American Idol: Alex Preston and Malaya soar, but C.J. Harris not so much

American Idol recap: On Wednesday night, the American Idol final 10 tried to keep the momentum from last week going. Some managed to achieve their best performances to date, while others crumbled under the pressure.

Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS
Contestant Alex Preston poses at the party for the finalists of American Idol XIII in California on February 20, 2014.

On Wednesday night, American Idol kicked off the show with more evidence to suggest that Ryan Seacrest is not really human; instead, he is some strange cyborg who draws his power not from sleep but from the radioactivity emitted from electronic devices, such as cameras and microphones. This was clear when the remaining 10 American Idol contestants dragged themselves out of bed before 6 in the morning only to find Ryan already starting his day at the radio station. 

Our favorite cyborg then kicked the show off by having Keith Urban explain the theme of Wednesday evening's performances: any Top 10 song from 2011 to date. Whoever is thinking up the themes obviously had a lull in creativity last week. Tune in next week when the theme will be: songs with lyrics.

That's enough dilly-dallying, you're all here to read about the performances or to be more precise, to read intelligently delivered recaps peppered with just the right amount of irreverence and humor; never so much that it detracts from the overall impression of awe that you experienced when you first discovered that an American Idol recap could read like pure literature. (I tell myself these things since you all seem to be forgetting to say it in the comment section.)

MK Nobilette: MK started off the night on an earnest note, explaining that she chose, "Perfect" by Pink because she was inspired by all of the fans who have contacted her saying that she had given them hope and strength. One might have found MK's performance pretty solid until she managed to botch the lyrics toward the end. Even if you still felt like it had some merit, then came Harry Connick Jr. with his completely rational explanation why MK's wasn't as good as we might have thought. Basically, he said that if MK can't sing it as good or any different than Pink, she shouldn't sing it all. Sometimes it's hard to argue with logic. C

Dexter Roberts: Dexter explained that he wanted to keep choosing good songs so he selected, "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line. In practice, Dexter's vocal coach warned Dexter about his diction and it seemed to have some kind of an influence since Dexter's lyrics were pretty easy to understand this week. Had Dexter bothered to read these articles, he could have corrected that problem weeks sooner; but hey, we'll let the vocal coach take the credit this time. Harry did not enjoy Dexter's performance, complaining that the band carried the song and that MK could have come on stage and sung the song and the crowd would have still enjoyed it. (That sounds so much harsher transcribed; verbally, it didn't sound quite as anti-MK.) JLo and Keith were tepid. B-

Jena Irene: Jena opted to take a chance on electronic music and performed, "Clarity," by Zedd featuring Foxes. She was entertaining, if a bit unfocused as she made it a point to touch everyone's hands as she ran to and fro, before demanding everyone hail her with a glow stick. The performance gave Harry an idea of who Jena is. Jennifer Lopez and Keith both loved the song and Keith called it the best performance of the night, a compliment that would mean more had we actually been at least a third of the way through. B

Alex Preston: Decided to take the risks of displeasing the "Directioners," which is apparently a term for the ardent fans of One Direction. (Who said you couldn't learn anything from watching Idol?) Alex's performance of "Story of My Life," was a masterpiece and it sounded even better than the original. JLo said it best (take a moment to let that phrase soak in, because I don't say it often) when she said that Alex evokes greatness. He is an artist among a gaggle of impersonators. A

Malaya Watson: In an attempt to school one of her friends who is mistreating his girlfriend, Malaya opted to sing Bruno Mars's, "When I Was Your Man." To be honest, Malaya had long ago fallen from the good graces of this writer but the wonderful thing about American Idol is the exhilaration of getting to witness a contestant have their "moment." Tonight, Malaya broke any preconceived ideas about what to expect from her when she delivered one of the most genuine, emotionally charged performances of the season. There was no need for her to fiddle with the pronouns because her performance and exquisite vocals transcended gender. The judges shared in my delight. A+

Caleb Johnson: It was an exciting decision for Caleb to select "The Edge of Glory," by Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, Caleb never quite reached that glory in this performance. Though Harry and Jen praised him for his half-time feel, Keith disagreed and astutely pointed out that the half-time tempo resulted in a song that just lumbered along, never reaching it's pinnacle. (I couldn't have said it better myself, especially since I'm still hung up on the acid-washed jeans and where one finds acid-washed jeans in 2014.) C+

C.J. Harris: Beating on his drum of eternal gratitude, C.J. explained that he could relate to "Invisible," by Hunter Hayes; a performance that made this writer wish it was also inaudible. The tune and intonation was so off, it made his excellent performance of last week seem like a very distant memory, indeed. The judges tried to be gentle but there is just no easy way to say, "You blew it." D

Jessica Meuse: Jessica was drawn to the creepy lyrics of "Pumped Up Kicks," by Foster the People and while her vocal was very strong, once again Harry managed to get inside our heads and show us the error in our thinking. When he complained that Jessica's performances were one note, making him wonder where the cry is and where the joy is, it was as if the sun crested on the horizon and we mortals could finally see the truth. Harry also questioned Jessica's choice to grin through a song with such dark lyrics; Jessica exclaimed that she wasn't condoning homicidal tendencies. Well, regardless of whether she condones them or not, it wasn't long before Jennifer and Harry were feeling some pretty tangible homicidal feelings toward one another when they bickered over whether the lyrics, rather than the melody, should dictate the emotion of the performance. B-

Majesty Rose: After finding herself in the bottom two last week, Majesty hoped that she could "grab America's hearts and be friends again" with her performance of "Wake Me Up," by Avicii. And while Harry tried to mess with our heads and claim that Majesty did a good job, Keith hit the nail on the head when he complained that taking the driving dance beat out of the song was a bad decision. JLo then took Majesty to task for allowing last week's results to get the better of her and looking scared when she performed. "I never want to see that girl again," she chided and it's hard to disagree, the meek little rabbit who appeared on stage Wednesday night was a far cry from the Majesty we've seen in the past. C+

Sam Wolfe: Sam, who also found himself in the bottom last week, hoped that Fun's "We Are Young," would be his salvation. The bad news is that the song, and it's incredible popularity, doesn't lend itself well to tinkering with the tempo and melody since it is jarring to the listener when they can't follow along to a song they know and love. The good news is that his handling of the beginning and end of the song, bookended an average performance in gold. The stripped down intimacy of Sam's voice is his strength; if he can find his courage there will be no stopping him. B+


The performances Wednesday night were so markedly polarized, choosing those on the bottom is like shooting fish in a barrel. 

  1. C.J. Harris
  2. MK Nobilette
  3. Majesty Rose

Tune in Friday to see if the results make me regret being so matter of fact about the obviousness of the bottom three this week. And, in the meantime, if you care to share your thoughts with the world, let the comment section be your stage! 

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