American Idol XIII Recap: Rush Week (The Guys)

Sam Woolf: likely this year's winner
Sam Woolf: likely this year's winner
Sam Woolf: likely this year’s winner.

Welcome to another recap of American Idol XIII. I thought the girls were mildly disappointing in Part 1 of Rush Week, but at least they were an eclectic mix unlike these Top 10 men who ranged from generic to just plain comical. It’s clear that one contestant is so far ahead of the competition in terms of popularity (look above) that it’ll be weeks until someone charges ahead of Mr. Frontrunner. However, tonight’s standout performer may be the one to do it. Below you’ll find my full rankings of the Top 10 Guys who competed for America’s votes, as well as a list of the five singers who sadly got the boot before they even had a chance to utter a lyric.

Eliminated from the Competition:

1. Briston Maroney
2. Casey Thrasher
3. Ethan Harris
4. Jordan Brisbane
5. Maurice Townsend

Now let’s get to judging, shall we?

10. Emmanuel Zidor “Best of My Love” — Sure, judges, Emmanuel is entertaining…for all of about three seconds. His voice and artistic incompetence makes him so much weaker than the rest of the professional sounding guys. He handled the hook of the track pretty well, and of course pumped the room full of his overflowing energy, but let’s be honest: this guy is about one crappy performance away from being a total farce. I admire his confidence and earnestness to perform in front of millions of people, but now that he’s got his shot let’s end this fantasy and bring back reality. If a better vocalist lies within Emmanuel, we haven’t heard it this entire season.

Performance Review: (★½)

9. George Lovett “Grenade” – I’m sure George is one of the strongest vocalists this year but he’s not showing it whatsoever during this make-it-or-break-it-round. His voice constantly wavers, sounds whiny, and never settles in any kind of musical pocket. The delivery is so over-the-top and dramatic that I feel like I was watching a high school play that never wanted to end. Cracking your voice once during a performance is bad; several times is haphazard. George sang himself off the microphone and possibly out of this competition with this really bizarre, overcooked rendition of a song that’s nowhere near his comfort zone.

Performance Review: (★½)

8. Dexter Roberts “This Old Boy” – Middle America is going to love his bluegrass sound but the rest of the nation will be put to sleep by his guitar strumming and generic voice. The problem with Dexter is that he’s not memorable among this season’s diverse group of contestants. I hate to say this but he’s almost too seasoned, too comfortable in his niche that he won’t have the growth arc Idol lovers go absolutely nuts for. I just don’t see good ol’ Dexter creating a stir among fans, and therefore he’ll probably miss out on the big opportunities granted to the Top 13. It’s sad because Dexter is clearly talented, hard-working, likable…but Idol is looking for stars, not folks you can enjoy a beer with at a BBQ.

Performance Review: (★★½)

7. Caleb Johnson “Stay With Me” — Our resident rocker on the men’s side, Caleb is vocally reminiscent of Season 10 standout James Durbin. His rip-roaring vocals get the crowd on their feet pretty quickly, but I think it’s a bit safe of him to tackle a crowd-pleasing country track in the first major live show. I was expecting a risky song choice so he’d set the bar for not only himself but the rest of his talented competition. As far as range goes, he’s a lesser James Durbin and definitely doesn’t have the rocker’s vocal stamina. This felt a bit karaoke though kudos to Caleb for keeping up the energy throughout and, of course, staying in tune.

Performance Review: (★★½)

6. Ben Briley “Soulshine” — Ben is probably one of only a handful of high-pitched, raspy country singers in existence, which almost makes him come across like a cartoon character. He’s soulful and looks like he’s having the time of his life, but his overzealousness is going to annoy people in a few weeks – guaranteed. (Aside: it already bugs me!) American voting him into the Top 15 guys already certified his fan base, which mean this super dramatic country singer is going to easily slide into the Top 13. I’m just a tad nervous that I’m looking at the next Taylor Hicks/Casey Abrams/Danny Gokey when they were at their most irritating. I do hope I’m wrong.

