On Wednesday night, American Idol continued the cruel carnage of Rush Week by forcing the 15 guys to sit and await their chance to sing for America; a chance that would never come for five of them.
The first selection from the judges was Caleb Johnson who chose to sing, "Stay With Me," by The Faces. Caleb wanted to master "subtle over-the-topness," as well as connect better with the audience, and drop 40 pounds. Despite the fact that they are in Hollywood, Caleb couldn't drop 40-pounds in a week's time so instead he focused on his stage presence and it paid off. With a strong performance that was leaps and bounds better than most of the girls from the previous night, Caleb made the judges happy. They loved it and Jennifer Lopez exclaimed that it was "Caleb's time."
C.J. Harris, who Harry Connick Jr. called mesmerizing, was the judges' second pick to perform. Chris Daughtry and the movement coach suggested that CJ drop the guitar because, although Chris tried to be gentle about it, C.J. wasn't a very good player. But when C.J. began his performance of "Shelter," by Ray Lamontagne he opted to play the guitar. Between Caleb and C.J.'s strong performance, it was beginning to seem that 2014 could be the boy's year again on American Idol. And while Harry warned CJ about his intonation because he tends to go sharp, the judges were still pleased with themselves...and C.J. too, of course.
Emmanuel Zidor, who's been "humming from the womb and singing since five," was selected by the judges because, as Harry so eloquently put it, Emmanuel is "a true entertainer who entertains." The performance of "The Best of My Love," by The Emotions may have been fun and feel good but the vocals were lacking. Harry and Keith Urban agreed that Emmanuel struggled vocally because of his excitement but Jennifer argued that she "Zidors" him and encourages him to sing something different on the spot, essentially giving Emmanuel a second chance to earn America's vote. And so the favoritism that Jennifer is so well known for has begun again.
Keith then announced that 17-year-old, Sam Woolf was their next choice. Sam chose to sing, "Babylon," by David Grey and immediately the mentors recognized Sam's tendency to look down while he sings and encouraged him to open up. Despite some palpable nerves, Sam conquered his demons and was incredible. The vocals, the shyness, the song all came together. Keith predicts that as the show goes on Sam's stage presence will get even better and judging by the girls screaming in the audience, Sam will have the opportunity to work on that confidence.
Next up was George Lovett, who selected Bruno Mars's, "Grenade," despite Randy Jackson suggesting the song may be over used. In his rehearsal, the movement coach and Adam Lambert both agreed that George's performance was too melodramatic and you just know there's something wrong if Adam Lambert considers you to be melodramatic. Unfortunately, George wasn't able to tone down the drama and gave a really poor performance. Jennifer said it was really good, which only continues to bring her judgement into question – a real issue considering she's, well, a judge. Harry thought George was overly passionate and Keith didn't think it was a good song choice.
Dexter Roberts, the dog-trainer from Alabama who hoped that the American Idol stylists could help him with his hair, was the next guy selected by the judges and opted to "Dexterfy" the song "This Old Boy," by Craig Morgan. It was a good performance and thankfully, it is far easier to understand Dexter when he's singing than when he's talking, otherwise I'd never have known what song he was singing! So while Dexter lived up to the judges' expectations, they did wonder what would set him apart from the other country singers. Somehow it seems like ensuring there was a diverse talent pool was the responsibility of the judges. Perhaps before sending through four carbon-copy, country boys, they should have asked themselves what made each of them unique.
Keith introduced the next contestant, Alex Preston who is so talented he plays 12 instruments. Alex's big hurdle would be his confidence but his choice to sing "Volcano," by Damien Rice showed that Alex is not insecure about his talent, which is good because he gave the best performance of the night. Keith said he gets the sense that music is like a religion to Alex.
The eighth guy to be selected was Malcolm Allen. Randy encouraged Malcolm to work closely with Adam because Adam is one of the greatest performers. Where was that astuteness when he was a judge? Sadly, Malcolm selected Anthony Hamilton's "Coming From Where I'm From," a song that did absolutely nothing for him. Harry said he was sharp, and even Jennifer agreed that his heart and soul wasn't in it. And if anyone should have connected with "Coming From Where I'm From," it's Jenny-from-the-block.
Ben Briley, who was once No. 15 1/2 in the judges' estimation, was now in their Top 10. Ben comes from a family of singers, his grandmother was the first woman to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry and his mother was the "Taylor Swift of the '70's." Ben performed, "Soulshine," by the Allman Brothers while playing an electric guitar. The judges really enjoyed his performance and Jennifer explained that while he was pretty good in rehearsals, he really came to life on the stage tonight. It must have been really discouraging for those hoping for the opportunity to perform to hear that Ben earned a coveted spot with a "good" rehearsal.
The final spot of the night went to Spencer Lloyd, much to the delight of teenage girls across the country. But the excitement was soon diminished when learning that Spencer had chosen "Love Don't Die," by The Fray. Listen, Spencer, those dimples are impressive but all the dimples and twinkling eyes in the world won't absolve you from choosing, The Fray, IMHO. Spencer debated whether or not to use the guitar, unfortunately he opted to not play in his performance. At least the guitar would have prevented his corny, boy band, mannerisms. The judges hastily told him how handsome and great he was but Harry kept it real and told Spencer it wasn't good. Teenage girls the world over are plotting Harry's demise as we speak.
The judges then tried to make the remaining contestants feel better about being booted but their words seemed to fall on deaf, sad ears.
Join us Friday to find out which contestants did enough to impress America.