Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Top 8 Redux: 80s Week

Welcome back. After last week's (predictable/not-dramatic) Judge's Save being used on Sam Woolf we are again at the Top 8. There are no more saves, no more safety net, if a contestant is ousted too early then too bad for them I guess. This week the contestant's are singing songs from the 80s.  Not one of the Top 8 was actually born in the 80s, Jessica Meuse is the oldest born in 1990. It's kinda crazy that in a couple of years(if Idol is still on the air) a person born in the year 2000 will be eligible to compete on the show. But I digress, let's get to tonight's episode:

I'dol Be The Judge's Power Rankings
With last week's Idol Save being used it shifted a few places around for some contestants. Sam has slid down the rankings but we still think CJ has yet to connect and could be gone soon if he doesn't figure out how to be in tune. Jena continues her rise to the top after being a Wildcard pick and Bottom 3 the first week. She has seriously impressed everyone. Malaya was officially in the Bottom 3 but remains locked in her position due to the weakness of some of the others. Alex, Caleb, Jessica and even Dexter did a solid job last week.

1. Alex Preston-Same As Last Week
2. Jena Irene-Up 1 From Last Week
3. Caleb Johnson-Down 1 From Last Week
4. Jessica Meuse-Same As Last Week
5. Malaya Watson-Same As Last Week (Officially Bottom 3)
6. Dexter Roberts-Up 1 From Last Week
7. Sam Woolf-Down 1 From Last Week (Officially Lowest Vote Getter)
8. CJ Harris-Same As Last Week (Officially Bottom 3)

Guest Mentor
Season 7 American Idol winner David Cook is this week's Idol mentor. Can he be worse than  Randy? No chance. He tells them to take risks if you want to stand out, but if you take the wrong risk then you will stand out for the wrong reason. David Cook was one of the best Idol contestants to rearrange songs and make any song his own.

Top 8 Performances # 1

Jena Irene
(I Love Rock and Roll-Joan Jett & The Blackhearts)
David didn't understand Jena's arrangement but then starts to see how great it is. She starts the song on her own with the piano, then when the song gets going the guitars get moving and the band gets into it. This is a very cool arrangement for a song that has been covered a lot over the years. She made it current and original. Her last sentence was crazy cool. It wasn't her best, but she did a really nice job tonight. B+
Keith=Loved the arrangement and how cool it was. The key started a little low but she killed it in the end.
Jennifer=Languished a little in the middle. Wanted more grit. But she definitely sounded great. Loved that she put her stamp on it.
Harry=Didn't love the arrangement, but loves that she is twisting songs and making it her own. Seemed almost too choreographed, she started in one place and went to another, it was all too planned out, wants her to just go with how she feels.
Do The Judges & I Agree? Sorta. I like the arrangement and how she made it current. They gave her credit for changing things and trying, but thought her vocals, at times, lacked a little.

Dexter Roberts
(Keep Your Hands To Yourself- Georgia Satelittes)
David Cook noticed that he can't hear the words that Dexter is saying sometimes, he doesn't finish words. During this performances Dexter starts off to the side, not at all in the middle of the stage, then over the course of the song he walks to the stage. There were a couple points when there were some dead spots, like he wasn't singing when maybe he should have been, or doing something else. The guitarist playing with Dexter was amazing. Dexter had a great night last week, this week was solid enough, but not close to last time out. Not terrible, but not ultra memorable. B
Jennifer=Sings kinda perfect always. Today he owned the song.
Harry=Sang the song in a basic way. Coupled with last week he bought himself a week to rock out.
Keith=Felt stiff when he wasn't on the stage. Doing something unexpected and completely different would be great.
Do The Judges & I Agree? Kinda. Because of Dexter's good week last week he kind of bought himself this performance to be just alright. He probably is safe.

Duets #1
Alex & Sam
(The Girl Is Mine-Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney)
They came out, sang pretty okay, but it didn't really do much for anyone. They didn't interact at all, just went out and sang. Not bad. It got a little awkward at the end with the judge's input, because it wasn't quite critiquing it was just them chit chatting a little. Kinda odd.

Performances #2 

Malaya Watson
(Through The Fire-Chaka Khan)
David Cook just wants Malaya to focus a little more, but that's it because he thinks she's amazing. Unfortunately, things went kinda bad right from the start. She starts off a little too low that it's tough for her to get to the high notes. Then the band started playing one key and she was still in another. I give her credit because once she got to the middle/end of the song she rebounded a bit, but the first part of the performance was kinda rough to the ears.  C
Keith=No doubt in her vocal ability. Wants her to try to lay back into at times because sometimes you can hear her anticipating too much.
Jennifer=She is talented, and just needs to relax. 
Harry=Hit the big Chaka note. The entire performance was geared up for one big note, and she sacrificed the early part of the song to get to the end. 
Do The Judges & I Agree? Not really. Harry sorta felt that she sacrificed the beginning of the song to get to the big note, but I think she really messed up the beginning too much, and it was so messy that the ends did not justify the means.

