Sunday, February 23, 2014

American Idol Top 13 Reveal and Wildcard Round

On Thursday night, the 13th Season of American Idol picked the lucky 13 contestants to advance to the Finals. I have said in the past I prefer the old way that Idol used to pick Finalists, which involved a lengthier semi-final process and without the need for "wildcards." The whole "Rush Week" thing seemed a little weird to me and the Thursday night broadcast was definitely "rushed."

Who should have been the top vote getters: Caleb Johnson, Bria Anai, Sam Woolf, Briana Oakley, Ben Briley, Mayala Watson, C.J. Harris, Emily Piriz, Dexter Roberts, and Jena Irene

Who I predicted would be the top vote getters: Caleb Johnson, Sam Woof, Briana Oakley, Ben Briley, Mayala Watson, Dexter Roberts, Jena Irene, Spencer Lloyd, Majesty Rose, and Jessica Muese

Who were the top vote getters: Caleb Johnson, Sam Woolf, Ben Briley, Mayala Watson, Emily Piriz, Dexter Roberts, Majesty Rose, Alex Preston, MK Nobilette, and Jessica Muese.

All in all, I think six out of the ten deserved the spot and I also predicted six out of the ten.

After the announcements, the judges (or perhaps producers) selected five singers to sing for the wildcard. Mostly, I think they picked the right people for that opportunity, with the exception of Briana Oakley who was passed over. Joining her in elimination were Marrialle Sellars, Emmanuel Zidor, George Lovett, and Malcolm Allen. I wonder if it has been commented elsewhere that all five of the contestants who were sitting on the bottom couch with Seacrest when they were told their dream had come to an end were African-American.

1. C.J. Harris- "Bring It On Home to Me"

First up to sing was C.J, who was rushed to the stage, and seemed a bit uncomfortable without his guitar. I really think he has an interesting voice and is someone that is easy to root for, but I thought this was an average performance at best. Harry Connick Jr. noted the band had messed up the song at the beginning.

2. Jena Irene- "Unbreakable Me"

Unlike C.J., Jena had a lot more time to gather her thoughts and sing, as Idol cut to commercial, and when they came back, a keyboard was magically on stage for her to perform with. She sounded pretty good on this and I think she has great potential in this competition. However, it was mostly just alright for me.

3. Spencer Lloyd- "Ordinary Girl"

I was genuinely surprised that he did not get enough votes to automatically advance, despite being less than stellar on Wednesday night. It seems like the female Idol voters this year have gravitated towards somewhat less conventional looking guys. All butt perhaps one of them certainly have not missed many meals lately.

When it was Spencer's turn to sing, he quickly had a guitar handed to him and he performed what seemed to be an original song. We were told that the wildcard contestants were going to be reprising their Hollywood solos. We saw back then that Spencer had performed a really lame original song, but I am almost positive this was not the same one. Nonetheless, this song was not much better. While it was clear that Spencer had a lot of support during his performance from the ladies in the audience, once again his voice was pretty subpar. He was shown in Hollywood singing impressively on a well-known acoustic type song, but for whatever reason, he never got to show off those skills during "Rush Week."

4. Bria Anai- "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"

Wildcard rounds the past few years have produced a lot of drama and a lot of emotionally powerful performances. Thus far,they were missing it on Thursday night, so at least Bria went for it. This song has been sort of overdone lately on reality singing shows.

She did the diva belting thing that used to be quite in fashion on American Idol and I sort of appreciated her for that. Yes, it was a little bit out of control, but I still think that she probably has the strongest overall voice of all the females that we saw sing (I would have liked to have heard from the others that were not even given a chance on Tuesday). Bria looked quite deflated and frustrated when Harry Connick Jr. once again criticized her for over-singing.

5. Kristen O'Connor- "Unconditionally"

Selecting her to sing here was the one questionable decision for me. I did not hear anything from her on Tuesday that led me to believe she could do too well in this competition, but I guess they are casting a show and picked her for a reason. Once again, while I think she took admirable chances in trying to show that she could be a mainstream pop ballad type singer, the song sort of just got away from her. There have just been so many female Idols in the past who could do what she does so much better.


5. Spencer Lloyd
4. Kristen O'Connor
3. C.J Harris
2. Jena Irene
1. Bria Anai

As they went to commercial, I most expected the judges to announce that the three wildcard selections to advance would be Jena, Kristen, and Spencer. However, I also wondered if C.J. might have a chance for racial diversity reasons, on a week when so many other black singers (albeit ones that sing vastly different styles of music) had been cut.

Advancing to the Finals: Jena Irene, C.J. Harris, and Kristen O'Connor.

The Top 13 is now set and I think Bria got a raw deal to some extent. As for Spencer, I believe he genuinely expected to win the whole season and a lot of other Idol followers might have expected it as well.

I plan to try to enjoy following this season as much as possible. There is some great talent there, but I think the season does have the potential of being a bit boring. Sadly, I was sort of disappointed by the way this first week of live shows went. The girls just were weaker than expected and I think there are a lot of singers left who may have a difficult time stepping out of their vocal comfort zones.

In recent seasons, it became apparent pretty early that both Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips were heavy favorites to win their seasons. This year, I just have a hunch that the eventual outcome may be even less in doubt. Things certainly seem to be set up for 17 year old Sam Woolf to take this season fairly easily.

Hopefully, there will be interesting surprises and good performances by multiple contestants to come.