Posted: 6:59 pm Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

‘American Idol’ top 8 performance recap (again): 80s night 

By Rodney Ho

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Top 8: Clockwise from left, Dexter Roberts, Alex Preston, Jessica Meuse, Caleb Johnson, C.J. Harris, Malaya Watson, Sam Woolf and Jena Irene on AMERICAN IDOL XIII airing Thursday, April 3 (9:00-9:30 PM ET / PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Top 8: Clockwise from left, Dexter Roberts, Alex Preston, Jessica Meuse, Caleb Johnson, C.J. Harris, Malaya Watson, Sam Woolf and Jena Irene on AMERICAN IDOL XIII airing Thursday, April 3 (9:00-9:30 PM ET / PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

You have to wonder if the contestants are aware of the plummeting fortunes of ‘American Idol” among viewers as the show hits series low after series low week in, week out.  Past participants say they live in the ‘Idol” bubble, but in this day and age of social media, how can they not know? That has to be demoralizing for everyone involved to know the franchise is fading away before them no matter what they try.

But as the cliche goes, the show must go on.

“American Idol” went back to those moldy oldies of the 1980s, the period when MTV played videos and hairspray was de rigueur. The three judges are all in their mid-40s and grew up this decade -as did I. J Lo wore her hair circa 1989 and Keith Urban rocked a mullet. And it was nice to see David Cook as the mentor this week since he did a great job changing up 1980s songs “Hello” and “Billie Jean.”

In the end, it was a mixed bag. And interestingly, Jennifer Lopez was a tough critic tonight, taking the music from her childhood seriously.  Plus, Keith, growing up in Australia, didn’t appear familiar with Jody Watley‘s “Don’t You Want Me.”

Anyway, I’m not sure the three men who are in greatest danger of going home changed the landscape all that much. CJ Harris was probably the best of the three simply because he is the most engaging. Vocally, Sam Woolf was fine but again, that connection is missing no matter how hard he tries. Dexter Roberts picked a kitschy song and was unable to elevate it beyond that.

Malaya Watson chose a tune that didn’t really work well with her voice or her emotional capacity. Jena Irene‘s star has risen since her early bottom three finish and while others on this blog hated it, I enjoyed her rather radical re-make of a classic Joan Jett song. . The other three - Jessica Meuse, Alex Preston and Caleb Johnson – have yet to finish in the bottom three and nothing they did tonight threatens their lives.

I thought Alex Preston was the best of the night simply because he somehow made his reconstructed take on “Every Breath You Take” work for him, with an odd mix of coffeehouse cool and creepiness the song’s lyrics engender. (No, it’s not a straight love song, people!). Caleb Johnson had some trouble in his softer points but did a very respectable version of a classic Journey song. And Jessica Meuse loosened up a bit for her Blondie song but lacked that sultry edge Blondie possesses in spade.

Who will go home? The saved person has never been eliminated the next week, which places CJ in the most vulnerable spot in my mind. Then again, Malaya didn’t help her cause. So my bottom three is Dexter, CJ and Malaya with Malaya going home. CJ’s personality seems to be carrying the votes and keeping him around and he may make it to top 7 as a result.

The duets came and went. Some were more fun and more harmonious than others. I enjoyed Caleb and Jessica the most, the Malaya/CJ combo the least.

My rankings of the eight performances 1. Alex 2. CJ 3. Jena 4. Caleb 5. Jessica 6. Dexter 7. Sam 8. Malaya

Jena Irene (“I Love Rock and Roll” Joan Jett) – She turned this early MTV nugget into a decent Evanescence song. She brought attitude without the cheese and some interesting drama to it. J Lo felt it languished a bit in the middle and wanted more of a traditional rock feel. HCJ felt it was too choreographed. Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Dexter Roberts (“Keep Your Hands To Yourself” Georgia Satellites) – This was a truly singular, cheeseball song from the 1980s, more of a joke than anything. It’s fun. And Dexter does a pretty competent job with it and even throws in a guitar solo. Again, great wedding band performance, nothing more. Keith noted that he needs to do something memorable and unexpected. He is predictable, in other words. Grade: B/B-plus

Alex and Sam (“The Girl is Mine” Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney) – Pleasant and cute. And the chances of these two getting in a fight over a girl seems highly unlikely. Sam thanked the judges for saving him, then inexplicably thanked the voters. Why? They gave him the fewest votes! What’s there to thank for? Grade: B-plus

