Reality Check: Hits and Misses from Idol's Top 13! Plus: How Pro Is Too Pro on The Voice?

Caleb Johnson’s producer-enhanced rock-god moment. Malaya Watson’s “Runaway” meltdown. Jessica Meuse’s unexpected song choice. And an opening 45 minutes punctuated by mumbled lyrics, botched notes and possibly malfunctioning in-ear monitors.

These were the headlines from American Idol Top 13 performance night — along with the continued rise of Majesty Rose and Alex Preston — and on this week’s Reality Check, my cohost Melinda Doolittle and I take a deep dive into all of the above.

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Not only that, but we also dish the fact that exec producer Per Blankens skipped showing us contestants’ mentoring sessions in favor of a pre-judgment by Randy Jackson; debate the meaning of Harry Connick Jr.’s complaint about Alex’s “inward” performance; and wonder what went wrong for M.K. Nobilette.

Plus, Melinda and I pick our favorite auditioners from Week 1 of The Voice‘s sixth season — while also pondering the question “How much of a pre-existing fanbase is too much of a pre-existing fanbase?”

So press play below for the full Reality Check experience, then hit the comments and share your thoughts about your Idol and Voice faves. And for all my reality TV news, interviews, ezxlusives and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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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88 Comments
  1. Leticia Prado says:

    Sorry, this show doens’t work half as well without Jason’s awesome remarks.
    :(

    • LeahKittyS says:

      Up-vote.

    • Danny says:

      I’m going to disagree. I’d say it’s about even. The quips are often clever, but since I don’t know 99% of the movies/shows that they’re coming from I’m 100% fine if M&M simply review the show(s) and leave it at that.

      • Leticia Prado says:

        Oh, you see, this is kind of why it is not working for me. I know most of the shows/films, and it is hilarious.
        I think what I wanted is for the show to be longer, for the two of them to talk about all contestants, evenly.
        Fingers crossed for next season. Let’s hope they listen to us in the way they hope AI listens to them.

    • Joe says:

      Disagree. I rather have more actual content of Michael & Melinda than joke cutaways. I can watch Family Guy for that.

    • zaza says:

      I know! I was waiting for an inserted shot of CJ’s adorable cousin dancing in the audience. That was one of the best moments of the show!

  2. MAB says:

    I thought Jessica, Majesty and Alex were the best.

    • Teeny Bikini says:

      Absolutely. I would add Caleb to my list too. Of those 3 though, I was most surprised by Jessica. I hadn’t heard her sing like that since the audition and I just love it. I hope she keeps up the great work.

  3. What I love about this season of Idol is no one is invulnerable. There are a handful of people l’d consider frontrunners, but most of them are relatively equal in ability and can rise or fall each week on the merit of their song choice. It kind of happened on the Voice last season, but I haven’t seen anything like it on Idol since maybe Season 5, and it’s really nice to see the year after Candice Glover completely castrated the competition on Top 6 week. Gives me some contrast :)

    And Michael, I’m glad you changed your ranking so Jessica was your favorite.

    • Danny says:

      I agree that it’s an even race this year. Where I’d disagree is I thought Season 8 was pretty evenly matched. I know a lot handed the title to Adam early on, but I actually had him 4th that year in a pretty even field. That’s not dogging Adam. It’s simply saying I thought he was 4th best behind Allison, Matt, and Kris in a very solid season.

      Season 11 was also a real even year. Phil was certainly a deserving winner, but I would have been fine if pretty much any of the top 7 won. In terms of even competition, I think that was the best season.
      ….
      Also last year I don’t think Candice was head and shoulders above the rest. I had Janelle as #1, with a slight nod over Candice and Angela. This year I’ve got 5 or 6 people I like more than Janelle though, so looking forward to a real good season.

      • ben says:

        Danny, I don’t know why people are criticising this season of idol. I agree it feels like a really good season. I think it’s perhaps because people prefer clinical to interesting? Not sure. In any event, give me the imperfection of this idol season any day, with such an interesting and diverse group of voices. Somehow, even the country boys all sound completely different to each other.

