Saturday, April 26, 2014

American Idol Top 6 Recap and Results

I have been having a very busy week, so it has been since Wednesday that I have watched the performances, so I am going to have to do the best to generate some thoughts from memory.

This past week, the Idols sang two solo songs each for the first time. In the first round, they took on "Rock" songs and in the second, it was "Country" music. The week before, Demi Lovato was the quasi-guest judge. This week it was Grumpy Cat.

Rock round:

1. Jena Irene- "Baracuda"

A few years ago, this song choice could have generated a Sarah Palin comment, but those days seem to have passed. Jena definitely is comfortable singing with a rock band and I thought she gave a very credible performance.

2. Sam Woolf- "It's Time"

This was more of a modern rockish song and from what I remember, Sam sounded pretty good. As always, his performance skills are not totally at the star level but his voice is certainly worthy of recognition. After this performance, the judges gave him the most praise they have all season.

3. C.J. Harris- "American Woman"

On several levels, this was probably the wrong rock song for him to take on. While the ability to emote from C.J. has always been there, with just about every performance, his vocal flaws have been on display. The fact that he was trying to sing over a loud band with guitars going and all that, made it seem like more of a disjointed performance.

4. Alex Preston- "Animal"

From what I remember, I thought this started off extremely strong for Alex. Then though, as I have felt about his performances before, it sort of came apart for me. This kind of fast-paced song may have been out of his comfort zone and he was definitely struggling breath-wise to keep up.

5. Caleb Johnson- "Sting Me"

Somehow, I do not remember this Black Crows song from 1992. As far this was concerned, Caleb could probably have taught a class on Rock 101. It was certainly a strong vocal and an entertaining performance. There was definitely an interesting moment where Caleb had a microphone mishap, but managed to recover without missing a beat. During this performance, it definitely started to occur more to me that he could very much win this season, the same way that Taylor Hicks did several years back.

6. Jessica Meuse- "Somebody To Love"

I recall that Jessica sounded pretty good singing this older song from Jefferson Airplane. Other than that, I am really at a loss to remember much of anything about this performance. I think that speaks to the kind of limited emotional impact that she is having this season and why she may be the only contestant now left who probably cannot still win the season.

So, here were the rankings I posted on Wednesday night for the first round:

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

Next, the contestants moved on to country, a genre that is not my favorite, but I was interested to see how they would chose to present themselves in this round. Since all of them pretty much sang loud, uptempo rock songs, a different kind of song seemed to be called for here and I expected to hear a lot of ballads.

1. Sam Woolf- "You're Still The One"

While this was definitely not perfect vocally, I really have to admire the way that Sam took a risk here. I thought it was the boldest move of the season, to sing this Shania Twain ballad and to do it without his guitar. It probably was a bit uncomfortable for him to sing this particular song and to make the obvious efforts to try to look at and touch the audience members, but I think it shows that he does really want to win. While it might have needed a bit more work, he sort of reminded me of Kris Allen somewhat in the performance.

Again, it was not flawless as far as the vocals, and I think he might have even messed up a word, but his voice still made it interesting. I think he could have maybe had more of a "moment" though if he would have sort of went down the same road with what he was trying to do, but picked a more age-appropriate country-pop ballad, that was not about looking back on a relationship, but perhaps about a new one, such as "From This Moment" by Shania Twain or "Love Story" by Taylor Swift.

2. Caleb Johnson-"Undo It"

While Sam definitely had the right idea about how to attack this round, I think Caleb, who was so strong earlier in the evening,went about it all wrong. He should have also attempted to sing a sentimental country ballad and put his own twist on it. There are many that he could have chosen from that would have been more than acceptable to his fan base.

Vocally, Caleb always sounds decent, but I thought this was his weakest performance. The song did not present enough of a contrast for what he did earlier and his trying to turn it into a rock song just made it come off as a bit of a mess. Perhaps, his heart was just not totally in it. It was his birthday after all.

3. Alex Preston- "Always On My Mind"

Like Sam, and unlike Caleb, Alex did what he needed to do. This is not a great song to show off vocal range or anything like that, but he sang it quite well and was able to connect. I appreciated his artistry more on something like this than the other stuff he has done where I thought he went too far out of the box.

4. Jena Irene- "So Small"

One would definitely not associate Jena with country music, but I thought she had a very strong night and while it might have been a bit sleepy for me, I thought her voice sounded quite nice on this ballad by Carrie Underwood. I think she showed her versatility by being able to sing this song well, but I wonder if it might have been even better if she did it while playing piano.

5. C.J. Harris- "Whatever It Is"

Country music is something that C.J. seems comfortable with, but this performance just was a bit too boring and safe. He definitely needed a "moment" to try to save himself in this competition, and it just felt like a run of the mill C.J. performance on a song I had never heard.

6. Jessica Meuse- "Jolene"

Vocally, I thought once again, she was quite credible, but I wish she would have picked a different song. This song has been done a bunch on reality tv shows in recent years, and to mixed results. If anything, I think she would have been better served by a more acoustic version of the song, considering its meaning and lyrics, instead of trying to compete with the noise of the band. Still, it did not sound like she missed many notes.

Country rankings:

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

It is pretty amazing that I felt it necessary to rank Caleb so low for any performance round. When I combined the rounds, the results were:

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

Who should have been eliminated: C.J. Harris
Who I predicted would be eliminated: C.J. Harris
Who was eliminated: C.J. Harris

So, that was that on Thursday night. Frankly, any other result would have been vastly unfair. It was the end of the road for C.J. (who I do not believe was heard covering the exit song, "Breakaway", perhaps that just sounded too rough when they recorded it) after his having stuck around for more weeks than many expected.

Singing in pitch is something that C.J. struggled with on American Idol from Day 1 and that problem never really got fixed. Nonetheless, I think it makes sense that he has gained some fans. I think he can provide some very emotionally strong performances. I just do not know if he would be someone that could be listened to in long doses. Nonetheless, he seems like a genuinely nice and decent guy and I hope that he, the only parent among the Finalists this season, finds much success for himself and his family. It seems like this group of contestants are truly close to each other and really care about C.J. and were emotional along with him when he had to say goodbye this past Thursday.

The Final Five are now set and based on the research I just quickly conducted, this is the first time in 13 seasons, that all of the last five are white. I am pretty sure that a majority of the previous seasons have had at least one African-American in the Top 4.

I would say that there is a 90 percent chance that either Jessica, who was in the Bottom Two this past week, or Sam, who we are at least told was already once the lowest vote-getter, will be leaving after this upcoming week. The last remaining Alabama contender though better be on the lookout for a bus though in the kind of comments the judges will be offering because I definitely detect a somewhat late game surge going on for Sam.