Reality Check: Is It Too Late to Save Idol's 13th Season? Plus: The Great Alex Preston Debate! And Is Team Blake Unbeatable on The Voice?

To say it’s been a frustrating season of American Idol would be as much of an understatement as saying Jennifer Lopez likes her clothes on the revealing side.

But what, exactly, is keeping the show’s latest crop of contestants from achieving true greatness, from delivering musical moments that deserve to be branded in our memory banks alongside Fantasia’s “Summertime,” Jason Castro’s “Halleluah,” Adam Lambert’s “Mad World” and everything by David Cook ever (to name a few)?

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That’s the tricky topic tackled by my cohost Melinda Doolittle and I on this week’s installment of Reality Check. Not only that, but we engage in some heated debate about the success/failure of Alex Preston’s “Every Breath You Take” and Jena Irene’s “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” throw some side-eye at Harry Connick Jr.’s uncomfortable time-wasting antics, and ponder the continued competitive survival of C.J. Harris. Plus, I share what I want for Christmas.

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If that’s not enough for you, we dish last week’s Voice proceedings — including the not-so-surprising depth of Blake Shelton’s Final 3, and the one Battle Rounds victor that left us with a split decision.

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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264 Comments
  1. Zack says:

    Ok, I have two problems here.

    1) We have actually had some great performances this year (Blue Eyed Lie, Decode, Bring Me To Life, Dazed And Confused, etc) and yet we are complaining that there are no moments? Who are we, Randy Jackson? I think Caleb and Jena have been especially spectacular this season, as they are both great singers, have shown creativity as an artist multiple times, have picked multiple genres, etc. they are doing everything we have asked out of contestants in past seasons, and yet this Season is bad? I don’t think we should be so quick to criticize the talent as a whole based on the mediocrity of a few. (C.J, Dexter, Sam) Jessica has had some great performances, and Alex (Who I’m actually not a fan of) has had some as well. I expect more of the people here. I love Reality Check, but this is getting ridiculous.

    2) Harry. I have remained quiet for most of the season, as he usually has some good critiques. This was boarder line Steven Tyler antics, which should speak for itself. Because of the increasingly annoying moments and the lack of good critiques that we have gotten from him recently, I feel as if he should go. J-LO has been a more consistent judge on the Live Shows this year (Maybe because they don’t follow a producer script) and I find myself agreeing with her more as the weeks go by. We need to stop clinging to comments she made 4 seasons ago and accept that she has become a good judge.

    Idology/Reality Check is one of the main reasons why I love idol. I just hope I can continue to enjoy it.

    • LeahKittyS says:

      Up-vote!

    • syb says:

      Yeah I think we’ve gotten pretty spoiled and unreasonable about Idol to the point that perhaps we can never again be satisfied. Every week isn’t going to have a “Mad World” or “Lovesong” moment. I thought Skyfall was pretty spectacular. I thought the two original songs performed last week were darn right amazing. Of the bits here and there I’ve watched of the Voice, maybe I don’t see as many amateur flawed performances, but I don’t see anything that’s yet beaten the best of Idol this season. I see a lot of female singers competing for who can hold their loud high note the longest, and a group of guys who are pretty forgettable. Oh well, I guess maybe if Jennifer, Keith and Harry sat in big red thrones, and every performance and critique was previewed before the commercial break, Idol would be considered revitalized. I don’t see any value in demanding “more, more, more” from the show. If anything, I wish they’d just strip it down to its roots–a vehicle for watching amateurs grow into seasoned performers. That’s good enough for me.

      • MAB says:

        I agree with you totally. The expectations are getting a little out of hand. I don’t think there is anything these contestants can do to satisfy some on this blog. I am totally enjoying the show and look forward to it every week. I can’t say the same for The Voice. I am totally bored to death with it. Great it got an Emmy and better ratings but it too is dropping every week in the ratings. It will never have the run Idol did especially with two seasons a year. It is just too much.
        Yes the judges especially Harry acted a little kooky on Idol last week and the performances were not as good as the week before but they were far from being awful. If you are so unhappy with the show than stop watching and stop ruining it for everyone else. My biggest pet peeve is those who no longer watch the show or say they don’t yet they come on here and rip it apart.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Excellent comments, syb! Perhaps we are expecting a little much. And to Zack’s comments I’d forgotten about Jena’s “Decode” as well. I’m struggling to like Jena, but that was a great performance.

  2. Jason, you are the hero of this episode!!!

  3. jalahyacinth says:

    JASON!!!! YOU’RE BACK!!! Please never leave again? Thank you.