        • Danny says:

          @Ben- I was one of the gripers last season for AI. Then again, it was a terrible season. If you take my #1 last year (Janelle) she’d be maybe my #15 overall for the last 3 seasons. Add in people like Savion, Maurice, and a few others who aren’t on this season and she might be closer to #20. Since I’ve been watching since Season 4, Janelle might be top 50 overall. Add in Nikki, the making sure a female won, and all the other things wrong w/ Season 12, there was a lot to gripe about.

          So I agree w/ the imperfections aspect, but only to a point. My thinking is once ya get an image, like Idol did last year, it’s tough to break out of.

          • ben says:

            I agree last year was a poor year, in my mind possibly even the worst year. On the other hand, I feel like 10 and 11 are two of the best (maybe even the best) and season 13 feels to me to be in that same calibre.

        • analythinker says:

          Well, I just rewatched the whole Season 7 last week and even the ones cut from the Top 36 were better than… say Malaya or Emily or even MK. I say better in terms of pitch, stage presence, and also emotional connection. I’m not one to demean anyone, but I’d say probably only Majesty, Alex, Caleb & Jessica would survive in season 7. It was a pretty even field with Carly-MJ-Jason-Archie-Cook-Brooke-Sy, even David Hernandez, Chikezie and Ramielle was great, albeit a little boring at times.

          So yeah, maybe the quality is not what it used to be…

          • LeahKittyS says:

            How do you re-watch entire seasons? I’d like to know.

          • MAB says:

            Me too. I was wondering the samething.

          • tealeaves says:

            @analythinker I commented in another thread that this season reminds me of seasons 5, 7, 8, 10, and 11. 7 and 5 are the ones it reminds me of the most (so far.) My point of comparison is that those seasons had a diverse group of contestants where most of them could give a great performance on any given night. In season 7, by the time you got to the top 10-12 just about every performance, from everyone, was at least good. Okay, not every single one, but the exceptions proved the rule. Season 5 was kinda like that too.

          • analythinker says:

            @LeahKittyS A friend made me a copy. If it’s on iTunes, I’d buy it.

          • LeahKittyS says:

            Oh. Okay. I didn’t watch Seasons 1-4, so I was hoping there was website or something that has all the episodes from past seasons. YouTube only has select performances, and the “Search for a Superstar” and “Best of Seasons 1-4″ DVDs I have don’t capture the complete seasons.

          • JayNC says:

            They are out there – just do a search for American Idol Download Episodes and see what you get. I started watching AI in season 4 and got hooked so I downloaded seasons 1-3 and watched them (free) and that was years ago.

        • Angie_overrated says:

          @ben- I cannot speak for everyone who is complaining about the current Idol season, but here’s my $0.02. If you’re listening for technical proficiency, these kids are pretty weak. Every now and then I’ll get taken by a smaller voiced, lesser skilled vocalist, but it’s rare for me to do so. Every season I’ve ever watched has had at least a few power vocalists for me to root for, but season 13 has been heavy on style and light on power vocals. The most frustrating part of it is that they had a few larger voiced singers like that who didn’t make it as finalists. I’ve given up on the current season, but I’ll try again next year.

      • Season 8 was pretty even in semifinals, but despite what people may think about Danny Gokey, it turned into an obvious race between Adam, Kris, and Allison by the Top 9. This probably wasn’t helped by Alexis being eliminated and Lil choosing songs that were terrible for her.

        • Danny says:

          @Matthew- I never felt Allison was in that race, at least according to the judges comments. She couldn’t get any love from em unless she was spot on perfect. If I recall it right she was in the bottom a few times too.

          • Statistically being in the bottom in an early round is never good (see Katharine McPhee.) But in a bitterly ironic twist, I think if Danny had sung reasonably well on top 4 night, Allison might have made it to the finale. Danny was only saved BECAUSE he sang terribly, and when he didn’t deliver the next week either the viewers wanted his head. Perversely, this voter panic should have worked its magic on Tamyra Grey when she also gave a trainwreck performance on Top 4 week, but didn’t.

