'American Idol' Recap: The Top 13 Bring Us Back to Normalcy
'American Idol' Recap: The Top 13 Bring Us Back to Normalcy
Bill King
Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Hello all! Last season's recapper Bill King here, filling in for John this week, and it's great to be back! Now that the madness and questionable decisions of the ludicrous Rush Week are behind us, it's time to get back to good ol' fashioned Idol. Thirteen singers, everyone gets to perform, America decides and all the judges can do is hang on to the save in case we all do something catastrophically stupid.

THIS is ... American Idol.

It was very disappointing that even the most likable group of judges in recent memory can still screw things up on a scale that the entire nation can recognize. Really? Briana Oakley and Kenz Hall don't even get a chance at the wildcards, but Bria Ania does? Hogwash. Both of those girls were front-runners in my eyes, and the judges didn't even give them a damn chance. At least David Oliver Willis can still come back after he got screwed over for a second straight year. But Briana and Kenz are done.

And that's not even mentioning some of the decisions regarding who in the top 15 of each gender got to perform and who didn't. I didn't think Harry Connick, Jr., the nation's most handsomest, charismatic and just plain likable judge, would ever let stuff like this happen. And what's up with the yellow hands?

On a side note, I don't feel bad at all for Spencer Lloyd. He had the look and the tone, but he ruined things with his crappy original song. I think he was hoping it was catchy enough to score him a single even if he didn't advance, but I bet even the girl he wrote it for dislikes it. She immediately put on a ton of makeup and tight clothes and got her hair did. And the "unordinary" girls you wrote it about? Yeah, they don't exist, because that isn't a word, 

As for those who survived the pressures of spot singing in front of the largest crowd they'd ever seen from a stage, I'm not quite in agreement with my colleagues on several of them. I actually liked Emily Piriz' performance a lot, and who is Harry to tell her it's out of her maturity range? So Grace Potter can be dirtier because she's 30?

I also think M.K. Nobilette has her work cut out of her, though I wholeheartedly agree she won the last round. But she probably has the weakest vocals of everyone left, and while it is possible to overcome that, song choice and artistry become much more crucial for her. She has a lot of room to slip up, and one bad decision could lead to her elimination. 

But enough of all this drivel, on to the Top 13! Because the past is the past, and they are all that matter now. Don't forget, the blog is live, so keep the comments coming at the bottom. I'll do my best to keep up with them. 

Get Your Mass Votes Ready

The theme is "This is Me," so it will be interesting to see the kinds of songs these kids identify themselves with. 

J-Lo goes the conservative route, with a short skirt and bare midriff, but NO cleavage. Keith looks like Keith, and Harry is pleasantly pale. We get a little recap on how to vote, with a brand new online platform thanks to Google and consistent phone numbers for each contestant throughout the season. Also, the time frame to vote has been extended and even starts when the show begins. I don't think I'm a fan of that (how can you judge performances you haven't heard yet?), but I imagine most will still wait until they end. I mean, they've only got 50 votes to distribute.

The real takeaway from that little skit is that Jessica Meuse is horrible reading lines in front of a camera, and the producers think Kristen O'Connor is hot (I concur).

Dexter Roberts

Dexter is up first, and five things we don't know about him are that he's scared of spiders, chipped a tooth on a butter knife, was bucked off a horse, had his first kiss on the top of a slide and broke his finger playing football.

He's singing "Aw Naw" by Chris Young, and it's about as country as you can get. It's not my cup of tea, but I imagine you like it just fine if that's your genre.

Keith urges him to make the song his own, Jennifer says to personify it and take it to the next level, and Harry points out pitch issues and says Dexter might need to ditch the ear piece. Otherwise, he agrees with his cohorts. 

Malaya Watson

Malaya is 5-foot-2, scared of dogs, plays a lot of instruments, wears glasses because she can't see and loves everybody. She's singing "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars. The only coaching is a brief side-box word from the Dawg as the contestants heads to the stage. He urges Malaya to enunciate.

She does not. It's not terrible, and her energy is great, as always. But I can't understand a word she's saying, and if anyone compares it to the original, that's not good for her.

J-Lo loves her and her A-plus performance, but it wasn't her best vocal, despite the soul. It went off the rails at the end, but Malaya is a contender. Harry praises her talent and compares her to his old music school classmates, but he thought she was rattled by nerves. Keith says the contest is all about growing and improving, and apparently she has a lot of room to do both.

