Like the “Girls’ Night” semi-finals, the “Boys Night” semi-finals of American Idol Season 13 features a twist. As the show starts, fifteen guys are waiting, but the judges will only call ten to sing. This season’s semi-final is modeled on college rush weeks, and to use a rush week term, the remaining five will be blackballed. So who did the judges call?
1. Caleb Johnson, a Southern country-rocker who got very little support from voters in a Twitter poll last week. He sings Rod Stewart’s “Stay with Me.” J-Lo notes he auditioned in two other seasons. Unless his audience support turns completely around, he won’t get any further this season. In my opinion the judges just wasted a slot.
2. CJ Harris, who plays guitar and sings “Shelter” in a way that sounds very much like The Eagles with a bit more blues. During the judges’ comments, Keith Urban calls him a cross between Jonny Lang and (from back in the seventies) Dobie Gray.
3. Emmanuel Zidor, old-school R&B vocalist, sings “Best of My Love,” but it’s not the Eagles song. It’s one by the Emotions. The judges are mixed about whether he did enough to get many votes, but Harry Connick, Jr. says he captures a “happy New Orleans” style, “all the bigness, but don’t forget to sing.”
4. Sam Woolf, the 17-year-old Berklee music student from Boston whom the judges singled out for his “beautiful tone.” He sings, “Babylon,” which does suit his voice. J-Lo notes his “perfect pitch.” His three fellow finalists (so far) dig his performance, too, clapping along.
5. George Lovett (not Hewitt or Pruitt) is the second old-school R&B vocalist called. He does a powerhouse version of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade.” J-Lo proclaims him one of the best singers here.
6. Dexter Roberts, the second Southern country-rocker the judges call. Tonight he’s introduced as being from Alabama, but back at the Salt Lake City auditions he was described as a Louisiana duck hunter and farmhand. He sings “This Ole Boy” and plays guitar. The judges comment they think he’s too country, and not much different from all the other country acts. (So why’d they give him a precious semi-final slot?) I’d say he’s in the gap between country and rock. Keith Urban does get a good one-liner in, “I’m from the South, the Southern Hemisphere!”
7. Alex Preston, who may be the soft-voiced guy I ID’ed as Alex Philbrick in Salt Lake City. He sings Damien Rice’s “Volcano.” His mastery of “eleven or twelve” instruments, along with his vocal style, makes me peg him as this season’s Phillip Phillips. We’ll see if he gathers the major fan base Phillips did.
8. Malcom Allen, third old-school R&B vocalist called, whose voice is similar to Stevie Wonder’s. Based on the judges’ comments, I doubt he makes the finals. As Harry tells him, “You have a tendency to go sharp… focus on singing in tune.” Once again the judges’ comments leave us wondering why they thought he was worth advancing this far.
9. Ben Briley (not Bill or Bob), who the judges essentially had to call, otherwise last week’s vote-off would have been a total farce. (It’s still a bad idea because last week the judges put fourteen-and-one-half guys ahead of Briley but this week they put him ahead of six guys.) He’s the third country-rocker in this evening’s top ten. He says his mother was the Taylor Swift of the seventies but I didn’t catch her name. (It certainly wasn’t Loretta, Tammy, or Dolly.) I doubt she was as big a star then as Taylor is now.
10. Last slot goes to–Spencer Lloyd, who the judges pegged as this season’s teen idol in his audition.
Blackballed: Brixton Maroney with his great-grandfather’s guitar, the super-hyped Casey Thrasher, soulful and dreadlocked Maurice Townsend, hard country rep Ethan Hawk, and the very young R&B kid Jordan Brisbane.
I voted for CJ and Alex. The final field–the five top vote-getters of each sex, plus three wild cards–will be announced tonight.