Wednesday, February 19, 2014

American Idol Top Ten Males

Night two of Idol Rush Week, as this evening will bring the gentlemen trying to get into the Frat. I am going to once again live blog this, pausing between performances to type some hopefully brief thoughts. At the end, I will rank the vocal performances only and offer predictions for who the Top 5 vote-getters will be tomorrow.

I still think the whole deal of five out of 15 contestants getting cut on live tv in this sort of situation without singing a note is kind of cruel. I realize now that the one girl who I did not recognize last night is Jillian Jensen, who has now been cut at the Judges' House on X-Factor USA and now on American Idol, without having to sing. That must have been a tough one for her.

Last night, I though the performances from the ladies were quite underwhelming. I am hoping for some better showings tonight.

1. Caleb Johnson- "Stay With Me"

Good start. I have previously noted that I might enjoy listening to him more than anybody else this season, so I am glad he at least got this one chance. This was a very energetic and mostly strong performance.

While it might look a bit odd for a "rocker" like Caleb (who reminds many of a young Meat Loaf) to be out there on stage as a solo singer without a band backing him up, I think he delivered on a pretty good first impression to many. I think he may have the most powerful voice out of anyone in the competition this year. Hopefully, he will stick around a bit to sing some rock songs in a season that might not otherwise have very much of them.

2. C.J. Harris- "Shelter"

He is another singer who had impressed me in the auditions and during Hollywood. While he is African-American, he seems to cross (often unfair) racial stereotypes and comes off as a genuine "good ol' boy" from Alabama, and a nice guy. The hat he was wearing tonight was a bit weird though.

There is no denying that C.J. has a very strong voice with a lot of grit to it. I can see him perhaps making records one day if the breaks go right for him. The performance tonight was pretty good vocally but his style of singing it seemed a bit off-kilter. He will probably deserve to advance further. I sort of wonder though if some Idol voters, both black and white, might have a negative reaction to his white girlfriend in the audience. If so, that would be unfortunate.

3. Emmanuel Zidor- "Best of My Love"

Sigh. I think Idol only chose him to sing tonight for comic relief or to act as eventual cannon fodder. I am pretty sure that somebody more deserving will be left in the "chamber" tonight because of this. Even advancing him to this stage of the competition was probably misguided. At least though, JLo did not follow up on her threat to help him cross-dress on the Idol stage. I will see shortly if she references that in her comments. He's wearing a shirt that seems to make reference to the "Illuminati." Maybe this is all an conspiracy.

I am sure Emmanuel is a lot of fun and can be entertaining as a singer at parties and all of that. He might even have a powerful voice, but that did not come through tonight at all. The performance just seemed a bit clownish.

Let me take a moment to note though that the guys tonight seem to be a lot happier for each other thus far than the girls did last night. I guess that's not too surprising.

Well, in an Idol first, JLo asked him to sing a part of another sing during her critique. Emmanuel sounded much better singing an acapella ballad. So props to him for doing that when put on the spot, but that was really a violation for a judge to allow a contestant to do that. If he gets through tomorrow, some other contestants will have a legitimate beef.

4. Sam Woolf- "Babylon"

As I said a couple days ago, I think he is the most likely contender at this point to win the show. After his performance tonight, my way too early prediction has not changed. I think he is going to get a lot of votes from Idol's overwhelmingly female voting demographic, both from youngsters who will find him "dreamy" or something like that and from older women who will want to mother him, since apparently part of his back-story is that his mother left him. Basically, he is like a cross between Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips.

Regarding the performance tonight, I thought it was solid. He has a very nice voice and it seems like he would fit right into the current music scene. Certainly a "white guy with a guitar" has dominated recent seasons, when they were allowed to take part in the Finals. Sam can certainly use some work with his onstage persona and confidence, but his shyness may work to his favor for now and I can envision a story arc about how he keeps improving in that facet. I may not like everything he will be singing this season, but he is going to do well and can probably put his spot at Berklee School of Music aside for a bit.

