American Idol Top 13 Performance Recap: Beautiful? Disaster? [Updated]

Jessica Meuse American IdolI’m not gonna lie to you: I went from mildly concerned to truly and deeply vexed during the first half-hour of tonight’s American Idol Top 13 performance episode. We had Mumbles McGillicuddy, Wacky Sharpenstein, Blankity Blankerson and Speedy McCountry all hitting the stage and delivering varying degrees of the night’s opening song title: “Aw Naw.”

Was it simply a case of nerves or could it have been those pesky in-ear monitors? Was it the fact that the first 15 rows of the audience were populated by the cast of AMC’s exciting new spinoff series The Swaying Dead? Or maybe, just maybe, it was the presence of “mentor” Randy Jackson, offering pre-performance soundbites so hollow that I swear I saw a woodpecker fly out the center of one of ‘em.

[Side memo to executive producer Per "Uncle PB" Blankens: STOP TRYING TO MAKE THE DAWG HAPPEN.]

But if you were a little patient and willing to play through the pain, if you didn’t switch channels to Mixology because of the simple fact that they used an Adam Lambert tune in their promos, there were rewards to be reaped.

The Season 13 judges’ panel — even J.Lo, or perhaps especially J.Lo — offered straightforward, astute feedback and showed a willingness to not cover its critiques in a poncho of butterflies. And little by little, the contestants started getting better — with five or six vocalists delivering promising enough performances that you could almost imagine ‘em getting the confetti shower that a dapper Ryan Seacrest talked about at the top of the show.

_MB13744But enough tap-dancing around who rocked and who crumbled. Let’s cut to the letter grades for tonight’s performances!

TONIGHT’S SET LIST WITH LETTER GRADES
Dexter Roberts: Chris Young’s “Aw Naw” — Grade: C | Dexter’s a charming kid with a decent voice, but his diction tonight was so atrocious, I only understood maybe a third of the words splilling out of his mouth. Yes, I should probably be thankful for said fact, considering that the title of his chosen ditty sounds like the unofficial motto of the Professional Bull Riders Association, but still… If Mr. Roberts survives into Top 12 week, might I suggest he remember his Hollywood Week promise to “Dexterize” everything he sings, and then rework a completely unexpected song choice into his preferred bro-country wheelhouse?

Malaya Watson: Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” – Grade: D+ | Please, please tell me I was halluscinating that final bit of banter where the judges encouraged Malaya to bring her tuba to the stage in the coming weeks. With her carefully crafted wackiness and “puppy greeting its family after a week’s vacation” energy, the kid is already teetering on the edge of being labeled a joke contestant. A giant brass instrument is not gonna help matters. But back to “Runaway Baby”: Was anyone else confounded by the fact that Randy, in his mentorly wisdom, apparently did nothing to dissuade this teenage girl from choosing a frenetic funk jam with lyrics about a lothario on the prowl for a one-night-stand? I’m guessing the only reason Harry Connick Jr didn’t ask Malaya if she understood the meaning of the song was because her nasal, out-of-tune delivery presented far greater problems. When J.Lo tells you you’ve gone “off the rails,” a Bottom 3 placement seems almost guaranteed.

Kristen O’Connor: Kelly Clarkson’s “Beautiful Disaster” – Grade: D+ | “I have a lot to prove,” Kristen explained, prior to her performance. And alas, after subjecting the audience to a turgid, beauty-pageant arrangement of a song that proved far too range-y for her voice, that statement has now been bolded, italicized and underlined for emphasis. The judges cut Kenzie Hall, Sarina-Joi Crowe, Tessa Kate, Jillian Jensen, Nica Nashae, Austin Wolfe, Andrina Brogden and Paisley Van Patten for this? Dial 1-855-I-CAHHHNT.

Ben Briley: Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” — Grade: C+ | Look, I appreciated Ben’s attempt at originality, the way he cranked up the tempo and added a little O Brother, Where Art Thou? rollick to a country-blues classic. The trouble was, like a souffle that collapses before you’ve taken it out of the oven, the end result was a mess. As time went zipping on, Ben’s words began to slur into a sludge of consonants and his voice began to tighten up into an almost unpleasant growl. On the plus side, though, the neatly trimmed beard and black leather cap provided a solid style upgrade. And if I’m being completely honest, the guy’s willingness to take a massive risk — albeit an ill-advised one — at least has me intrigued to see what he’ll cook up next week. (And I do hope there’s a next week.)

C.J. Harris: Darius Rucker’s “Radio” — Grade: C+ | In the 13-course meal that was tonight’s Idol, C.J.’s “Radio” was the house salad with some shredded carrots, two tomato wedges and a little oil and vinegar. Which is to say it wasn’t terrible — not by any stretch — despite C.J. sounding intermittently winded and not landing some of his held notes as cleanly as he might’ve wanted to. The bigger problem for C.J. is that, at this stage of the competition, it’s often better to be bad (and activate your terrified fan base) than boring (and have folks forget to cast votes altogether). We’ll see if my theory holds true — with C.J. occupying a Silver Stool of Doom (™) — come Thursday night.

M.K. Nobilette: Allen Stone’s “Satisfaction” — Grade: B- | M.K.’s got a tone that’s undeniably sweet with just a hint of cragginess, kind of like a toasted English muffin with butter and strawberry jam. (Holy crow, I am hungry while I write this!) And the good news is that “Satisfaction” — in addition to being the most unexpected song choice of the evening — showcased the best parts of her instrument. Harry, though, summed up perfectly M.K.’s biggest problem: Whenever there are pauses, whenever she’s waiting for her next note to arrive, you can almost see M.K.’s attention drift. And that lack of on-stage fire proved especially problematic on a swaggery soul jam like “Satisfaction” than it did on the quieter fare she served up in her previous performances. M.K.’s stage presence could easily improve with time and experience — but by my calculations, she’ll need to pull that off in the next two or three weeks, tops.