Malaya Watson (“Through the Fire” Chaka Khan) – Her voice lacks fullness to really work the big notes. It’s clear she is no Jessica Sanchez or Jennifer Hudson. So she sounds shrill instead of robust during the peak points. Keith suggested she lay back a bit more before hitting the big notes. J Lo says the same thing. HCJ said to be more in the moment. Grade: B-minus

Caleb and Jena (“It’s Only Love” Tina Turner and Bryan Adams) – A delightful 80s nugget that was not overplayed in 1985 when it came out. Well done. As J Lo says it’s very loose and fun. A-minus

Jessica Meuse (“Call Me” Blondie) – David Cook said her early version of it didn’t sound like she’s having any fun. He gives good advice about how to work the crowd and break out of her shell. She still looks a bit stiff minus the guitar but she’s trying to do the smile thing into the camera and such. She loosened up closer to the end and seemed to enjoy herself. HCJ is “going to emphasize groove. You need to sing that shuffle. Feel that groove. You weren’t ripping that pocket up.” Keith said he’s waiting for the rest of release. She needs to let it go. J Lo says she needs to tap into that sexy part of herself, then she shouldn’t pick that song. Grade: B-plus

Sam Woolf (“Time After Time” Cyndi Lauper) – He goes acoustic and does pretty much the same thing he does. Pretty voice, not much behind it. J Lo is amazed he showed some emotion. As noted by HCJ, he focuses too much on the camera and isn’t looking at the crowd. (He recommended late 1980s heartthrob Ricky Nelson as a comparison.) It was kind of dull. Grade: B-minus

Malaya and CJ (“I Knew You Were Waiting” – Aretha and George Michael) – Very summer theater, as HCJ said. Nothing memorable but not horrible. Grade: B-minus

Alex Preston (“Every Breath You Take” Police) He changes the song up big time and it’s not bad. It’s very different, fairly riveting. I like it. HCJ says there’s a difference between a performer and an entertainer. “You have to make it stageworthy. This coffeehouse treatment is going to catch up to you. Think about being more of an entertainer.” J Lo missed the melody and felt he lost the soul of the song.  Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Dexter and Jessica (“Islands in the Stream” Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton) – I liked Jessica more on this one than Dexter. It was pleasant enough. Grade: B/B-plus

CJ Harris (“Free Fallin’ ” Tom Petty) – What brings CJ to the table is his dynamism, his heart. As for his tone and pitch, that’s forever his problem. He did pick it up at the end, as J Lo said after a messy start. HCJ lauds him for his connection.  “You have a survivor tone in your voice,” Keith said. Grade: B/B-plus.

Caleb Johnson (“Faithfully” Journey) – He was told to play a power ballad. This fits the bill. He actually had some trouble going soft (probably because he so seldom does so). But once he was able to build the vocals, up, he was just fine and ended strong. Grade: B-plus

 

610 comments
rz111
rz111

this is now a show for whites only   what time is the voice      done whit this

LylePark
LylePark

Rodney Ho lost credibility when he list CJ as second best performance.

LenoreKensington
LenoreKensington

I have to toss this out into the ether...  CJ should be gone tonight, no question.  The pitch problems are awful.  BUT... I could hear last night in my head what it was supposed to sound like, and when I heard the iTunes version, it was gorgeous.  When Tom Petty sings "Free Fallin'," there's a smirk in it--which works. "I'm a bad boy 'cause I don't even miss her." But when CJ sings it, there's a poignancy, a regret in it. Not "I'm going to change" guilt but "Yeah, this is wrong, but I am what I am."  It's an entirely different song.


I wish he could get the pitch under control.  I know we throw the word around a lot, but he has artistry in his soul.  There's nobody this year who *feels* the music in his bones like that. 

RitaTiller
RitaTiller


ℳ­­­a­­­x­­­3­­­8.ℂ­­­ℴ­­­ℳ

DoubleNaughtSpy
DoubleNaughtSpy

Just curious.  Did anyone, besides me, get a little creeped out with Harry having the girl sit on his shoulders for so long?  He was trying WAAAAY to hard last night to be funny.

MercedesS
MercedesS

Found a ten year-old Idol article from the NYT (Jan 18, 2004), "The Good, The Bad, The Terrible" - back when 38 million people would tune in. What show gets those numbers today? A quote, as season three was starting up: "Given the cyclical nature of most TV trends, one such reaction may eventually be a loss of interest in this kind of show."


Ha! 


lydiasid
lydiasid

FINALLY, someone saw what I saw weeks ago and commented on but never saw a response to ....the similarity of Sam Woolf to Ricky Nelson.. I just thought I was the only "old" person on here who remembers him, but Harry does remember.

