American Idol Top 13 Announcement Recap: Where the Wild Cards Are [Updated]

idol-top-13-announcement-jessica-majestyThere’s been a decided lack of bullishness among the American Idol faithful over the last 48 hours regarding the Season 13 Top 30 — or at least the singers’ less-than-scintillating efforts during the show’s inaugural “Rush Week” festivities.

Call me a relentless optimist (who still thinks “I’m on a Roll” should/could be a Top 10 hit), but I’m not ready to fully write off any of the current crop of contestants — not considering the sadistic setup of Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s semifinal telecasts.

I mean, imagine attempting to execute an astonishingly stressful project at your day job while sitting in a shark cage made out of off-brand paper towels. (“Oooh! Your Idol recapper is still typing despite the fact that he’s being torn into bite-sized chunks by a Great White. Guess he should’ve used Bounty!”)

I’m not sure what executive producer Per Blankens was thinking, but he couldn’t have expected Allison Iraheta “Alone”-level performances by planning two nights of live shows during which a full third of the singers would be axed without getting to belt a single note. Even more confounding, the “lucky” ones sometimes had to wait up to two hours in a grim holding cell — cameras all up in their grill — before being told “you’re on!,” experiencing an extreme adrenaline rush and then being foisted onto the stage to try to master “intonation,” “performance” and “make love to the camera” face. Also: Confidence! Humility! And not openly vomming at memories of Randy Jackson’s insipid “tips.”

Anyhow… on to the Top 13 announcement. Ryan Seacrest was so quick in revealing the five guys and five ladies put through by viewer votes, that I actually worried for a minute that Fox was going to pull a switcheroo and try to trick us into watching Rake from 8:15-9:00. (#NeverGonnaHappen) Here’s who got the good news…

SENT THROUGH TO THE TOP 10 BY VIEWER VOTES (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
Malaya Watson
Ben Briley
Emily Piriz
Alex Preston
Jessica Meuse
Dexter Roberts
Caleb Johnson
Majesty Rose
M.K. Nobilette
Sam Woolf
(Could the order have been any less suspenseful? I mean, everyone knew MK and Sam were locks? Why not call them first and leave less clear-cut folks like Emily and Dexter for the end? #obvious)

J.Lo then grabbed the mic and explained that of the 10 singers left in jeopardy, the judges would ask five to sing, then ultimately choose three of ’em to round out the Season 13 Top 13.  As I gritted my teeth and tried to brace myself for a Kendra Chantelle- or Lisa Leuschner-level injustice, here’s what occurred:

GIVEN A CHANCE BY THE JUDGES TO SING FOR A WILD CARD
C.J. Harris: Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” — Grade: B- | Keith was right that C.J. appeared to mentally drift in and out of the performance — to the point where I began focusing on things like, “Maybe he coulda shaved” and “Is that a variation on Pharrell’s hat?” rather than the actual vocal. Based on his body of work to date, I’m not upset about the judges giving a shot to C.J., but based on tonight’s number alone, I wish it had gone to Malcolm.

Jena Irene Asciutto: A self-penned song called “Unbreakable Me” — Grade: A | This was — hands down — the best performance of Season 13 “Rush Week.” As Keith noted, Jena was completely raw and vulnerable at the keyboards, with no accompaniment from the band, and yet she siezed the opportunity with the ferocity of a lionness spying a particularly meaty antelope. The fact that Jena proved her songwriting chops and showcased her gruff-but-ethereal tone in the process is just the hot fudge on top of some already perfect ice cream. Could she be Idol‘s first Wild Card winner? It’s not hard to imagine, is it? At minimum, her “Unbreakable Me” prompted the following, not-at-all-dramatic Tweet from yours truly. (Uff da — it’s too early to be in this deep, isn’t it?)

Spencer Lloyd: An original (I think?) about “Ordinary Girls” — Grade: C+ | I was sure the judges would give Spencer a slot in the Top 13 even if he’d decided to bite the head off a dove and then smash his guitar over Sam Woolf’s noggin. But amazingly, J.Lo put aside Idol‘s standard operating attraction to cute boys who activate sorority-girl screaming and instead told Spencer that his tepid performance of a not-very-rangey original song wasn’t what she “would’ve wanted America to see.” I also wish she’d told him the Hugh Grant-ish, mush-mouthed intro didn’t help his case, either. Oy!

Bria Anai: “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” — Grade: C+ (but the personality/star quality gets an A-!) | I so so so wanted Bria to be amazing, after her hilarious pre-performance chat about her thumping heart and her promise that “Oh, y’all gonna get a show!” As Harry noted, though, Bria’s cover of the James Brown claci was “all over the place” — with the teenage singer repeatedly losing control of the melody, her sense of pitch slamming into the brick wall of her passion and conviction. Oh, kiddo, take a few years and we’ll see you on The Voice around 2015, mmkay?

Kristen O’Connor: Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” — Grade: B | Kristen (in genie pants perhaps designed to detract from her beauty) colored nicely within the lines of one of La Perry’s most boring singles. But if I’m being honest, she did it with about as much personality as a slice of Wonder Bread, lightly toasted, with just a smidge of margarine. Girlfriend definitely has talent and a very pretty tone, but I get the sense she’s trying so hard to come off like the “perfect pop star” (whatever that is) that she forgets the best pop stars are individuals, real humans with flaws and eccentricities and grit and humor. If those qualities are percolating beneath Kristen’s beautifully manicured exterior, I suggest she bring ’em to the surface next Wednesday — or get relegated to a 13th-place finish. (Her cheering section, BTW? Remarkably good lookin’! It had to be said.)

ELIMINATED PRIOR TO WILD CARD ANNOUNCEMENT
Briana Oakley
Marrialle Sellars — I didn’t see that coming!
Emmanuel Zidor
George Lovett
Malcolm Allen — I didn’t want to see that coming!

WILD CARD WINNERS
Jena Irene [YAY! MY TV LIVES ANOTHER DAY!]
Kristen O’Connor
C.J. Harris

ALSO ELIMINATED
Bria Anai
Spencer Lloyd

And with that last announcement, Sony Pictures has greenlit the new romcom How J.Lo Got Her Credibility Back!

AND WITH THAT RIDICULATA… I turn it over to you!

What did you think of Top 13 announcement episode. Did anyone get snubbed of a chance to sing for the judges? (I vote Briana and Malcolm!) Did the judges make the right choice about who ultimately got the Wild Cards? And who’s your fave(s) from the Top 13? Sound off below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIM_H23g1co