Majesty Rose: Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” — Grade: B+ | Did a contestant actually cover Janelle Monae on Idol? A week after covering Pharrell? Oh, yes she did. And despite a couple tiny glitches — was it me, or was the mic positioned in a way that a couple of Majesty’s notes were inaudible? — the season-long fave held her position near the front of the pack, and did it with just the right balance of confidence and humility. (How could she ever have worried?!) There’s a freshness to Majesty’s voice and an unexpectedness to the way she zigs and zags through a song that has me practically ready to pre-order her album. And, um, it’s only Week 1 of the finals!

Jena Irene: Coldplay’s “The Scientist” — Grade: B+ | I’m not sure how or why somebody — Jena? Randy? Rickey Minor? — decided to pick up the tempo of Coldplay’s gorgeously mournful ballad here, but I’ll admit it took my ears (and Jena’s voice) a few bars to adjust. Once the train got out of the station (so to speak), though, I definitely found myself sitting in the luxury car — the one with fine dining and comfy seats — thanks to Jena’s insanely luscious and intensely emotional delivery. She hits big glory notes with such effortlessness — and yet infuses them with an individuality that many “belt-y” types can’t — that I get excited thinking about the possibility of her exploring more offbeat, unexpected terrain. Here’s hoping the 17-year-old has the creativity and the guts to go there!

Alex Preston: Jason Mraz’s “A Beautiful Mess” — Grade: A- | Harry complained about the “inward” vibe of Alex’s quiet, acoustic number, but I couldn’t have disagreed more. By choosing a lesser-known song and performing it with the intimacy of a whisper, Alex was able to highlight the limberness of his instrument, his ability to swoop into gritty places and then flutter into a delicate falsetto. Plus, Alex also made an incredibly verbose song sound deceptively breezy. The presence of X Factor Season 3 champs Alex & Sierrra (and Idol Top 30 contestant Jillian Jensen) in his cheering section hints that Alex is most likely a “musician’s musician” — and if he can succeed in looking perhaps just 10 percent less irked while he’s singing, he might turn out to be America’s musician, too.

Jessica Meuse: Shinedown’s “The Crow And The Butterfly” — Grade: A- | Is anyone else stoked that Top 13 night played out like a Jeopardy category called “Songs You’ll Never, Ever Expect to Hear on Idol” (with Jessica’s pick in the $800 box)? In all seriousness, though, the bewitching quality of Jessica’s pipes — paired up with the dark poetry of Shinedown’s lyrics — transported me…I’m not sure where, exactly, but to a mindspace much moodier than your average talent-show cover of “I Have Nothing” or “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.” J.Lo made a good point that Jessica’s sometimes stilted body language needs to match the limberness of her vocals — it might’ve been nice if she’d worked the stage and dragged the mic stand behind her — but hearing her harmonize with Season 8 standout (and current Idol house band background vocalist Allison Iraheta) was like a zing of minty toothpaste washing away the plaque of the night’s opening five performances. J’approve!

Emily Piriz: Pink’s “Glitter in the Air” — Grade: B- | Emily’s voice is very pretty — and I don’t mean that in a dismissive way. She reaches for glory notes with as little strain as I do when I grab a block of cheddar out of the cheese drawer of my fridge. But as Keith sagely noted, Emily’s rendition lacked the grit and ferocity — “the yang” — that Pink uses to make her crowd-pleasing pop hooks so special. In her fab silver minidress — her eyes locked on the camera with guided-missile precision — Emily embodied the perfect prefab Idol contestant (a “package artist!” as Kara DioGuardi used to say). But as far as convincing me that she’s a viable artist with a visceral connection to her music? I’m gonna suggest Emily YouTube Season 11 alum Erika Van Pelt’s Idol summer tour cover of “Glitter in the Air” as a beginner’s tutorial.

Sam Woolf: Matchbox 20′s “Unwell” — Grade: B- | Sam’s been so adorably solid in every prior instance this season that he can afford a misfire or two, but “Unwell” nevertheless provided a crisp and unwelcome slap to Idoloonies who’d already placed their bets on his inevtiable march to victory. As Harry noted, Matchbox Twenty’s jam is all about being messed up — feeling on the edge of a breakdown — and yet Sam delivered it with all the edge and humor of an Ivory Soap commercial (although he did deliver it with perfect pitch). Perhaps the inexplicably sluggish tempo robbed the song of any sense of urgency. Perhaps it was the song choice itself that was the problem, too straight-up-the-middle pop for a kid who’s been dabbling in Ed Sheeran and David Gray. Or maybe it was that terrible SwayBot in the blue dress who kicked off Sam’s performance by desperately seeking screentime. Whatever the case, methinks it’s time for Sam to challenge himself a little — maybe flip the script and choose something by a female artist — to keep himself out of the midpack swamp in the coming weeks.

Caleb Johnson: Rival Sons’ “Pressure and Time” — Grade: A- | OK, yeah, Caleb got crazy smoke machines to aid in building the drama of his Rock God aspirations. And yeah, the dude’s styling still reads very “midsize city Rock of Ages production.” But those things aside, “Pressure and Time” displayed a ferocious energy and vocal spotlessness that was in short supply among the Top 13. Caleb delivers his campy brand of old-school rock as if he doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone: He believes he’s a star, and that swagger — which is backed by a powerful set of pipes — then becomes a very easy stock to purchase. Yes, Keith’s right that Caleb’s got to avoid coming off too “retro,” that he’s got to find a “little twist” — which may be as easy as cutting a couple inches off his shaggy hair and appointing Chris Daughtry as his fashion inspiration — but that’s a minor hurdle compared to the ones faced by Malaya, Kristen, Dexter and C.J., no?

Should Be Bottom 3: Malaya, Kristen, Dexter (with Kristen going home)
Will Be Bottom 3: Kristen, C.J., Ben (with Kristen going home)

And with that, I pass the mic to you. What did you think of the Top 13? Who were your faves? Who’s in trouble? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!


Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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439 Comments
  1. Joe says:

    So Malaya’s job is to come out each episode and act like the Family Guy version of Margot Kidder? Cool. Glad we have that settled.
    Dexter became irrelevant once Ben Briley served up Folsom although watching Ben’s wife sing “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” instead of Ben was off putting. In fact, if the contestants loved one’s are singing along? Don’t cut to them. Kay? And where was Harry asking Ben what those lyrics meant? Hmmm?
    Kristen aka The Love Doll did something tonight. I just can’t remember what…
    Majesty is what I imagine Sondra and Elvin’s daughter to have turned out like. I adore her.
    So MK is getting points, props and praise even when she sucks? That wasn’t a good performance. It was a borderline car wreck. So out of her lane and not in a good way. I’m all for her backstory and I love her acoustic moments, but praising her up after a night like tonight is wrong.
    Jena made me long for Katelynn Epperly on the piano. I still like Jena though.
    CJ made me long for Hootie.
    Even though Alex reminds me of Sloth from The Goonies, he’s my favorite. Idol’s never had a contestant like him before.
    Amanda Peet sang Pink and Harry didn’t cross examine her. Progress.
    Pink hair didn’t sing Pink, but all of sudden sounded like she should be fronting the next iteration of Evanescence once they dump Carly Smithson.
    Meat Loaf stole the show.
    I’m starting a Kickstarter to get Sam Wolf a mouthpiece so he doesn’t grind his teeth and one of those stress balls he can squeeze before he spontaneously combusts on his way to the title. If Randy says about Sam, “Yo Yo. The only thing standing in Sam’s way? It’s Sam, dog” and my life will be complete.

    • Angela says:

      ROTFL at “Meat Loaf stole the show”. My mom made the same comparison tonight :D.
      I missed the part where they cut to Ben’s wife singing along. That’s hilarious. And I agree with you. We’re here to watch the contestants sing, not the audience or their families.

      • AlyB says:

        That’s hilarious. I thought the exact same thing though I have to admit he sounded great tonight. I actually think he and Jessica had the best vocals tonight. The retro shtick might wear thin soon so I hope he does take the judges advice and start showing something uniquely him.

    • tealeaves says:

      Amanda Peet. lol

    • leftcoastl says:

      Great to see you posting Joe. As in past seasons, I’m looking forward to your entries as much as MS’s.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Joe, I enjoyed your post and was surprised to read your comments about MK. I’m just not on the MK train. Because she’s a lesbian I almost feel badly about being critical of MK. I sit here and wait for everyone to clobber me for being homophobic, but that’s crazy – I’m a huge fan of hometown girl Melissa Etheridge. I didn’t enjoy her performance AT ALL tonight and in the name of everything holy I agree with the person that posted she needs to ditch the stupid backwards baseball cap. It just looks ridiculous.

      • darcy the slutty twin says:

        To put it bluntly, MK is overrated, especially by Michael Slezak. Gosh I find her so dull and flat.

      • Syb says:

        I think MK is talented, but I thought her song choice and performance last night was a mess. Maybe she was trying to show versatility, but it didn’t work for her voice, and felt awkward. I don’t care how she dresses or who she is in her personal life. I just wait for music I enjoy to support a contestant’s run, and that fell flat literally and figuratively.

      • ben says:

        You are completely allowed to not like MK and NOT be called out as being homophobic, darcy. I like MK quite a lot (I found her last nights performance her least good so far, but even that I still enjoyed). But if I see you comment on not liking her on any given week, and you get called homophobic, I’ll be standing up for you.

      • Tahoe Mike says:

        I haven’t made up my mind about MK. I’ve heard her sound good, and I think there is something there. What puts me off about her is that she looks like her dream is to be the lead singer in an all lesbian Justin Bieber cover band. Something about her look reminds me of that twerp. I’m trying not to hold it against her, but…

      • Joe says:

        darcy my old pal – MK is definitely being graded on a curve. I really despise that. Slezak is already grading her a full grade up on a bad night. I’m a MK fan and I was thrilled she got put through (may have even shed a couple of tears), but she was bad last night. I won’t even go into her styling. That’s irrelevant. Song choice, delivery and her comfort/ability to entertain were all lacking a lot last night. I hope she goes back to the guitar and delivers something intimate since THAT is what got her on the show. Not her showmanship. Her appeal is intimacy. Very similar to Alex in that respect. The last thing we need to see from Alex is him losing the guitar and trying to sell Wake Me Up Before You Go Go while 80′s dancing. If they want to compete with the Voice, they need to let contestants stay in their lanes and stop telling them to do ridiculous stunt performances to show their “range”.

  2. Syb says:

    Would definitely not give Jena such a high grade. I thought it was very brassy and overwrought. Too bad because I liked her last week.

  3. Country J. says:

    I also think MK slipped a little tonight, from the early top 3 popularity posts I seen around the net this past week. Alex remained consistant, with his range and individualistic singing style. Sam was just o.k., but he is getting the bump from younger female voters – we had 3 girls in their teens watching with us in an Idol Watch group tonight, and they all were voting for Sam, while some also voted for others.

  4. Adam Fachry says:

    Is it just me or does Emily remind anyone of Allison Williams a.k.a. Marnie from Girls, too?

    • Stormy says:

      I don’t watch Girls, so can’t speak to that, but Kristin seems like she should be on PLL. Although Lucy Hale is a better singer.

  5. joelscorp says:

    It’s pretty clear who’s strong and who’s weak, though MK (integrity) and Sam (looks) are way overrated as singers. What interests me most is Jena. She only really sounds good singing Lorde-type songs or Adele, so this sounded off and forced to me. I think I see Majesty and Caleb going all the way so far, unless Jessica sings and chooses this well every time. Alex is skilled, just not entertaining.

  6. Loretta says:

    I never post on these boards, but I am I am so relieved that others found the early performances lacking. I thought maybe I was just extra cranky tonight. I am sure that as time goes on, the performers will get more comfortable.

  7. Voice is boring says:

    Great to see Alex and Sierra there.

