With Six You Get Rock and Roll…and some country

Tonight was “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.” Each singer performed twice, singing a song from each genre. It was a night when everybody got to perform in their own genres although some took better advantage of the situation than others.

Looking even more comfortable than her usual comfortable self, Jena, generally regarded as the frontrunner, started the show with Heart’s Barracuda. Keith thought she needs to open up a bit more to which she concurred. JLo liked her as well. Harry rambled on about what she needed to but he loved her as well. She didn’t do anything radical to the song but she Jenafied it enough to keep it from being karaoke and to make it her own.

Sam got the teen girls the front row all wet and moist and excited and singing along to It’s Time. JLo gushed her praises of his performance. Keith wants him to tap into his inner angst. The girls in the front row just want him to tap them.

If American women heard the same thing I did, they heard a painfully out of tune CJ Harris botch a rock classic nobody was singing along to. Sure he sang with heart and soul but I am sick of his being out of tune. Harry said it was pretty good but commented on the intonation which at this stage in the competition actually means it’s bad. Keith didn’t think he was connected to the song and advised him on how to make the song work for him. JLo didn’t think it was a great song for him because it didn’t match his bluesy country stylings. The wide range of rock influences include country and blues so there was no excuse for a bad song choice. It was just a bad song for him.

Alex’s rendition of Animals wasn’t his best performance. It sounded like he wasn’t comfortable performing such a fast tempo-ed song. He was even off key once in a while but the audience dug it. But the stupid audience likes just about everything. Keith kind of agreed with me saying he needed to let go. JLo kind of agreed with Keith. Harry kind of agreed with JLo but liked that he attempted an uptempo song.

Caleb is no stranger to up tempo rockers. If the theme every week was rock, he’d win. The audience understandably went apeshit for his high intensity performance. JLo said, among other things, that he made it a “moment.” Harry thought it was the perfect song choice. The judges made a fuss about his recovery from a stage mishap involving his mic but the cameras missed it.

Jessica Meuse again because I can

Jessica ended the hour with a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love, a song that upon hearing it, seemed like such an obvious song for her to cover I am surprised I hadn’t thought of it myself. She was much more in her zone that she was last week. Harry thought it was strong and clarified that he doesn’t want her to dance on stage. Keith was nitpicky in his critique but was not particularly eloquent in his explanation. JLo wants her to just feel the song more. She wants the energy of Jessica’s body to match the voice whatever that means.

Sam started off the second hour with You’re Still The One the Shania Twain song, not the other one. It was not in the right key for him. He sounded uncomfortable throughout the whole song. But at some point he shook hands with some of the girls in the front row to show he can connect with the audience. He seemed uncomfortable doing that, too. Keith thought it was a good song for him. Jennifer liked that he went to the girls in the audience. Harry thought the performance lacked dynamics and connection to the lyrics.

Caleb gave Carrie Underwood’s Undo It a rock makeover. You never would have known it was a country song. The judges all liked it but generally thought it wasn’t as epic as his first song. They were right.

Caleb kisses some grumpy pussy. There. I said it. I said it because I can.

Alex gave Willie Nelson’s You Were Always On My Mind a very Alex makeover. It was thoughtful, sensitive, creative and artful. Harry liked the things Alex did with the chords and the melody. Keith wanted to heard the heartbreak but wanted to feel it a little more. Huh? Jennifer thought he made it just original enough without going too far.

So Small another Carrie Underwood song was covered by Jena. Less than 30 seconds into it, Jennifer was already getting goosies. It was the most beautiful, passionate performance of the night. Harry wasn’t feeling what she did with the melody but the other judges definitely did. He’s wack.

CJ’s second song was nominally better than his first. And right after I typed those words, he sang a real clunker. Intonationwise it was better but it was a bit anemic. JLo thought it missed the mark. Harry agreed and told him to pick songs that kill in the upcoming weeks. Keith thought it was a bad song choice. Before he walked offstage, CJ mentioned that his performance was dedicated to some girl back home who died a few days ago. Pulling the sympathy card may not be enough to keep him around.

Jessica closed the second hour as well. The producers must have decided they liked her to give her the pimp spot which she filled with Jolene. This was the song that did in Alexis Grace many seasons ago. Harry said she was convincing. Keith didn’t like the arrangement but didn’t fault Jessica’s singing. Even Jennifer liked it. I hope this isn’t the song that does her in as well. She was in second last place last week.

CJ was easily the worst tonight but he’s been the worst almost every night and yet somehow he is still here. Either Sam or Jessica will most likely be in the bottom two with CJ unless CJ gets lucky. Or to put it another way, the season’s top three will be Jena, Alex and Caleb. I just don’t know in what order the other three will be whittled away.

If you are a diehard Idol fan be sure to check out MTV’s new show, Faking It starring ex-Idol contestant Katie Stevens. She plays a high school student so eager to be popular she and her best friend pretend to be lesbians. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad. It’s on Tuesday nights at 10:30 right after the greatly superior Awkward.

