Rocker and Pop Princess Take It Down To The Wire On American Idol

The finals of American Idol have concluded and I’m glad the Idol days are over. I still enjoy the show but the thrill is gone. I’m feeling Idoled out. Twelve seasons of never missing a show (OK, I missed one or two over the years but less than four) have just fatigued me. The parade of wannabe stars whose names I will forget within a few months, if that long, the emotional manipulation by the judges and producers, the

The three rounds were Idol producer, Simon Fuller’s choice, the singers’ choice of a song they sang before and the single they will release should they win. Does the loser not get to release their song? What a waste.

Simon Fuller’s choice for Jena who stupidly chose to go first was Dog Days Are Over. It was a great way to start the show. I thought I heard a few wonky notes but they didn’t distract from her performance. The judges loved her but at this stage at the competition, they’d have to be real dicks to criticize her too much.

Caleb got Dream On because we all know what a natural he is with slow songs. NOT. And then the rocker gets a string section, are they trying to kill him. He rose to the challenge of an overblown arrangement by amping up the histrionics. And the audience ate it up. Harry had some constructive criticism but nobody was listening. It bothers me that the judges are so easily wowed and so easily moved to effusive praise by volume and sheer power.

Jena chose Can’t Help Falling In Love With You which probably was her best song of the season. And it was still beautiful. And the judges still raved about it.

Caleb went with Maybe I’m Amazed which overpowered Jena’s performance but lacked her subtlety and her finesse. And I think Caleb was still grappling with his vocal cord issues. Keith, Jennifer and Harry felt his performance lacked heart.

Harry polled the judges and they sort of agreed that Caleb won the first round and Jena won the second round. But Keith thought round two was a tie.

Jena’s last song, her winner’s single, We Are One wasn’t the worst Idol winner song. It had a good beat. It was easy to dance to.

As Long As You Love Me, Caleb’s winner’s single, was sort of AC/DC lite. The song was made for his high intensity, rock vocal style. This was definitely a more radio friendly song. The judges didn’t say much about his song preferring to say what a tough decision America has now.

Unfortunately they fucked up the whole thing by having them duet on Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway and they both sucked at it. And they were joined by all the others in the top 12 so it was hard to tell who was really the offkey ones. But it was easy to see how lucky we all were that they didn’t do very many group performances this season.

I have no idea who will win. If the winner of Idol were chosen based on power, Caleb would win. If art and creativity mean anything, Jena would win.

Probably An Exercise In Futility For Talented Alex Preston on American Idol

This week, on American Idol’s 500th episode, we got a glimpse of Alex, Caleb and Jena’s hometown visits but won’t see much until tomorrow. We also got greetings from past Idol winners but not Kelly or Taylor Hicks. Kelly I can understand but Taylor? C’mon, man. Maybe they just didn’t have time. There’s only so many commercial breaks.

We got three rounds of singing. And we got to see if Caleb could pull off singing with bronchitis and vocal cord woes. Caleb’s vocal cord malady was the possible break Alex needed to get through this week. Unfortunately for Alex, Caleb effectively worked around his limitations.

After saying he wanted to find something current for Caleb, Randy’s choice was Never Tear Us Apart by INXS, a 27 year old song. It was a good way to kick off the show and his voice seemed to hold together. At least it didn’t crack.

It is totally a bummer that Alex Preston will probably not make it to the finals but he's still one of the most inventive, unique and talented musicians American Idol has ever seen.

Randy’s pick for Alex was a song even I have heard a ton on the radio, Pompeii by Bastille. It was a pretty mediocre performance since he stuck so closely to the original but he did a bit of drumming and then shook some hands with the girls in the front rows. JLo said it was the elevated Alex the judges have been looking for. Harry liked that it was a younger, hipper and more uptempo song. Those stagy bits seemed a bit too choreographed and calculated but he knows he has to do something to break the Caleb/Jena hold on the finals.

Jena was happily saddled with Titanium, a popular song sung on almost every talent competition. Nevertheless it showed she has the most powerful and interesting voice. She won round one for sure. Harry and Keith liked it but JLo wasn’t so impressed. JLo felt she was stiff and got booed for it. For once the audience was right to boo the judge. It’s been a recurring theme on Idol and in life, pretty judges feel threatened by pretty contestants and get finicky and a bit bitchy.

Round two was judges’ choice.

For rocker Caleb, the judges chose Demons by Imagine Dragons. The strain in his voice was more evident in this tune and he avoided ending the song on a big note to save his voice. Jlo liked that he at least hit the emotion of the song even if he couldn’t hit the notes he wanted to reach. He’s hurting and it shows. And he’s frustrated as hell. Knowing that he had to conserve his voice didn’t stop them from getting soundbites after each performance.

