American Idol has gone live. On Wednesday night (Feb. 26), the musical reality show mainstay moved on from auditions and Hollywood Week to the real meat: the live competition. In a season with semi-elusive contestants, Idol produces chose this week's theme as "This Is Me," a song that the singers felt described them both as a person and a future recording artist.
Because it was a total your choice week, no one singer did so disturbingly poorly, but some performances definitely fell flat.
Let's check out who truly shined and who were a little bleh below.
Majesty Rose - It's hard to separate a Janelle Monae song from the Archandroid herself, but I can try. Majesty tackled "Tightrope," the super upbeat PBR&B track that we can expect from her by now (she previously took on Pharrell's "Happy"). She killed it, though, giving the right amount of energy while still managing to tackle the high notes with a solid precision. "Tightrope" is a fun song, and that's something Majesty captured well.
Caleb Johnson - Of course this old rocker would tackle a Rival Sons song, and he chose "Pressure and Time." It's clear this is where Caleb Johnson is comfortable and with that big ol' growl, he totally nailed this bluesy song. Even though the vocal was strong and the energy was magnetic, it'd be nice to see Caleb try and do something else on the Idol stage... I'm worrying he's a one-trick pony, albeit a pony who performs fantastically from week to week.
Jena Irene - Jena Irene is a true dark horse this season on American Idol, making her way into the top 13 by a wildcard vote from the judges after a faulty Hollywood Week performance. However, she really proved herself with a take on Coldplay's "The Scientist." She sang the crap out of this song, and her tone is just so unique, it's like a bluesy, stronger Katy Perry, and that's something I can really get behind. And, for real, she is LOUD.
Ben Briley - On Johnny Cash's birthday, Ben Briley celebrated by kicking "Folsom Prison Blues" up a couple of notches with a cover that ended up being all his own. Instead of wandering into the deeper notes, he took the track up an octave and also picked up the tempo, something that ended up being the right amount of twangy, high energy and fun. It was really easy to see what kind of artist Ben would end up being if he were to win Idol.
Jessica Meuse - Jessica Meuse would be a fan of Shinedown, and she showed the world her rocker side once again with a performance of "The Crow and the Butterfly." After going a little but country last week, Meuse demonstrated her roots with a gritty, classically inspired rock take. It harkened back to her earliest Idol days and audition, and it was a nice refreshing reminder of what makes her so unique.
Malaya Watson - Like everyone else, it's hard not to fall in love with Malaya Watson's adorkable personality, but her vocal was just not on for Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby." The high energy of the song fit her well but it really showed her youth... and not in a good way. She was also the lone performer who seemed to trip over her song's words. She's fun to watch but not technically good, and that makes me a sad panda.
Kristen O'Connor - I don't mean to hate on Kristen O'Connor, it's just that she's yet to truly impress me on the Idol stage. She chose the show's inaugural winner Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster," and while she showed a more solid performance than anything during Hollywood Week, it still managed to fall a little bit flat. This was totally just the epitome of OK. I'd really like something more from Kristen and she really needs to prove herself if America is going to keep her around.
CJ Harris - Another wildcard pick like Kristen (and Jena), CJ Harris really needed to prove himself tonight, and he just kind of did something passable with Darius Rucker's "Radio." I inherently like this guy, I'm just not so sure he's ready for American Idol... I'm writing this less than an hour after the show (with notes!) and I barely remember anything about this performance, which is not a good sign for the voting public.
MK Nobilette - After a stunning take on John Legend's "All Of Me" last week, it seemed like MK Nobilette was ready to shake Idol up big time, and this week with Allen Stone's "Satisfaction," she kind of just reminded me that she has a very limited range. MK fell flat quite a few times, and it was clear she was nervous. She doesn't have it in her to win, so it's like, what is she really doing on Idol?
Dexter Roberts - Even though the judges had a hard time pinning Dexter Roberts down as an artist, it's pretty clear to me that he'd slide right on well into the bro-y parts of the country world. Think Luke Bryan or Blake Shelton. He took on Chris Young's "Aw Naw" and oh man was this thing Southern fried. He had a little grit to this performance and a bit of an enunciation problem, but this was still a fun way to kick off the live Idol shows.
Sam Woolf - After Spencer Lloyd failed to nab a Top 13 spot, it's clear that Sam Woolf is this season's teenybopper heartthrob. He performed Matchbox 20's "Unwell," which is clearly something he pulls influence from. He slowed the song down a bit, making the performance a little draggy, but the vocal was nice and solid. This was a true middle of the pack performance, but his momentum should pull him through to do something a little more stimulating in coming weeks.
Emily Piriz - After her stellar Grace Potter "Stars" performance during Hollywood Week, Emily Piriz quickly became one of my favorites. Her voice is just so damn pretty! She performed the hard-to-sing P!nk song "Glitter In The Air" and managed to do it justice, pulling of quite a few sky high notes without getting lost in the technicalities of the song. There was a little lack or personality in the song, but there were few technical faults.
Alex Preston - Alex Preston took a nice and relaxed turn on Jason Mraz's "A Beautiful Mess." He had a really unique vocal and this song had some truly solid, quiet moments. He seemed to be the most at home on the stage, even if he did seem a little introverted during his performance. But some people are just really into the craft, ya know? And Alex is just one of those guys. I dig.
So, who should go home and who will go home?
Should Go: Malaya Watson. Sorry. Her performance was simply the most off the mark this week, despite her massive stage presence. I think her personality will pull her through to next week, though.
Will Go: Kristen or CJ Harris. Probably CJ. These two didn't get enough fan votes to make it into the live shows on their own, so they truly had to sparkle to make it safe this week. And that's something they both failed to do. Kristen managed to have a little bit of a more memorable performance than C.J., and the show has two other solid country guys. Thus, I think it's the end of the road for him.