  4. greysfan says:

    I said at the first live show of idol that this season was a complete dud and worse than last season and people crucified me for it. I still stand by my comments. Idol this year is a joke. There is absolutely no one left who interests me. Its just bad bad bad.

    • Mary says:

      They might not interest you but I have a couple that I like and root for. I think there have been a couple stand out songs maybe not wow moments, which isn’t necessary bad just different. Last year had a couple of good singers as well, but as a whole didn’t enjoy the show as much. I like this years judges, with the exception of last week, I think they give good sound critiques unlike last year. The majority of these contestants are introverted and frankly I don’t know how in the amount of time they have to get them out of there shells. Funny we want inexperience but also want perfection. I still say they do not get the support behind the scene like previous idols.

  5. Eva Lettieri says:

    It is beyond comprehension how Caleb can be called out for falling off a note at the end of his song and yet CJ can’t stay in tune. Please this is such a joke. How can someone make top 7 and not be able to sing in tune. Ms. Doolittle made a statement that someone can be taught to stay in tune but can’t be taught to emote. To me one of the requisites to even compete in a Singing Competition is to sing in tune. I understand a bum note here and there but every song. Perhaps this is the reason American Idol viewership is falling off. It started with Lazero and has snowballed from there.

    • deedee says:

      I don’t think that’s what Melinda meant by Caleb’s note at the end of his song. If I understood her correctly, she meant that the pyrotechnics on stage weren’t justified at that moment because Caleb’s voice wasn’t reaching higher and higher, it was actually falling lower and tapering off. So, she was criticizing the choices of the production team rather than Caleb’s singing. At least I think that’s what she meant.

  6. WO says:

    Ahhh yes…. Don’t we all LOOOOOOOOOVE artists who can scream higher than anyone else and belt out a soulful tune that sounds like every other soulful singer who did it before them? Such is the fate of Sosondra on The Voice. She make hit the really loud notes and hold them out really long…. but let’s face the facts: That type of singing is not marketable, radio friendly or record friendly…. if it was, those type of artists would ALWAYS WIN. Yet they never do. AND when they do finally win, they disappear into the ether… which is what American Idol should do. So glad I can listen to Reality Check and confirm that I did not waste any time watching the has been of singing shows. Idol does a better job of launching their winners into the stratosphere, but eventually they all come back down.

  7. April says:

    Michael really seems to want AI to end. otherwise he would not be sending so much negative energy in the name of “loving the show so much.”

    The Voice have become bullies regarding their criticism of American Idol. For one thing, a good chunk of their contestants have had experience/record contracts and YET, the judges on The Voice want to poke fun at Idol where MOSTLY KIDS are the contestants. AI has always been about the growth of a singer, not the desperate hope of launching a previously signed record artist.

    I simply cannot understand why both shows cannot be enjoyed and embraced because the focus is supposed to be on the singing/entertainment. But in the greedy, domineering world in which we live, someone has to be pumping up their chests believing they are number one.

    • Emma says:

      You probably didn’t watch the Voice last night so let me inform you that the first two songs performed were songs of former American Idol contestants, Carrie Underwood and Jordan Sparks. They’re not bullies. Their show is more entertaining, way more entertaining IMHO.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        It’s a matter of personal taste. Although I love me some Blake Shelton I prefer the format on Idol. I’m not sure why people can’t just enjoy what they enjoy. This isn’t politics. It’s singing shows, folks. It’s entertainment. So just have fun, be entertained, and let everyone else enjoy what entertains them as well.

  8. Emma says:

    If they were going to cast contestants with such lackluster talent, at least they should have cast some eye candy for us to enjoy. There is nothing enjoyable about this season, and the nose dive in the ratings reflects that.

    • Lynn says:

      They foolishly got rid of most of the “eye candy” in favor of niche singers. I don’t think Sam or Jessica has panned out the way they originally intended. Each contestant does the same thing week after week because they have no versatility — they’re one-trick ponies.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Uh, Lazaro and Sanjaya, anyone? Seriously?

  9. Matt Meaney says:

    I agree that no one has grabbed me this season. Majesty did at the beginning, but she clearly was overwhelmed by the time she left. How much of the blame can be put onto Randy Jackson? I don’t think I have heard the words, “Don’t sing that song, it is the wrong choice for you,” once the season. Too bad David Cook did not get to work with everyone even with song selection.

    I was not a big fan of Alex at the beginning but he is winning me over. He took “Every Breath You Take” and turned it from a stalker song into a tender love song. He sang the song to a special someone who was going through a tough time and was telling her that, no matter what, he was there for her.

