Ten of the Top 15 men get to sing while the rest fester in the Dumpster Outside Randy's Workshop

By Annie Barrett
February 20, 2014 at 06:48 AM EST
Fox
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Top 15, just kidding, Top 10 Guys night showcased more decent vocals than Tuesday’s disastrous Girls night, but man oh man (I’m a man I’m a man I’m a man), in terms of this season’s overall talent, I am just as underwhelmed now as I was then. I’ll be happy to hear calmer and more assured performances from 13 people who know for certain they’ll get the chance to sing next week. Aside from the spectacle of calculated mass heartbreak for no apparent reason, Rush Week seems like a wash.

It’s goodbye to Casey Thrasher, Maurice Townsend, Briston Maroney, Ethan Harris, and Jordan Brisbane — “class acts, all of them,” said Ryan Seacrest without mentioning their names. He will never have to learn them; the season is definitely working out well for Ryan.

Short version of my recap:

Long version of my recap:

Who feels like singing? All 15 of you? Huh. Weird. Well, eff you! The judges picked these 10:

Caleb Johnson (pictured above), Faces’ “Stay With Me”: Caleb would be a great host/emcee of a huge karaoke bar, especially around about 9 p.m. when no one is drunk enough yet to sign up and sing. He could get them buzzed with his energy! His look and singing style are not current, but I see no reason why a singer this technically sound and likable and passionate should miss out on the Top 5. Going first could be his death knell, but I hope both he and Majesty prove that tendency wrong.

“I want subtle over-the-topness,” Caleb told a deep-scoopnecked Adam Lambert during his style consult.

Adam gets it.

C.J. Harris, Ray LaMontagne’s “Shelter”: Harry called him out on singing sharp throughout the song, but did sense an authenticity and emotional connection within C.J. — “I felt like you were singing to me, you were gonna shelter me.” Keith agreed and disagreed; when he’s that drawn into a performance, he has no idea what sharp or flat even means! C.J. reminded him of Dobie Gray and Jonny Lang and, perhaps just as important: “You’re just a great Alabama boy, man,” added Keith. I thought C.J. would deliver more vocally. I like the grit in his tone, but most of the time I could barely hear him over the band.

NEXT PAGE: Emmanuel Zidor’s flailure to launch

Emmanuel Zidor, The Emotions’ “Best of My Love”: This flamboyant cartoon character delivers a hard-hitting prance, if that is such a thing. It is now! What an original artist! Emmanuel punctuated his homage to season 4’s Vonzell Solomon with an aggressive point to his own cheek on the line “love has kissed me in a beautiful way.” It was funny for a few seconds but became too cheesy too soon, more of a visual fail than anything else. “Make sure you sing the song,” Harry advised the disco diva.

You know I’ll take an impromptu celebration of the Boogie Nights soundtrack (disc 1) anywhere I can get it — but “A Shade Shady (Now Prance)” might have been a more appropriate song choice for Emmanuel… and just about as relevant.

Sam Woolf, David Gray’s “Babylon”: “The people like you, Sam,” said Keith. “Everybody’s already fallen in love with you!” said Jennifer. So that settles that then. And they’re RIGHT. This guy has the face of a frostbitten angel. I hope they never correct his rosy cheeks with layers upon layers of evil makeup. This was a very smart song choice; most adults remember it fondly as perhaps the only David Gray song they knew really well at a certain point in their lives. And for younger viewers who might not know it — well, that face. Sam’s quiet humility and adorable face should get him through. Harry hoped we’d see more moments of confidence throughout the season. I saw and heard a few tonight. Perhaps Harry (but not Sam!) needs to look down at his personal TV screen, as Keith does.

George Lovett, Bruno Mars’ “Grenade”: Huh. This was a non-spectacular flameout from a contestant we don’t know too well, the melodrama of his intense facial expressions and flails matched only by the regularity and repetition of his vocal runs. I saw hints of potential greatness at the end, and gosh is this guy cute (and TALL), but I doubt he did enough to make the Top 5 Guys. He mostly seemed terrified and lost.

Dexter Roberts, Craig Morgan’s “This Ole Boy” ft. Dexter’s White Tank Top: Sorry! The tank was prominent. We also got lots of shots from behind of Dexter wiggling his butt during this competent but not quite distinctive country cover. Keith reminded Dexter he’s one of a thousand guys just like him frontin’ bands in honky tonks right now. Jennifer liked that Dexter wasn’t nervous and said “for this, for American Idol, you did your thing.” What? Is Randy hiding somewhere under the table/within the folds of her beautifully billowing pants and feeding her lyrics of such exquisite vaguery?

NEXT PAGE: Do you prefer the old soul with the baby face or the baby with the man face? Alex Preston, Damien Rice’s “Volcano”: Aw, Alex is very cute to me, like an awkward Jason Sudeikis. How many awkward tall guys with scrunched-up resting faces do you know who can somehow pull off tapered (skinny?) jeans and shiny loafers with no socks? Usually you have to be European to get away with that. Is it weird that I think he “presents British”? He looks like he could be visiting from across the pond as a musical guest. It’s attractive. What am I talking about?! I’m just drawn to him, I guess.

I know this song is considered the property of Phillip Phillips on Idol, but that was a totally different setting with a season’s worth of buildup. Alex set himself apart with an understated quirkiness and musical precision on this one and I think that might be all he needs to make it through to the Top 5. He was that clearly good, I think. I hope! Also: I loved the delightful extended riff he played after Harry complimented him for “ending on the nine.” Go for it, Alex!

Malcolm Allen, Anthony Hamilton’s “Comin’ From Where I’m From”: I expected much more out of Malcolm after the wild vocal range he showed during a brief Hollywood Week snippet, but I’m still glad he’s one of the 10 who got to sing tonight. J. Lo really needs him to bring the heart and the soul into the performance quality next time. She wants her (Lord forgive me, for I am about to annoy the readers) goosies, okay? Not okay.

Keith thought Malcolm should have scrapped the band entirely and let his vocal shine on a song with such personal subject matter — “You can make those choices,” he assured the deli grocer. Considering we just saw tons of footage of the contestants being advised to do specific things from like seven different parties during Rush Week, I’m not sure anyone realized autonomy was an option.

Ben Briley, The Allman Brothers Band’s “Soulshine”: Keith rejoiced; this marked the first “shredded” solo we’ve seen on American Idol. I believed J. Lo when she said Ben “came alive” with the swaybots surrounding him more than he had during rehearsal. I slightly preferred Ben’s tone and performance style to Dexter’s based purely on tonight’s efforts, but Dexter seems a bit more likable.

I loved Harry more than ever once he mentioned Ben’s HUGE orange tie and then would not stop obsessing about it. The backwards Tennessee baseball cap and tie screamed “high school recruiter sweating in the stands” to me, but I admire the hometown spirit (as long as he doesn’t do it every week, because orange is the best color of approximately zero people).

Spencer Lloyd, The Fray’s “Love Don’t Die”: Ugh, so this pretty boy will sail through to the Top 5 on the pimp spot and his good looks? Since when is smug good-looking? I was not impressed. Spencer’s vocals were off-key, breathless, and at times downright painful. But he’s cuuuuuuuuuute. “The girls” (and Seacrest) made him a big poster full of hearts and squiggles. And he touched a hand. Let’s face it: He’s a shoe-in.

“Piano was your strong suit. This was not your strong suit. Stick to what you know.” Yikes! Harry! Tell him more.

Thursday night: We’ll learn which five girls and five guys America voted through, and the judges will name three Wild Cards to round out the Top 13.

My Top 5 guys: Alex, Sam, Caleb, Ben, and C.J. — and I’d give a Wild Card to Malcolm.

Who are yours?

Discuss!

Follow @AnnieBarrett

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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