Reality Check: Jena and Caleb's Bold Idol Moves! Plus: Defending Alex's 'Don't Speak' -- and a Warning to The Voice's Bria Kelly

We’re down to eight singers on American Idol – and voters continue to drive home the idea that you’re only as good as your last performance.

On this week’s installment of Reality Check, my cohost Melinda Doolittle and I talk about Season 13’s new pecking order — including how Jena and Caleb are rocking their way to the front of the pack, whether or not Alex stumbled or soared with his No Doubt cover and why not even Sam’s grandma can save him from possible elimination.

VIDEO | American Idol‘s Majesty Rose Talks Early Front-Runner Status, Frozen Fumble, Coldplay Covers

Plus, we dig deeper into last week’s Battle Rounds on The Voice — praising Josh Kaufman and Madilyn Paige, marveling at Jill Scott’s mentoring (and how it led to an epic Madilyn Paige-Tanner James duet) and issuing a warning to front-runner Bria Kelly.

Not only that, but Melinda shocks me with the threat of an f-bomb (not really), Majesty’s downfall is dissected and we agree to disagree about Idol‘s Malaya Watson and The Voice‘s Dawn & Hawkes.

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, exlusives 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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115 Comments
  1. jojo says:

    Malaya’s improvement continues to make me happy. :-)

    • Danny says:

      I hear ya. I’m rooting for Jena and her. An all Michigan final is what I’m hoping for. I thought she was cannon fodder a few weeks ago. She’s improving by leaps and bounds. I’d have her in the top 3-5 with Jess and Alex. If she keeps improving, maybe she can make the finals.

    • karyn says:

      I don’t get the Malaya love. I think she’s a nice kid and worry about her being ripped apart by this whole process but she’s never captured me with any of her performance other than her second Bruno Mars cover a few weeks back. And a few of her performances have been rather painful to watch.

      • Joe says:

        karyn – I’m actually with you. I think what Malaya is benefiting from is low expectations. Everytime she hits a big note clean I think people are rooting for her like an underdog. Those contestants stick around a long time. I’ll give her this though; when you compare her to a Heejun type character, she is miles better than him. Usually the “funny one” wears thin after 2-3 weeks, but she’s been reined in enough that it’s still endearing. I’m on the Slezak “she screeches” wagon though. I don’t think she’s ultimately a recording artist.

    • pamela provine says:

      The two best performers, singers, personality, energy and talent are Jena and Caleb. They have they whole package and that is what they look for. Its a business and they want talent they can make the most money with.

  2. Kate says:

    I remember posting here weeks ago that I believed it would be a Sam/Majesty finale. We were so innocent then!

  3. Kate says:

    Also I’m not sad Majesty was sent home, I’m sad it turns out she wasn’t the contestant I thought she would be.

    • Danny says:

      Kate- your 2 comments could have been taken straight from my mind. I agree 110%. You’re in it to win it!!! – ok, that was lame- hope ya smiled though.

    • Ben says:

      I find your two comments to be quite profound, especially when read together – I don’t think Majesty was the weakest contestant of the 9, but I think the reason she was eliminated was because she was the contestant who least lived up to expectations. No-one ever expected Dexter or CJ would win, so no-one is particularly disappointed with them.

      Being a frontrunner works against you. I reckon Majesty might just still be around if it wasn’t for her early frontrunner status.

    • karyn says:

      This exactly. I went back and watched Violet Hill and I still really loved her. I hope someone helps her develop that and blot out the last month or two.

    • Mark says:

      Majesty’s biggest problem was a lack of experience coming into the show. She didn’t know what were her real strengths and weaknesses. She picked songs that were too far out of her wheelhouse, at a point when it was too soon for her to take chances. Frontrunners can stumble, but only after they have firmly cemented their status as frontrunners. She was tripped up by attempting to sing songs that she couldn’t sing well, and she continuing making the same mistake too many weeks in a row. Some competent mentoring and useful feedback could have prevented her falling so far so fast. I will miss her. I still feel that she was the most talented performer in this entire cast. I hope she finds some capable coaching post-Idol.