  8. tealeaves says:

    My favorites tonight were Majesty, Jessica, and Alex. I can see them all making the top 5.
    Sam has a great voice IMO. I think his performance was too sleepy, but I still liked it.
    Caleb was better last week for me, but I don’t mind that he will be around for a while.
    MK’s vocals are too weak. But I always enjoy her performances. I think she is a refreshing change from everyone else.
    Ben’s performance was too fast for the lyrics. But it was enjoyable especially when compared to Dexter.
    Jena is interesting. I hope she stays for a while. I can imagine her taking risks throughout the competition. If she stays for a while she could become a real contender.
    Emily was good tonight.
    CJ’s been better vocally. I enjoyed his performance but it was not memorable. I hope he stays for another week and gives a powerful vocal next week.
    Malaya should have waited another year or two. But she is different so if she stays around for a while it won’t be the worst thing that could happen.
    Kristen was forgettable but I don’t need to fast forward past her.
    Dexter really picked the wrong song! I expected him to sing something more old-school. I could see him going home this week. If he stays, he needs to pick a more serious song next week.
    I think it is a really good year for Idol.

  9. Sarah says:

    Are there going to be theme weeks this year because otherwise I think emo girls/boys are gonna continue to coffee shop us into a writing angsty fic while the up tempo kids are gonna Sister Act 3 us to death. Yikes

  10. AlyB says:

    I thought Caleb and Jessica were great tonight. Jessica’s vocal was stellar but she does need to loosen up & move a little bit. I enjoyed Emily, Alex, Majesty and MK. Sam sounded good but it wasn’t riveting by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoy Malaya’s energy but she sounded terrible. Ben had a decent vocal but it was like speed singing. I didn’t care for it at all. I don’t think Jena was all that great. Certainly no B+. I expected her to be better. CJ was a disappointment. I really wanted him to do well but this is two performances in a row that weren’t just underwhelming, his vocals were off. Dexter was forgettable. Kristen was just all around awful. I hope she’s going home. It’ll be interesting to see how the voting shakes out. It’s always so hard in the beginning with so many of them that someone good always falls through the cracks.

  11. danin says:

    MK,Caleb,Majesty Alex.my faves tonight.

  12. Tahoe Mike says:

    My votes went to Jessica, Alex, Caleb, and Emily tonight. Jessica has been my fave since I first saw her. These others are growing on me.
    ~
    Malaya irritates me to no end, and every time she sings I resent the fact that she is there and Brandy is not. I want her gone first.
    ~
    SHUT UP RANDY!! It is impossible to express how much I hate the fact that barnacle is still attached to the show in any way. Please tell me he is not going to be there all season, really please; I’m begging.

    • Timmah says:

      I believe Malaya will be going home, and deservedly so. She’s not ready for this competition. Come back in a few years. I think either Brandy or Kenzie should have gotten her spot.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Absolutely this, Timmah.

      • ben says:

        I don’t think Malaya goes home. If she does, I can’t argue against the fact that she deserved it based on her performance. But mostly, I enjoyed watching Malaya last night more than I enjoyed watching Dexter, CJ or Kristen, and I’d sooner see one of those three go home for last nights performance.

  13. greysfan says:

    That was one of the weakest top 13 performance shows i have seen in Idol history. For the first 3/4 of the show i was bored. Really think there is no one special in this bunch of singers this year. There were a few standouts but to be honest there was more talent on the 2 episodes of the voice this week, which surprises me because this is supposed to be the best of the thousands that auditioned. Its no wonder the show isn’t doing as well as it used to because its a boring top 13. It well and truly is.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Is this the first season you’ve watched this program, greysfan? Or did you just forget a few previous seasons?

      • greysfan says:

        Definitely not. I’ve been watching from the beginning. IMO this is the weakest first live performance show we have seen in 13 seasons. There have been a few close in the past couple of years but i think the talent this year is very average in comparison to previous seasons. It was boring and 3/4 of the singers need a wake up call.

    • ben says:

      Couldn’t agree less. I found last year so very boring (and I have found several seasons, I’m not the biggest fan of the top 10-13). This year I’m quite excited by the diversity. I’m not gonna claim its one of the best bunches, but I definitely think its one of the least boring.

  14. David says:

    I have to say that I got more of a karaoke feel tonight than I would have liked. Hopefully the right contestants will get booted but the whole pack is very mixed.

    • Syb says:

      I think the problem with the “pick your favorite song” weeks is that they do tend to end up karoake. The contestant is choosing an original he or she identifies with and then more or less imitates it more often than not. I think that’s one reason that some of the standout performances were on lesser known songs and covered artists.

  15. Viajero says:

    My Top 5 were Caleb, Jessica, Majesty, Emily, and Alex (in that order), with everyone else kind of meh. Bottom 3 were Malaya, Ben and Kristin.

  16. marie says:

    Can we get a cheer for the night’s theme of “This is me “? Even if some of the performances turned out to be lacking, THIS is EXACTLY the kind of fresh and relevant theme I have been hoping for for years. PERFECT theme!

    • LeahKittyS says:

      Up-vote!

    • Tahoe Mike says:

      I am not a fan of such broad themes. This theme basically comes down to sing whatever you want. I don’t mind some newer and more modern themes, but they should be much narrower and more defined than this was.
      ~
      I like seeing them forced to conform to a given genre, or artists catalog. I think it would be fun to see them have weeks where they have to sing from each of the judges catalog. A Keith night, a Harry night, and a night where they all sing Jlo’s songs better than she does.

      • marie says:

        We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one: I LIKE “sing whatever you want.” For me, there’s nothing more inauthentic than forcing a contestant to sing a genre in which they have no interest.
        But I’ll admit, I do like the “sing it better than JLo” theme!

      • sybl says:

        I concur Tahoe. I think we end up with Alex doing his favorite Jason Mraz song just like Jason Mraz, and CJ doing Rucker just like Rucker, etc, (although perhaps not “et. al.” thank heavens.) I don’t mind them being able to choose from their own favored genre once every couple of weeks, especially as they move into two song nights. But when viewers most often complain that the evening was boring, or the performances lackluster, I notice a correlation between the comment and the “Sing what you want” theme. Memorable performances like Adam’s Ring of Fire or Cook’s Billie Jean or Eleanor Rigby came out of themes far from their respective genres.