A Mostly Lackluster Top Seven On American Idol

Tonight’s songs on American Idol were chosen for the contestants by their competition. It’s an interesting idea but any thoughts of sabotaging the competition was nixed by Randy who moderated the decision-making process. One thing’s for sure, the singers know each other very well. Another thing’s for sure; the producers are letting more new songs be sung this year. Their adherence to a limited and overused song list is happily a thing of the past.

Caleb sang Family Tree by Kings of Leon, Alex’s choice. It w as a perfect song for him. The audience and the judges loved it. It was a good way to start the show.

Badass Jessica Meuse sang Miranda Lambert’s Gunpowder and Lead chosen by Sam. It was good but didn’t really excite me. Jennifer thought she was a bit off which naturally was met with audience boos. Harry didn’t think it was her best performance either. He suggested she get more in tune with the groove of the music by listening to R and B or hip hop in her hotel room and dancing to it in her hotel room until she felt the groove in her body. I would like to watch that. Keith felt Jessica was dissipated and not emotionally connected or committed to the music.

Demi Lovato and her bad haircut made a brief appearance for no apparent reason other than to plug herself. Then she went into the lounge and sat with Randy.

Sam and Alex did Let Her Go but didn’t do much with it. It was a lightweight bit of musical fluff. They were in tune most of the time and sounded pretty good together. Harry thought it was too saccharine. Keith thought it was cute but not in a good way. Jennifer nailed it when she said she thought the girls in the audience loved it. Demi, a former X-Factor judge wanted them to do more with it.

After the commercial, Terry Bradshaw came on stage for no good reason and said that Sam reminded him of Ricky Nelson. Ricky hasn’t gotten so much publicity in ages.

CJ sang Caleb’s choice of John Mayer’s Gravity . When he got intense, he went off key. It was far from good but it wasn’t his worst performance ever. Unlike Jessica, he is emotionally connected to his music and that’s what has kept him in the show far past any reasonable expectation. Keith and Jennifer wished his performance was more finessed. Harry thought it was his best performance of the season. Maybe having his baby son in the audience inspired him.

Ryan talked to a singer and a female boxer in the audience and killed a few minutes.

Dexter chose CJ’s selection, Muckalee Creek Water by Luke Bryan. It pretty much sounded like every other Dexter performance. I couldn’t tell if his enunciation was bad because his voice was mixed so poorly. Jennifer liked it because it was a bit darker than his usual song choice but then spent a minute or two saying how much everybody has to push themselves to be even better. Harry didn’t think he did anything original with it. In other words, it was too karaoke for Harry.

Jena and her best friend on the show and apparent prom date Caleb performed Gimme Shelter. She can match his power unlike any other singer this season.

Alex sang The A Team chosen by Dexter. It wasn’t a particularly inspired choice as it’s a song that is exactly in Alex’s comfort zone. It was even his online audition song. But it’s a popular song which usually works well for singers. The editing required to get it down to 90 seconds resulted in some abrupt melodic and lyrical jumps but it seemed to work for the most part. The audience ate it up big time. He got the best response of the night.

Jessica chose Sail Away for Sam. It was pretty good but not overly exciting. I blame the arrangement and the lackluster band. Harry told him to choose more familiar songs. All the judges noted his progress in connecting with the audience.

The three Alabamians, CJ, Dexter and Jessica performed Lady Antebellum’s Compass . I thought it was the best the three of them sounded tonight. Harry didn’t like it at all. It was out of tune for him and wants to forget about it entirely. Demi didn’t think it was so hot either. Maybe I was listening to a different song.

Apparently there was a lot of time to fill and kill tonight. Ryan spent a lot of time talking in the audience and talking to Demi and just chatting with the judges. This led to a rather loose and relaxed feel to the show which unfortunately transferred over to most of the performances. A sense of urgency and excitement was sorely lacking. Then when time ran short at the end, Jena performed Caleb’s choice, Radiohead’s Creep and rocked the house. The judges loved her but didn’t have time to say what they really felt.

If there’s a bottom three, I think CJ, Dexter and Sam will be there. Jessica might be in danger as well. There’s only seven left and I just named four who might be in the bottom three. If I don’t get a couple right, I would be shocked.

A Couple Bright Spots On Eighties Night On American Idol

It was 80s week on American Idol. How former AI winner David Cook was recruited to be this week’s mentor is puzzling other than the fact that he knows about successfully competing on this show. I guess that’s enough actually. Idol has really moved away from theme-relevant mentors. Can’t say I miss them that much. And after listening to tonight’s songs, I can’t say I miss the eighties all that much. The song choices didn’t tug at my nostalgia in the least.

Jena did I Love Rock and Roll, one of the worst songs ever written. She did all she could with it. She certainly modernized it. She made it better than the original in some respects. But it was not one of her best performances.