Performance Review: (★★½)

5. Malcolm Allen “Comin’ From Where I’m From” — Malcolm looks and sounds like a star, but his vocal projection is too enclosed, almost like he’s focusing in on the microphone when he should really be putting all that energy into the crowd. I do, however, think he’s one of the few singers from last night who is mature enough to understand the bleak and true-to-life words he’s singing about. Malcolm didn’t deliver a bad performance but he needed to go a lot further than the half-baked rendition he ended up producing.

Performance Review: (★★½)

4. Spencer Lloyd “Love Don’t Die” – I think Spencer is probably one of the smartest contestants this season. He knows he isn’t the best singer or the most gifted musician, but he can assess his place in the competition and act accordingly. Yes, it was a risk to ditch the guitar and go against the preferences of the judges. But I’m willing to bet Spencer knows full well Sam Woolf is stealing all the teenage girl votes, and so he’ll need to act fast if he wants to tap into that market. Thus, he made the decision to be a performer this week – not a vocalist — and milk those screaming fans with some confident body language and accessible pop inflections. Yeah, this dude knows how to play the Idol game even though many are probably going to deem him the season’s calculating villain. Even though he had several pitch problems last night, his tone is naturally pleasing so I wasn’t forced to cover my ears a la the horrors George Lovett and Emmanuel Zidor enacted on my eardrums. Well played, Spencer, well played…but be prepared for the internet to eat you alive!

Performance Review: (★★½)

3. Sam Woolf “Babylon” Poor kid, he’s had so much pressure from the internet and production to live up to his pre-anointed frontrunner status. Sam’s voice is so full of nerves that it’s almost impossible to settle into the powerful lyrics of “Babylon,” which is a fantastic choice of song for the teenage heartthrob. Sam’s likability factor and pure, boyish voice is going to send him deep in this competition. However, the kid needs to beef up his self-confidence because right now I’m seeing a whole lot of “nervous contestant” when I should be seeing “destined Idol winner” charisma. Who am I kidding? Sam has no need to fear – he’ll probably get the most votes of anyone from both nights.

Performance Review: (★★½)

*HUGE GAP BETWEEN THOSE ABOVE AND THE TWO TALENTED INDIVIDUALS BELOW*

2. CJ Harris “Shelter” — CJ positions himself as someone who could really take the Country music scene by surprise. There aren’t many African-American singers within the genre, and that’s a travesty considering so many African-American struggles and experiences are tied to the South. CJ is a masterful storyteller and never hides behind the fact that he’s part of a major production. I think playing the guitar was just an extension of his artistry. It certainly didn’t hinder the heartstrings he was pulling, like Chris Daughtry said it might. Honestly, if CJ sounds consistently sharp, so be it because all I hear is a guy who is baring his soul on every note. CJ is definitely one of the favorites and probably doesn’t have to worry about making it into the Top 13 tonight.

Performance Review: (★★★)

1. Alex Preston “Volcano” — FINALLY we have a guitar player who is confident in what he’s singing despite any and all insecurities. Alex Preston comes alive on stage and really finds a sexy groove to carry this song all the way into America’s hearts. His tone is so endearing, compelling, and haunting that I know for certain we’ll be hearing more from him in future weeks. The ending was a bit anticlimactic and I genuinely didn’t want the performance to end so soon. Regardless, Alex Preston has music coursing through his veins and it’s just a privilege to watch him unleash his superpowers of symphonic sound.

Performance Review: (★★★½)

Top 5 Males Predicted to Go Through (Into Top 10): Sam Woolf, CJ Harris, Ben Briley, Alex Preston and Spencer Lloyd

Wild Cards: Caleb Johnson, George Lovett, Dexter Roberts

Well Idol fans, tonight is the big results show. For me, at least, it’ll be interesting to see if I hit a four-year streak of 100% accuracy when it comes to predicting the Top 10 voted in by America. Safe to say, this country isn’t all that difficult to figure out. Please share your thoughts on the Top 10 Guys performance show and don’t forget to submit your own predictions in our comments section below!