  17. george says:

    Not only were Alex & Sierra in the audience, but Alex gave his guitar to Alex Preston to use on the performance. They apparently hung out 3 times. Such music heads. That’s pretty cool.

    Nice review, Michael!

    Have to say the judges are so much better this year. I hope we see some growth in these contestants soon, otherwise I may get bored with this season real quick.

    Jessica Meuse was the big surprise for me tonight. She totally nailed it!

  18. Michael, I agree with all your grades for the singers. I hope you are right about those going home. I also want Randy gone from AI. I like Randy but feel his days (like Simon’s) are over. Need new people with some really good ideas and comments (Adam Lambert would be great and current).

  19. tvlover44 says:

    my favs tonight were caleb and jessica. when jessica started her song, her voice sounded so strong and in-tune, i was like, thank you jesus! after what had preceeded her. and she carried that strength and intonation through the whole song. i dug it. i also threw a few votes MK’s way, cause i thought she needed them and would like to see what she’s going to do next.
    .
    also – did y’all catch that they said that candice will be performing on the episode tomorrow night? i pre-ordered her album, and after a few listens, i love several songs. some of the ones that didn’t immediately catch me i now find myself hearing them in my head. i really hope her album does well and that she gets a boost from the guest spot.. i know, though, that she will definitely bring it in her performance on idol and it will be so refreshing to once again experience her combination of smooth, amazing, interesting vocals along with confidence and emotional connection.

  20. Holly says:

    Dexter – Was it just me? Because I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Harry was right about not singing in tune.
    Malaya – Passion is great, but…she has to remember the voice and staying in tune, because she was all over the place.
    Kristen – Um really? I agree with pageant performance. Her voice is not great so I don’t agree with Harry. She sings flat and she can’t hit a high note and she cracks a lot.
    Ben – I did like the performance being up tempo. He definitely knows who he wants to be. It was a fast performance. Going to be interesting how he performs other songs throughout the show…if he remains.
    C.J. – His performance was good. His voice isn’t well polished like some others, so song choice is important and keeping people engaged is key.
    MK – So this is the song that represents who she wants to be as an artist? I didn’t like it. Stage performance was all right, but her voice wasn’t great for me.
    Majesty – I’m glad she started moving around. Her voice was good. The song was good. Now that was a great performance.
    Jena – I like her and I think she has a fantastic voice. I think people will find it hard to like her personality. I think she needs to show more fun and such or the audience can not like her. She needs full circle.
    Alex – I agree he is a musicians musician. He understands music. He reminds me of Jason Mraz or John Mayer. He definitely knows how to bring you in. I think Alex has shown who he truly wants to be.
    Jessica – Her voice was definitely better for me this time around. I agree with JLo about being more relaxed. This is the first time I actually remembered why she was chosen from the beginning.
    Emily – Nice voice but I didn’t see a connection. I agree she’s Idols pre-fabbed idol. It was really boring and lackluster. You need more than being a beautiful vocal performance.
    Sam – Too sqeaky clean is right. I didn’t expect this song choice. Wasn’t in love. Nice voice but he stands in the middle and nothing really makes him special.
    Caleb – I love him. His energy and voice…it’s great. He’s certainly not forgettable. He reminds me a lot of Jack Black, but with a really good voice. He definitely shows who he is and I agree with Keith..now it’s just about putting a spin on the music to make it his own, not energy wise but song wise.

  21. darcy's evil twin says:

    Ah, Caleb, Caleb, Caleb …thank you for that song. Thank you for the electric guitar that’s missing from today’s music. Thank you for the grit that’s missing from so much of today’s music. And thank you for the KISS-style ending. Good job.
    .
    That said I’m a little perplexed by some of the comments here declaring this the worst bunch of contestants ever. Although I’m disappointed that some were sent home (mostly the ladies) I think this is shaping up to be a wonderful season.
    .
    SO….I was right on the money about Malaya. Thank God Harry didn’t ask her what that song was about because her answer might have been scarier than the performance. HORRIBLE song choice. Bye, sweetie.
    .
    I apparently liked Ben Briley and Jeeeena Irene more than Mr. Slezak and many of those that posted here. I liked Jena’s vocals (and I hate Coldplay, by the way) and Ben is reminding me a bit of Taylor HIcks in that he’s more an entertainer than a vocalist.
    .
    I loved the silver dress Emily wore – her vocals on “Glitter in the Air” were very good but it was missing the grit Pink brings to her music (or the “yang” as Keith said).
    .
    Jessica was amazing and Alex was also very good. He’s just so understated. And I liked Sam’s performance but Keith was right – he should have picked up the pace. It was difficult for me to see that performance fitting with the “This is Me” theme, but okay.

    • darcy the slutty twin says:

      Loved Jessica as well. The only problem I had with her performance was it was too short!
      -
      I am starting to find Ben Briley interesting.

  22. darcy's evil twin says:

    Oh, and I forgot about Majesty Rose – her spirit is just infectious! Very good performance.

  23. bobsaccamanna says:

    Or maybe, just maybe, it was the presence of “mentor” Randy Jackson, offering pre-performance soundbites so hollow that I swear I saw a woodpecker fly out the center of one of ‘em. Slezak made me spit my coffee up with that line. I thought we were done with “The Dawg” my god, enough already, we were bludgeoned for 12 seasons, He has nothing to offer. I was ready to flip the channel after “Speedy McCountry butchered one of my favorite songs, my guess is that Johnny Cash was spinning in his grave as fast as Ben was playing that song. It did get better after that though, and for the first time all season there are some contestants that will make me want to tune in to see them progress. Unlike Slezak though, I would rather hear Malaya play the tuba than sing.