5. George Lovett- "Grenade"

I need to try to be briefer. This was an odd performance for me. I have no doubt that George is talented, but he hit some rough notes tonight in my view, especially early on. Perhaps this song is just not meant to be clipped down to a minute and thirty seconds, and Bruno Mars' version of it may be so recognizable that somebody else doing a version seems to not seem right. George was having to try to do too much with it in an attempt to show off his voice.

He is coming across as way too intense during his critiques. People probably are not going to take too well to that.

6. Dexter Roberts- "This Old Boy"

There sure are a lot of Southerners among the guys tonight. I wonder how that will effect the voting, especially in Alabama, which has a few Idol hopefuls.

Dexter seems like a cool guy and if you like country music, you will have probably liked this performance. I think he did his genre quite well. It's just not my kind of song and as good of a singer as he seems to be, even sitting through a minute and thirty of it was a bit tedious.

After his song, Dexter is talking to the judges and says "Roll Tide." The Auburn fans now know who not to vote for.

7. Alex Preston- "Volcano"

Can an awkward looking former "band geek" win American Idol? My guess is probably not, but time will tel. A lot of people out there will absolutely love Alex while others will want him off their televisions as quickly as possible.

I suppose I am somewhat in the middle. I think he has a lot of promise and is capable of delivering interesting performances that are going to be considered "current." Tonight though, after a strong first couple lines, the vocals just got perhaps a bit too quirky. If he gets other chances, it will be interesting to see if he is able to regulate those tendencies. Tonight though, I think the guitar playing may have been more impressive than the singing.

I have read that country singer Jo Dee Messina is his cousin. I do not know much about her, but it might be helpful if she tweets to her fans to vote for him.

8. Malcolm Allen- "Comin' From Where I'm From"

I do not know this song and despite his claim, I kind of doubt Adam Lambert knew it either. This was another sort of weird song choice and performance for me. I think I might have expected more based on what we have seen from Malcolm

It got a bit better towards the end and he had some nice moments, but it seemed very amateurish towards the beginning. The song itself I do not think did a lot to show off his voice or to make an impression with people just "meeting" these contestants tonight.

9. Ben Briley- "Soulshine"

I suppose they had to let him sing, since they went to the trouble of already having America vote for him over someone else last week. However, if they were really so on the fence about him now, it seems odd to advance him over some others who have gotten a lot of praise on previous episodes.

Ben played the electric guitar and sang an Allman Brothers song and I thought it was pretty good. It will definitely not be some peoples' cup of tea though, but he definitely did his thing so to speak and sounded fairly good doing it. It is interesting that he wore an official Tennessee Volunteers hat on stage. Are there not licensing requirements for tv stations involved in that? In any event, the SEC is getting a lot of love on the Idol stage tonight from these guys from the South.

I will be shocked if the final pick, in the "pimp slot" is not Spencer Lloyd.

10. Spencer Lloyd- "Love Don't Die"

As I expected. I think Idol is going to be pushing him quite a bit in the weeks ahead, and while he may very well make it to the Top 6 at least, I think eventually there will be enough people who will think he is too arrogant or cocky.

That is all a ways off though. I think the fans that he already has will have loved this performance of a Fray song. Vocally, I thought it was good in parts and just ok in others. He decided apparently at the last hours to perform it without his guitar. That was probably a smart strategic move.


10. Emmanuel Zidor
9. George Lovett
8. Malcom Allen 
7. Alex Preston
6. Spencer Lloyd

5. Dexter Roberts

4. C.J. Harris
3. Ben Briley
2. Sam Woolf
1. Caleb Johnson

Probably the top 4 performances were better than anything the girls did the night before. The wildcard process (especially if there are additional performances tomorrow night) should be interesting.

Who do I think will advance automatically? (No particular order): Caleb Johnson, Sam Woolf, Spencer Lloyd, Ben Briley, Dexter Roberts

If they do not get the votes tonight, I think it is likely that C.J. and Alex will get wildcard spots.