Alex’s judges’ song was Rihanna’s Stay, a slow, solemn number chosen by three people who have been encouraging him to be more uptempo. He did really nicely with it. His voice was incredible. The judges loved it. Keith said he owned it. I don’t know if it was the kind of song that’s going to wow the voters enough to get Caleb out of the picture but it was a much better performance than I would have expected. One thing Alex has going for him is he’s the one remaining WGWG but even he hinted that he knows this might be his last time in the competition.

The judges love Jena so I expect them to choose a perfect song for her. Their idea of perfection is Demi Lovato’s Heart Attack. The judges loved just about everything about it. The song isn’t so great but Jena’s handling of it was enough for her to be the winner of round 2.

The final round was songs chosen by residents of the singers’ hometowns.

Caleb townsfolk gave him Dazed and Confused, an obvious but still perfect song for him. Knowing the song and knowing what I know about Caleb, I know he was avoiding the high notes and the Plant-esque rocking screams. I felt cheated and he felt frustrated. You know he must have sung this song hundreds of times and sang it better when he wasn’t plagued by vocal cord damage. The lack of his upper register forced him to sing in a more bluesy way so he was still good. Even the teeny boppers loved it assuming they weren’t coached to cheer like maniacs. Too bad he couldn’t sing it with full power. He made the most of his opportunity and got himself into the finals as we’ve been expecting for weeks.

The citizens of New Hampshire chose Story of My Life by One Direction. It was a fine song for Alex but it came after a Led Zeppelin song. The judges liked it. Keith thought it was a come down from his previous song but still liked it. No matter how well he sang, he’ll be gone, gone tonight.

Let's hear it for Jena Irene Ascuitto, our next American Idol.

Jena’s schoolmates chose Radiohead’s Creep. With seconds to go, the judges quickly lavished their praises on her. She definitely nailed it.

Next week we’ll see Jena and Caleb slug it out for the winner of season 13 and Jena wins. Alex may not be the next American Idol or even a finalist but to me, he’s the most likely to get my money for an album or concert appearance. I’m guessing he’ll record an album and I’ll see him at the Beachland or Kent Stage. I think Jena is amazing but I doubt I’d go see her in concert.

Can’t Help Falling In Love With Jena Tonight

Last Thursday on American Idol, the singers had to vote on whether or not the loser would be sent home or let him or her stay and eliminate two people this week. The vote had to be unanimous. Two people voted to let the loser go home so alleged teen heartthrob Sam Woolf who got the fewest votes was sent packing.

Supposedly some people were angry that anybody voted for sending someone home. They think it wasn’t a nice thing to do. Everybody is supposed to be friends, right? Personally, I don’t like the judges’ save because it subverts the will of the voters and I didn’t like this gimmick either for the same reason. Jena admitted she was one of the people who voted let the loser go home. The three people voting to let the loser stay were Caleb, Jessica and Sam. Alex wouldn’t comment on how he voted but the process of elimination had him as the other person sending Sam home.

Alex and Jena are “in it to win it” as Randy would say over and over over. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. This is, after all, a competition. But some critics were thinking Alex and Jena will catch flack and lose supporters for actually wanting to win this competition. I didn’t think it was fair to put that burden on the singers in the first place but what was done was done and I hope it’s never done again. And I think we’re all thinking too much about American Idol.

Last week’s songs were chosen via Twitter by viewers. In an interview last Thursday, Caleb felt that a lot of people who didn’t support him were trying to screw with him by flooding Twitter with inappropriate song choices for him. He called those non-fans “retards.” And he caught a lot of flack for using that politically incorrect term and perhaps he lost the votes of some PC people.

Once we knew the top five, the presumed order of elimination was going to be Sam, who needed a save before and didn’t get one last week, Jessica, who the judges are doing the damnedest to make it seem like she’s not talented enough, followed by Alex leaving Jena and Caleb as the final two. However by following the crowd and keeping her pretty mouth shut, Jessica Meuse got a leg up on the competition and perhaps an extra week or two on the show. At least that’s the score going into tonight’s show but once the music started, I have a feeling all that went out the window.

Tonight’s theme was love with three subthemes, breakups, makeups and dedications.

Caleb started off the show with You Give Love a Bad Name. It’s not my favorite song but he rocked it in typical Caleb style. And it was a song everybody knows which helped woo an audience that generally likes familiar tunes. The judges loved it, too. They really didn’t have much to say.

Jessica Meuse

It's getting down to the wire and I think Jessica may have reached her finish line. She was good tonight but I think the others were better. I'll miss her.

Jessica blew any lead she may have gained in last week’s post show reverberations performing Since U Been Gone. She wasn’t just pitchy. She was out of tune for the whole song. The song was so in the wrong key for her. She sang with passion but as much as I love her, it was painful to listen to her. JLo said she sang with passion but it wasn’t a good song for her voice. Harry said he was glad she had two other songs to show her stuff. Harry encouraged her to do more to express her feelings more outwardly and more theatrically. Keith said pretty much the same thing. All of them skirted around the elephant in the room which was her pitch problems. Jennifer alluded to it but damn, Jessica was off key in a big way.

Ryan announced audition cities and dates. The auditions will be in the hometowns of the judges, New Orleans, New York and Nashville. We have an N theme but more importantly was the implied signaling that all three judges would return next year. I was hoping they’d replace JLo. Not that she’s bad but I think they can do better.

Freshly shorn Alex Preston sang Too Close. Harry liked the way he deconstructed and reassembled it. Keith wanted to see even more passion. JLo said he sang it beautifully but wonders what more he can do to top his competition. Musically speaking, he was the best of the first four. I never know exactly what he’s going to do but he always does it in an Alex way. He didn’t fail his fans tonight.

Pat Benetar’s Heartbreaker was Jena’s choice for a breakup song. The lyrics actually aren’t about break ups but nobody seemed to notice. It was not her best performance but she sold it anyway. Her pitch wasn’t great. Keith felt she wasn’t fully committed to the song. JLo loved it. Harry gave it a “ten out of ten” but felt there was a disconnect between what she was singing about and how she moved about the stage. Jena lamely blamed her high heeled shoes but JLo sympathized with the problem. In previous seasons, the girls wore considerably higher heels. And they generally dressed better, too but that’s beside the point. Maybe being only 17 means she doesn’t have as much experience in heels than older contestants but if she’s going to wear fashionable shoes, she needs to pick better shoes then learn how to strut in them which she actually admitted in the post commercial backstage blurb.

The second round of songs was dedications which wasn’t necessarily dedications born of love.

Caleb sang Travelling Band but it wasn’t his best performance. It didn’t really play to his strengths. The audience and the judges ate it up anyway. I mean it wasn’t awful. It was good but it wasn’t great.

Jessica’s second song was Pink’s So What It was a far better performance than her first song. Even JLo was singing along. Harry wasn’t all that impressed and thought her two songs tonight were not her best. Keith and JLo agreed. It makes me wonder if they were told to diss her tonight even though that was a good performance.

Jena made Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance her own in a very rock and dark way. She moved around the stage a lot better in her flat boots, too. She was killing it but the judges sat stonefaced. Turns out the Keith liked it. JLo wasn’t quite as impressed and didn’t like the changes she made to the melody.

Alex whipped out his ukulele to perform Jason Mraz’s I’m Done. Coming after Jena’s big performance made his more intimate performance seem a bit bland but it was very well received by the audience. It seems like he’s gaining some female fans. JLo wants him to be more surprising and bigger. Harry was disappointed he didn’t put more of an Alex spin on it. Keith encouraged him to let loose more citing the last few bars of the song where Alex started to get into the groove and out of his head. I remember years ago, Chris Daughtry was the mentor and he told one of the contestant to sing songs that were familiar to the audience. Maybe Alex did the right thing by not changing it too much.

Then for a bit of perspective there was an iPhone commercial with some girl singing and she wasn’t as good as anybody on the show tonight.

Even though it really had nothing to do with making up, Caleb’s make up song was Maybe I’m Amazed, a much better choice for his voice than either of the other songs he sang tonight. He was in the right groove for this song.

Another Lady Gaga song, You and I was Jessica’s make up song. Even though she didn’t do anything to rearrange the song she still managed to countrify it just because she was singing it. It was easily her best performance of the night. Keith said it was the perfect song for her. Amazingly all the judges praised her.

Jena Irene

Best performance of the night. Perhaps best performance of the season. If I had an all-time top 10 of American Idol performances, Jena's rendition of Can't Help Falling in Love With You would be on it. It would probably make the top 5.

Jena almost made you forget about Elvis as she reinvented his famous ballad, Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. Normally Elvis covers suck but not hers. Not hers at all. It was one of the best Elvis covers EVER by ANYONE. JLo was on her feet before the song was even over and went up and kissed her when it was over. I might have done the same given the chance. Harry said it was incredible. Keith called her a musical platypus, a species all her own unlike anything else. And Alex was shitting his pants knowing he had to follow that. And then the cherry on top was her telling Ryan the song was for her mom. She’s not going anywhere tomorrow. And probably not next week either.

Alex closed with Coldplay’s Yellow. Despite having to follow the best performance of the season, he performed well. Harry said it was great. Keith said it was a perfect song for him. JLo reiterated what the Keith and Harry said adding that he is “integral to the competition.”

The last round was by far more satisfying than the rest of the show. I’m glad they let Sam go home last week because we might not have had some of the great performances in that third round. And all the hoopla around what happened last week probably won’t amount to a hill of beans.

Even though her second and third round songs were good, Jessica will probably go home tomorrow. The guys were simply better. Jena was simply way better. Little Bobby anticipates being sad.