Kristen O'Connor

Kristen is really bad at this, her best friends are quadruplets (like, all four of them?), she loves swing dancing, sucks at sports and yeah. They give her credit for three, but I count the "I'm really bad at this" as a fourth. She's singing Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster," which she considers a challenge. Randy says she needs to sell it. 

She definitely has some chops, but it's pitchy, and it seems like she loses her confidence once she misses her first note. It's pretty flat after that, and there are no crushing moments. Spectacular gams, though.

Harry thinks she's a strong pop singer, but he didn't feel the song or that Kristen related to it. She took a different meaning from it, because she IS a beautiful disaster as the wildcard, and then she blames the off-tune stuff on the ear piece. Keith applauds the song choice because it showed her range, and Jennifer urges all the contestants to just stop thinking.

Ben Briley

Tim C. asks how Ben plans to use social media to help his cause, and he responds that he's new to Instagram and misses Polaroid cameras. Then he takes a selfie with Ryan. Hurry up and "like" it, folks! He is good at naming capitals, loves Tennessee football and kangaroos, is good at throwing rocks at stuff, wants to skydive and has a super power. He's taking on "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash.

It's far and away the best of the night up to this point, very uniquely Ben. I love his take and the things he can do with his voice. He's one of those guys that sounds great when he's growling and screaming.

Keith calls it particularly brisk with too quick a tempo and praises Ben's artistry, but he urges him not to sacrifice that for performance value. Jen actually liked the pace and congratulates Ben for making the song his own. Harry thinks it is unquestionably the best performance so far. But that's not really saying much four people in.

C.J. Harris

C.J. doesn't like climbing things, icy roads, deer hunting or people with bad attitudes. Also, he's very religious. He's singing "Radio" by Darius Rucker, because it reminds him of his childhood car rides. The Dawg says they had to adjust the pitch to match his voice.

I like C.J. a lot and the performance is fun, but again, this is just fine. It's probably enough to slide him into the second slot at this point, but with eight singers to go, that will hopefully change. 

Jennifer likes the energy and chooses to overlook the pitch issues, while Harry loves the cry in his voice but feels like this was a one-in-20 concert song. Keith disagrees and applauds the song choice, because he likes it. He also appreciates seeing a new side of C.J.

M.K. Nobilette

M.K. is a mediocre snowboarder, a soccer keeper, loves "Single Ladies" (great song, wink wink), wishes she was a dancer and loves dogs. She's not doing a ballad this week, performing "Satisfaction" by Allen Stone. Randy says she has some range issues, but just needs to believe in herself.

It's never really about the voice for this one, because she brings so much more to the performance in terms of style and personality. She certainly stands out, and it's near the top so far, but I'm still not blown away. But overall, another smart choice for her.

Harry points out that she gets distracted by the lyrics and doesn't ad-lib enough, but he says that will improve as she gets more stage experience under her belt. Keith loves her look and praises her growth, but it's patchy (correct, not pitchy. Patchy) and not all there yet. It's all working for Jen, though.

Majesty Rose

Majesty was born in a leap year, is left-handed, longboards, takes ballet and likes to make her hair big. She's singing Janelle Monae's "Tightrope," and Randy again urges enunciation.

She really gets into it, and there are definite high points in the performance, with the judges alternating between looking confused and nodding enthusiastically with ear-to-ear grins. It's right up there with Ben for the best of the night, and her ceiling might be the highest of anyone, but I still don't think she's anywhere close to peaking yet.

Keith gives her a "Woooo!" and calls it a killer song choice that complimented her strengths, but she needs to work on her confidence. Jennifer says it was perfect and that there's no one like her, and Harry asks what she was thinking at the end because he could tell without her answering. He's like the mind reader guy with the umbrella from that Time Warner commercial.

Jena Irene

Jena's hair is actually brown, she's best friends with her brother, her favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz, her eyes are sometimes green and blue and she's really short. She's singing the first song she ever learned on the piano, "The Scientist" by Coldplay, without playing the piano.

This is such an emotional song, and she does it justice, complete with our biggest note of the night thus far. It's alternates between shrieky and gravel-y at times, but overall it gave me partial goose bumps. Not the all-over full-body kind, but it was definitely nice to feel something during a performance for the first time. I don't know if she is better than Ben, but I like it more.

Jennifer calls her a powerhouse singer and says she has unique abilities to her voice, but she was worried about the song choice at the beginning before Jena owned it at the end. Harry says she takes an interesting creative licenses rather than singing the song exactly like it is on the radio, and he was feeling it. Keith says she owned it and urges everyone to lean into their songs.

