“American Idol” Season 13 is finally starting the live shows with the Top 15 girls Tuesday (Feb. 18), though only 10 of them will get to perform, which doesn’t seem very fair (and as it will turn out, is not fair because so many of them completely tank). They’ve been working hard in boot camp all week and now only some of them get to perform? Mean.
Before things kick off, Harry Connick Jr. says this is the most talented group since the first year. That’s … not a good comparison. Kelly Clarkson is awesome, but let’s not get carried away that Season 1 is the pinnacle of talent for this show, HCJ.
Just as a reminder, the viewers will vote five men and five women into the Top 13 and the judges will pick the three wild card spots. Let’s get to the performances:
1. Majesty Rose, ‘Happy,’ Pharrell Williams
Terrible song choice. Majesty can sing, and this is not showing off her pipes in any way. There’s no range, it’s too fast-paced, the guitar is not adding anything and all she keeps doing is repeating lines about nothing bringing her down. You can barely hear her, there’s no big moment — it’s an entirely forgettable number. The only way she’s going through is if the judges select her for one of the final three spots in the Top 13.
The judges slather her with praise, so apparently that performance seemed a lot more electric and exciting in person. Or else they are smoking something because — nope.
2. Kristen O’Connor, ‘Turning Tables,’ Adele
Now this is a good song choice. We haven’t seen much of Kristen so far, so that’s going to hurt her, but this is a very pretty performance and that will help. She has a gorgeous, smoky voice and shows some good control going from the big notes to the quiet stuff. It might be enough to put her through depending on how the night shakes out.
3. Briana Oakley, ‘Warrior,’ Demi Lovato
This starts off pretty rough — we expected more from Briana, since she’s been so solid this year. But she’s rushing it and not really in the groove until she hits the chorus. Briana pulls it out, showing some life and some vocal gymnastics without getting carried away, so maybe it was just nerves at first? She seemed pretty nervous to start out, which is exactly what Keith Urban says to her, how it took her a minute to settle in. He’s also spot-on that she sounds like Irene Cara (“Flashdance.” For those of you too young to know who that is, YouTube it).
J.Lo weirdly says “young Whitney Houston.” Nope, sorry. She’s not a young Whitney, her tone is much more Ciara than Houston.
At this point, we’re a third of the way through and nobody has blown the doors off the place, so let’s hope it picks up.
4. Jena Irene, ‘Paint it Black,’ The Rolling Stones
Interesting choice. She’s got the tone to pull this off, but it’s too slow. It’s making the song sound plodding, which is not the way it should be at all. This one had the potential to be awesome, if she had gone full-throttle on it. Instead, it’s like some weird power ballad.
Still, not bad. She’s in the boat with Kristen — they could advance depending on how the night goes. Briana maybe too, but moreso because she’s gotten more camera time this season so far.
HCJ goes off on some weird triple axel Olympics tangent, but his point is that you can’t just rely on one big note that’s going to get you applause.
5. Bria Anai, ‘Wrong Side of a Love Song,’ Melanie Fiona
Are we just grouchy tonight? Other than a few moments, this performance was a hot mess, you guys. So bad. She was like … out of control. All over the place. Way off pitch at moments, really screechy at moments. If I were one of the five girls who didn’t get to perform and this girl did? I’d be so upset.
HCJ finally has a negative comment, when he calls it shouty. Which just serves to remind us that we expected more from HCJ as to how critical he would be. J.Lo says Bria has star written all over her, which serves to remind us that J.Lo doesn’t often have anything of substance to say because … seriously?
Also, if these are the first five chosen, how poorly must the rejected five have done during boot camp? Goodness.
6. Marrialle Sellars, ‘Roar,’ Katy Perry
Why is this in such a low key? It’s several steps below where Perry sings it; is it because Sellars doesn’t have the range to sing it in the original key? Anyway, this is another hot mess. Can these girls not hear their backup music? Marrialle is flat in several places and the verse is way too low for her, so her voice sounds muddled. It’s kind of what HCJ was saying a couple minutes ago about don’t just go for the high note that gets applause — she sacrificed the verse in order to hit the big note at the end, but one big note does not a good performance make.
Keith is 100 percent right that it was too karaoke. That was terrible. If she gets voted through just because she lost a shoe and didn’t stop singing, that’s not right.
7. Jessica Meuse, ‘Drink a Beer,’ Luke Bryan
We’ve liked this girl a lot so far, so we have high hopes for her — and she only slightly disappoints. It’s definitely not her best performance, but it’s one of the stronger ones tonight. Of course, that isn’t a high bar to clear at this point (and the backing music continues to sound weird; perhaps that’s part of the problem with everyone tonight). Will there be too much of a disconnect between her look and her country song choice? Hopefully not, because she had some really lovely moments during that performance.
8. Emily Piriz, ‘Paris (Ooh La La),’ Grace Potter
This was a terrific audition and turns out to be a solid choice for Emily to reprise. Now, it wasn’t perfect — her stage presence needs work because she’s alternating between sexpot and a weird arena rock, clap-along-with-me thing. She also could have chosen a song that better showed off her voice, but compared to what has come before her, she’s in a solid position.
HCJ keeps harping on her about the lyrics, and we kind of agree with him — especially since Emily really has no idea what she’s singing — but now was not the time to call her out and embarrass her on live TV while the show cuts to a shot of her parents in the crowd.
9. MK Nobilette, ‘All Of Me,’ John Legend
There are some shaky notes here and there, but this is far and away the best performance of the night so far. There’s actual emotion in the song, which the singers so far have sorely lacked. In fact, her bum notes can probably be chalked up to a tight throat because she’s trying not to cry. The shots of MK’s mom crying in the audience certainly are not helping us keep our eyes cry here at home. But anyway, the simpleness and stripped-down-ness of her performance was terrific.
Fingers crossed that MK gets through because we want to see much more from her.
10. Malaya Watson, ‘Hard Times,’ Ray Charles
This starts out way too low for her — again, a th
ing female singers do so that they can hit the big notes — but luckily, she gets better on the chorus. Of course, she immediately goes from “better” to “screaming.” She sounds like she’s passing a stone at times. We’ll still give it up for being better than many who performed tonight, but Malaya needs to get her power notes under control.
So, first things first: Kenzie Hall, Brandy Neelly, Jillian Jensen, Andrina Brogden and Austin Wolfe were the also-rans. Based on tonight’s performances, they all have some serious beef with getting cut without getting to sing. We are particularly upset about Kenzie, Jillian and Andrina.
Anyway, who should go through out of these 10? Oof. We would pick MK Nobilette, Kristen O’Connor and Jessica Meuse as our favorites, with Malaya Watson, Emily Piriz and Jena Irene as rounding out the last two spots in some combination.
What’s really irritating, disheartening and making us fearful of a long season is that even the better ones tonight (MK, Kristen and Jessica) were not great. Nobody came out and did this for their first live performance.
Will the boys be any better? Can they be any worse? Tune in Wednesday to find out.
Oh, and Ben Briley was revealed to have beaten Neco Starr in the America’s Choice vote for the last spot in the Top 30. If you are at all surprised, you haven’t been watching “Idol” for very long.