      • Julie Anderson says:

        Ditto- at first I thought I was reading something I posted. I used to be uncomfortable with all the Complaints about Randy being useless, but seriously he is letting these contestants and the audience down.

  4. Joe says:

    yay a whole 3 minutes on the voice, a new record long for this season!

    • Kate says:

      Even Mike and Melinda realize it was a mistake to jam it into the long-beloved tradition of Idology/Idolatry/Idoloonies.

    • Marcie says:

      Really. I got sucked in by the subtitle of the post, but not again. Idol is boring.

      • Stormy says:

        Different strokes. IMO The Voice is boring and repetitive. So sick of the BS between the judges. And Carson Daly is like a temp from Rent-A-Host compared to Ryan Seacrest.

      • anna says:

        I just forward the videos until the voice starts… idol is so boring and I really dislike ryan seacrest and jennifer lopez

        • deedee says:

          How can anyone dislike Ryan Seacrest? He’s the most masterful host of our era.

          • Stormy says:

            ITA It isn’t easy to be poised and approachable at the same time. Ryan is the benchmark against whom all other hosts are judged [Tom Bergeron, Carson Daly, Nick Cannon,etc.]. The only other host/MC I can recall who carried themselves as well was Nancy O’Dell when she hosted Nashville Star.

          • Eric D says:

            Emma Willis, the female host of the UK version of The Voice is pretty great. Aside from being one of the best looking women I’ve ever seen she is really good at the job. Kind of a Carson Daly but with a brain. The questions she asks the judges after the performances aren’t just inane gibberish but actually relevant to both the performance and the particular judge she addresses. I wish she was on the U.S. version. I am pretty tired of the carson.

      • Name This Tune says:

        All I feel is viewer fatigue with both of them ,but The Voice is funnier and the singers are better.
        Tonight is HIMYM and the second hour of DWTS. I will hit the highlights on YouTube tomorrow.
        Only care about Sissaundra vs. Biff. Won’t take long to get that.

  5. LeahKittyS says:

    I agree, Majesty never lived up to the hype, and I’m sad about that. Still, the season is looking up. Alex, Caleb, and Jessica are my Top 3 right now, and with each of them singing original songs next week, they should solidify themselves as the ones to beat. Jena is great, too, but I don’t think she can win because she was a Wild Card pick and has been in the Bottom 3 once. Although I wouldn’t mind if she proved me wrong.

    • Teeny Bikini says:

      Those are my top 3 too!!!

    • Danny says:

      My picks would be Caleb and Jena on top. In the next group I’ve got Jessica, Malaya, and Alex, though no real order. After that which ever order they leave in is fine with me. I think Jessica is posed to make up some ground though. Her audition song rocks. It’s an original.

      • The Beach says:

        Yep, the best thing to happen to Jessica’s chances are for her to sing that audition song again. It might not hurt Sam either.

    • Ben says:

      It’s interesting, nearly everyone seems to have a top three of Alex, Caleb and (insert favourite girl here). Some say Jess. Some say Jena. I say Malaya.

    • karyn says:

      Alex, Caleb, and Jessica were my early picks for top 3 and I still think they should all make the top 4, but I do agree with Slezak et al. that Jessica needs to rebuild her artistry/originality rep and in the meantime, Jena has snuck up and possibly passed her.

  6. Tjj50 says:

    Good grief, I could not love you two more! Been waiting all day for this!!

  7. nich says:

    I worry that Dexter is going to win also because he isn’t going away when he should.

  8. chris says:

    Michael, I wondered what you thought of this week’s theme.I felt most of the singers just didn’t embrace it. Alex even chose to begin a cappella on I’m with the Band night. Only Jena and Caleb really embraced the theme (and gave the best performances.) Maybe it’s time to go back to singing genres. Some of the most memorable performances have been singers singing outside their comfort zone. Rock for Carrie and Melinda, Big Band for Kelly, Country for Adam, and Broadway for David Cook were all great Idol moments.