Alex Preston

Alex loves extreme sports, writing poetry and coffee, and he is a hopeless romantic and has never been somewhere (after his performance, Keith asks what the end of that sentence was, but Alex forgets). He's singing Jason Mraz' "Beautiful Mess," because that's what it's like to chase your dreams, which he is living now.

Wow, the second half of this show is way better than the first hour. I don't know this Jason Mraz song, but Alex is clearly on a different level than some of what we've seen. He's got a more seasoned quality about him, like he's been ready for this a lot longer than the rest. It's not spectacular, but it's very, very solid.

Harry thinks the song choice was brave compared to the competition, but he cautions about singing in tune and calls the performance too introspective to make a connection with the audience. Keith disagrees for the same reason, because he was sucked in by the same quality. J-Lo agrees with Keith and thought it was a nice change of pace.

Jessica Meuse

She uses a lot of hand sanitizer, likes ponies, failed band and I missed the other two. She's singing "The Crow and the Butterfly" by Shinedown. 

The improvement trend continues with our first real rock-out moment, and while I don't have anything negative to say, it seemed short and wasn't quite raunchy enough for me. Plus she seems stiff, but she's up there with the best. 

Keith calls it a bold choice and says her rasp is appealing. Jen got the goosies and says it was her favorite vocal performance of the night, but she wants Jessica to relax her body a bit on stage. Harry was distracted by the butterflies in the background, but he heard a different sound out of her that he really enjoyed.

Emily Piriz

Emily went to chef camp, her eyes change color, and she has a cool whistle, and that's all she can muster in 20 seconds. She's singing one of my girlfriend's audition songs, Pink's "Glitter in the Air."

This is where the bonus points come for singing such a well-known song, because I have goose bumps throughout the entire thing, She's a dark horse for the second week in a row, our second true power voice of the night. I can't say it was perfect, but God I love that song. She just raised the bar for everyone else and made some of the previous performances look pedestrian.

Jennifer thinks it's a tough song, but Emily did it beautifully. Harry loved it and gives props to Pink for writing it, and Keith is shocked that Harry didn't have anything negative to say. All he asks is that she balance her yin with her yang. Cause too much yin is bad without the yang. Okaaay. 

Sam Woolf

Sam is our second singer with arachnophobia, he wears a size 10 shoe, stepped on a sea urchin, broke his ankle falling down stairs and his middle name is Joseph. He's singing "Unwell" by Matchbox 20. The Dawg says it's the perfect song for his voice.

He over-pronounces every word, which makes it feel very static and unnatural. It picks up some once he hits the chorus, and he's clearly got talent, but this just doesn't work for me. It's like he's reading the lyrics off a TelePrompter in Public Speaking 101.

Harry doesn't think his vocal performance was messed up enough to match the tune, and he calls it nice. Keith thought the tempo was slow, but he says Sam has a great way of holding the center, whatever that means. J-Lo calls him adorable. Ouch. Who would ever think Jennifer Lopez calling you adorable would be a bad thing?

Caleb Johnson

They catch Caleb while he's brushing his teeth, and all I can pick up is that his favorite band is Rush, he was on the cross-country team in high school, and he loves biscuits and gravy. And something about smushing a squirrel. He gets the first real pimp spot of the season, and he's rocking us out with "Pressure and Time" by Rival Sons.

There's no denying his talent, and he's spot on vocally, so much so that he gets a solemn nod from Taylor Hicks in the audience. But I don't know this song, and I doubt many people there or at home do either. So it's good, but I'm kinda meh to go out this way.

"Dude, killer!" Keith says, impressed with Caleb's vocals. Now, he knows who Caleb is, but it will be up to Caleb to add a twist to his song choices. J-Lo says he's ready for the rock star life, and he has the goods to back it up. Harry loves the rock and roll on American Idol and proclaims Caleb the next lead singer of Rival Sons should they ever need a new one.

Winners and Losers

Outside of Ben Briley, the first half of singers were completely upstaged by the latter half. I think Emily won the night, followed closely by Caleb, Alex, Ben and Jena. M.K., Majesty and Jessica fill out the middle and will probably be safe. Sam and Dexter will get by, and Malaya, Kristen and C.J. will be in the bottom three. My gut pick to go home is C.J., because the country vote isn't going his way. But I wouldn't be surprised if it was Malaya, either.

Who were your favorites, and who did you think came up short? Did you have higher expectations for anyone who let you down? And who surprised you (other than Emily!). Who do you think is going home? Check back in Thursday night for our first traditional results show! 

You can watch American Idol every Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX)