Night Two of “American Idol” Rush Week was just as ridiculously rushed as the first. But because the guys knew what was coming, they handled it better than the gals did.
Of course, that isn’t saying too much. While there is a lot of talent in this season’s class of semifinalists, there isn’t a lot of experience. It’s where “The Voice” has shifted the expectations of singing competitions. On “The Voice,” even in the initial auditions, there are rarely performances as wobbly as the ones from these semifinals.
“Idol” is trying to position itself as the show where genuinely new stars are born, as opposed to the generally more experienced, but still largely unknown, singers on “The Voice.” Their problem is that the average viewer doesn’t know that. If they’re coming to a singing competition looking for good music, they’re going to like “The Voice” more. The “Idol” issue is the same one that Harry Connick Jr. posed to country singer Dexter Roberts: “How are you going to distinguish yourself?”
Rush Week was one thing the show tried and it didn’t work so well. What are they going to try next?
Here’s how the show shook out:
Caleb Johnson, “Stay With Me”: Well, he certainly didn’t have any problems with his nerves. Caleb took The Faces classic by storm, with his powerful voice and over-the-top performance. He’s clearly mastered singing big and performing bigger. What he needs to win, though, is the ability to connect emotionally, and he still needs to work on that. “You can’t learn to sing like that,” Keith Urban said. “You are the real deal,” Jennifer Lopez said. “It’s your time.”
C.J. Harris, “Shelter”: So they tell him not to use the guitar at Boot Camp and he goes against them, making it even worse by sitting down while he plays the guitar on the Ray LaMontagne song. His vocals were good, especially considering he had a root canal yesterday, but he totally hurt his chances at standing out by toning his performance down so much. “You have a tendency to sing sharp,” Connick said, pointing out how sharp C.J. was through the early verses.
Emmanuel Zidor, “The Best of My Love”: This was a bad song choice, even if it was an homage to Vonzell Solomon. The adrenaline got hold of him and he was off key and out of breath, though, to his credit, his performance stayed strong. “Stay in your lane,” Connick said. “It started to get a little out of control. … You’re a great singer. Don’t forget to sing.” However, Lopez, who helped his chances by getting him to sing a bit of “I’m Goin’ Down,” defended him, saying, “I Zidor you.”
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Sam Woolf, “Babylon”: Normally, the David Gray song would’ve been a bad song choice for competition because it doesn’t really have much vocal range. However, Sam’s personality makes you want to root for him and his delivery suited the song. Connick said confidence would help him perform, but actually his nervousness is part of his appeal, as long as it doesn’t affect his voice. “The people like you, Sam,” Urban said. “Your voice is just money.”
George Lovett, “Grenade”: His slowed-down version of Bruno Mars’ hit kind of got away from him in places, but his vocals were strong for the most part. “You’re one of the best singers here,” Lopez said, before warning him that he sang too many runs. Connick said that George let the song “spin out of control.”
Dexter Roberts, “This Ole Boy”: His take on the Craig Morgan hit may have been the most fun performance of the evening, just an easygoing country smash in the making. “You’ve got all that it takes,” Connick said, though he wondered how special his voice is. “There’s a thousand guys just like you,” Urban said. “What you gotta do is figure out what makes you different from everybody else.”
Alex Preston, “Volcano”: It was the best performance of the night. Alex took Damien Rice’s breakthrough and twisted it to suit his own quirky, unique delivery. If the problem Dexter has is not being unique enough, Alex is definitely one of a kind. “The best song choice of the night,” Urban said. “That’s a song you could’ve written.”
Malcolm Allen, “Coming From Where I’m From”: He made a great choice with the Anthony Hamilton song, but he couldn’t bring it home, held back either by nerves or design. Connick said that his runs didn’t work. “You have the talent,” Lopez said. “I need you to really bring the heart and the soul next time.”
Ben Briley, “Soulshine”: OK, the guitar solo in a singing competition could’ve been a problem, but his delivery of the Allman Brothers classic was so natural that it became attractive. Briley showed that he belonged in the Top 30 outright and shouldn’t have had to go through the “we can’t decide so the audience will” stunt. “You came alive on stage tonight,” Lopez said. “That’s the sign of a true performer.”
Spencer Lloyd, “Love Don’t Die”: He has potential, but The Fray song kind of swallowed him up. His delivery was too laid back, but his good looks and likable personality may save him. “This was not good,” Connick said. “When you’re up there, you’re a star,” Lopez said.
ELIMINATED (without singing): Briston Maroney, Casey Thrasher, Ethan Harris, Jordan Brisbane, Maurice Townsend
WILL ADVANCE: Alex, Dexter, Sam, Emmanuel, Spencer
SHOULD ADVANCE: Alex, Dexter, Sam, Emmanuel, Caleb
ACTUALLY ADVANCED: Alex, Dexter, Sam, Caleb, Ben, C.J.