American Idol recap: Elevator of Terror

The judges welcome 17 of the Top 30 in a great big ballroom; M.K. Nobilette says she's 'very obviously gay'
Ep. 09 | Aired Feb 12, 2014

Fox

Malaya Watson may need to let go of the "resident tuba player" shtick pretty soon, but only because she has so many other things going for her aside from the nerd squad backstory. Like silly dance moves, for one. Let's all do "the cat burglar" in our desk chairs right now. Okay, I'm done. Good workout today. Anyway, what Ryan called "a rocky start" during Solo Night looked like a full-on nightmare to me -- Malaya and the band were singing/playing in different keys. I still can't believe this ever happens! Wouldn't you have to adjust your voice and sing up or down to the band? Or would it compromise everything because you have to sing in exactly your chosen key? Anyway, she miraculously worked it out and even walked the plank out to the judges during Fantasia's "I Believe," teetering in those dangerous red heels. Worth it! Way too many runs on that last line, but hey, whatever, girl's covering the inventor of runs so she can do whatever she wants. (I am just kidding! I know Mariah Carey invented runs.)

Maurice Townsend is a tricky one. He's good at singing; no one can dispute that. "He's smart, he's smart," mused Harry after recognizing "Wrecking Ball" during Maurice's big solo. But is he memorable beyond that great big family of his? I never got excited during this performance. The judges could only remark on his singing, and in the ballroom of doom, Keith mentioned "that unidentifiable thing you've just got to have" in addition to being a good singer… but apparently they believe Maurice can acquire it, because he's through! It's almost like his segment was edited specifically to make us doubt him. Cannon fodder, I guess. However, if Harry thinks Maurice is a "badass" then I have to believe him. I do want him to kick it up a notch. I must be dazzled.

Bria Anai Johnson thoroughly charmed me with her goofy "speed walk" down the gilded ballroom mile, but even more important, she slayed her solo on "It's a Man's World," creating her own sense of rhythm and tonal emphasis within a well-covered song. Crazy-high energy in a good way from Lipstick Girl. I love her. I wanted to see the whole performance!

Jessica Meuse and Jesse Roach had to do this absurd a cappella sing-off even though Jessica was clearly the stronger choice based on their solos. Meuse authentically rocked out on an original called "Done," which included the terrific line "Who ya gonna crawl to now? Baby, I'm done, don't even turn back around." I realized that I really dig when there's a very clear "second party" within a song and things get contentious. She has one of the clearest musical personalities we've seen. Whereas Jesse, sweet and talented as she is, forgot the lyrics to "Wide Open Spaces." This was a NO-BRAINER.

But nope! "I wish we could let them both through," Keith complained. But they couldn't, because you can't have two Jessicas. There are infinite amounts of yeses, but only room on "the bus" for one Jess. Was anyone buying this dramatic deliberation? Anyway, Jessica it is. Duh. "I'm ready to stop selling CDs out of my trunk," said the Meuse-ster.

Dexter Roberts was another no-brainer with his "real bad country" characterization and visible shakes. "We're trying to find people that are the real deal," Keith reminded the farmer's grandson. "You can't be sort of phony -- all hat, no cattle." At this, Dexter came alive. "Certainly," I believe he said. Certainly! Much like Jessica, Dexter is "ready to leave the farm work behind." All of the animals were super-rude and never even offered to pay for the CDs he sold out of his truck.

Emmanuel Zidor is going to grow tiresome to a great many people very soon if he hasn't already. Vocally, I'm not sold, but he's not aggressively incapable, either, and this guy is a CHARACTER. I wouldn't mind seeing this proposed walk-off between him and J. Lo in heels (she's buying). Do I want to hear him sing again? Does it matter? I just don't think that is the point of Emmanuel Zidor. He's something else entirely. This guy compelled the judges into a group hug with him at the center and got Harry Connick Jr. to blow him a kiss as he happily sauntered out of the ballroom. That does not scream "great singer" to me, but it does scream "magical creature." Mr. Congeniality of the group for sure.

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Speaking of being gay, Emmanuel never did that because he didn't need to (no one ever needs to), but M.K. Nobilette wanted to, felt it was time, and officially became the first openly gay contestant on American Idol. It's a crazy technicality, really, but believe it or not, no one has ever said "Yep, I'm gay" on the show itself. "I'm very obviously gay," M.K. proudly announced. Could we get to the important part? Her singing? Jennifer Lopez got it exactly right when she called her "a quiet storm." I felt a little lost on her cover of Ed Sheeran's "A Team" but I think that was her intention, to play with the timing. Her low and grave tone is something different we don't often hear on this show. It almost reminds me of Annie Lennox. Whoa! I know! She will however need a much stronger mic than Annie Lennox.

NEXT PAGE: Leah Guerrero, we never knew you

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