Thursday, June 5, 2014

American Idol 13 Wrap-Up: 25 Best Performances

To the obligatory count: 6 months. 39 episodes. 165 live performances. 14 elimination rounds. 197 Jennifer Lopez closeups. 0 Mariah Carey. Haha. That's right, another season in the history books and like old tradition I compiled a list of the most memorable live performances up to the Finale.

Season 13 was quiet a ride. It's not the best season EVER, but the kids this season managed to deliver outstanding performances, which made this a little hard to rank. But yes, I did my very best!

Anyway, just like many other lists or countdowns, this one is extremely biased. It's based on personal preferences. There will probably be some performances that are nowhere to be found on your list that may be as high as 10 or something on here - actually I guarantee it. But please respond maturely, flames don't make me particularly happy.

SEASON 9 Best Performances 
SEASON 10 Best Performances
SEASON 11 Best Performances
SEASON 12 Best Performances

Now, we pay tribute to the LIVE performances that made this season worth watching - and reviewing!:

Honorable Mentions!

The Long and Winding Road
Malaya Watson
Top 9

Can't You See
CJ Harris
Top 11

Sting Me
Caleb Johnson
Top 6

Lucky Man
Dexter Roberts
Top 12

Jolene
Jessica Meuse
Top 6

Here are the TOP 25 Best Live Performances of Season 13:

25. Take Me To The King
Malaya Watson

Week: Top 12
Theme: Home

When Malaya finally decided to calm down, she was able to bring back some of that interesting quality to her voice that was missing over the past few weeks. Her vocals were good, there was confidence and flavor to this performance and I felt that she had made a genuine connection to the material. I have to wonder though if the damage is already done or if Malaya will be able to get off the mat and show a little more fight. This was a very important week for the young contestant, that I figured if she survived and seized this momentum, she might be able to salvage her once promising start.

24. All Of Me
MK Nobilette

Week: Rush Week
Theme: Open

This was absolutely gorgeous. All Of Me was a beautiful, haunting ballad that just turned MK into a force on this program. When most of the girls were freaking out about vocal gymnastics and spectacle, she just delivered an honest and subdued performance that had more power than Marrialle's Roar. Haha. This, to me, was solidly awesome. 

23. Time After Time
Sam Woolf

Week: Top 8 Redux
Theme: 80's

I argued that this will never go down as Sam's defining moment on American Idol, but I ended up eating my own words. Time After Time was a solid solo performance, as he proved, yet again, how radio ready he sounds. The effort that was seen on his face as he told the story of the song was palpable and measurable. His vocals were flawless, the liberties he took with the song was fantastic, and the acoustic arrangement did him wonders.

22. Falling Slowly
Alex Preston

Week: Top 11
Theme: Songs from the Cinema

This wasn't as good as Kris Allen's version a couple of years back, but Alex turned in possibly one of his most consistent vocal performances of the season. Falling Slowly was a note-to-note achievement for him and the liberties he took with the melody especially that cascading notes towards the end was quite spectacular. It's raw, haunting and beautiful. Oh, and that little bit of flair thrown on top of his delivery was pretty interesting to watch.

21. Happy
Majesty Rose

Week: Rush Week
Theme: Open

Majesty's choice to sing Happy was pretty brilliant as it really showcased the type of artist that she wants to be. She has a great current sound, she owned the stage and seemed comfortable, and she's such a savvy contestant that knows exactly what to sing and when to sing it. To me, she seems to have a great grasp on what she needs to accomplish and sets her goals accordingly. Her version wasn't flawless, but it worked.

20. Summertime Sadness
Jessica Meuse

Week: Top 5
Theme: America's Request

Jessica's selection of Summertime Sadness worked perfectly for her and she finally broke through one of her personal glass ceilings. She was emoting! There was confidence and flavor to this performance and I felt that she had made a genuine connection to the material. There's sadness to her eyes that was riveting to watch. Add to that her impeccable vocals and this easily trumped her other great rendition of Human.