Duets # 2
Jena and Caleb
(It's Only Love-Bryan Adams and Tina Turner)
This was by far a better duet, they actually looked at each other and seemed to be having fun. During the duet Harry decided to hop into the mosh pit of screaming fans and he grabs and fan and throws her on his shoulders. It's pretty hysterical. Jennifer felt that the contestants are loosening up and having fun.

Performances #3

Jessica Meuse
(Call Me-Blondie)
David Cook thinks technically she is spot on, but doesn't get any enjoyment out of it, like she isn't enjoying the moment at all. Jessica is without her guitar and walks around the stage a little, which is a lot given how little she usually does on stage, she goes around the judge's table and interacts with the fans. Her voice is so good, it just does anything she wants, she has such an ease about her voice. You can see how much she tried to fix some of the things the judges haven't liked. I think she almost over-corrected too much. I don't think there is anything wrong with her just standing and singing with her guitar, or without her guitar, as long as she sounds good. Because she isn't that experienced at moving around it made things a little less natural on stage. Good vocal but performance lacked. B-
Harry=Has a great voice, but wants to emphasize groove. Didn't feel like she was hitting the pocket.
Keith=Waiting for the rest of the release into the song. She is so close, but just isn't there yet. 
Jennifer=Needs to tap into the sexy side, if she can't do that then she shouldn't choose that song, because we didn't get that vibe from her.
Do The Judges & I Agree? Pretty much. Her vocals are always so good, but now her performance lacked a little because she tried to do too much in one week. She hasn't found the sweet spot yet.

Sam Woolf
(Time After Time-Cyndi Lauper)
David Cook thought his pre-performance was awesome but he needs to own the stage more. Sam decides to place himself into the pit of teenage girls. Pandering much? Jeez. He goes real simple with his guitar and light background singers and band. Current background singer Alison Iraheta owned this song in her season, Sam didn't really own it, but he sang it very well. He tried so hard to make a connection to the camera and stop looking elsewhere, he still drifted a bit. I like what he did on some of the lines on making it his own. B-
Keith=Loved the acoustic guitar solo. Still needs to loosen up and relax into the song.
Jennifer= Did a great job. Hearing his voice is such a treat. Felt him trying to feel it and sing the words.
Harry=Getting better every week. Looked into the camera the whole time, should have made a connection to the people around him. Wants him to look up young Ricky Nelson on Youtube, he is very similar and could help learn from him. 
Do The Judges & I Agree? Sorta. You knew that the judges wouldn't bash Sam even if he was terrible because they want to justify the save being used, but Sam did try, and it was markedly better than last week.

Duets #3
CJ and Malaya
I Knew You Were Waiting-Aretha Franklin & George Michael
Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet sang this song together in Season 11 and they killed it, CJ and Malaya, not so much. They were fine, but nothing like what I have heard on the Idol stage before.

Performances # 4

Alex Preston
(Every Breath You Take-The Police)
David Cook thought that Alex seemed super nervous and way too fast during rehearsal and he wants him to emote and show more and show that he gives a damn. Alex is just amazing at guitar, that's a no doubter. This song has been redone and covered many times but this was a very intimate and beautiful arrangement. It held the original's hook, but it was with violins and slowed down pace. Sometimes Alex went a little fast when he probably could have slowed down even more, but I think that's just his nature and style. I would have loved if it was consistent all the way through, but there were some really beautiful moments in there. B
Harry=Really liked that it sounded like a new tune. Is more a performer than an entertainer. The coffee-house treatment is gonna catch up to him at one point in this competition.
Keith=Grabs attention fast. Bold undertaking dismantling the song, commends him for that. Needs to push and pull the coffee-house tempo a little more.
Jennifer=Loves his voice and loves what he does. Missed the melody of that song. Such an iconic song and to change it that much and it lost the soul of the song. 
Do The Judges & I Agree? Not really. I see 100% what they are saying, but I really dug the arrangement, and given he only had a few days to work on it that's pretty incredible.

Duets #4
Dexter & Jessica
(Islands In The Stream-Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers)
It was good. Keith and Harry decide to abandon the judge's table and run upstairs to the balcony with some fans. They are pretty funny. Dexter and Jessica sounded pleasant enough.