      • I also think Season 11 was really even in talent, and it was one of my favorite, but it was never even in votes. Lol.

      • MAB says:

        Talking an out season 11 win we Phillip Phillips his new single came out today it is called Raging Fire. It is really good, I’ve been playing it on repeat all day. He will be singing it on Idol Thursday night.

    • ben says:

      I know, and its what for me makes the season so exciting. I really don’t know who will win. I felt a bit like this in season 10, but you are right that 5 is another good example.

      • Season 10 was fairly even when you were watching it, but if you looked at DialIdol every week it was clear no one other than Scotty had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.

  4. Name This Tune says:

    Let’s hope that they can ratchet up the performances this week on Idol. I can’t take another show that opens with 45 minutes of doldrums.

  5. Lumplestilskin says:

    I had never heard of Christina Grimie or Cassadee Pope before The Voice. So to the average viewer, they are nowhere near close to being ‘household names’ or big stars. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need to be on the show. And all of Judith Hill’s high-powered connections and films and gigs with Michael Jackson couldn’t even get her inside the top 6.

  6. Maris says:

    It would be GREAT if you guys made these longer and talked more about The Voice

  7. Jeremiah says:

    Are we going to get an interview with Kristen O’Connor?

  8. LeahKittyS says:

    Thank you for not talking about American Idol and The Voice at the same time. By keeping the segments separate, it allows me to just stop the video when you’re done talking about Idol. Christina Grimmie was nice when she had that video series behind the scenes on the American Idol Season 11 summer tour, but that’s not enough to make tune in to The Voice. Also, I’m with you on everything you said about Idol this week.

    • LeahKittyS says:

      Oh, yeah, one small disagreement: while I also would have liked to know why each contestant chose their song, I thought the five facts in twenty seconds was kind of funny.

      • My Alter Ego says:

        LeahKitty, not a disagreement about either of your comments, but rather an aside that this past week, Uncle P.B. seemed to be mimicking SYTYCD. Both the “5 things in 20 seconds” and the opening group number of the result show, which was an obvious rip off of this past SYTYCD season’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” are, at the very best, tips of the hat to So You Think You Can Dance.
        ~
        Not quite certain why Uncle P.B. is doing that, but it seems obvious.

    • marie says:

      I second LeahKittyS’s thanks for keeping commentary on the two shows separate!

    • Dave says:

      I’m also glad they kept the discussion separate, but MAN, I really wish they could just keep these in two separate videos.

      I’m not interested in the Voice, but I had hoped that your wit and humor (and funny tv/film clips) would hold my attention when you discussed it. Nope, the energy just died when you switched shows. I spent the last few minutes thinking, “well, this stopped being fun. Should we turn it off?” Turns out, we should have.

      I used to tell people that Idology was the best commentary on Idol out there. But with all the changes — the addition of a show I don’t care about, and the loss of the pop culture video clips — I can’t recommend Reality Check nearly as highly. It’s like the show lost a piece of its magic.

      • Emma says:

        The magic is Michael and Melinda and their interaction, and their comments. The two of them are hilarious together! I have no interest in Idol anymore so I’m glad they changed it to Reality Check and include The Voice now.

  9. darcy's evil twin says:

    I really, really miss Jason Averett’s commentary.
    That said this was still a good “Reality check” and I enjoyed the comments. I also agree with Matthew Richards in that there’s no clear frontrunner and it should be interesting to see how things shape up in the weeks to come!

  10. James says:

    I think you guys should 15 mins for idol and then 5 mins for the voice. An extra 5 mins and 11 seconds I reckon won’t break the bank.

    • Danyelle says:

      Soooo increase their output by 33% at the same prince point (meaning: free)? Would you like to pay 33% more rent for the same apartment, just because?

      • James says:

        This is a company…not a single family or person. They can easily do another 5 mins and 11 seconds. If you think otherwise…well…my mother taught me if you don’t have anything nice to say…don’t say anything at all.

