Wednesday, March 26, 2014

American Idol Top 9

I was going to watch this live and then offer brief comments later, but plans changed pretty quickly into the show, so I am going to live blog it as I have been.

The theme this week is "I'm With the Band." I guess that means there will be some more rock music tonight.

Oh great, a nine person group number to start the competition night off. Unfortunately, this means I have to rank them. This is probably not even worth the effort but I will do it anyway.

In order of appearance:

Alex Preston, Sam Woolf, Majesty Rose, Dexter Roberts, Jessica Meuse, C.J. Harris, Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson, Malaya Watson-" Clocks/("I Can't Get No) Satisfaction/"My Song Knows What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)"

 They came out in groups of three and each had their song, before joining together on a chorus in the last one.

Some of these songs worked a lot better for the kids than others. The first one was a Coldplay number which was a little less "rock" and thus allowing Alex, Sam, and Majesty to sound pretty good. Then came the Rolling Stones and Dexter, C.J., and Jessica seemed a bit off kilter, especially Jessica. Finally, they sang Fall Out Boy, who had mentored them earlier this week, and while Caleb is certainly in his element singing this kind of music, Jena seemed like she was trying too hard, and poor Malaya sounded horrid. In her defense though, she was thrashing around on stage like a true heavy metal animal.

9. Malaya Watson
8. Jena Irene
7. Jessica Meuse
6. C.J. Harris
5. Dexter Roberts
4. Majesty Rose
3. Alex Preston
2. Sam Woolf
1. Caleb Johnson

Glad that is over with. Now, let's get to the solos-

1.  Alex Preston- "Don't Speak"

I will give him points for a creative re-arrangement of this No Doubt song. He sort of made it a loungey jazz type of thing. I prefer the original version though.  For the most part, I thought he sang it well. People who like Alex will probably love it and those who have not quite "gotten" him will probably find it weird. Will he ever take the song for a solo performance without some type of guitar? I believe C.J. and himself are the only ones who have not thus far.

This show has taken a terrible turn with this ankle stuff. They can now officially cancel it. Shark is jumped.

2. Majesty Rose- "Shake It Out"

When they said she was going to sing Florence and the Machine, I was sort of hoping it would be "Dog Days Are Over" but instead it was this song. I thought the beginning of it was pretty good and it seemed like this would be a big "comeback moment" and then it kind of fell apart.That seems to happen whenever Majesty tries to hit high notes. She just does not seem to have that range recently and I think she may be thinking about those notes, because her voice gets a bit wobbly in the portions before. I believe this was the first ever performance on Idol in which the singer accompanied themselves with a tamborine.

3. Dexter Roberts- "Boondocks"

I just cannot get into songs like this. There is not really much I can say about this performance. Dexter sang it semi-competently in his typical country manner, but with the exception of one performance this season, I have been bored with everything he has done. This may be a cliched critique, but I am sure that almost every country music bar in America has a singer on the weekends who could have performed this song just as well or better.

The judges are spending most of their time after this performance critiquing a giant gummy bear.

4. Malaya Watson-"The Long And Winding Road"

This song is starting to get done a lot on Idol, and I find it a bit boring. I was questioning the choice and doubting that Malaya would be able to match the technical skill shown on it a few years back by David Archuleta, who has returned to America this week from his Mormon mission.

This was another surprisingly strong vocal by Malaya though. She put her own spin to it and made it sound more modern and R&B like. There is still some rawness to her voice but the potential is very evident, at least on ballads like she has done the past two weeks. When she tried to rock out earlier in the evening, it was a trainwreck.

5. Sam Woolf- "Hey There Delilah"

Once again, he sounded good and seemed to be in total control of the song. I am detecting somewhat of a Frank Sinatra-ish crooner vibe to his voice. This particular song choice did not seem to really fit in with any kind of "rock week" or songs that sounded better with a band on stage. The arrangement was maybe too busy.

Like I seem to say every week though, Sam is almost always technically superb on what he sings. Having a voice like that is easily more than half the battle for the kind of music he probably wants to do one day, but his performance skills and ability to "connect" are still lacking and might be leaving the door open for someone else this season to perhaps take the crown. With some age and experience, Sam may one day put it all together, but it could be a tall order to do over the next eight weeks.

6. Jessica Meuse- "Rhiannon"

In the pre-performance video we learn that Jessica is a hunter with bit of a survivalist streak. That will probably cost her some liberal votes. Ted Nugent might approve though.

For this song, Jessica was clearly trying to channel Stevie Nicks, to whom she has been compared vocally. I thought it was a good performance. She has a very interesting voice on songs like this, but it often seems like she is extremely close to going off the rails and sounding shrill.

Randy Jackson is nowhere to be seen tonight. Have they been showing him in the rehearsal clips? I do not remember. Idol blogger types will be happy to not have him on, but it would be sort of an Idol first.

7. C.J. Harris- "If It Hadn't Been For Love"

I thought this was a very good comeback for him after being off his game last week. I do not know this song obviously. Were there Civil Rights Movement related lyrics in it? Whatever it was about, I thought C.J. gave a strong sounding and emotionally present performance on a low key jam sort of arrangement. It was interesting enough for a minute and thirty seconds at least.

8. Caleb Johnson- "Dazed and Confused"

Randy was indeed there this week, as they show him offering words of advice to Caleb.

I liked the movie that has the title of this song, but I think a lot of Idol voters are probably not going to like the song. Had he done a more well-known rock anthem type thing, it probably would have gone over very well.

Still though, it is hard to deny that Caleb can really sing and can really perform this type of music. His talent is undeniable and the contrast is so vivid on the show, because nobody else is coming close to showing off vocal chops like he is. That being said, I do not find his voice to be perfect. I think he relies a bit too much on his upper register and it would be a bit of a stretch to say that he is on par with the classic rock front-men of all time, despite his having a very strong American Idol run in 2014.

9. Jena Irene- "Bring Me To Life"

As the saying goes, I would give this an "A for effort."

This is much more the kind of music that Jena should be singing instead of some of the other things she has attempted this season. She gave an impassioned performance that sounded more than credible at times. At others, she sounded seriously off pitch to me. I guess it would not have been easy to follow Caleb after all the fawning he was given.

So, after the nine solo performances, there was nothing that I felt I must see again and there was nothing that was totally terrible. It's pretty par for the course on what feels like a sub-par season thus far.

I just basically wish they would have picked rock songs I like more.

Solo rankings:

9. Dexter Roberts
8. Majesty Rose
7. Jessica Meuse
6. Jena Irene
5. Alex Preston
4. Sam Woolf
3. Malaya Watson
2. C.J. Harris
1. Caleb Johnson

When forced to combine the solos with the opening group performance, I will break ties by giving a higher weight (for good reason) to the solo performances.

9. Dexter Roberts
8. Jessica Meuse
7. Jena Irene
6. Majesty Rose
5. Malaya Watson
4. Alex Preston
3. C.J. Harris
2. Sam Woolf
1. Caleb Johnson

Who will get the least votes? That is a really tough call, especially with MK now being gone. I am very glad that the show is not giving us the real-time Facebook results. That was a truly dumb idea.

I think Jessica and C.J. are eventually going to run into some trouble. Their fellow Alabamian Dexter should leave (for just being boring) but I do not know if any of Heart of Dixie trio will. By default, the most logical guess I have is that Majesty, who has been in the Bottom Three twice in a row will get the least votes. The judges have a save that they will obviously be using eventually. If it's Majesty, she is probably getting saved.