I just now watched the show I DVR'd, that's why I am just now responding to what Harry said last night.

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

Given how long this post has gotten in terms of comments, I may post my recap blog entry really early. I am picking my wife up at Hartsfield at 9:15 pm. so I won't be around for the results show. Deirdre will have to keep fort!

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

If you just want to see my Idol blog entries, there's now a category breakdown in the bottom right hand corner rail.

Jenny11
Jenny11

Hey @DeirdreC- that graph you posted way back at the start of this thread was great.  You should re-post it here at the top because I'm sure it got lost in last night's shuffle.  It would be a good topic of conversation. 

I found it interesting, because I've always thought that as great and talent-filled as Season 5 was, it was also the season that Idol began to stray from its roots. I've always wondered if that season showed us the first tiny glimmers of the beginning of the end....

MercedesS
MercedesS

The two Idol words this season: "coffeehouse" and "in pocket".

Jenny11
Jenny11

So I haven't looked at comments yet to see what the rest of y'all thought…  but I thoroughly enjoyed 80s night!  No surprise there.  :-)  For maybe the second time this season, I was interested in the show from start to finish!  

I thought Caleb was clearly the best.  That was GREAT.  But surprisingly, I also liked Jessica a lot!  "Call Me" was never my favorite Blondie song… so many other better ones… but I really liked it from her!  

Other thoughts… 

Jena's slowdown of "I Love Rock & Roll" didn't work very well.  I was with whichever judge (JLo?) said they wished she'd owned it and rocked it more.

Alex's rearrangement also didn't work very well for me.  (Though he really has a great voice, and sounded good!)  It was wayyyy too coffeehouse, so much so that it sounded like a totally different song (and not an improved one.)

Sam started out a little weird and shaky (I thought) but then turned pretty good.  Nothing to rave about, but I liked it fairly well.  

Dexter - I love the song, but not so much him.  Like David pointed out, he doesn't enunciate very well. 

Malaya - meh.  I'd like to have seen her at least TRY maybe some Whitney.  Even if she failed.  That song was boring to me.  

CJ - again, started out weird (I just read a Yahoo review, and CRACKED UP at someone who said they thought he sang "Loves Cheez-Its, and America too…."  
But got better.  I liked it OK.  

The duets were mostly pretty fun.  I thought Sam and Alex blended well together… Sam in the Paul McCartney role, and Alex as Michael.  And I love love LOVE Islands In The Stream.  That song brings back so many good summer memories.  They did all right with it.  I was glad Jessica kept my favorite line… "And you've been walking the night, slowly losing sight of the real thing (…) And the message is clear, this could be the year for the real thing."  (I saw Kenny Rogers in concert once, and he CUT THAT LINE OUT!  :-O)

Loved seeing David Cook.  Can he be the permanent mentor instead of Randy? 

And the judges cracked me up.  :-)

GrandpawKPH
GrandpawKPH

I see a few folks on here from when I used to comment every day. Hello Ya'll its KPH alias GrandpawKPH. Been a long time.

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

Just got this email from a Sam fan who feels I'm roughing him up too much: 

You already said your piece on your page as if Sam was the worst contetant in AI. He did try to connect.. David cook advised him to look at the camera and he did... Somehow he did connect compared in the past. Why cant u be fair enough when you make reviews? And you are asking people to vote after you misjudge those contestants... Make a fair review!

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

Best song of the night to me was the Caleb and Jena duet! They are performers AND entertainers. I believe these are your top two. Alex #3, took some balls to change that song so much, but I liked it a lot.. Jessica #4 but she could have done One Way or Another, or Heart of Glass. Seems like Call Me is the Blondie song every year on 80s week. Dexter could not find an 80s country hit to do? I think he's done.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

Jessica Sanchez got the save in her season and ended up in second place. Just saying. Don't underestimate the power of little girls when they want something. Sam is safe for at least two weeks.

G_
G_

As long as Caleb wins, I could care less.  I liked Alex from the start, because he's a band geek like Malaya.  But from here to the final, I could care less who goes as long as Caleb survives.  But just for kicks, I'm going with Malaya and CJ leaving.  I believe Sam makes a comeback.   