  11. Jeremiah says:

    Agreed.

  12. Blinged Up says:

    I love Blake Shelton. I like Usher, Shakira, and Adam. I like the combination of these four. I like a lot of the talent on The Voice. I like reality singing shows. For some reason, I can NOT keep interested in The Voice when the live rounds are over. Can’t explain why….

    Idol, on the other hand…..this is an interesting and entertaining season and I am loving your recaps. I think the right one went home this week. I’m really looking forward to this season. More Idol!

    • Robin says:

      I don’t watch The Voice…but I will tune in for the blind auditions. My daughters friend went for the audition in Philadelphia. She had to stay pretty quiet about how it went down…she is going out of town next week. Are the blind auditions next week too?

    • Emma says:

      Blake cracks me up. I find The Voice very entertaining because of the coaches. Idol, I can’t even watch because of the judges, one in particular who I still can’t believe they brought back. smdh.

  13. Teeny Bikini says:

    I don’t know who the Christina girl is – but I guess her Twitter followers could come into play if they are still doing the Twitter save.

    I think Melinda’s advice is dead on for MK – she just needs to work on her stage presence and “what to do” in between lines or verses. Still don’t believe she deserved bottom 3 placement, but the that competition is really that close….

    Thanks for posting!!!

    • Matrix says:

      Christina’s fan base could definitely bias things if there is a multiplier applied to iTunes sales again. Love the combo, longer format if Reality Check. I love both shows!

    • Guest says:

      The Twitter save didn’t really do anything last season. It just showed you who had the least amount of votes of the remaining singers, and then that Twitter saved singer was always gone the very next week.

      If Grimmie’s fanbase comes out in full force to vote, the Twitter save won’t even be an option.

  14. karenb says:

    Alex was great. Remember #subtletybitches,Slezak? ;)

  15. dre says:

    Pretty much SPOT on analysis and hilarity as usual. I love you guys. One thing though: Could you please critique Emily’s VOICE during one of these videos? I understand she has personality quirks, etc–but I feel like she’s one of the only contestants whose voice you’ve haven’t spoken about. Just her eyes or whatever. Either way, love you guys!

  16. Danny says:

    Good to see Jessica getting some love. She’s got an original song called Blue Eyed Lie that’s pretty good. I thought Caleb and her were the best 2.
    ….
    I’m over MK. I’m enough of a slappy that I’ve watched most of the Idol episodes twice. It’s interesting to see how ya perceive Hollywood week when ya know who’s already in the live shows. It was tough to figure out if MK switched groups 2 or 3 times. Or maybe she went back to her original group. From what I could gather she was difficult to deal with, a little to high on herself. I’m just not into those types of people.
    ….
    I was a little disappointed in Alex. I didn’t think he was that good last week. At the same time it wouldn’t surprise me if he came back and was the best next week. Unlike Malaya, who I like a lot as a person but know has no chance, I felt Alex had an off night. He’s got a lot of talent.

    After seeing Group Night again I’m a little higher on Jena, and not just because she’s from Michigan. So my top 3 at the moment would be Caleb, Jessica, and Gina, with Alex probably getting right back into the mix with a good performance this coming week.

    I wonder what happened to CJ. He was so good for so long. Group rounds up through the top 30. Then the last 2 performances have tanked. I’m not sure what to make of him. It makes me wonder if something happened behind the scenes that affected him somehow.

    Last but not least for this post, I wish Idol would get its viewers back. This is a pretty good season so far. A lot of evenly matched contestants who are for the most part pretty good. Since 3 of these kids (Jena, Malaya, and Sam-grew up in Michigan until like 7th grade according to the articles) are from Michigan, the Detroit Free Press will do stories about how they’re doing. There haven’t been any comments on these stories when I read them. It’s not like it’s right after it’s written either. It may be a day or 2 later. Back when Lakisha, Matt, etc were doing well, there was all kinds of excitement about those contestants. With the current ones its like crickets.

