Wednesday, April 16, 2014

American Idol Top 7

I am going to live-blog the show as I watch a recording once again this week. Next week, and moving forward, I may not do so, as I am going to put priority into following the local teams in the NHL and NBA Playoffs. After those games are over, I may be too pumped up or depressed or it may simply be too late at night to post about Idol, so I may just wind up doing a recap post when I find time over the weekend. I will probably still try to watch the shows and post rankings and predictions. I am just going to play it by ear and see what will happen.

Tonight, a new theme was introduced as the contestants picked songs for each other to sing. However, to limit the chances of "sabotage", the Idol hopefuls were apparently given five options and got to pick one. It is sort of a weird concept though as competitors were entrusted to make each other look good. I do not think we would ever have a General Manager of a rival sports team making actual draft picks on their behalf.

I have a hunch I may not know many of the songs tonight and could possibly be quite bored by them as these kids seem to all be hipster music nerds who are not going to pick much from the Top 40 at anytime.

1. Caleb Johnson- "Family Tree"

Kings of Leon. I do not know this song. This seemed to be slightly different from what Caleb probably would be singing otherwise, and thus I was not blown away by the performance. He is still very good though and I think he will always be able to pull out any performance. Rickey Minor certainly appreciates all the camera time he can get.

2. Jessica Meuse- "Gunpowder and Lead"

I actually do know this song, mostly because it has been featured on American Idol before. Skylar Laine did it a couple of years ago, and while I thought Jessica's version was competent, it was lacking the intensity and country authenticity of what Skylar did. Jessica sounded good but I think she could have projected a bit better at points. Also, I believe Jessica is better at rock-type songs than pure country music.

What if the Idol producers had done a twist with this whole theme and made Sam Woolf sing this song that he had picked for Jessica? It turns out the judges did not like Jessica on this, so I guess that means that Sam did his job correctly. Also, this "alien abduction" thing may hurt her with the voters. A lot of people will probably think she is serious. And maybe she is.

3. Sam Woolf and Alex Preston- "Let Her Go"

Here comes a duet, and for the second week in a row, it's Sam and Alex (not Dave.) Maybe they should decide to team up and try to be the new Hall and Oates. They work pretty well together on this sort of thing. It was kind of an odd interpretation of a very highly played song that pretty much was different from the real meaning of the lyrics, but it was a fun performance. They sounded pretty good together in what was basically a jam session. Sam seems to have more confidence when he is performing alongside Alex. As for Alex, he always looks slightly annoyed by something but that has to be his natural visage. These two are certain to be doing this duet together on tour.

Why are they having Demi Lovato give comments and negative ones at that? Does Fox think X-Factor is still on the air? X-Factor, Glee, and now American Idol. She has appeared on the whole troika of low rated Fox shows this year. They probably think they owe her after she got all upset about that dumb video about her drinking on the X-Factor finale.

Now, Terry Bradshaw is out there. Is he going to critique Jay Cutler?

4. C.J. Harris- "Gravity"

This is a boring John Mayer song but I think it was right up C.J.'s alley. He always sounds sort of the same to me. I find him appealing vocally in small doses and because he sounds different from anyone else on the show, but I think am unable to determine just how out of tune he may be at any given moment, because it's just part of the way he sings. Before hearing any comments from the judges, my hunch is that he managed to pull this off a bit better than his other performances in recent weeks.

5. Dexter Roberts- "Muckalee Creek Water"

I have no idea what this song was about. If not for the title, it could have perhaps been about the Bundy Cattle Ranch. I think Dexter sounded ok for the most part but he is still having a problem finishing off his phrases and his enunciation on this was pretty bad. I could not really understand a word he was singing. I thought the performance had come to a nice clean ending, but Dexter went back in for a final vocal flourish which I thought sounded weird.

6. Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson- "Gimme Shelter"

I cannot help but remember the really bad version of this done on the show once by Andrew Garcia. Anyways, I think this could have been a good duet, and while I think Jena is a very talented singer with a powerful voice, she kind of ruined this. Maybe she was not properly warmed up or maybe she felt the need to try to stay on par with Caleb's vocal gymnastics, but she just sounded far too screechy for this song. I think Caleb did his best to try to help her through it, but it threw him off a bit as well. They should be doing these duets on Results Night instead, but with only a half-hour, there would not be enough time.

The judges often do not hear what I hear in regards to Jena's vocal problems. Either they are deliberately ignoring them or I am just off in the minority.

Everyone has now sang once:

7. Jena Irene- duet
6. Dexter Roberts- solo
5. Jessica Meuse- solo
4. Alex Preston- duet
3. Sam Woolf- duet
2. C.J. Harris- solo
1. Caleb Johnson- solo

7. Alex Preston- "A-Team"

I do not get modern songs like this. I wish they could have been about Mr. T and his '80s action series co-horts. I suppose Alex pulled off a couple nice vocal tricks during the song but otherwise I just found it boring and amateurish. There was just something about the affected way he sang it that just was a bit off-putting. I am sure his fans will have been into it though.

8. Sam Woolf- "Sail Away"

What was with that hat? Did he borrow that from MK Nobilette? It was probably just to try to make him look older. I do not know this song so it was kind of hard to really get into, but vocally, I thought this was pretty good. Sam's performance skills continue to need work and that may even take years for him to truly be comfortable on tv, but it seemed like he got really into this emotionally as the song progressed. There may have been a couple off notes, but that might be due to the fact that he was able to make a "connection" like the judges have been urging him to for weeks.

9. Jessica Meuse, C.J. Harris, and Dexter Roberts- "Compass"

The trio called themselves "Alabama Power" and maybe Governor Robert Bentley should have declared a state disaster area on the Idol stage. Ok, maybe it was not perhaps that terrible, but this did not work for me as a listener at all. It seemed kind of half-hearted all along (but at least was better than Jessica's experience with "Single Ladies" back in Hollywood Week.) By default, she sounded the best out of the three. Group performances and singing while standing and without a guitar just seem to totally be beyond C.J. and Dexter's comfort zones and they do not seem to really even care about that.

10. Jena Irene- "Creep"

Ok, this is the Jena I can appreciate. What was up with her trying to look like Cleopatra though? I found her vocals close to painful on the duet with Caleb but she definitely delivered here. The song suited her and she was able to make it interesting vocally. For some reason, I really only like her when she is sitting at the piano and doing songs just like this.

Second performances:

7. C.J. Harris- trio
6. Dexter Roberts- trio
5. Jessica Meuse- trio
4. Alex Preston- solo
3. Caleb Johnson- duet
2. Sam Woolf- solo
1. Jena Irene- solo


7. Dexter Roberts
6. Jessica Meuse
5. C.J. Harris
4. Alex Preston
3. Jena Irene
2. Sam Woolf
1. Caleb Johnson

I find it interesting that some contestants I have ranked in the same position in both "rounds" while others were in drastically different spots. Tonight, I only have Caleb narrowly in front, but that is due what I thought was a bad duet partner performance. I thought Sam, who turns 18 in a couple days, had a pretty positive night. Will it be enough to keep him in the competition that he was already voted out of  for his birthday?

Someone from Alabama really should be going home though at this point and I sort hope it is not Jessica. This might be the third week in a row that I am predicting an elimination for C.J., but it has to happen eventually and thus I will stick with it for another week.