Pitchy1
Pitchy1

Very thankful for the videos, RoHo.  I didn't care for Jena's "I Love Rock and Roll," Loved Dexter's performance, definitely did not care for Malaya "Through the Fire."  Her voice was boring, lackluster, and BORING.  Have to listen to others later.

apairofjacks
apairofjacks

I can't wait for the "T-Mobile" blonde to get the boot, I have not liked her since the groups week. She threw a tissy fit with one group and they would not put up with her so she went off to a pitty party for a bit and finally found a group to accept her.  Then acted like "Little Miss Innocent" 

She made a comment once about "drama" always following her every where she goes, well DUH! Don't you think it would be kinda difficult to outrun drama if you are the one creating it?

I think the save for Sam was grossly misused last week.  He is too bashful to shine right now, his voice is there but his emotions are not.


IMHO, I think Jena is going to the top 2 for sure if not the winner. I believe it will be a final battle between her and Caleb.

JTesla
JTesla

Too 8 get the 80's, and a save was used to make that 8-80's work... coincidence or conspiracy?

Pitchy1
Pitchy1

I had to sign in some funky way, so I am Pitchy1 while at work and Pitchy when I'm home (lol).

Pitchy1
Pitchy1

Hey guys, seeing if I can log in from work.  My kitchen project has kept me from blogging and even watching the show.  Didn't get home from Home Depot until 9:00. Had to go to two different stores.  I figured I could read RoHo's recap to catch up.  Now, let's see if "I'm in like Flint...?"

Sam-A1
Sam-A1

I'm not sure what Harry meant to convey to Sam re Ricky Nelson. The correct interpretation would be "see how he acts, that's what you're doing and you need th change it", and NOT "see how he acts, you should be doing that". I never was a Ricky fan, partly because he always just stood at the mic with his eyes half-closed, like he was just about to fall asleep. Never looked at the audience, and rarely at the camera, and rarely moved from the mic stand. At least Sam keeps his eyes open. Ricky did get a bit more lively in later years (the "Garden Party" time of his career).

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@lydiasid  I must have missed that post, lydia.  As soon as Harry said Ricky Nelson, I knew what he was driving at.  That same deadpan expression on Sam's face.  The similarity is amazing.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@RodneyHo  I do read many of your other blogs, Rodney but that breakdown will be very handy!

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@Sam-A1  It brought tears to my eyes.  My mother's skin was just that perfect right up until she died.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@Jenny11 @DeirdreC  Jenny, I think I'll wait until a new thread opens up.  This one has gotten quite intimidating....especially for a show that's dying!

apairofjacks
apairofjacks

@RodneyHo   Sam i believe has a REALLY good voice! When his emotions are equal to his voice he WILL become a star

JTesla
JTesla

If you don't offend someone, you aren't doing it right.

Jenny11
Jenny11

@UWreckMeBaby I too was wishing for "Heart Of Glass"!!  Or Sunday Girl, The Tide Is High, or Dreaming...

Jenny11
Jenny11

@G_ - Same here.  I'm finding that this season, I don't have much interest in who leaves from week to week.  (Now, if Caleb left, that would be a travesty, but I don't see that happening.  He does have the proper chromosome, after all. ;-)  

G_
G_

@apairofjacks

Yeah, I don't care for Jessica either. That's a case when reality goes wrong.  I wish that I didn't know all the back scenes about her, because it really put her in a bad light. But, most of it was on her and not production.  In addition, I'm never too thrilled about her performances either.  Jessica has the worst stage pressence of any contestant this season.

JTesla
JTesla

@DeirdreC I'm just here for the pictures.

JTesla
JTesla

Dead. It should have been canceled two years ago. No interest in it at all.

Jenny11
Jenny11

@G_ @apairofjacks- Funny, I understood "T-Mobile Blonde" right away!  :-)  Her hair is exactly T-Mobile pink!  (And is it just me, or is there more pink now than there used to be?)

I have to say, I'm very glad I didn't watch the auditions or Hollywood rounds this year, because I'm beginning to like her... though for the first few weeks, the only thing I could say about her was "good god she's nasal".  Not sure what's changed, but I did like "Call Me." 

apairofjacks
apairofjacks

@Sam-A1 @apairofjacks   "T-Mobile Blonde" the t mobile PINK blonde. Pink hair that reminds me of the t-mobile pink so I refer to her as the "T-Mobile Blonde".

JTesla
JTesla

@apairofjacks Yeah, I was able to figure out who you are talking about now, but it still doesn't make much sense. Especially since the rest of her hair, other than the pink, is the opposite of "blonde".

apairofjacks
apairofjacks

@MercedesS @Sam-A1 @apairofjacks  "T-Mobile Blonde" the t mobile PINK blonde.