  9. Julie Anderson says:

    Now I’m thoroughly depressed because Jill Scott isn’t the mentor on American Idol.

    • Timmah says:

      She is easily worth what they pay Randy (too bad Randy isn’t).

      • Name This Tune says:

        Agree with this. Don’t think Idol can afford another mentor with the tanking ratings.

        • Emma says:

          I don’t understand why they didn’t keep bringing in former idol contestants, like they did with Chris & Adam, that would have been so much better than useless Randy telling them to do their best and have fun.

  10. Trisha26 says:

    Idol: Love Caleb, not a Jena fan (not that she’s not talented, just not my thing), but they both did what we expected. Alex took a completely different approach to a song no one imagined he would do, and did a fantastic & artistic job. I’m hoping for a Caleb/Alex finale. Voice: Josh Kaufman all the way for me – he’s got a unique voice, terrific performance style, isn’t a doey-eyed ingenue or a big belter. Really, really love Jill Scott being on the show. Great recap Melinda & Michael!

    • karyn says:

      I completely agree about Alex. I loved his originality. I think the criticism of him for last week is just b/c people didn’t hear what they expected from this song, but I thought it was a great twist.

      • Leticia Prado says:

        I liked Alex’s performance, what I think is that there was no difference from this to the other ones. In that, I don’t mean it was boring, nothing of the sort. It was a good song choice, a good arrengement. But he did not do what the theme asked. There would have been no difference if the band was not on stage. And we can say this about all performances except Caleb and Jena.
        I was disappointed in Jessica on this. I saw an interview of her after the show and she was quite proud and surprised that she used her hands other than to play. I understand that, but it doesn’t mean the result was good.

  11. MAB says:

    Has anyone listened to any of Alex‘s songs on itunes? The Light was Already Here & My Best Friend were pretty good.

  12. dre says:

    slezak and melinda you are my sunshine my only sunshine. thanks for making mondays enjoyable. you guys ARE SO ON POINT THIS SEASON it’s ridiculous! Caleb and Jena for the win!

  13. deedee says:

    I just wanna say that I really want to be Melinda Doolittle’s best friend. We can shop together! Have lunch! Talk Idol! Debate! I just L.O.V.E. Melinda. Michael, too, actually, now that I think about it. Can we all be BFF? :-D
    .
    (lol, sorry. It’s been a trying day)

  14. Teeny Bikini says:

    Michael, you are spot on about how I am voting. If you sing well, I vote for you. Period. Don’t care about last week or how you did the week before or sob stories or puppies or rainbows or how cute you are. I fast forward through all of the talking. Just sing and do it well. And Google makes voting easy. So there’s that.

    Yes, Melinda. Josh Kaufman is amazing.

  15. lynn says:

    I’d suggest listening to the Bria/Tess battle again.

    At first, I was underwhelmed by Bria as well. But I was comparing her to Haley Reinhart’s version, and of course she comes up short. But after listening again, Bria was much better than I initially gave her credit for.

    However, I always thought she beat Tess. Tess has a beautiful voice. It just wasn’t meant for Janis. She came off a bit pageanty and stiff next to Bria.

    • Name This Tune says:

      I thought Bria channeled Janis Joplin pretty good.

    • Idolhead Ed says:

      Hate to break it to all you Voice fans Christina Grimmie is going to win which actually won’t be a bad thing. She may very well be the first success from this show. Once the public starts voting her YouTubeys will vote big. Look for her on top every week on iTunes..I think it will be her and Bria or Josh in the final. I’d watch it.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      On your suggestion, I just listened to Bria again and I double down on the opinion that Tess beat her. Bria has a nasty warble in her vibrato that I didn’t notice, which only comes with bad technique. I do not like!

  16. John says:

    Thanks for re-evaluating Majesty’s performance. I was a little nervous I was missing something there. And what happened to the awesome clip editing? Has the editor yanked creative control? I miss the running dialogue!

