The theme for the Top 11 on "American Idol" was "Songs from the Cinema" and, unfortunately for a few of the finalists, the songs were a bit too big for them. But all was not lost as several of the Top 11 rose to the occasion, as can be seen on the AmericanIdol.com recap, and commanded not only the song but the stage as well. And they did it when it counts most: Voting after the performance show fills the slots for the Top 10, those contestants that will go on the "American Idol 'LIVE' Tour' over the summer.
As filler for the show, there were clips of each finalist being "roasted," mimicked, and mocked by his or her colleagues. In short, they were auditioning as: Fill in the blank. There were a few really amusing moments, like when C. J. Harris acted as Ben Briley going through his innumerable caps. And when Malaya did a slow slide out of her chair as chill impersonated the laid-back chill of M. K. Nobilette. There was Majesty Rose's spot-on call that Caleb Johnson could very well be the love child of actor Jack Black and rocker Meat Loaf. And then there was the needlingly funny pile-ons that was just about everyone making fun of Sam Woolf and the fact he lives with his grandparents, everyone jumping Caleb for his deadfall in front of Rickey Minor during his Top 12 performance, and everyone having a go at Ben Briley's penchant for making faces.
Judge Harry Connick Jr. wasn't through nailing mentor Randy Jackson (carried over from last week's results show), either. He told host Ryan Seacrest that he had thought up a catch phrase and, after a few halting missteps (feigned), he blurted, "In it to when it." Fellow judge Jennifer Lopez said she thought she'd heard it before. Keith Urban said it sounded familiar. (For those unfamiliar with "American Idol" trivia, "In it to win it" is a much used -- and overused -- phrase championed by Randy Jackson as a judge for twelve seasons.) Judge Harry would later use the phrase in the show, then deadpan that it was his catchphrase and he had made it up.
But enough about the judges and the extraneous. Which of the finalists gave marquee-worthy performances? Which found songs from the big screen a little too big for them?
And The Winners For Best Performances on a Top 11 "Idol" Episode...
C. J. Harris finally got the music ball rolling with a Southern rock classic, Marshal Tucker Band's "Can't You See," which was pulled from the movie "Blow." Picking his brand new guitar and slipping into that country blues vocal styling, C. J. had the judges applauding and letting him know that he could very well have put himself among the frontrunners.
Caleb Johnson (7th) pushed the envelope, going big with the Oscar-winning song from Adele, "Skyfall" (from the movie "Skyfall"). He truly nailed it, his big voice rising to the occasion, with Judge Keith noting that there was nothing predictable about that performance.
M. K. Nobilette (8th) performed the song Garth Brooks' "Make You Feel My Love" from a Harry Connick Jr. film, "Hope Floats." Looking better than she's ever looked (she finally ditched the backward baseball cap, which was doing nothing for her), she engaged her inner k. d. lang (picked up by Jennifer Lopez) and nailed the song. She's been in the bottom three twice and the pace of the song might have hurt her, but it was by far the best she's done in the competition to date.
Alex Preston (9th) slipped right back into his comfort zone, playing Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's acoustic heavy "Falling Slowly" from "Once." It was a smart move (because last week's performance didn't sit well with the judges) and it was easy to see that he was in a better place (with no fear of floods and no rolled up pants, either).
Jena Irene (10th) used her big voice to wrap itself around Paramore's "Decode" from "Twilight." She was definitely in her wheelhouse and protected by her piano. Judge Jennifer lauded her performance, telling her it was the best of the night.
Malaya Watson (11th) continued the streak of great performances that started with Caleb Johnson, finishing the night in the pimp spot and taking the show home. She belted out "I Am Changing," a Jennifer Hudson number from the "Dreamgirls" soundtrack. The judges loved it.
The Winners For Worsst Performances on a Top 11 "Idol" Episode...
Sam Woolf had the unenviable misfortune to pull the dead spot. In addition to being the first on stage, he also made the mistake of going where his voice had no business going, attempting to cover the Beatles' "Come Together" from "Across The Universe." Here's a song that requires attitude, not balladic runs. And since Sam is no Steven Tyler or John Lennon -- or even a Candice Glover, who nailed it last season on "Idol" -- he found out what it truly means to choose a song too big for you. And if that wasn't bad enough, he looked lost, as if he was constantly searching for the camera. All in all, the worst performance on the night.
Jessica Meuse should have had an easy time of getting into the Top 10. After following Sam Woolf doing Perry Como (if he ever did a version of "Come Together"), she had chosen the excellently dark Simon & Garfunkel tune, "The Sound of Silence" (from the movie "The Graduate"). And she was doing great -- until the band jumped in, completely mistiming their entrance. But as Judge Harry noted, she stayed the course and allowed Rick Minor and the band to catch her (and didn't go crazy trying to find them). What should have been a great performance turned out to be an okay performance, which was a bit disappointing, sort of like a promise unfulfilled.
After C. J. Harris set the bar, Dexter Roberts, who undeniably had one of the better performances last week, stepped up with another Southern rock song, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" from "Forrest Gump" and the Reese Witherspoon movie of the same title. A rollicking country boogie boogie rocker, Dexter never quite got control of the song, although his "Roll, Tide, roll" shout-out to the University of Alabama was a good touch. But like judges Keith and Harry said, he never quite made the song his.
Ben Briley (5th) went with his heart and performed a song from his mom's favorite artist, Elton John -- "Bennie and the Jets," from the movie "27 Dresses" (a film Ben admits to having never watched). He was a bit light on the piano (but, hey, at least he can play the piano) and his vocals were an all-out nasal bombardment, it wasn't terrible. Yet, the judges didn't care for it, all agreeing that his direction left them a bit confused.
Majesty Rose (6th) followed Ben and did a far better job, taking on Idina Menzel's "Let It Go" from the hit animated film "Frozen." But there were moments when she just didn't seem to get her voice to the right place, coming off a bit flat. Her bouncing around the stage seemed a bit off, especially during the more theatrical part of the arrangement (which probably shouldn't have been part of said arrangement in the first place).
And The Nominees For Silver Stool Awards Are...
There were three finalists who, judging from just their Top 11 performances, should find themselves seated atop a silver stool on the results show. They are: Sam Woolf, Dexter Roberts, and Ben Briley.
The three finalists that America will probably not support after their Top 11 performances will likely be Sam Woolf, Ben Briley, and M. K. Nobilette -- Sam, because of his awful performance alone; Ben, due to two straight weeks of so-so performances; and M. K. Nobilette, because she doesn't seem to be connecting with the audience, having already made the bottom three twice.
And The Finalist Going Home With Nothing...
No way will Sam Woolf be sent home -- too handsome and teen idol-ish. Even his mistake of trying to perform the Beatles won't hurt him too much. Ben Briley is another WGWG (a "White Guy With Guitar," like Sam and Dexter), so he's safe. That leaves M. K. to get the bad news that she won't be going on tour with the Top 10.
Tune in Thursday night at 9 p.m. (note that this is a new time slot for "American Idol," moving back an hour to allow Chef Gordon Ramsay and "Hell's Kitchen" to take the 8 p.m. slot) to see the results according to America's vote. Performing will be Harry Connick Jr. and a Jennifer Lopez "tastemaker" pick from Savannah, Ga., Mali Music.