    • ben says:

      Danny, I normally agree with you, but…

      Double standard on Jessica and MK, there?

      • Danny says:

        I don’t think so. In the case of Jessica I think the mom was more a PITA. In the case of MK, she boned Emanual (sp??), and Briana, though she ended up singing w/ Briana. I’m hazy on exactly if MK left 2 groups, or left 1 group and re-upped with the first one again. That’s my take on it anyway.

        They’ve all got to be confident. I think Jessica knows she’s good. MK does also. That’s where I think the similarities ended. MK boned people. Jessica didn’t. That one guy quit her (Jessicas) group because he got sick. The other one who couldn’t sing sorta split w/ her as much as she split w/ him. Yea she was getting annoyed w/ the guy, but my take is she would have stuck it out if the one guy hadn’t got sick and left.

  17. Sabrina says:

    I love Alex… And I like Majesty, just because she make me remember Paris Bennett, but I think Paris have a better voice and much more personality (sorry for my english!)

  18. Kate says:

    No. No. Nonononoooooo. I so hoped you’d see the light and keep The Voice out of Idology but this terrible day has arrived. (Yep, I’m melodramatic today.)

    May the Goulish Widower haunt your dreams tonight.

  19. Trouty Mouth says:

    Not a fan of the Voice, don’t really care about it. I’ve seen Christina Grimmie on YouTube and she seems pretty overhyped.

  20. marie says:

    Ok, I’m happy now; my fears have been allayed. Reality Check has not shorted Idol on time; instead, a few minutes of The Voice were tacked on at the end so I can choose not to watch (or maybe I will, just because I enjoy Michael and Melinda together). Please never change the ratio!

  21. Lauren says:

    Jessica’s performance was pretty mesmerizing this week and strangely atmospheric and eerie for this show (I mean that in the best of ways). Caleb gave a really good showing but the reverb / echo sound fx to fill out his voice and extend his notes was very noticable. I am now wondering what he’d sound like without modification and if he is capable of more nuance. Alex’s more lower key performance was also very good. It wasn’t vocally spotless, but it was affecting. Those are my Top 3 overall for the week. Majesty (who’s obviously in this for the long haul) comes in a strong #4; fun performance. I also didn’t think MK was nearly as bad as some are saying and no way deserved Bottom 3. I really like CJ, but he’s going to have to find his gritty, soulful side and ditch the pop country or he won’t last much longer. Can’t say that I really care for the rest of the group. Emily is vocally on point but there’s a lack of connect there for me. Ben flat out destroyed that Cash tune and not in a good way (it was obvious he had no clue what he was even singing about). Sam fell completely flat. Dexter is generic karaoke at best (and I agree with the slurring). Malaya seems like a delightful girl but her performance this week was wretched.

  22. Robin says:

    Can anyone tell me how long the blind auditions on the voice go on for? A girl that goes to school with my daughter tried out inPhiladelphia…she is going out of town and won’t be in school next week. We are hoping this means she will be at the blind auditions if they are on next week too.

    • LLL says:

      Robin,
      The blind auditions will continue next week, but they are not live. In fact, I believe they were recorded month(s) ago. There are subsequent elimination rounds that occur before the live shows start, but I have no idea if they have all been recorded yet. Maybe your daughter’s classmate is participating in the taping of one of those rounds next week.

  23. A says:

    I would like more Voice talk and less Idol but thats just me

  24. analythinker says:

    I’m actually surprised by the loyalty of some peeps here towards Idol. Which I should probably have too, because my all-time favorite singer is one of the winners (no, not Taylor Hicks).

    I just think the voices on The Voice are a lot more pleasant to my ears, and that’s the ONLY reason I’m leaning more towards it this season.

  25. Tusk says:

    My only interest in The Voice is that Christina Grimmie’s stint might expose her song “Get Yourself Together”, written by one, Haley Reinhart, to a national TV audience…..

    Go Christina! \m/ ;D

    I liked Jessica for things other than her voice, but this last week was the best her voice has ever sounded. It had piercing depth. I completely agree, she needs to work on her physical presentation, relax her body a little for this type of song

  26. Bonnie says:

    More idol and less The Voice!

