American Idol means it when they call this week “Rush,” because the show, and the selection process, is moving at warp speed moving toward the ultimate title. The guys were watching as the ladies sang on Tuesday, and they took good notes, because they didn’t have the same case of nerves that hit their feminine counterparts. They knew the process now, and that only 10 of the 15 would be called upon to sing after dress rehearsal, and their performances were decidedly designed to wow the crowd and the judges. America votes the Top 10, and each judge chooses a wildcard. Who will wow America enough to make the Top 13?
Jennifer Lopez opted for a more flowing and subdued ensemble, coming out in her champagne-colored pantsuit, but there was nothing subdued about Caleb Johnson, as he was the first performer called to the stage to sing. Singing The Faces’ standard, “Stay with Me,” Caleb seemed to conjure instant connection with the audience, and owned the stage with ease, wrapping it in his big voice. He told workshop mentor, Adam Lambert that he went for a style of “subtle over the topness,” but whatever name it’s given, the singer has character in his voice to keep fans listing all day long. Keith Urban called it “soul and cool,” and Jennifer Lopez dubbed it “real rock star-ish.” Harry Connick, Jr. just called it a strong start to the night! CJ Harris had his moment next, and wrestled with conflicting advice about using his guitar, with Chris Daughtry telling him it was distracting, and Randy Jackson and other coaches opting for it. He came on still strumming as he did “Shelter Me” with such palpable feeling and soul that by the end, the crowd was standing all around. Jennifer told him “you make so many things happen” inside her, And Keith Urban said he was a mix of Dobie Gray and Jonny Lang. Harry Connick, Jr. took more boo’s, offering tips on intonation rather than praise. CJ asked the crowd to “respect the man’s opinion.” Not bad for a performance done just hours after a root canal! The stylists probably didn’t let lovable but flashy Emmanuel Zidor go as far as he wanted, but he stuck to his song choice of “Best of My Love,” in tribute to Season 4’s Vonzell Solomon. He still had his strut, and Harry warned “stay in your lane,” reminding him about overshooting with energy, and Keith Urban agreed, earning him a hug and a “that’s my girl” from Harry. Jennifer Lopez still oozed support, saying “Emmanuel, I Zidor you.” She still asked for her own command performance of “I’m Goin’ Down.” 17-year-old Sam Woolf has already been accepted to the Berkley School of Music, and that didn’t stop him from bringing it on David Grey’s “Babylon,” and it was clear he took the advice of his mentors to loosen up and look at those around him. He was already getting squeals from the girls before the panel’s remarks. “People like you,” Keith reaffirmed, as Jennifer praised his purity and perfect pitch. Harry Connick, Jr. hopes he will gain confidence week to week. George Lovett wanted so much to make his mark on the Idol stage, but things did not seem to sync. Keith critiqued his choice of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” as “not the right song,” and Harry Connick, Jr. said he sang in “one note.” Jennifer reminded him he was still really good. George is better than this performance, and can show it if America gives him the chance.
Dexter Roberts had a dilemma with the workshop folks over wearing his “ball cap,” and it seems he lost, because he came out capless, but he sang the tail off of Craig Morgan’s “This Ol Boy,” proving he had found his perfect niche in the competition. His “easy, cool way” as Jennifer noted, comes across so genuine and unforced. Harry and Keith said his only issue would be to discover what differentiates him from so many young country front men out there. Something tells me that won’t be a problem for long. Alex Preston had to overcome his super shyness in performing, but there’s no doubt he can really play. He displayed both musical perfection and unique personality on Damien Rice’s “Volcano,” Keith named it song choice of the night, and Jennifer Lopez commented that his “groove” could mean he’ll go far. Harry Connick, Jr. used his artist acumen to give a truly meaningful complement in “music is like a religion” for Alex, and having the young musician demonstrate how he “ended on a 9.” Malcolm Allen was all feeling when he sang Anthony Hamilton’s “Comin’ from Where I’m From,” but Jennifer thought the emotion should have been more, saying she “wanted goosies.” Harry cautioned about too many runs, and Keith felt a stripped-down song without the band would have served Malcolm better. Keith nearly didn’t get to make any comments, because he hilariously was “played off” too early! Ben Briley showed why he measured up to America’s vote for his place, performing “Soulshine” so well that the Allman Brothers were all smiling down, along with Grandmother. Jennifer love how he “came alive” for this performance, and Keith said. It was the only “shredding” performance on guitar. Harry Connick, Jr. called Ben fresh and interesting, but really dug his “whole House of Windsor” knot in his orange tie!
Keith made the final call of the night, and it came for Spencer Lloyd. He dismissed his guitar, but proved he was a performer, doing “Love Don’t Die” from The Fray, and adding his own panache beyond his pretty face. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, yet Harry told him to stick to his piano as his “strong suit.” Farewells came to many good performers, and each of the panel offered genuine praise, reminding that neither Chris Daughtry nor Adam Lambert “got the yeses” and still built big careers. The decision is now America’s for who continues his and her American Idol journey. The tally will tell the truth on Thursday.
American Idol broadcast, February 19, 2014 FOX Networks.