American Idol show runners set out to rid the show of any stall factor in Season 13, and that certainly was the case for the 15 female singers taking to the live stage Tuesday. Their nerves already racing from the stress of the moment, they heard a new announcement from Ryan Seacrest that only 10 of the 15 would be selected by the panel to sing! There was no hiatus of being eased into their live onstage moments under America’s scrutiny, but there were reinforcements, of sorts. Idol founder, Randy Jackson, came ready to mentor the ladies for their moment of truth, and he brought along Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert, and a new couple of “spiritual advisers” to spur the hopefuls to the top, and bring calm to inner storms! Before anyone could blink, the “Dawgfather,” as dubbed by Seacrest, was down to the business of the night!
Following adequate time to “reflect on Jennifer’s beautiful dress,” in sparkling blue, montages of the ladies’ workshop time with Randy and company came forth, and Harry Connick, Jr. was serious in saying this is the “most competitive” season in quality ever. Randy called this season’s group of singers the most “modern,” but many chose songs harkening back to their parents’ times. Between all the veteran advice, the stylists’ critiques, and the cache of vocal coaching, it still came down to a very few minutes for the performance of a lifetime, and the clicks and calls coming in for votes. Who knows how many called on the services of spiritual advisors, the Mauldin’s, already? They didn’t call this “Rush Week” for nothing!
Majesty Rose (York) was first into the fire, Pharrell’s “Happy.” The workshop crew counseled her to use her guitar less, and she sang with spirit, but less soar vocally, slinging her instrument in back of her shoulder. Jennifer Lopez praised her for being “ready for showtime” Harry said she “set the tone” for the evening, and Keith loved her “energy.” Nurse, Kristen O’Connor, was called up next, and she took on Adele’s “Turning Tables.” Her voice has truly stunning moments, but she hardly moved. Keith Urban noted her nerves, but still heard her “killer range,” and Jennifer noted that her timing was off at the start. Briand Oakley made a brave choice of song in Demi Lovato’s “Warrior,” but the pressure was on, and sometimes the emotion came on in the wrong way. Jennifer Lopez didn’t really sense “connection” with the song, and Harry warned not to use “high notes like triple axels.” Keith noted that she found her clarity once she settled into the song. Jena Irene is still having to give pronunciation cues about her name, this time to Randy Jackson. Her “Paint It Black” put an exclamation point on her powerhouse voice. Harry questioned her on understanding the meaning of the song, but keep gave her cheers, and Jennifer Lopez called her a “badass” in the best way! Bria Anai loves being noted for her lips, and they stood out while she sang “Wrong Side of a Love Song,” another bold choice, with emotion and power. Harry Connick, Jr. said it was simply shouting in places, but Jennifer Lopez felt the power, saying “you have star written all over you,” and Keith said she would always have her lips.
Marrialle Sellars probably sang better on her Detroit audition and group week than she did in her a few minutes of “Roar,” but she definitely proved her savvy as a performer, saving her shoe as if it was written into a script! The crowd was revved up, and Jennifer Lopez cautioned that they carried her away, and her performance would have been stronger with her guitar. Harry teased that “you’re supposed to knock us off our feet!” This was not her best moment, but hopefully another chance will come. Pink-streaked Jessica Meuse, who literally had to fight her way through group performances, got her time to sing, and chose Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer,” with a nice such a vulnerability, which Jennifer Lopez wanted to see more of, too. Keith admonished her to make sure him her displayed emotions matched the song (i.e. no smiling when “now you’re gone” is in the lyric) , but assured her that he will be rooting for anyone from Slapout, Alabama! It was clear this was her biggest stage moment, and it showed. Young Emily Piriz was out to prove she loved the stage, and still loved her Grace Potter “Paris” song, too, no matter how much Harry Connick, Jr. put her to the test on what she wanted to represent as an artist. “It’s a touchy subject,” Keith Urban noted. “Yeah, in more ways than one!” Harry quipped. Adam Lambert gave her the perfect “rock star” delivery tips, and Jennifer Lopez appreciated her statement, saying she was “not afraid” of the stage. Keith reminded her that true artists don’t concentrate much on their image in the mirror, and focus on that goal in coming weeks.
Seven shaking, waiting singers were left, and only two could be chosen. Up next, MK Nobilette took the stage, and offered the most perfect performance of the night with John Legend’s “All of Me.” Sensitive and piercing, it got her standing ovation. Jennifer and Keith both called it a perfect song with perfect simplicity, as Harry called MK an “elegant, articulate singer” assuring “you belong here.” She does indeed. News came that it will be Ben Briley going forward with the guys after America’s time to vote, and he and friend, Neco Starr, shared a bittersweet parting embrace. Malaya Watson was the last lady summoned up for a song, and as ever, she stayed true to being her own kind of different, confessing she was “kinda weird” to her workshop helpers. She belted out Ray Charles’ “Hard Times” with her whole heart, to another standing ovation. No one can make glasses and braces look as charming as Malaya does, and Keith spoke the same. Nerves notwithstanding, Jennifer still called her “amazing” and Harry said he hope to hear more after her “to the wall” singing that went everywhere.
The guys take their turn Wednesday, and now they know how high the stakes can be!
American Idol broadcast, February 18, 2014 FOX Networks.