Wednesday, March 05, 2014

American Idol Top 12

The theme tonight was "Home" and I am sitting at home after 10 pm, about to watch what happened tonight, and hoping to make my comments are brief as possible.

1. Jena Irene- "Suddenly I See"

I do not think I really liked this song choice, especially for her. That said, she sang it fairly well, but her voice is still sort of odd. For better or worse, she is sounding a lot of Avril Lavigne. There will probably be worse performances tonight when all is said and done, but the whole vibe of this, including the way she was dressed, seemed a bit out of character for her. She comes across as more authentic when she is "darker."

Randy Jackson is still sitting off to the side of the stage, with the Finalists. Say what you want about "The Dawg", but he has been in person for every live competition performance in American Idol history. The same can also be said for Seacrest, although he was probably backstage during many of those.

MK Nobilette looks absolutely miserable sitting in the lounge for some reason. Does she realize she is on television and the voting is already open?

2. Alex Preston- "I Don't Want To Be"

He is sure coming across as less shy and less amateurish than the way he was presented in the audition rounds. Apparently, he has a bit more experience in the music world than we would have thought.

This song has been done many times on Idol, but it's been a few years. I still think Alex is very talented musically, but this was kind of weird in parts. Perhaps, this would have been a good opportunity for him to come out and sing without an instrument, instead of trying to incorporate an electric guitar into a number that did not really call for it. I think trying to may messed up his vocal timing a bit.

Some people will love this while others will find it quite puzzling. I do think Alex is going to eventually be perceived as a bit too "artsy" for him to reach the Finale. Still though, I will probably wind up ranking this somewhat higher than others because I like the song.

3. Jessica Meuse- "White Flag"

For the purpose of just getting votes, she might have been better advised to pick an upbeat country song as something that reminded her of home.

This was another odd song choice. For most of it, I thought her voice sounded very nice, although she seemed to run out of steam or something at the end. However, I just do not think this particular kind of ballad really has much of a positive impact for someone singing on a large stage. She should get some points for making it her own style but she also seemed tentative and as if she were thinking about the next line of the song throughout.

With the other kids sitting there for these performances, I think we are going to get lots of shots of them singing along. I think that is going to be intentional on their parts to try to get some notice.

Connick Jr. says she was off pitch the whole time. I guess I am unable to pick that up, although I did sort of hear it at the end.

4.  Dexter Roberts- "Lucky Man"

First of all, I thought he had a really bad selection in his choice of a backwards mesh hat. He looked kind of ridiculous, but his pre-performance video piece did feature puppies, so he probably already was picking up votes before he sang a note.

This surprised me. I do not know this song, but I found it sort of compelling. It must be the Republican in me. I think the particular song is going to appeal to a lot of country music fans and people in general with it's theme of American optimism. Dexter may not be the best singer in the world or the most thrilling performer, and he probably will be gone from this show within a few weeks, but he sang this song in tune and seemed to believe every word he sang. I bet he's back next week.

JLo spends most of her critique talking about Scotty McCreery for some reason. She thinks that every week he was full of surprises? That was definitely not the case.

5. Emily Piriz- "Let's Get Loud"

A few months ago, she was an ordinary High School student, but apparently she's also dating a Marine. She must have known the video piece was coming because she referred to him as Lance Corporal.

Emily definitely was going for the Cuban-American vote this week and will probably get some other Hispanic voters as well. Picking a Jennifer Lopez song was pretty much a bold move. I will be interested to hear what JLo's comments on it were. Emily gave a good performance, but vocally it was perhaps a bit underwhelming. She may have been overpowered a bit by the band. It is still quite possible that she sang it better live than Ms. Lopez herself would have. She definitely sang it better than Lazaro Arbos would have.

6. Caleb Johnson- "Working Man"

Another compelling rock performance by Caleb, even if I would prefer to hear him sing some '80s hair metal instead. His style in music and performance is just so different than everyone else on Idol this season, that he cannot be faulted for staying in this lane. Eventually though, I wonder if he will try to show off his vocals on a power ballad for some variety.

He is really good at what he does. He just happens (unfortunately) to be doing it in the wrong era.

Idol will be showing us "Real Time Results" momentarily. This is more like Election Night than ever before.

7. MK Nobilette- "Drops of Jupiter"

Ok, let me get this straight, (no pun intended.) MK was adopted at birth in San Francisco by two lesbian mothers, who later split up, and now she has four mothers and of course is gay herself. Are we sure this isn't an episode of Glee? There are some Idol viewers out there who have to literally be aghast at all this.

Anyways, I bet Sam wishes he could have done this song sometime during the season. I thought this started off very poorly for MK. She sounded out of tune and looked very uncomfortable. Then, when the band kicked in a bit more, she sounded a lot better. By the end though, there were some bum notes once again.