19. Bring Me To Life
Jena Irene

Week: Top 9
Theme: I'm With The Band

This was a rather predictable song choice for Jena, but that didn't make it any less impressive. Aided by her soulful and rich tone, her version of Bring Me To Life reigned supreme over most of the performances. She looked comfortable engaging with the band and the audience, her transitions were spot on, her vocals were great, and there's a dark quality to her voice that matched the tune perfectly.

18. Glitter In The Air
Emily Piriz

Week: Top 13
Theme: This Is Me

So, that happened. Emily Piriz just put herself into the competition that week with a brilliant rendition of Pink's Glitter In The Air. Yes, I was incredibly shocked that the biggest surprise that 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.

17. Maybe I'm Amazed
Caleb Johnson

Week: Top 4
Theme: Make-Up

Caleb's rendition of Maybe I'm Amazed was one of his shining moments and proved my point. He's very talented once he is reined in and given limitations and subtlety. We saw a very restrained, but vocally superior performance from him and it was a pleasant departure from his usual loud antics. This was emotional and we finally got to hear him sing something with more depth.

16. A Beautiful Mess
Alex Preston

Week: Top 13
Theme: This Is Me

I’ve watched it back several times so far and I'm still 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. And with that, he very may well have knocked his biggest competitors from the competition in one swift stroke.

15. Dream On
Caleb Johnson

Week: Top 2
Theme: Simon Fuller's Choice

He started this song out a tad wobbly and it was just basically an outstanding karaoke version of Dream On, but as a whole, this was undeniably a solid triple for Caleb Johnson that put him right at the top of the game. His vocals were mostly impressive, that high note was superb, and there's power to his delivery. Good job!

14. Rolling In The Deep
Jena Irene

Week: Top 8
Theme: Audition Song

Wow. I love the song and I have heard it sung on American Idol - and other singing reality competition - a few times, but no one has ever captured the haunting feeling of the song like Jena Irene. The connection to the lyrics, the phrasing, the interpretation, the arrangement, and the vocals were ALL spot on. This allowed her to connect on a visceral level and I liked that it started off slow and passionate, and then heated to a full boil. I was completely and utterly and pleasantly taken aback.

13. Fairytales
Alex Preston

Week: Top 8
Theme: Audition Song

Gorgeous! When Alex stood there and sung those awesome lyrics and fantastic melody, I couldn't help but be excited for him. The song he wrote was a beautiful match to his haunting tone and the way he was caressing each work and phrase tenderly was riveting to watch. He allowed himself the vulnerability to back off a note or two, allow a few vocal cracks, and create an honesty that so many of these American Idol performances often lack.

12. You And I
Jessica Meuse

Week: Top 4
Theme: Make-Ups

Jessica had a rough first two performances during that week, but she quickly redeemed herself on this one. She delivered pristine vocals that were practically dripping with emotions. I loved that she finally connected to a big song on an emotional front and it hooked me in. I had goosebumps and I could sense the pain in her voice. This was Jessica all guns blazing. Just lovely.

11. Stay
Alex Preston

Week: Top 3
Theme: Judges' Choice

His take on Rihanna's ballad allowed him to sing to the best of his ability and do what he does best: connect with the viewers. This was flat out awesome. The arrangement was a brave move, but it worked and his vocals were pretty fantastic - especially the vocal flourishes he added at the end. I previously thought that if he made it to the Finale, this strategy was his only hope. Make Jena and Caleb seem like nothing more than just a voice and put yourself in the position of being the true musician.

10. Dazed & Confused
Caleb Johnson

Week: Top 9
Theme: I'm With The Band

This was a strong song choice, and this theme - no matter how vague - felt custom made for Caleb it isn't even funny. But yes, he owned the stage like a pro! His voice has the power to really lift a verse and he makes each one a different experience. The intensity and passion was palpable and the audience clearly ate it up, his timing especially for a hard song to sing was impressive, and it's almost transfixing. At that point, Caleb was like a snowball rolling down a hill and the other contestants were just harmless twigs in his way.

09. The Crow And The Butterfly
Jessica Meuse

Week: Top 13
Theme: This Is Me

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. 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.