  24. Mary says:

    The first few contestants were painful to watch but I will attribute it to nerves and the ear piece. I never understood how Dexter was America choice to make it to the top ten but I guess those good old country boys stick together. Kristen was not as bad as the first two but she needs to loosen up. My top three were Jena, Preston and Jessica. Hard to pick bottom three because about four could fit the bill. I would go with Malaya, Dexter and Kristen. I think Malaya or Dexter should go but I think it will be Kristen because she has no fan base what so ever. I think Malaya has the personality but sorry she never should of been in the top 10. I have yet to hear one good singing performance. Michael leave poor Randy alone, there is not much you can say in 20 seconds.

    • bobsaccamanna says:

      But Mary, Randy has had 12 years to say nothing, he’s like one of those vampires in Night of the Living Dead. Come to think of it, has anyone ever seen Randy in the daylight. Please, that’s enough Dawg, it was supposed to be over. Plus I really think he may have had a say in some of the better singers in the top 30 not getting a chance to perform for votes.

      • Mary says:

        That might be true about the top 30 but I really don’t think he has that much pull. I believe the judges or should I say producers already picked the top 20 and just tried to make it suspenseful, but failed miserably. Randy isn’t my favorite person but to be honest it is getting kind of mundane hearing him being criticized every week. He is like a old shoe – you don’t want to throw it away so you leave it for the dog to chew on. Doesn’t hurt anyone but is comforting knowing it’s there. If nothing else Randy is Nostalgic. The good old days of Idol.

  25. darcy the slutty twin says:

    I’m gonna be a troll and say Jeeena annoyed me last night. She has a very similar style to that overhyped contestant on The Voice who was on Adam’s team. Every time she sang, Blake Shelton would say she was the best. Sarah I think her name was. She and Jeeeena both do the same thing – forcefully “shred” their voice to sound interesting. To my ears, they just sound like they need some strepsils.

  26. jaxguy says:

    Maya was horrible. She shouldn’t even be in the top

  27. billnyc says:

    Critiquing the singers aside, the production of the show was tight! The stage is master craft beautiful, it moved along at a nice pace … short fun artist insight segments, the judges delivered focused real comments and advice, and really no “puffery” (aside from trying to squeeze randy in there but imo even that was a minor blemish in light of AI’s freshened face and pacing).

    Yes the artists up to Majesty were meh BUT I was really excited with each one because they all picked songs that haven’t been done to death. And we’ve all been saying for years that the themes had to change. AI deserves credit for granting that wish with what I thought was a great intro to the top 13: songs that the artists would define themselves as.

    As far as the first few singers seeming to go off the rails so to speak, this is a contest and not everyone is going to go in an nail it. I think it’s best to see what happens with those same “off” contestants next week. Because really they all (most) seem(ed) to have potential, and perhaps the judges real feedback combined with what appears to be a more guided behind the scenes training will give us a surprise of a few contestants who turn things around.

    So in sum, up until before last night, while we all prob would have exchanged at least three of the top 13 with a couple of the other ten that didn’t get there, let’s look at what we DO have now: An Idol production that we’ve been asking for for years along with songs we’ve never heard on Idol delivered by, on the whole, a nice variety of personable contestants who some are good, some not so good, but by nature that’s the only way it can be a contest to find number 1.

    • Mary says:

      Good post, but I will say they need to tone down the band. Some of the contestants were hard to hear clearly due to it.

      • billnyc says:

        Yeah, I noticed on a few songs the band seemed to be ahead or over the singer. Maybe that’s what Harry was saying at the beginning pertaining to the in ear pieces … the singer not getting an accurate feedback (from the audio or audience) which can have a cascading effect on the performance. I suppose the next performances will tell what of it is technical, nerves or just the artist themselves.

    • DonB says:

      I thought the metaphor for the whole night was trying to come with 5 things people don’t know about me in 20 seconds with a mouth full of toothpaste

  28. Michael, extra-sharp aged cheddar, and none of that orange crap. White cheddah is beddah.

  29. ChrissieK says:

    And how much money do you think Idol is throwing at Randy to spout the stupid and inane things he does? Isn’t he just gawd awful though, ewwww.

    Sam Woolf always makes me think of a young Ricky Nelson. Anyone else? (if anyone else on these boards is old enough to know of what I speak!)

    I haven’t seen Ryan’s name mentioned at all…Ryan looked hot last night…a mighty fine suit he was wearing.

    What was up with Keith’s hair?

    I found the background graphics to be waaaay over the top and extremely distracting…wish they could just tone it way down.

    I’m seeing Caleb in Rocky Horror Picture Show! I love this kid, just love him. And Alex. And Majesty. And Jessica.

    All of you at the beginning of these messages who chatted up The Voice, you were doing that on purpose right? Throwing everyone off the trail a little bit and being cute…right? Well don’t do it again it was very immature and dumber than Randy Jackson sitting by the side lines at an episode of American Idol.

    • Gailer says:

      Yes, I get the Ricky Nelson comparison. Caleb can will be Wally. Thanks for the Coke mars. Nelson. Lol

      • Petra says:

        Rick Nelson ???? Not hardly. Rick was seasoned and had more confidence at age 10 than Sam has now. Also better looking and much more appealing. Rick was about Sam’s age when he did BeBop Baby and had star quality coming out of his ears. IMO Sam is not a star.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Thanks, ChrissieK for the smackdown about “The Voice”. Doesn’t that program have its own board? If I wanted to know what was happening on “The Voice” I’d watch the show. Reminds me of my husband hollering, “Hey, come in here and look at THIS (on TV)”. If I wanted to look at that I’d be watching THAT, but I’m in HERE watching MY program. Thank you.
      and yes, I agree about Ricky Nelson and Sam. Good observation.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I also found the graphics a bit much but I have a tendency to close my eyes when I listen to the contestants, so they probably don’t annoy me as much.
      I am thrilled with the new set, the tighter programming, and the judging! The judges are actually JUDGING. Even J-Lo! Yay!

    • Tahoe Mike says:

      Watching replays last night I did notice that Keith had Kate Goslin hair.

