Thursday, February 27, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 13

The Finals have always been the bread and butter of the competition where the contestants are all given the same tools to try and win the competition. It changes your strategy when you’re trying to beat out only one person each week instead of half of them. So, how did they do for their first week on the big stage?

Some rose and some fell. That’s to be expected. One thing I specifically loved about tonight: SONG CHOICES! Most of them haven't been performed on American Idol before (shocking!), and there was a nice diversity of genres. Also a big improvement? The judging panel! I'm shocked by how the judges have been critical with everyone - well, almost. Jennifer Lopez, in particular, was terrific. I guess, she adapted to the intelligence level of the panel this year no?

Oh, and just to put it out there, Randy Jackson needs to go away! Although I love how the crowd kept on drowning out Randy's useless opinions. Haha.

Without further ado, the rankings!
13. Kristen O'Connor
Beautiful Disaster
She sang Beautiful Disaster. How ironic! Get that? No? Ok, moving on. Look, Kristen armed with a very strong upper register, managed to deliver a moderately decent vocal performance. But at this point, your voice doesn't matter. No matter how strong a singer you may be, you still have to connect with the audience and show them that you have the ability to be an artist. You are a good karaoke singer. Nothing more. This just wasn’t bold enough to make any sort of lasting impression. 4

12. Malaya Watson
Runaway Baby
Runaway Baby was a noble choice and it definitely showed that Malaya was a very comfortable performer with a great personality and spunk, but her vocals were pretty rough. When she had to sing the chorus I began to see how weak her vocal support was in the lower register. Every time a note dropped out of her comfort zone, it tended to sound a little flat. No, it wasn't as tragic as Marialle Seller's Roar, but pretty underwhelming. I think her energy will save her this week. 4
11. Dexter Roberts
Aw Naw
I forgot you were still here. This one was simple. Dexter is a very pleasant singer, but he has zero charisma on stage. There is absolutely no spark between him and the audience and he’ll never sell records when he can’t differentiate himself from the rest of the other country male singers out there. I also did have one major issue: Diction. Diction. Diction. It was very difficult to hear 90% of the lyrics in this number and it became frustrating because he seemed to be having so much fun! I wanted to join him! 5

10. Ben Briley
Folsom Prison Blues
This was actually a great song for Ben if not for the crazy fast tempo. I don't know, but everything felt too rushed that I got out of breath by just watching that. In fact, I somehow prefer Paul McDonald's version of this song over Ben's. As for his vocals, it was nice and it was mostly fun and I appreciated the fact that he did something with the song to avoid a straight on comparison, but the arrangement threw me off. 5.5

09. CJ Harris
I was expecting something more predictable from CJ, so this was actually an interesting and daring song choice and I will cheer any contestant who takes chances. I liked that he went uptempo and picked something more current than his usual choices. Vocally, there were some strong moments, but it was uneven for the most part. Note for note, this was vocally superior than his Shelter performance from last week, but lacked a little commitment in terms of his connection to the material. 5.5

08. Jena Irene
The Scientist
Why didn't she play the piano on this one? I was hoping for Jena to actually hit a home run with this as she's a Wildcard going into the finals and she needed to be spot on all the time, but I guess this was a good enough effort to last her another week. I just had a couple of issues though. She started in a weird place of the song, the arrangement was a little odd, and I didn't like the key she was on. Yes, she took it to a place vocally that was different, but it completely stripped off the song with it's beauty and vulnerability. I somehow felt like the song needed to be more contained to actually work. 5.5

07. MK Nobilette
She actually appeared more confident this week than she was previously, but there was a sense of abandonment in her that was quite apparent. Not sure if that was just her vibe, but she's just too laid back almost to a fault. There were a couple of really strong vocal moments, but she needs to push her voice more than this. She has a lot of potential, but she needs to start taking risks vocally. Sometimes being good isn’t enough. You need to be a fighter. Somehow, I'm sensing MK isn't fighting hard enough. 6.5

06. Sam Woolf
Did you hear how the girls screamed the moment they mentioned his name? There’s no denying it anymore. Sam could win this competition. I wasn't sure if Unwell was in his wheelhouse, but he sort of nailed it and I was pleasantly comforted by Sam's simplistic version - although the tempo was a little too slow for my liking. Was it a tad boring? Maybe, but it was almost pitch perfect and clear, and sometimes that's all singing needs to be. We don’t need to take every song to church. Just sing us something special, connect to the song, and you're good to go. He's in a very strong position right now that he has got all the time in the world to figure out what he needs to win this competition. 7

05. Majesty Rose
This is what I'm talking about! There was something just so inherently cool about this performance and I found myself really getting into the rhythm and vibe that was radiating from the incredibly comfortable Majesty Rose. I think she has a spot pretty locked up at this point and tonight just solidified her status as a solid contender. Time will tell if I become tired of her antics or if she continues to grow on me, but this week she certainly did enough to move on to the next round. She actually had me just from the song choice alone. 7.5

04. Caleb Johnson
Pressure and Time
I've never been a fan of people showboating too much of their talent, but I can't deny the fact that Caleb totally rocked this performance. Pressure and Time was passionately and intensely delivered, he looked impressively comfortable on stage, and his vocals were spot on. If he manages to deliver solid vocal after solid vocal and remain interesting and not just a one trick pony, he could finish in a surprising position. 8

03. Emily Piriz
Glitter In The Air
So, that happened. Emily Piriz just put herself into the competition with a brilliant rendition of Pink's Glitter In The Air. Yes, I was incredibly shocked that the biggest surprise of the night ended up being Emily. I thought her vocals were strong, with impeccable pitch and great dynamics and this was a break out moment for her. It was also pretty fantastic to see a stripped down performance as opposed to a lot of bells and whistles throughout the night. 8.5

02. Jessica Meuse
The Crow & The Butterfly
Whoa. I can’t deny that The Crow and the Butterfly was, simply put, pretty cool. It was dark, spiritual even, and it will be remembered. Finally, a song that really gels with Jessica’s voice. This is the importance of song selection. Caleb and Emily sang better, but it doesn’t matter. This song worked better with Jessica, and vocals be damned, it became a better performance. That's not to say her vocals were bad because this was probably her strongest vocal performance to date and I hope more people understand just how amazing this woman is and why she deserves to go far in this competition. 8.5 

01. Alex Preston
A Beautiful Mess
Alex had an awesome performance tonight! I’ve watched it back several times so far and I am struck by how strong his connection with the material was and how he always has the ability to draw me in. His vocals weren't perfect, but I feel like he really has something powerful to say and I’m drawn to his music because of that opinion. I can’t wait to see what he does next, but he very may well have knocked his biggest competitors from the competition in one swift stroke. And the fact that I saw Alex & Sierra supporting him was all kinds of awesome. Oh, and Harry Connick, Jr. I don't agree with you. Haha.


Who should go? 
Kristen O'Connor

Who will go?
Kristen O'Connor


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