I am more interested in the way that this entire performance was basically an ode to how awesome San Francisco apparently is and how the rest of America should be like it. Do a lot of Idol voters also support Nancy Pelosi? I guess we will find out eventually.

Harry Connick Jr. is on to something when he is bold enough to suggest that she looks at times like she does not want to be there.

8. C.J. Harris- "Waiting On the World to Change"

First, we learn officially that C.J. has a son back home, which I believe makes him the only parent in the Finals. Also in his video package, he says something about how as much as he loves the small town in Alabama where he is from, the South still needs to change. That was clearly done as a way to introduce why he picked the song he did, but I felt it was a bit unfortunate.

C.J. has really come across as quite a likeable guy thus far in the competition and I feel like somebody pushed him to say that. Vocally, I thought he was really pretty good on this song. I continue to like the grit and uniqueness of his voice. I would rather listen to this version than the original by John Mayer. However, I just wonder if picking such a slightly political and polarizing song could have a bit of a negative impact at this stage in the competition, especially after the way he introduced it in the video piece. The theme of this song was diametrically opposed to what Dexter did and those two are probably fighting for the same voters. We have learned already that Dexter was leading out there in the Facebook Precincts.

9. Sam Woolf- "Just One"

I want to vote for his grandfather. Since Sam is under 18, does that mean his grandfather, who is in his late 70s, is going to be going on the whole Idol tour? Is there even going to be a tour? If so, it still remains very likely that Sam will be the reigning winner when it occurs.

I found this song boring and definitely hard to connect to. Sam still needs to work on his performance skills and to avoid extreme visible reaction when he messes up on his guitar. Nonetheless, there is certainly a market out there for what he is providing and his voice is definitely something that could be recordable today. While the styles of music, and perhaps personalities are a lot different, I think his Idol journey this season is going to a lot like Scotty McCreery a couple seasons ago. That will include being consistent, somewhat predictable, and in the middle of the pack in my rankings.

Once again, the judges are being a bit tough on him, because they want to build up the "how much you've grown" story arc later in the season.

10. Malaya Watson- "Take Me to the King"

Three of these Finalists were born in Michigan. If only we currently had a President who was born there as well.

 This was quite a different performance in many ways for Malaya from what she did last week, and she certainly needed it to be far different. With straightened hair and a pretty low-key wardrobe choice, she started off playing the piano and sounded pretty good. Then at the end, she got up and took this Gospel song to church as the saying goes. She certainly put her all into it and the passion was evident. Her voice perhaps went off the rails a bit during the really high notes, but I bet most people will give her a pass for that.

11. Ben Briley- "Turning Home"

With each passing week, I think Ben is someone who may go very deep in this competition. He could even make it to the Finale for a chance at a Cook over Archuleta type redux.

For a country singer, there is something distinct and different about his voice, which makes his performances more interesting. I think it was smart of him to sing this song without his guitar. He is certainly coming across as being comfortable with this whole performing on television thing and some viewers may feel bad that all he had in the audience to support him were two empty chairs. There is a Clint Eastwood joke in there somewhere.

The judges did not like it too much. That will cause him to get even more votes.

12. Majesty Rose- "Fix You"

I wish Derrick Rose was competing this Spring for the Chicago Bulls.

Anyways, Majesty closes the show and as talented as she is, I wish she would have picked a better song to show off her voice. This was surprisingly a bit underwhelming to me. Maybe I just really do not like the song. She clearly has one of the better (and more current) voices in the competition, but she seemed a bit disconnected tonight from it. Was there an issue with her guitar at the very end?

Rankings tonight...pretty tough to do, as most of them were all bunched together closely in the "just alright I guess" category.

12. Jena Irene
11. Emily Piriz
10. MK Nobilette
9. Majesty Rose
8. Alex Preston
7. Jessica Meuse
6. Sam Woolf
5. Malaya Watson
4. C.J. Harris
3. Dexter Roberts
2. Ben Briley
1. Caleb Johnson

At the end of the night, I feel pretty badly putting Jena at the bottom. I think she has a lot more potential than some of the others this season. It's just that her song choice was wrong for her and there is a certain tonal quality to her voice that doesn't sit right with me. 

She could be in trouble, but probably will not go home. I think Jessica might be at risk and also C.J. However, barring a very well-organized left-wing voting effort (which is entirely possible), I think that MK will have the lowest number of votes. Some people may not vote for her because they sense that she does ot really want to be there.

If she is at the bottom of the votes, it is very possible that the judges will save her. They seem to be coddling her for much of this season (at least until up to tonight) and saving her would certainly generate a lot of discussion on social media and among casual viewers around the country. The current Idol Powers That Be seem to want to have things be stirred up (singers being eliminated without even singing) that way.

Then again, sending her home would also be quite controversial.