  30. jbeee says:

    13. Kristen

    12. Dexter (but I think he is going home)

    11. CJ – He has been fading each week

    10. Malaya – Likeable but in over her head

    9. Emily – Rebounded from last week but in over her head as well

    8. MK – Lack of personality wrecks promise

    7. Jessica – see MK

    6. Caleb – Not sure how the rocker vibe is going to over with the audiences but a dynamic performance tonight.

    5. Jena – Didn’t like this weeks song but so much promise.

    4. Sam – Has everything going for him. Maybe too perfect at times. Young girls love him.

    3. Ben – Does country proud

    2. Alex – Perhaps the best overall musician, but not the best overall performer.

    1. Majesty -hers to lose until something drastic happens. She is infectious

  31. Syb says:

    My top 3 would be Jessica, Majesty and Caleb.
    Bottom 3, Dexter, Malaya and Kristen.
    Disappointing: MK, Jena and CJ.
    I thought Ben did a nice job although it wasn’t an exceptional performance. I felt Alex sang the song way too much like Mraz. He can sing, but that was an imitation not an interpretation. I thought everyone else was pretty forgettable.

  32. joanne says:

    Last night’s show was off balance because the first half featured really bad performances while the second hour featured several solid to strong performances. I hope going forward they balance the performance lineup better.

    I’m still looking for someone to display real star power. Lots of contestants with good and/or interesting voices. But too much low key in terms of performance skills. Caleb, Majesty and Malaya have the best stage presence, but Malaya probably isn’t long for the competition (her vocal was easily the worst of the night) and Caleb might be too much of a throwback to be someone modern rock audiences would be interested in.

    Alex is the one who I think could breakout, although after he performed Volcano I wondered if he was going to remind me too much of Phillip Phillips rather than stand out as an unique artist. I don’t think PP would ever cover Jason Mraz, so last night’s strong performance by Alex helped me in that regard.

    Sam needs an injection of personality, STAT. The kid is adorable and his tone is wonderful but he is so bland and boring when he performs. Sleepy. Someone give him a Red Bull or something.

    I like Jena, but the first part of “The Scientist” sounded way off key. And other ex-Idols (Katelyn Epperly, Kris Allen & Allison Iraheta) have done better covers of that song. Still, she’s got something that makes me want to keep her around until Top 5, anyway.

    Aside from Alex, my favorite performances of the night were from Jessica and Majesty. Those three, plus Jena, are the ones who I’m most interested in going forward.

  33. Lucky7 says:

    Two more things you don’t know about Alex Preston? His girlfriend is semifinalist Jillian Jensen. And it appears he’s done a lot of backup singing for major bands. Maybe this has already been discussed.

    Majesty is my clear favorite. She’s quirky and fun without constantly reminding you how Quirky and Fun she is (cough, Malaya). And imagine – restylizing one of the most stylized songs there is? I loved her dancing. She’s genuine.

    Caleb skews cheesy to me. I appreciate his stage presence and his confidence. A couple of these performances are entertaining. But if it’s the same every week, it’ll get old to me soon. He’s an act right now, not an artist.

    CJ’s not going to last long, unfortunately. And MK is a female Jason Castro. Delicate voice, relaxed cool, but it doesn’t seem like she really wants to perform and connect with an audience. She just wants to sing.

    Didn’t see Dexter flaming out so early.

    • bobsaccamanna says:

      Couldn’t agree more about Caleb, a full season of his antics will be tough to take. He has a decent enough voice but there is nothing special or unique about it.It always cracks me up early in the show when some of the contestants act like they are big stars already(Caleb, Malaya).Thats why Majesty’s humility before her great performance was so nice to see. I was pleasantly surprised how well the show went after Majesty, all of the remaining artists proved they deserved to be there, except maybe Sam. I think with the right songs, Jena can end up being really good, so for me at this point, it’s Jena Alex and Majesty as frontrunners.

    • Julie Anderson says:

      Alex hasn’t done back up vocals. He opened at Boston’s Mixfest for those bands after he one a contest.

  34. whonoze says:

    The poll voters who thought Sam had the best performance of the night must have been watching with the sound off.

    • Petra says:

      Thank you. I agree. The enthusiasm for Sam totally escapes me[not that there's anything wrong with it]. He’s a green kid with very low voltage. I just don’t get it.

  35. Vicki says:

    What is it about this year? It’s like teenagers who can’t sing but may eventually sing and IDOL will help? There is no one I consider a favorite this year. In year’s past you always knew who the top 4 were or had several. I keep thinking “and this is the TOP 13?” What !?! Let’s put the age limit back to 21 to 36. Let’s get real singers back on here.

  36. J says:

    Wow the beginning of the show was rough to watch and I was dismayed. It looked like amateur hour. Everything I was watching and hearing was ridiculous. And then Majesty brought her special self onto the stage and all was well. I was really surprised at how well Jessica did and Jena is awesome!

  37. perfessor says:

    Here’s my theory about Slezak:his favorites have been Allison who bellowed and occasionally hissed, Hailey who growled, and now Jessica Meuse who bleats. My theory is he’s a mid-West boy who missed the animal sounds of the farm.

  38. marie says:

    I have a request. If people want to post about various aspects of The Voice in the context of comparing/contrasting them with aspects of Idol, all fine and good. But there are those of us, including me, who are not interested in The Voice, so please, if your comment is about ONLY The Voice, would you please consider NOT posting under an article about Idol, but in an article about The Voice instead? I’m sure Mr Slezak’s Voice articles are just as entertaining as his Idol articles. There are a number of Voice-only posts here that simply don’t belong here. Thank you.