  27. Mark says:

    Here’s the thing that many of you don’t seem to get. The Voice is crushing American Idol in the ratings. Last week’s two TV shows totaled over 29 million viewers, while AI’s two shows totaled only 20 million. That’s almost 50% more people nationwide watching The Voice than American Idol. In order for this page to stay relevant, Michael has to talk about The Voice. In fact, he should be talking about it more than AI. The advertisers paying for space on this website will notice.

  28. Freak says:

    I wish u do separate videos for each show. I’m much more interested in the voice and the fact u reduced the commentary on the voice to less than 5 minutes is no fun

  29. MamaLis says:

    I’m no genius, but wouldn’t that be just under one-third more total viewers for The Voice?

    Also, “in order for this page to stay relevant” Michael needs to spend more time on The Voice? Really?

    Here’s some more numbers. The last TWO nights of The Voice brought about 75 TOTAL comments from Posters/Readers. Night #2 ALONE of IDOL brought over 400!!

    It seems to me, Michael & crew have proportionately divvied Reality Check – per the Fan Base of this Blog. Wherever those “extra 9 million” Viewers are for the The Voice… they’re not here. =(

    • Mark says:

      Here’s some third grade math for you. 29 million is 9 million more than 20 million. 9 million is 45% of 20 million. Therefore, 29 million is 45% more than 20 million. Got it? Now, you are correct about AI comments exceeding TV comments on MS’s column–and by a vast margin. What does that mean? Clearly, in this little pocket of the internet, AI is more popular than TV. But as TV continues pick up viewers and AI continues to shed them like a tree shedding it’s leaves in autumn, this little pocket of AI holdovers is becoming increasingly irrelevant. That’s not opinion. That’s a mathematical fact. Two seasons from now that last 400 AI viewers will all be huddled here arguing amongst themselves while FOX executives talk about retooling the show and finding new ways to insult their audience with Randy Jackson malapropisms. That’s a prediction.

      • Angie_Overrated says:

        I think Idol made all the right moves this year retooling their approach to producing the show. Everything is properly aligned, but they fell victim to having a weak talent pool. Not much they could do on that front. I’d say if they keep everything more or less as is and they find better talent next year that the show can potentially come back. Since trends tend to be sticky, I’m guessing it cannot come roaring back, but even stemming the tide of downward ratings would be considered a victory in this case.

        Maybe try to appeal to older, more talented vocalists? These little kids tend to be weak because they haven’t had time to fully train their voices and/or learn music yet. It might be too late to fix that problem though. If they can clone Jessica Sanchez 13 times for next year’s set of finalists, then maybe I’d be more ok with little kids in these singing competitions.

        • Mark says:

          I agree that most of the changes they made have resulted in a better television show–even some with which I was in disagreement at the time they were announced. Even the things that haven’t worked this season can be fixed (except bringing back Randy–it appears that we’re stuck with him forever). I also agree that their obsession with youth is hurting the product. These kids just aren’t as developed as the performers The Voice is bringing in. I’m afraid, however, that we’ve passed the point of no return. The changes they made this year and any other changes that could have fixed the show should have been made about three or four seasons ago. That’s when the show started losing viewers and that’s when The Voice emerged as an alternative. It’s extremely difficult to pull out of a death spiral.

    • Emma says:

      The only reason there’s more comments right now is because Idol is down to their top 12. Wait until The Voice has it’s top 12 and them compare the number of comments being made. Also, this Idol vs The Voice debate is silly since it’s all a matter of personal preference. My preference just happens to be the only one of the two that has an Emmy. hahah

  30. Danny Cobb says:

    Bria Kelly On “The Voice” Is Gonna Surpass Carrie Underwood by Far, She’s Got a Bunch of Videos on “You Tube” was on America’s Got Talent at 15 yr Old. Now She’s 17
    and Belting Out Song’s that’s Fantastic. GO BRIA

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