The producers of "American Idol" couldn't have given the Top 10 finalists an easier theme: "Top 10 Songs" (taken from Billboard's Hot 100 from 2010-2014). Of course, a few had to press the envelope and a few just had to pick songs that they simply shouldn't have, but at least some made it work and a couple rocked the night. But it was a performance night when we heard Electronic music performed for the first time by a contestant, a rocker sing Lady Gaga, and a girl sing a song about a guy regretting the loss of a girl. A strange night to say the least, but at least two of these three songs worked out well for the contestants.
Michael Slezak at TVLine noted (via Yahoo TV) in his March 19 recap that the "American Idol" judges may have delivered their best critiques of the season during the Top 10 live performance show and that he remained "cautiously optimistic" that one or a few of the finalists might be worthy of the title won by Clarkson, McCreery, and Cook. He was spot on about the judges. (Jennifer Lopez even led a "boo" session on Harsh Harry Connick Jr. for one of his reviews.) And what can one expect but cautious optimism when the finalists seem to be so unpredictably inconsistent?
The Bottom 5 Of The Top 10
First up was the worst up. Yes, yes, it had to be said. M. K. Nobilette led off the night with Pink's "Perfect," a song perfectly suited for someone else to sing. After doing a good job last week and getting the sympathy vote for being a two-time bottom (three) dweller, M. K. chose a song she simply shouldn't have. Not only was she flat throughout but she even stumbled halfway through the song. For once (finally), the judges called her on her poor performance. Being in the dead spot (the first performer) might have done her some good, save that her performance wasn't forgettable in its stab at being perfect vocal awfulness.
Next worst: Young Sam Woolf might be a teen girl's dream and all that, but when he tried to tackle .Fun's "We Are Young," well, he came off a bit wooden, even where the song gets a bit lively. Trying to crawl out of the hole he made for himself last week by desecrating the Beatles' "Come Together" and deservedly landing in the bottom three, he did himself no favors with this eclectic pop tune. With no power, conviction, or connection, Sam Woolf might be the only person who can save M. K. Nobilette from getting the elimination she's deserved for two out of the last three weeks. Singing last and near-worst means he won't be forgettable -- and it could very well cost him votes.
C. J. Harris performed seventh and, after coming off such an excellent Top 11 performance, undoubtedly had high hopes of continuing the trend. However, his version of Hunter Hayes' "Invisible" was done at far too high a pitch and was grating instead of angsty. Although the emotion was there that the song deserved, the actual sound of him singing it left a lot to be desired and Judge Harry suggested he take advantage of the show's musicians and vocal coaches to get his vocals in line with the notes.
The guy singing second, Dexter Roberts, kept the show waiting for a great performance to get the show rolling. Although his rendition of Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" wasn't too bad (let's go with "mediocre"), it also had no flair. You could actually see the crowd getting into the popular country song, but Dexter never seemed to get there. Same as last week when he didn't quite deliver on Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." He's the frontrunner to make the finale and win Season 13 (according to the oddsmakers) but he won't stay there long with a continuous string of lackluster performances.
Caleb Johnson performed sixth and finished the night in sixth, just outside the top five best performances of the evening. He did a passable job with Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory," but it was missing something -- a connection, an "oomph" factor, something. Like Dexter Roberts, the song simply sat there, giving the audience nothing. It was very unlike all his previous performances and, although he said he wanted to step outside and do something edgy, it just missed working for him.
The Top 5 Of The Top 10
There's something haunting in the way Jessica Meuse sings her songs. And she's got great control. And although Judge Harry stayed in his harsh mode and told her she was sort of one-dimensional, she remained true to her style, performing an acoustic version of the schadenfreude-injected hit "Pumped Up Kicks" (Foster the People). Her dark vocal stylings seemed perfect for the song and she ended it just right (and if it one thing Jessica seems to be very good at, it is the conclusion of her songs, where she seems to trail her voice, leaving you wanting more). It was noted that there was a disconnect with her smiling when the lyrics were so serious, but it seemed to only add to the song's dual nature (upbeat tempo, dark lyrics -- think: Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69," where the tempo is upbeat, the lyrics sad). Eighth in line, her performance would have been more memorable had not Majesty Rose followed her.
Malaya Watson is on a redemption trip. Singing fifth, she returned to singing Bruno Mars. It was an iffy choice, both in that she had bombed on her last Bruno Mars outing (the horrendous "Runaway Baby" that landed her in the bottom three on the Top 13 results show) and that her singing "When I Was Your Man" was a vocal gender bender. But she nailed it. The judges praised her for her excellent vocals and for not altering the lyrics to fit her gender.
Majesty Rose performed next to last and, armed with her acoustic guitar once again, she had the entire audience moving with Avicii's "Wake Me Up." Singing to a folked up melody, Majestry returned to her Tracy Chapman/Corinne Bailey Rae sound. However, Judge Keith Urban wasn't impressed and thought she had made the song too folksy. Still, it was a far cry from last week's bottom three torpedo (she sang "Let It Go" from "Frozen" and took a direct hit that nearly saw her eliminated).
The surprise finalist of Season 13, Jena Irene, took on Zedd's "Clarity," making it the first electronic song ever performed on the "American Idol" stage (by a contestant). And if there was ever a word that defined a vocal performance, the title of her chosen Top 10 hit was it. Jena has set herself apart in the competition -- and not just because she's a Wild Card pick with a chance or because she became memorable due to so many people mispronouncing her name. No, her vocals are star quality, her song choice perfect. And although she made the bottom three on the Top 13 show, she shouldn't have, and she continued her strong performance streak that just might get her to the season finale. She performed third on the night and was a welcome kick-off after M. K. and Dexter fell and faltered, in that order.
Best performance of the night: Alex Preston. Following Jena Irene, whom Judge Jennifer Lopez said had the best performance of the night (so far), Alex had to get it just right. And he did. You have to the give the guy credit. He knows how to choose songs that compliment his style. He arranged One Direction's pop hit "Story Of My Life" into a folk song, uptempo and energized. Judge Jennifer Lopez said he reminded her of a Buddy Holly without the glasses. However, if truth be told, his mannerisms and guitar style was more in keeping with Paul Simon. Either way, he nailed it. One of the frontrunners coming into Top 10 week, solid performances like Wednesday night's infectious number will keep him there.
Prediction: Who Will Make The Bottom Three Of The Top 10?
After last week's bottom three, predicting who will not get America's votes has become a dicey thing. Not because the three didn't deserve to be there. They did. But since when has deserving to be in the bottom three actually resulted in finalists actually being in the bottom three? Right? Anyway...
The bottom three should consist of C. J. Harris, Sam Woolf, and M. K. Nobilette. Honestly, given last week's bottom three and the way the voting panned out, those guys most likely will be the bottom three.
Prediction: Who Gets To Go Home?
M. K. Nobilette will be eliminated. Period. She's been hanging around, surviving on sympathy votes and unfounded judges support for three weeks now. Time to break out the boot, America!
Bonus prediction: The judges will again refuse to use their one and only Save.
"American Idol" returns with the Top 10 results show Thursday night at 9 p.m. EST. Jennifer Lopez will step out from behind the judges panel and sing her new hit, "I Luh Ya Papi." As a special bonus, the song will feature former "Idol" finalists Alison Iraheta, Pia Toscano, and Jessica Sanchez. For the tastemaker selection of the week, Royal Teeth will perform "Wild."