  17. GuitarBlue says:

    The interesting thing about this season, is how the pollsters and odds-makers have been so “off” from the point the top 13 started. Sam and Majesty were usually placed in the top 3 if not projected to win by some polls, at the start…………………………………………

    Now Majesty is gone and Sam is losing ground. Malaya, predicted as early out, is beginning to look like a top 5 contender as the younger crowd of voters that I know from this area, are moving more toward her and Jena Irene. They are losing their infatuation with Sam, though still giving him some votes in the mix. Alex is also getting his share, from those who are more into current Pop music…………………………………………………………………………………….

    Starting into this week, Caleb and Alex appear to be the solid bets for top 3; but song choice and how they are highlighted or “slightly dissed” by the “side-story” reels they keep wanting to run, could help or hurt their popularity.

  18. 2 young 2B wise says:

    I really liked Alex’s version of “Don’t Speak”. IIt seems that the judges are harder on the first couple of contestants to go each night. If Alex had done the same song right after Dexter, they would have been praising him for changing the song up and giving it his own spin.

  19. Miscellaneopolan says:

    Fun show, good insights, great chemistry, blah, blah, blah let’s get to the real important points: you don’t have your driver’s license, Slezak? What do you show bartenders when you get carded?
    .
    It’s too bad Majesty had to leave so early- the show will be a little more boring without her- but I approve of the contestants being graded purely on their performances.

    • Mary says:

      He lives in the city really no need for a driver license. Hate to say it but he probably doesn’t get carded anymore and if he did, he probably has an ID card.

  20. Lexie says:

    Love watching these videos every week! They are always so good and you guys always say exactly what I’m feeling. Loved Alex and Jena this week. I don’t think Alex gets enough credit for knowing exactly who he is. Jena is just doing everything right in my opinion. I also loved Caleb this week, but I feel like I’m going to tired of him being so over the top about everything. I didn’t think Malaya’s performance was awful, but are we going to have to hear a ballad from her every week since she was just awful when she tried an uptempo song? I don’t want her to get all the way to top 5 week just by singing ballads, not doing anything to change up the song, or trying anything more out of her wheel house. Ballads get boring after a while, and even know I can’t remember which song she sang which week. She does the same thing every week! If she can’t do something uptempo and prove that she can do more than a ballad with the big note at the end, she doesn’t deserve to get as far as Jena, Alex, or Caleb.

  21. Mary says:

    Great recap guys. Agree with Jena and Caleb are the top two. I will say I disagree about Alex, I am with JLo he sucked the life out of that song. I would of prefer C.J. to go but I knew if Majesty was in the bottom three she would go. I just can’t understand who keeps voting for someone who has not sung in key all season. I can’t wait to download Jessica song after this week. I hope we get more of the song. Melinda, I love your analogy about only remember light bulbs during Sam performance. It is like the light bulb is out during his performance. I think he would be a great recording artist but not a stage artist if that makes sense.

  22. GuitarBlue says:

    I haven’t watched all of “The Voice” episodes – but fell in love with Tess tonight and also liked Christina way good. They are throwing-out some fairly good singers at this stage, so could be far better than some previous seasons IMO.

  23. Angie_Overrated says:

    My god, so very spot on with the Tess vs. Bria battle. I thought it was clear cut that Tess won too. Melinda hit the nail on the head with “I don’t even know what key some of those screams were in.”
    And Melinda’s silent head nod with no commentary on Dawn & Hawkes just had me rolling. Awesome. Wish I could have made it to her show last week! Damn obligations keep getting in the way of other important matters.

    • Emma says:

      I was so glad Tess was stolen (twice), it would have been a big loss not to have her continue on the show. She’s quickly become one of my favorites this season for sure.

  24. Jmac says:

    Can I just say I love Melinda Doolittle.

  25. jenna says:

    contestants this year have zero charisma (except for majesty that had charisma but not a great voice). still deploring the loss of george, malcolm and austin wolf in the semi final round. such a boring season, i only see reality check.

