazing. He is truly a country boy at heart. Take all that and combine it with the infectious energy he had and he will easily find a Top 5 seat.

Alex Preston – Song Choice: “Volcano”
His biggest thing he wanted to work on was not being as shy and establishing and maintaining eye contact with the crowd. He took to the stage, and his nerves were still front and center. One could see he was really struggling to overcome them, and after a few cracked notes, I don't think he completely managed to recover or find his groove. He is a great vocalist and has a strong voice, but his nerves got the best of him last night. There were even a few times that the camera caught a look of tension and anguish on his face. I felt he didn't really make the connection he needed or put on his best performance... Again, I was apparently on a whole other page than the judges, as Keith thought it was a good performance and “the best song choice of the night.” Jennifer felt he had a good groove and did a really nice job. So...

Malcolm Allen – Song Choice: “Comin' From Where I Am”
After growing up singing in church, Malcolm has since switched to singing in nightclubs. With that amount of experience coming into this competition, I expected much more from him last night. There were times where he seemed a little ahead of the music, and I didn't feel much of a connection. His pitch was fine, and his tone was great, but he didn't produce the range the song called for. The audience, however, seemed to love him, but I found him looking almost bored at times with the song. Jennifer thought the performance was “a little weak,” and Harry pointed out the same lack of range as I did. I'm not sure if it was the song choice or if he just didn't feel the song... either way, I don't think he will move past this round.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Ben Briley – Song Choice: “Soul Shine”
America made the right choice in voting him into the Top 10 Guys. Ben belongs to a long heritage of musical performers and definitely has the look to be on a stage. He's got a very natural and strong country feel to him, and gave one of the best performances of the night. He choose to go with the electric guitar for his song, and it was a smart production choice. His guitar solo added an 'electric' element (pun intended) to his performance that took it to an entirely new level. You add his amazing control, great range, and captivating personality and you've got a star performer. No doubt he will be in the Top 5.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Spencer Lloyd – Song Choice: “Love Don't Die”
With his 'boy-band' look and sultry voice, Spencer is sure to go far. As he hit the stage and before he even sang the first note, the screaming girls were deafening. He started strong and immediately worked the crowd to his favor. Making eye contact and tapping waving hands, he made the audience part of the performance. He did hit a couple off notes just before the chorus but recovered quickly and never lost his groove. Honestly, I don't think anyone really noticed, as most were too captivated by him. Remembering his past performances, this may have not been the best song choice for him... or even his best vocals, but his confidence and mere stage presence compensated for that. I'd be very shocked if he doesn't take one of the Top 5 spots tonight.

Although I agreed more with the judges' choices for the guys than for the girls, I was more disappointed with the guys than I was with the girls. Maybe I had higher expectations because it was the second night... maybe the girls were just better at handling the stress or made better song choices... I don't know, but the girls' performances ruled over the guys'.

After last night, I'm going to say that the five guys to be voted through will be Caleb Johnson, George Lovett, Dexter Roberts, Ben Briley, and Spencer Lloyd.

Don't forget to tune into FOX tonight at 8/7c to find out which five girls and which five guys were voted through to the next round, and who will fill the three Wild Card seats.

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Who do you think nailed it? Who do you think is going home? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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