Dexter Roberts sang Keep Your Hands To Yourself. Mentor Dave cautioned him about his poor enunciation but it was for naught. He sings sloppy. Which made J.Lo’s comment that he always sings perfect seem strange to me. Harry thought he did a nice job too despite his lack of creativity. I don’t know why they are being so easy on him. He’s a bar singer. He’s not Idol material.

Sam and Alex performed Michael Jackson’s The Girl Is Mine in a way that didn’t compromise their artistic integrity too much. It was far better than any duet last week. Their guitar playing and their voices worked well together. Sam with anybody other than Malaya had to be an improvement for him. In the sound bite after the commercial, Alex said performing with Sam was just like jamming with him in the hotel like they always do. That explains their musical compatibility.

Harry Connick Jr made a new friend tonight, Nicole.

Despite her confidence singing Chaka Khan songs, Malaya sounded weak. And she went back to screaming again during the loud parts. I am so sick of her on this show. It was a bad song as well. At least it was bad in Malaya’s hands.

Caleb and Jena, the rumored frontrunners, performed It’s Only Love, a supposed hit for Brian Adams and Tina Turner. I don’t remember the original at all. Again, this duet was better than any duet last week.

Blondie’s Call Me was Jessica’s dubious choice. It’s a tough song. Haley Reinhart did it but I don’t recall being impressed by it. Carmen Rasmussen performed it like ten years ago and I think it was the song that sent her home. Harry didn’t think she was singing in the groove. Keith says he keeps waiting for her to release completely. That sounds dirty. J.Lo emphasized what a sexy song it should be. That when she (Jessica) sings the words “call me” it should be emphatic: Call me, not any other girl. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I thought of it more as a suggestion not a command.

Accompanied by a string quartet and his own guitar, Sam indied up Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time. But any artistic, individualized flavor he was trying to put into the song was undone by the producer’s asinine decision to have him sing in a mosh pit of pubescent girls. Sam has been repeatedly criticized for failing to connect with his audience. Even being intimately immersed in a field of estrogen and latent estrogen didn’t get him to actually relate to the girls standing 8 inches away from him. He totally ignored the girls completely. How does a teenage boy not even smile under those conditions? I don’t care how nervous he is, he’s a horny 18 year old (because all 18 year old boys are horny) and he’s surrounded by girls about his age. Is he a robot? Harry suggested he go on You Tube and look up Ricky Nelson. I second that. I’ve often felt the parallel between the two of them but never bothered to write about it. They look a bit alike. Even their hairstyles are alike. And their cool, but very white rock and roll attitude is similar. Maybe Sam is Ricky reincarnated.

CJ and Malaya duetted on a George Michael-Aretha Franklin song. I thought their harmonies were great until I realized they had backup singers doing the heavy lifting. Harry thought it was “cute.” And fun. And “regional theater.” That’s an insult to regional theaters everywhere.

Alex Preston

Tonight I take a break from posting pictures of Jessica to post a picture of Alex Preston who delivered the most creatively rearranged song as well as the best performance of the night.

As he always does, Alex heavily modified Every Breath You Take. He sounded very Ed Sheeran/John Mayer to me but it was also very Alex Preston as well. It was just him and a string quartet. It was brilliant. It was the best performance of the night. He made tonight’s show worth watching. Harry thought it was good but doesn’t think Alex is enough of an entertainer. J.Lo thought he changed it too much. WTF. The judges want originality but apparently not too much. I thought this schizo judging style went out with Nigel Lithgoe.

A very flat Dexter and Jessica did Islands in the Stream. They sang together but they never connected in any meaningful way, musically or performancewise.

Harry and Keith duetting acapella on Like A Virgin was the second best performance of the night.

Free Falling is an appropriate way to describe CJ’s sense of pitch. His take on this Tom Petty classic had its heart in the right place but the dude just botched it with his off key singing. Everybody loved it because nobody is really being all that critical tonight except of Alex. The judges all commented on his intonation but emphasized what a great connection he has with the audience. If he can’t get his intonation by now, he’s never going to get it. His intonation is borderline painful at times.

Caleb closed the show with Journey’s warhorse Faithfully. I’m glad it wasn’t just about any other Journey hit. Harry asked him last week to try singing something other than the big rockers he always does. This was a step in that direction. My problem with it was that he did nothing original to it. He’s a better bar singer than Dexter but he’s still a bar singer. But the audience loves karaoke apparently.

Artistically speaking, the three best of the night were Jena, Alex and Sam. I hope they are rewarded for their talents by not going home tonight. My bottom three are predictably CJ, Dexter and Malaya .

Since nobody went home last week I would expect two singers to be in danger tomorrow but Ryan said only one singer would be going home tomorrow. Turns out the judges were obligated to use a save this season. The scheduling of the finale required that they use the save. That would explain why Keith was so sure the judges would use the save this season. I am disappointed I didn’t pick up on this earlier and do the math. I am shocked none of the other Idol blogs or reviewers pointed out the required save this season either. Such naive souls we be. Or else we are just too lazy to use a calendar.