    One big gripe I have long had about Idol, although it was not to bad earlier this season (but has since gotten worse): don’t the contestants get any instructions on how to use a microphone correctly? They pop their P’s and breath so heavily right into the microphone that it distorts making it hard to understand the lyrics. You would think that such an important skill would be taught. I watched Melinda’s video of her recent show and you could see that she knows how to use a microphone.

  10. I just have one question…. After seeing how David Cook represented American Idol from the first…and then went on as Winner, presenting American Idol w brilliant ‘conversation”. traveling to other countries bringing w him heart & class, charism, brilliant conversation for interviews,,. AND PRIDE to the AI Crown. It takes more than vocals to be an American Idol Winner… Sadly Is anyone of this Top 8 really qualified for this honor?

    • Lynn says:

      This is a scary proposition. I think Jena is the only one who could effectively represent Idol as a winner. She has a decent voice and is young, attractive and personable. The others just have way too many limitations.

    • deedee says:

      NYCArole, an Idol winner is not Miss America. The point is not to represent the show and travel the world to bring pride to the AI crown! It’s to be a successful artist who sells records and makes Idol look like a relevant star-maker, so the show can stay on air another year and make money.

      • Emma says:

        Exactly. What is the tagline for this season? The search for a superstar, or something like that? Well nice try but they failed miserably, better luck next time, there’s no hope for this year.

    • syb says:

      David’s a classy guy, but I don’t think I can think of a winner who isn’t classy in his or her own way. Assuming that nobody in this group has what it takes to be a great Idol ambassador seems pretty narrow minded to me. David himself seemed a little surly when he competed at times. I’m sure that was misinterpreted or the product of bad editing perhaps, but I can’t jump to the conclusion that these contestants are less than exceptional people in their own individual rights.

  11. joey says:

    Slezak, don’t you ever roll your eyes at Melinda Doolittle.

  12. Scott says:

    Melinda at 07:00: SPOT ON!!!

  13. Ceng says:

    Different people have different style and different taste on music….enough of
    Sooo Loud Singer on Idol. Too many of them in the industry already. If we dont liek the season…. Why still keep on watching anyway then look on google the latest on AI…quite funny!

  14. Alan Dvorkis says:

    Great comments. Great episode. More enjoyable than either show. Wish this was a hour long.

  15. jane says:

    My problem with idol is I keep imagining which contestant could have a successful post idol career and I’m at a lost. Caleb has a great voice, but an arena rock voice is not popular these days. He would need to go in a different direction, either hard rock or maybe southern. I love his voice but it’s so generic right now. I think Jess might make it in country, but her “rock edge” might not sit well with mainstream country fans. Right now, I’d say Alex has the best chance to really make it post idol. I like his rearrangements and his voice is pretty good. I’m not a Gena fan. Her songs are starting to sound the same. I thought that song she sang a few weeks back with all the glowsticks was a train wreck. I didn’t get it. And she butchered I Love Rock N Roll. I was shocked she wasn’t in the bottom 3. I still wish they had saved Majesty. She has all the originality that Dexter and Sam lack. I know half of her performances were terrible, but she had some great ones too. And the ones that were good, sounded current. and hip. I’d buy her album just to see what was on it. Caleb and Alex should be the final 2 and I think they will be.

    • The Other Leah says:

      A lot of people like arena rock. Producers just assume it’s not popular, but it goes over really well on shows like Idol. Why shouldn’t he stay true to the music that he covers on Idol? It might actually be a good move. I miss that bombastic rock-n-roll, the over the top pyrotechnics, the power ballads, the wailing guitar solos and the charismatic front man with the high, wailing voice! Why not bring it back!?!

      • HTGR says:

        +1 – take that any day over the sleepy, weirded up coffee house style Alex and Sam used tonight. And why would what Alex did tonight sell so well today? Awkward arrangements sell well today?

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Jessica would do fine in country music. There are many different types of performers and styles in the genre and there’s room for everyone.

  16. Glory_Dazed says:

    * Judges: I’m hoping that the mullets, the hiding in the audience and the kid carrying were an idea that came from a since dismissed associate producer. All three of you will have more TV appearances and sell records. So do what you get paid for, STFrakkingU, STFrakkinD, and judge!
    * Sam: You, singing a quiet song on guitar. Again. YAWN. I would have loved to see you cover Twisted Sister.
    * Alex: Sting himself has said that “Every Breath You Take” is a creepy song. Alex doing it like a Jason Mraz song was creepy on creepy. Now, imagine that song, a capella, with a single light shining up from below.
    * Jessica and JenanotGina: You picked each other’s songs. Jess doesn’t have the NY firehorn brass that Debbie Harry brought to Call Me. And Jena went from really great moment to just another karaoke performance when she stood up midway thru.
    * CJ: You could have used Michael Bolton as an excuse to do Otis Redding. Percy Sledge. Simply Red. Black Crowes. Even Jon Cryer’s Try a Little Tenderness. Why Free Falling? Did you WANT to leave?
    * Malaya: You hit Chaka Khan’s big note. Congrats. Between now and the tour, brush up on the rest of the song.
    * Dexter and Caleb. Good choices. In your wheelhouse. One of you will win, then open for Lee DeWyze. Please, give us all a Youtube-able moment while you still have the chance!!!!
    *And David Cook. You’re no longer on a major label. Are you by chance still under 29?

  17. Jane says:

    I agree with Melinda! I loved Alex’s rendition of Every Breath You Take. I can’t stop listening to it. It is amazing…Alex should win Idol. He is the true artist, musician and singer!

  18. HTGR says:

    Well I often side with Melinda when she and Slezak get into it, but I gotta go with Slezak when it comes to Alex. He just chopped those verses down at times in a weird fading, rushed staccato and got too lullaby with it and yeah no. Slezak was right, soooo, sooooooooooo right about this! I take the Melinda horror faces reacting to Slezak in that portion of the video and having else to do but hold up a mirror and reflect them back on herself this time.
    .
    Worse horrors I actually totally agreed with JLo’s take on it vs. the guys take.
    He just changed that in way wrong ways. If you do that it better work.

  19. HTGR says:

    No, no, no, no, no Melinda, just no. Exactly Slezak just tossed it off. blop blop blop. blop blop blop. meaningless staccato and then the parts he put feeling into it was over the top lullaby, so wrong, so not 80s, so not working.
    .
    I was with her a bit on I Love Rock and Roll though, that just wasn’t handled all that well. And to even dare say she handled that better than Kat handled Open Arms…. man now I take those Melinda looks and reflect them back to Slezak with a double set of mirrors.
    .
    Apparently Jason is back, which is awesome I imagine (although I haven’t watched RC since he was last editing these so I never knew he was gone), good timing for me I guess.

  20. R says:

    We definitely need more live performances before the top 12 on idol, I always felt because the voice was pretaped until the voting rounds they always sound so good maybe because of editing, and the live shows aren’t usually as good

  21. darcy's evil twin says:

    Yay! Jason’s back! LOVED the clips and comments.
    .
    I just had the chance this morning to watch “Reality Check” and haven’t read the comments, so I apologize in advance if I repeat something.
    Has the whole “Harry Connick Jr -.Girl on Shoulder” thing ever been clarified? From the moment that happened I never thought a thing about it because I assumed it was his daughter. She looks exactly like him. I thought the hair extensions on Keith were kind of amusing. Jennifer should have come out in one of her old “In Living Color” outfits.
    .
    Melinda, I love your shirt and I agree with you on your comments more so than I agree with Mr. Slezak, although I do agree with Mr. Slezak re: the judges being harder on Jessica because they expect more from her. That’s what I’ve been saying all along. I’m repeating myself here (again – sorry) but Carrie Underwood had no stage presence when she was on Idol.
    .
    I liked Alex’s “Every Breath You Take” – probably because I never cared for the original, LOL.
    .
    I agree, we’re at Week 8 and the contestants need to step it up a bit. Jessica’s “Blue Eyed Lie”, Alex’s “Fairytales”, and Caleb’s “Dazed and Confused” have been the best moments for me so far.

  22. Carole Stevens says:

    Watching Idol is painful this year! On the other hand, every one of the final 12 on The Voice is amazing! Actually, the top 20 were all incredible! I’d be amazed if Idol is on for another season!

  23. JAYNE says:

    I’ve been an idol fan for many years, and last year was a liitle disappointing for me, but this year has become a real snooze-fest. No disrespect meant for contestants, they all seem to be nice enough young people, but, I was thinking that maybe what’s wrong…. is that singers who catch on with audiences have great voices AND something about their personalities that interest and intrigue and entertain. I started out interested in Alex and Sam, and they’re both talented, but after seeing them week after week, neither of them seem quite ready for all this. Maybe there’s more to the hard to define “special something” it takes to catch an audience’s interest, and loyalty.

  24. Chugbegone says:

    Bout time someone gave kudos to Jason Castro for his rendition of “Hallelujah”.

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