Thursday, February 27, 2014

Top 13 On American Idol 13 Gave It Their Best... Whose Was Enough?

With a brand new stage and a brand new season, The Top 13 sang live for your votes for the first time. Nerves were high and evident in some contestants, but even taking that into account, I was still less-than-impressed with many of last night's performances.

This season, the contestants wait in a just-off-the-stage 'lounge' to perform. From there, they can watch their fellow artists perform front and center. I'm not sure if this is a positive thing for them or not. If one does an amazing job, it could be intimidating... conversely, if one does poorly, it could add to the others' already bubbling nerves. I guess we'll see if it has an effect as the season plays on.

The theme for last night was “This Is Me.” The contestants picked their own songs to show what defines them as artists and as persons. Last night's "This Is Me" went as follows.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
First up last night was Dexter Roberts with “Aw Naw.” He wanted a fun song and came out with an electric guitar and a country attitute. Dexter had great energy last night and a true country vibe. The electric guitar added an 'electrifying' element, which helped amping up his outward personality on stage. The audience was deeply engaged, and it was a very solid performance... excellent way to start the show. Harry commented that he was out-of-tune, but I didn't really hear any pitch issues. I think it was more than enough to keep him out of the Bottom 3.

Malaya Watson followed with “Runaway Baby.” She seemed to struggle a little with nerves and put too much into her energy on stage and not enough into her vocals. I found her performance to be more talking the lyrics than actually singing the lyrics. Vocally it sounded forced, and she seemed to wander off pitch and fall out-of-tune more times than she should have. This time I agreed with Harry when he made the comment about singing in tune. She had the energy but not the vocal control needed... which will land her in the Bottom 3.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
The first Wild Card pick to perform last night was Kristen O'Connor. She chose “Beautiful Disaster,” but not as the song about a guy. Kelly Clarkson's songs are a risk to do this early in the competition as she has a very powerful voice, but Kristen did it solid. She seemed to fight some nerves early in the song, but once she found her groove, she got in tune and nailed it. Kristen seems really well suited with Power Ballads and has a really big voice. She was able to show her great range and strong control with the song... and looked great doing it. I have little doubt that she will be safe this week.

Ben Briley picked “Folsom Prison Blues” for his song. In his sets, he always opens with this song to set the mood for what's to come. He did pick up the tempo significantly for his version, which added his own personality into it. He had a great country tone and just the right amount of grit in his voice to add character without ruining the vocal aspect of the performance. Even though I did catch a few spots off-key, I think it was an exeptional rendition. Everything was good enough to keep him out of the Bottom 3, but with the younger demographic American Idol targets, I'm left wondering if there will be enough votes for that song choice.

The second Wild Card pick to perform was C.J. Harris singing “Radio.” His performance was fun and very well done, but it didn't get to show his fully capable range. I'm still in-the-air with C.J.. Vocally he was solid. He's got the personality... I'm not sure why I'm not connecting with him.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
MK Nobilette took the stage with “Satisfaction,” and everyone seemed very satisfied with her performance. I could sense her nerves in the beginning, but she soon found her pocket. Her mid- to upper-range is almost perfect and has amazing pitch and control. We saw a different side of MK last night, and I think everyone really enjoyed that side of her. While she was vocally very strong and connected, she still needed a little bit of work on her stage presence, but as Harry said, that will come with experience, and I have no doubt it will. She has the talent and the voice, so I'm certain she will also be safe from the Bottom 3.

Performing “Tightrope,” Majesty Rose showed no signs of nerves. It was a very fast song, but she nailed it right from the first note. It was the perfect song choice for her, as it allowed her to showcase many aspects of her talent and completley expose her personality. Her breath control was strong and effortless, which gave an almost flawless performance. Her range is incredible, and in the end, gained nothing but praise from all the judges.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
The final Wild Card pick to perform last night was Jena Irene singing “The Scientist.” She slowed it down a little bit and was slightly pitchy in the beginning. Once she found her groove, however, her powerful voice shone. There were a few moments I found she overpowered the music with her vocals, but not enough to do any real harm. The biggest thing I noticed with Jena last night was how much I felt the emotion of the song being emoted through her vocals. It was a tough song, but that emotional connection she shared will be the key in keeping her out of the Bottom 3.

Alex Preston came out with an acoustic performance of “A Beautiful Mess.” He's very popular with the American Idol audience, but last night I found him overly pitchy and out-of-tune. As the song went on, the pitch problems seemed to be in the same areas, so I'm left wondering if these were intentional and for stlyistic purposes. Either way, it didn't work for me. When he went into the higher register, he was great and perfectly pitched. Overall, I was disappointed with the performance and just found that there was no connection with the audience whatsoever. Suprisingly, I agreed with Harry again in that Alex sang to much inwardly and not enough to us. Based on last night, Alex should find himself in the Bottom 3.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Up next was Jessica Meuse performing “The Crow and the Butterfly.” She hit the stage like a seasoned performer and showed her power right from the first note. Her voice had the perfect roughness (or rasp) in all the right places, which added her own personality and greatness to the song. It was so well controlled and emotionally connected, both her to the song and us to her. There's no doubt she's safe this week.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Emily Piriz wowed everyone with “Glitter in the Air.” Her soft voice was just beautiful, and her pitch control was pretty much perfect. She seemed to contol her breath and pitch with no effort at all, and her range was breathtaking. When she executed her long escalating note near the end, I think we all just froze in that moment... powerful, controlled, and perfect. Jennifer was speechless and just said, “I'm gushing.” There were no snide comments from Harry... but I'm wondering if his “I'm proud of you” comment was for her performance or for her song choice. Whichever, I don't think Emily will see the Bottom 3 tonight or anytime soon for that matter.

Hitting the stage with “Unwell” was Sam Woolf – another favorite amoung the younger girls in the audience. His vocals last night were good, but I found him to be lagging a little behind the music for the earlier part of his performance. His pitch was okay, but he didn't show much range with this song. Technically, I'd say his performance was good, but there really was no feeling coming from him... there was no connection or emotion. I don't think he was strong enough vocally to stay out of the Bottom 3.

Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Closing out the show was Caleb Johnson with “Pressure and Time,” and what a way to close it out. His energy on stage was beyond expectations, and the 'rock 'n roll' vibe was amazing. Vocally, it was one of the strongest of the night, and you could feel his energy and commitment to the song. He is a true rocker and just killed it. He was the first one this season to get a standing ovation from the judges (Harry excluded). There is no way he will find himself in the Bottom 3.

Predicting the Bottom 3 is a challenge. If the votes are cast based on the quality of the perfomances last night, the results will be much different than if the votes are cast based on popularity. I'm hoping people remember this is a “talent” competition and not a “popularity” contest.

With that said, based on last night's performances, I think the Bottom 3 should be Malaya, Alex, and Sam. But I'm worried that Alex and Sam may be replaced (undeservedly) by Ben and Jena... We wait and see.

Tune to FOX every Wednesday and Thursday 8/7c for American Idol XIII

For everything American Idol visit the Official Website.

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