  39. Jim Welker says:

    I agree with Mike on top grades! Caleb stole the show! My top 4 from beginning auditions are still in it…Sam, Rose, MK, and Caleb! These gop 13 should be in the circus! We have BLIMP DEXTER, GOOFBALL ALEX, JUVENILE, HYPER, IMMATURE WATSON! This group should be labeled, THE ODDBALL 13 and perform a comedy act at CIRCUS CIRCUS! Watson provides great comedy relief! Top 13….RIDICULOUS! Look foward to an album entitlled, THE BLIMP AND THE GOOFBALL, DEX AND ALEX! They missed their calling the 13….A GREAT CIRCUS ACT! There are a few exceptions but this group gives us pure belly laughs! Also, does Woolf ever hit a high note? Can he do it? I’m looking forward to this circus act in Las Vegas after show is over! GREAT COMEDY! When Melanie Porras was eliminated without audition in Hollywood, I knew beautiful contestants were not wanted! Maybe she looked too much like Haley Reinhart! Briana Oakley outshined them all! A real crime letting horrible Bria sing in wildcard instead of Oakley! At least horrible pimped Sellars is gone, as well as horrible Spencer! A We’re

  40. Jim Welker says:

    Mistake last comment…No A WE’RE at end! Also, Meuse great for first time! Rose is a star! BUT….SHE IS A SLAVE TO FASHION! WHO DRESSES HER? SKID ROW?

  41. Elle Kay says:

    I noticed Emily’s performance sounded very safe and vanilla last night, and I suspect she may have taken too many steps back to avoid the Harry hammer. I normally agree with Michael and Melinda, but even if you think slut shaming was too strong a word for how Harry handled her awkwardness in the Grace Potter song, you don’t need the young woman walking on eggshells either, Keith’s comment was much more appropriate without verbally neutering her. Whatever swag Emily has didn’t fit the song, but you don’t need her dumping swag altogether.

    On to some of the other performances. I really wanted to like Jena, but didn’t think her song choice suited her. Am I the only one getting sick of hearing long vowels exaggerated in songs? It sounds fake most of the time and at least on the chorus, she shined through as the real Jena.

    I’m desperately trying to like Kristen…she’s got a great voice but ends up being forgettable to me.

    Last but not least since a lot of comments on The Voice which just started. I personally love both Idol and The Voice for different reasons. One thing I can say I like better about The Voice…they have much better WGWG’s. Sorry but the ones on Idol this season end up blending together after a while, which has a lot to do with Caleb working his way to being one of my favorite guys this season.

    • Adam Fachry says:

      Agree with you on how the WGWGs (or WSS a.k.a. white singer-songwriters) this season all blends together whereas in past seasons, they are distinguishable (except for season 9, which is this season vol 1.0 lol). For instance, no one would mistake Paul McDonald for Scotty, or Philip for Colton. That’s why I would like to replace any one of them with Briston who’s identifiable.

  42. Ryan says:

    My guy C.J. was good but unexceptional again this week, which makes me think he has 4-5 more weeks, tops, in this competition. Jena has an amazing voice, but she needs to step things up. Malaya is hilarious, but this week’s performance was a disaster. Who is Kristen O’Connor? I’m glad Jessica has overcome (at least so far) her Hollywood Week edit, because she’s a great singer. I really hope Emily Piriz has a breakout performance, because there’s so much potential there. Alex looked like a pro this week and definitely wins the WGWG against Ben, though Sam’s voice is amazing (despite an emotional disconnect this week) and will probably outlast Alex. M.K.’s tone is great, but for me, she’s been kind of boring on the show so far… I hope she goes the route of her YouTube videos and really picks a song she can nail. Majesty is phenomenal and has established her style better than anyone else, in my opinion, though she hasn’t yet chosen a song in the live shows that is particularly difficult to sing. I personally find Dexter a bit one-note and forgettable, but the country vote should keep him around for awhile. Caleb has been a huge surprise to me, as I expected a Tenacious D disaster from him last week, yet he was really legit.

    My personal rankings, which definitely won’t reflect America’s, of the Top 13 are:

    1. Majesty Rose
    2. Sam Woolf
    3. Alex Preston
    4. Emily Piriz
    5. Jena Irene
    6. Jessica Meuse
    7. C.J. Harris
    8. Caleb Johnson
    9. M.K. Nobilette
    10. Malaya Watson
    11. Ben Briley
    12. Dexter Roberts
    13. Kristen O’Connor

  43. AliAle says:

    This season is fantastic… I can’t remember the last time I actually liked not 1, not 2, not 3… but more than 6 contestants: MK, Majesty, Jena, Alex, Sam, Jessica are great… heck, even Emily and Caleb were really good, although not exactly my cup of tea.
    Difficult to pick a favourite.

  44. Wrecking Ball says:

    Malaya and Kristen in the top 13 and Kenzie, Brandy, Austin, Jillian did not even get a chance to sing for the top 20.

  45. I agree that Malaya was not good at all this week, but I don’t she’ll ever be considered a joke contestant because she actually has a good voice underneath all the goofiness. The problem with Runaway Baby was that (considering the fact that her voice is kind of nasally) the key was too low and didn’t allow her voice to “lift”, per say. She needs songs that sit comfortably in her middle register and let her explore those glory notes that she definitely has the ability to hit. Also, she should probs play piano again.

    • Timmah says:

      Well, I don’t know if it was an anomaly or not, but she sure did a convincing impression of a female Sanjaya last night.

  46. 1D Fan says:

    Wow, how much does Malaya fancy Sam? She clearly is flirting with him, lol.

    • LeahKittyS says:

      I think she’s just being friendly and joking. I hear on Twitter that she and Savion Wright are in some kind of relationship. (Though that could be a joke, since he’s too old for her.)

  47. Leah says:

    Kristen reminds me of Vanessa Williams. Save the Best for Last, Colors of the Wind. And, she was Miss America for a minute.

  48. Andre says:

    Can Jessica Meuse and Allison Iraheta just form a rock duo after this season’s Idol? I think that would be an awesome pairing.

  49. DavidSask says:

    The right person went home and Caleb hopefully will go far!

  50. Darlyne Westphal says:

    Everyone I know is fed up with American Idol and won’t watch it any more. I don’t like the changes made and was sickened by the best singers being sent home and some of the worst being kept. We don’t need celebrity judges, we need unknown judges who know it takes someone with an ear for music and an eye for that special and out of the ordinary look.