08. When I Was Your Man
Malaya Watson

Week: Top 10
Theme: Billboard Top 10

This song choice was apparently a risk because, one, she already tackled a Bruno Mars' song with Runaway Baby a couple of weeks ago and it landed her in the Bottom 3, and two, mostly because of the gender roles in the song. But quite honestly, I didn’t care. I doubt many did. She sang it so well with impeccable dynamics and control that I wasn’t even paying attention to the lyrics. Malaya just brought the soul out of the song and it soared. It was such an effortless showing and she looked incredibly comfortable the entire time. The emotional connection, the phrasing, the vocals, the dynamics, the ability to connect to her material; all of it blew me away.

07. Always On My Mind
Alex Preston

Week: Top 6
Theme: Country

This was an astounding example of how great a ballad can sound when it's prepared with thought. This was technically beautiful and emotionally powerful as he managed to locked in the soul of this number. It's haunting and lovely. Nothing more to say.

06. Skyfall
Caleb Johnson

Week: Top 11
Theme: Songs from the Cinema

While Skyfall was a little too subtle for a Caleb perfomance, this was, to me, his best of the season. His placement this evening was pretty spot on that it really let some clarity shine through in his upper register. Plus, Caleb delivered a very old-school American Idol performance that relied on impressive vocals backed with a song choice that was purely unexpected. He was becoming a contestant who clearly just wants to go on stage, let loose, and rock out, so this was a pleasant surprise for him. 

05. Blue-Eyed Lie
Jessica Meuse

Week: Top 8
Theme: Audition Songs

Pure. Fierce. Very. Cool. Stuff. This was an absolutely beautiful song written by Jessica and there's a confidence to her delivery that I haven't seen from her before. She's obviously in her element and it showed. The opening verse with sparse instrumentation was a good touch, and when the band kicked in, there's an urgency to the melody that was terrific. Oh, and that soulful wailing at the middle and impassioned pleas was flawless.

04. Say Something
Alex Preston

Week: Top 5
Theme: America's Request

See, I don't care if this season isn't up to everyone's standards because it just takes one contestant to prove how important this program is to America. Alex is officially a force to be reckoned with and Say Something is probably one of his finest moments.  The emotional connection, the phrasing, the vocals, the ability to connect to his material; all of it blew me away. Plus, the staging with the girl back up singer completely back lit so she was only in the shadows allowed for a seriously great visual moment. This was easily one of my favorite performances of the season.

03. Decode
Jena Irene

Week: Top 11
Theme:  Songs from the Cinema

The week I figured Jena's darkhorse quality. This was every bit as haunting as Alex Preston's Falling Slowly and every bit as vocally impressive as Caleb's Skyfall. Yes, this was very good. The intensity was palpable, her vocals soared, and the vocal dynamic was compelling. It was a savvy performance, and she then clearly locked down a particular style after this performance.

02. Creep
Jena Irene

Week: Top 7
Theme: Competitor's Pick

Jena wasn't a fan favorite and she wasn't the "chosen one", but she has fought every single week for her place on this show based on her tremendous talent. And yes, she showcased that full on with her impeccable version of Creep. Viewers of this show are often looking for a water cooler moment and I think they found one that night. This was by far one of the strongest performances I have seen all season. Her vocals were powerful and soared to new heights and the way she worked with the dynamics of the song was like watching a vocal masterclass. I was seriously considering of punching a soul that week if she gets cut before Top 3.

01. Can't Help Falling In Love
Jena Irene

Week: Top 4
Theme: Make-Ups

This was Jena in her element. I admit, I was a little skeptical with the song choice at first, but she managed to deliver a stirring vocal that will be named THE best of the season. It was gorgeous, haunting, restrained that showed everyone the difference between knowing what you're singing about, and just making noise. Outstanding.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great list! Although I do think you might have forgotten some: like Jena's Barracuda?

But anyway, the song is called "Glitter in the Air", not "Glitter in the Dark". Small mistake, it happens.

Neha Kapoor said...

Great info. Thank You very much!

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