Performances #5

 CJ Harris
(Free Fallin-Tom Petty)
David Cook was impressed and excited with CJ's song choice. He countrified the song a bit which is good, but it changed keys a little too much. He started going down one path and then kinda went another, then the major chorus was kinda boring and too slow. He slowed it down to a snail's pace, which focuses heavily on his vocals, and his vocals weren't always on point. He sounded better than he did a few weeks ago, but I liked his performance last week a whole lot more. C
Jennifer=Root note for note for him. Started off shaky but hit the chorus and has the ability to touch people's hearts.
Harry=Has a connection every time he is up there. When he hits the high note he was more in tune. 
Keith=That was a great rendition of that song. Got a survivor tone in his voice, wants to prevail and be optimistic.
Do The Judges & I Agree? Not really. I thought it was kinda boring. He for sure was more in tune tonight then he usually is but I just didn't like the arrangement and that threw me off.

Caleb Johnson
David Cook wants Caleb to give this song a little resonance. David thinks that Caleb is a live guy and that's tough for the people at home who want to get a taste of that too, not just for the audience in the building. Caleb said this one of his favorite songs of all time, and it's just a beautiful, great song choice by him. It let him be rock but also show some vulnerability and tenderness.He really brought the audience in. Really quite beautiful. Simple and effective. A-
Harry=Really strong consistent vocal and loved the subtly of his voice. Proud of him.
Keith=Killer. Perfect song choice. All function, not fashionista.
Jennifer=No small task to take on Steve Perry. Seemed a little out of his comfort zone at first, but he still murdered it.
Do The Judges & I Agree? For sure. He killed the song, he killed the high notes, the subtle notes. Really good.

Bottom 3/Going Home Predicitions
Bottom 3
1. Jessica Meuse
2. Malaya Watson
3. CJ Harris

Going Home
CJ Harris. I hope the people at home heard what I heard and don't listen to the judges. I think CJ sounded pretty bad. The judges didn't seem to get on board with Jena, Jessica, or Alex. We will see what happens.

Final Thoughts 

*Tonight just seemed very draggy. Maybe it's because there is one more person than usual on the show at this point, maybe the majority of the songs were kinda sleepy (CJ, Sam, Alex), I don't know. I thought the episode was a little boring. I am nervous that a person that's never been in Bottom 3 is going home and there is no save to help them. That's the risk of using the save on someone that's perennially in the Bottom.  Jessica, Alex and even Jena didn't great rave reviews. Malaya and Dexter weren't that great but might be able to sneak by. I really don't know how the votes are gonna go this week.

*The Idol Save has been used 5 times in American Idol history. Matt Giruad got it in Season 8 and he lasted 2 more weeks. Michael Lynche in Season 9 received it and lasted 5 more weeks. Casey Abrams got it in Season 10 and lasted 4 more weeks. Season 11's Jessica Sanchez received it and lasted until the finals becoming the runner-up to Phillip Phillips. No one received the Idol Save last year. Therefore, in the history of American Idol no contestant has ever received the Save and was eliminated the week after. Ya never know what can happen but history is definitely on Sam Woolf's side, at least this week, not to get eliminated. 

*Aw Randy Jackson. Dude got usurped by David Cook as best mentor of the season and Randy has been there (supposedly) all year long. Then he is forced to come on stage at the end for some little bit with Ryan. It's a great job if you can get it, do nothing and get paid for it. Nice job Randy. 

*The judges weren't incredibly helpful tonight. I felt like they were off their game a bit. They were very middle of the road for a ton of the contestants, just giving the standard critiques.

*Duets are such a waste of time. Sure some are better than others, but mostly they are time wasters that don't do much for anyone. I think it can hurt more than help. I don't think you gain that much, even if the performance kills, which none did this week or last.

That's it. Another performance night in the books. 1 person will definitely be going home tomorrow. We will see how the votes land, because although no one was terrible, no one was that out of this world. There could be some shuffling in the Bottom 3. Come back tomorrow to find out. So until next time, see ya!

1 comment:

  1. Jena has become popular but was awful in her performance until the very end. She received too much credit for making it original but, to me, originality doesn't matter if you don't sound well with it. Some of the other song choices were very boring with no vocal challenge to try to show off talent (ie: Sam and Alex). I'm surprised to see Jessica in your bottom 3 over maybe Sam or Dexter. However, I keep waiting week after week for her to have that special performance and maybe my expectations are too high. We laughed at Caleb's comments about making the old ladies cry and his baby face - he did something very difficult in impressing with the Faithfully song (haven't seen many do it well as Steve Perry is a true vocal genius). I think Harry has added much needed life to the show in regards to the judges and I'm glad they don't look at their personal live video monitors much anymore. Finally, Randy Jackson has disappeared into some vortex of nowhere and I wonder if he or the producers realize he's not really "in it to win it".