  26. I will Fix Idol says:

    Magesty should have listened to when Glee covered “Shake It Off” IMHO if she had gone more in that direction she might have had a chance with that song…Caleb is great in a subpar season – but I really wished he picked one song that was a little surprising – where’s Kris Allen and “She Works Hard for her Money” when we so desperately need it? Alex is great but that version of “Don’t Speak” didn’t do it for me but he’s the most creative of the bunch – I think the reason folks keep voting for CJ is at least you feel something when he sings he’s committed even if he is sharp as all h*** .. Dexter is a bit harder to explain — and I’m not convinced about Jena get although she’s giving it her all it’s just hard in a such a subpar season The Voice on the other hand knocks me out week after week with at least 2 outstanding performances

  27. karyn says:

    Michael – I have to say I don’t like the blending of Idology/Idoloonies with The Voice commentary. I don’t like the Voice and am glad that it is at the end if it has to be discussed, but then it takes over the comments too and is just irritating. Couldn’t you do 2 separate segments?

  28. Louise says:

    I also love Dawn & Hawkes and so does my dad. You are not alone!

  29. Michael – I know your heart lies with Idol, but watch this video back and see how the energy changes when you two start talking about the Voice. You both get more animated and excited. That says something….

    Also, what happened to the funny aside clips? Loved those. Although if I had to pick between the asides and more Voice, I’ll take extra Voice.

  30. marie says:

    Michael and Melinda mention how the audience seems to be voting solely on the current week’s performances this season, vs. by the singer’s whole body of work and the singer’s inherent potential.
    As someone who has always, always championed voting on body of work / potential (a week or two ago, I remember commenting that “the season doesn’t start over every week”), watching this Reality Check episode I realized that I, too, have been voting for the most part on the given week’s performances, as I have not tended to vote consistently for any single contestant or contestants vs. others.
    I think it’s because none of this year’s contestants have jumped out at me as clearly having a ton of potential; most past years, I’ve been wowed by one or more singers, but this year, although I have my favorites, my enthusiasm for them is mild in comparison. Which is not to say I’m bored with the show; anything but. I’m still entertained; for the most part, I’ve liked the changes brought by the new team, not least of which is the excellent judging panel.
    BTW, I just want to say that even though I don’t watch The Voice, I have no problem with there being one video for both shows; I simply don’t watch the portion I’m not interested in. I think it’s a little unfair for folks to expect Michael and Melinda to do two videos when clearly they must have had a reason to consolidate them, just as I thought it insensitive to complain when the videos went from three parts to one shorter part: Michael and Melinda are both busy, working people. and who are we to ask them to work even more than they already do so well and entertainingly! (/rant.)

    • Mark says:

      I have never voted for AI contestants, and I probably never will–it’s just not that important to me. I can’t in good conscience tell anyone else how they should vote, since there are no established guidelines. Nonetheless, I do want to respond to your statement. To me, it makes the most sense for viewers to vote based on the most recent performance. Why? Because otherwise you are saying the last performance didn’t matter. This is especially true in the first three or four rounds. Saying that you are ignoring the most recent performance and voting based on the entire body of work is saying that someone who started slow but improved can never win. The order is set in your mind early on, and that’s how it has to be to the end. There is no room for artistic growth or improvement. Hitting it out of the park in the first two weeks is a free ride to the final. Bad performances in top 7 or 8 week don’t matter because someone was so good in top 12 and 13 week. That doesn’t work for me. But they’re your 50 super votes, spend them any way you want.

      • marie says:

        @ Mark, I understand your point, and I even share it to some degree, but actually, when I am voting based on body of work, I’m thinking more of someone who has been consistently good and has an off night, which can happen to anyone, more than singers who have not been so good who improve. Improvement should be acknowledged, which is why last week I voted for Malaya for the first time. But by the same token, someone who has performed well and suddenly screws up one night doesn’t deserve to be punished for one poor performance, the way I see it.

