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.

Top Eight Shine Performing Songs They Know Like The Back Of Their Hands

Tonight’s American Idol had the singers revisit the songs they auditioned with. All the performances were good because every singer knew their audition song inside and out. Singing it with a band and singing it after being on this show for a few weeks could only add to their performances.

Jessica Meuse had the balls to sing an original Blue Eyed Lie during her audition so she got to sing it again with the full Rickey Minor treatment. Since it was her song, she sang it perfectly. She didn’t have to change the melody or the arrangement to “make it her own.” Keith suggested she get more physically involved with her performance. Too much happens above the neck and nothing at all below the waist. Harry disagreed with Keith but nit-picked a three second spot in the song that he thought lacked energy. Keith brought up an interesting point about using the whole body in a performance. Back in my Los Angeles show biz days, I sat in on dozens and dozens of auditions. I had the privilege of seeing the famous and the unknowns vying for parts. Many actors and actresses were good but the excellent ones, the ones that got cast, transformed their whole bodies into the new character. The good ones may have had good delivery, good timing and some special touch that made them memorable. But the excellent ones used every part of their body during the audition. That’s what Keith wants Jessica to do.


Jessica Meuse, the most telegenic on this season of American Idol

Even CJ Harris’s mom commented that he doesn’t always sing in tune. JLo said at the audition that he does some things wrong but they can be fixed. Tonight I think some of it got fixed. He seemed really in the groove tonight. More importantly he seemed a lot more in tune tonight. Harry even commented that he’s “getting really close” intonationwise.

Jena and Alex duetted on Pink’s Just Give Me a Reason. Musically it was competent but the song didn’t really suit either of their styles. It was blessedly short.

Surrounded by floor lamps, Sam Woolf redid Lego House much better than he did during his audition. Having a band helps a lot more than having lamps. Harry told him to make eye contact with somebody in the audience to develop connection. That aligns with what I said he should have done last week.

Jessica and Caleb duetted a very karaoke rendition of Stop Dragging My Heart Around giving Jessica two consecutive shows to show us how artistically indebted she is to Stevie Nicks.

Screaming the loud parts Ain’t No Way to sing but that’s what Malaya did again tonight. I thought she had grown past that. Unfortunately the judges like her screaming. JLo said she’s going to run away with this competition. Heaven forbid. Harry again implored her to learn the chords of the songs she sings and take advantage of the expertise of Randy and Rickey and the vocal coaches. Randy and Rickey were shown nodding in agreement but did they do anything this past week after Harry said it last week. It would seem they did not.

I never would have known Dexter was out of tune except for the fact that his harmonizing with the backup singer sounded off. One Mississippi fit his voice just fine. It was one of his best performances. Surprisingly Jennifer gave a shout out to Allison, his backup singer.

Sam and Malaya did Lucky another song choice that reflected the musical directions of either singer. It was pretty awful. So far the duets have been crap.

Jena's mom, oh yeah.

Rolling In the Deep got Jena on the show and I think it will keep her here another week at least. She was the first one who made a concerted effort to put her own spin on their song tonight and it paid off. Despite the wonky arrangement, (damn you, Rickey) Jena rocked it out in her own way. And Jena’s mom is a MILF.

CJ and Dexter sang a Darius Rucker song and it was barely Alright. Their voices meshed together about as well as you would expect two drunk frat brothers to sing. This shouldn’t be surprising considering CJ has intonation problems and Dexter has enunciation problems. Duets were a total blowout tonight.

Caleb also put a distinct spin on Chain of Fools. His rocker style had a bit of gospel and blues mixed into it. Jennifer looked totally confused during the song but delighted when it was over. The judges liked it. Harry liked it but suggested Caleb try something that isn’t so loud. For some reason Harry was booed for that suggestion.

Alex bookended the show with an original song, a very bluesy Fairytails. I’m glad they are letting singers do originals this year. If you liked Alex already, you would have liked this. If you didn’t like Alex, you would have liked this anyway. The judges liked it, too.

Other than the duets, the songs were all at least good. Nobody sucked so badly that I expect to see them go home.