After tense round, Malaya Watson now in ‘Idol’ top 30

Alexa Villano
She's in the top 30! Recovering well from a shaky first performance, Fil-Am Malaya Watson makes it to the next round of 'American Idol'

TOP 30. Fil-Am Malaya Watson has made it in after a tense showing involving a repeat performance after judges noticed she was off-key. Screengrab from American Idol's YouTube channel

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-American Malaya Watson is one step closer to being an American Idol as she snagged a spot as one of the top 30 contestants of the show Wednesday night (Thursday, February 13, Manila time).

The 16-year-old tuba player from Michigan did not hide her smile when AI judge Harry Connick Jr announced that she made it as one of the top 15 female contestants (top 30 in all). 

“You’re gonna be on Top 15. Congratulations, we look forward to seeing you grow,” he announced as judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban looked on.

When she entered the judge’s room Connick Jr. greeted her but mispronounced her name, which she immediately corrected.

“Hi, It’s Malaya. It means freedom,” she said before sitting down to face the judges.

 “I’m glad that you reminded me of the pronunciation of your name because that name has great potential to be a star at some point,” Connick Jr. replied.

She thanked the judges and danced her way out of the room which Urban compared to the moves of a “cat burglar.”

Watch the judges tell Malaya that she’s in the top 30 here:

“I’m the very first tuba player on American Idol from Southfield High School. Whoa!” she later said.

Watson was one of the 8 females and part of the first 17 contestants picked during part one of the top 30 reveal in Hollywood.  Her rendition of “I Believe” by Fantasia got off to a bad start when Connick Jr. noticed that she sounded off key. The judges requested for a repeat of the song which she later executed well and got cheers from Urban and Lopez.

Moving forward, Malaya will have to bring her A-game after her performance this week. Michael Slezak of criticized her performance in this episode, saying that “even after Harry hit the ‘reset’ button, some of her runs were more ‘high school band practice’ than ‘symphony orchestra.’”

An Entertainment Weekly recap by Annie Barrett related a similar sentiment, but also praised Malaya’s recovery after her second performance, saying that “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!”

The rest of the top 30 contestants will be announced on Thursday (Friday in Manila) before moving to the next round of competition slated for next week. –

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Alexa Villano

Alexa is one of Rappler's Lifestyle and Entertainment reporters, covering local entertainment news to a wide range of topics from beauty pageants to reality shows.