    • deedee says:

      Marie, I am a big advocate of whining and complaining until we get our way, or at least get it out of our system. Blame my parents! They did a lousy job. ;)

  31. Tahoe Mike says:

    I’m with those who miss the comic edits of Jason, what happened has he runnoft with Kristen with Glasses?
    ~
    Just wondering if anybody knows this… This week they are singing their audition songs. Presumably those songs will be recorded and released on iTunes. In the case of the original songs by Jessica, Caleb, and Alex this week, who gets the money for those downloads? Does Idol have some claim to the publishing rights of original songs they wrote before the show?

    • elizabeth3613431 says:

      I had the same question, Tahoe Mike. No idea, but I suspect Idol has the contestants sign a blanket contract that causes them to give up the rights to these royalties.

  32. Tahoe Mike says:

    Since The Voice is part of this thread, here is what I have to say about that…
    ~
    I find this middle third of the Voice unwatchable. I like the blind auditions (“Video killed the radio star!”). I like the knockouts in the last third of the show, when the viewers vote. Something about the battle rounds bothers me.
    ~
    The concept of a competitive duet is just wrong on every level. A duet is a collaborative endeavor to create something beautiful that is more than the sum of its parts. To intentionally try to upstage and outshine each other goes against the very point of a duet.
    ~
    I don’t like the fact that contestants are forced to compete against their “Teammates,” rather than against the other teams. It seems wrong that their coaches/team leaders are the ones to decide who “Won.” At the very least, it should be the opposing coaches who vote on the winner of these “Duets,”(It would always either be unanimous, or 2-1).

  33. fatalsin says:

    I love Melinda… she makes me crack up every week… without saying a word!

  34. GuitarBlue says:

    So, for those who watch both The Voice and Idol – who gets the best mentoring – The contestants of the Voice with their coaches and guest mentors — or the Idol contestants with Randy Jackson???

    • hahah says:

      Is this a trick question

    • Stormy says:

      IMO Mentoring is the one area where Voice beats Idol. It is impossible to underestimate Randy Jackson. Where other mentors may, at times, be questionable, Randy can be safely relied upon to fail.

  35. James says:

    Ranking imho…

    1. Tie between Gena and Caleb – is Caleb the female version of Gena or is it the other way around?!

    3. Alex – I’m in agreement with Slezak on this one. You don’t have to go crazy to be crazy good.

    4. Malaya – Not a fan personally, but you cannot agree that she has gotten better since the start of top 13.

    5. Jessica – A solid voice most of the time but really needs to add some movement…and being less predictable would be wise

    6. Sam – Really needs to learn how to connect with his songs. This year pretty boy looks will NOT save him from a top 6, 7, or 8th finish that he seems destined for.

    7. Dexter – How much more generic can he get? At least he’s not CJ though…

    8. CJ – At this point I’d rather listen to Lazaro then CJ…

    • James says:

      Err…I mean disagree instead of agree on my Malaya comment lol.

      • GuitarBlue says:

        That’s a pretty good summary of the situation. My prediction is that Jena Irene will not win, and either Alex or Caleb will take first place. ……..

        Sam might have been better off to have waited a year or two to take a run at this, he has the voice but not the “pzazz” or star quality it takes to win………….

        …now there’s a battle this week between Dexter and CJ and Jessica to hold the Alabama vote. The home state power voting (willing to use all methods) can be important. Sam is on the bubble, but I think Malaya will easily survive this week unless she really has a bad performance. …..

  36. Ruby says:

    Jessica (and every other contestant) Don’t sing a song that Ms Haley Rinehart sang. She will always slay you.

  37. Jeannie says:

    I love watching your updates each week, but I’m not sure why you spend so much time reviewing American Idol vs The Voice?!? There is no comparison. Hopefully, that will change once The Voice voting goes to the people.

  38. LIsaK says:

    Doesn’t anyone else find malaya screechy? Her voice sounds forced and non-melodic to me …

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