Posted: 6:46 pm Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

‘American Idol’ top 6 performance recap 

By Rodney Ho

Ryan Seacrest looking dapper last week. CREDIT: Fox

Ryan Seacrest looking dapper last week. CREDIT: Fox

While the theme (“A little bit of country, a little bit rock and roll”) might evoke Donny Osmond, most of the acts tonight felt far more modern, which is a good thing.

There was only one truly disastrous performance and that was CJ Harris’s country song, a theme you’d think he’d excel. But he chose a mid-tempo Zac Brown tune and botched it big time. I think it will cost him votes and kill his shot at making the top 5. Yes, my prediction is simple: CJ goes home tomorrow.

Jena Irene’s “So Small” did nothing for me either but I think as Harry Connick Jr. said, she missed the melody on a song that had virtually no melody in the first place. It was a terrible song choice. She might very well end up in the bottom two but I don’t think she is in any real trouble thanks to a solid “Barracuda” up top.

And while Alex Preston got criticized heavily for his attempt at uptempo with Neon Trees, at least he showed he could do it after relying almost exclusively on slower tunes. And he re-worked Willie Nelson effectively hour two. Plus, Caleb Johnson excelled covering a Carrie Underwood song, go figure, and was in his pocket with the Black Crowes.

Jessica Meuse performed about as well as she has done to date, which is good, though hardly transcendent. Sam Woolf showed major improvement with his Imagine Dragons cover while Shania Twain was a snooze. But I think he did enough to survive.

First hour: rock

Jena Irene (“Barracuda” Heart) – She brings a strong vocal to a fun Heart classic but is a little stiff on stage. Keith said he wanted her to loosen up but she said it  was nerves. JLo said to push her vocals just a little bit more. Keith said it played to her “vocal strengths” but still wants her to release more. Grade: B-plus

Sam Woolf (“It’s Time” Imagine Dragons) – He brings great vocal dynamism into a wonderful pop tune. This was one of his stronger performances to date. He’s gaining confidence at just the right time. JLo got goosies and she hasn’t had many this season. HCJ said it was a great song for him and he felt he’s adding layers and blossoming. Keith pointed out two moments: the high note and the last couple of notes. “There’s a thing you tapped into, a gravitas, a weight to it,” he said.  Grade: A-minus

CJ Harris (“American Woman” Guess Who) – This is the type of song where being in perfect key doesn’t matter. He brought plenty of verve and personality and it worked just fine. HCJ said he felt it and it was “pretty good.” Keith said he had to think more about the anger in that song. JLo liked his look and said it came together at the end. Grade: B-plus

Alex Preston (“Animal” Neon Trees) – He goes for an uptempo song he normally doesn’t pick. It doesn’t quite work for his voice, especially the bridge, but he does fine during the chorus. I enjoyed it. JLo said it was a good job but expected more. “It was a little bit contained,’ she said. HCJ said he gets a pass in a sense given the type of artist he is. Grade: B-plus

Caleb Johnson (“Sting Me” Black Crowes) – Starts a bit slow but he is totally where he wants to be. He nearly loses his mic at one point midway but gets it back in time. He ends on a big moment, just embracing it and kicking it up a notch. The man just loves the stage! JLo said, “That’s real rock and roll!”  Grade: A-minus

Jessica Meuse (“Somebody to Love” Jefferson Airplane) – She does an impressive imitation of Grace Slick. While her body movement doesn’t always match the rhythm, she loosened up enough to make this an engaging performance. HCJ said she presented her voice in the best possible way. Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Second hour: country

Sam Woolf (“You’re Still the One” Shania Twain) – I hate this song. Dull, lame, blah. Sam sings it ably and he even shakes hands with the crowd. He’s trying. But he’s stiff as a board. Eck. “It’s like a lullaby,” said Keith. (Yes, it put me to sleep.) “You’re so cute, it’s crazy,” J. Lo said. HCJ said it sounded too clean.  Grade: C-plus/B-minus

Caleb Johnson (“Undo It” Carrie Underwood) – The birthday boy brings the power and the energy, as if this was his own concert. Bravura performance! HCJ said it sounded more forced than his first performance. Grade: A/A-minus

Alex Preston (“Always On My Mind” Willie Nelson) – That was right in his pocket. He hit the melancholy just right while changing the song around to his liking. He adds some interesting complexity to the melody. “You’re an artist and I admire that,” HCJ said. Keith wanted more heartbreak. “I heard it but didn’t feel it,” he said. Grade: A-minus

Jena Irene (“So Small” Carrie Underwood) – She brought a lot of drama to an amorphous song devoid in my mind of any real melody. It wasn’t bad but I don’t particularly like the song. J Lo got goosies. HCJ said the song has so many ornaments and lacks melody. “I didn’t know where you were going,” he said. “The ornaments didn’t necessarily match what was going on underneath you.” Grade: B-minus

 CJ Harris (“Whatever It Is’ Zac Brown Band ) I adore this song but man, he just ruined it. He had trouble with the pacing, the key, everything. Terrible. JLo said it missed the mark. HCJ said he needs better song choices. Keith said it works because of the way Zac does it but the melody is too low for him. Grade: D

Jessica Meuse (“Jolene” Dolly Parton) – I thought it was a solid vocal, again, but her lack of facial expression makes it hard for me to really feel the song until the end. HCJ said she delivered it in a strong and convincing way. Keith said it was a good vocal but hated the arrangement. Grade: B/B-plus

582 comments
DeirdreC
DeirdreC

Just reminding y'all that Rodney has opened a new thread for tonight.


KokoSnoot
KokoSnoot

Maybe I'm behind, but I just read a tweet from Jessica's BFF that said Jessica was on Season 3 of The Voice, but they never aired her audition. 

Highlander1
Highlander1

From Jenny: "I also thought Jena did really well.  I loved her voice on "So Small".  The girl can sing, that's for sure!"

I think Jena can sing well but somewhere along the way someone (the producers?) convinced her she was the Pat Benatar/Celine Dion (and now Ann Wilson) of this season. And with the added adulation from the judges, she has a big head (both literally and figuratively). She could probably be much better with some honest critique and actual professional mentoring.

I really don't think Alex will have much of a national career after Idol. We already have one John Mayer (thank God!).

Caleb (the winner, if all is right in the world) might not be able to do much on the national scale either due to the trends on Top 40 radio right now. But he may clean up with an independent label or on downloads. I hope I'm wrong about that. Maybe Top 40 radio programmers will take a little leap of faith and try something different from much of the drivel that's on now!

McCovey44
McCovey44

If, when I watch tonight's show on the DVR after my wife gets home from work, we aren't saying goodbye to C.J.,  I will be shocked beyond comprehension.  She said, "Maybe that's his style."  A singer doesn't have the right to the style "Off-key."  I thought Caleb owned the night and, if this was a horse race, has drawn clear of the field by a length and a half.  Jena is in the place position, and Jess takes the show spot.

Jenny11
Jenny11

I enjoyed last night's show!  Especially Grumpy Cat.  :-)   

Caleb was great - right in his usual wheelhouse, and Jessica has now become my other favorite.  (Though I'll give my thoughts on versions of "Jolene" in a minute.)  

I also thought Jena did really well.  I loved her voice on "So Small".  The girl can sing, that's for sure! 

Alex was OK on his first song, but ugh, his attempt at "Always On My Mind" was way too wimpy and high-pitched.  Though he's not been my favorite this season, he usually has a fairly good voice... where the heck did it go on that song?  "Always On My Mind" is such an intense, touching song, and he was all "la-la-la-falsetto".  Maybe I'm just a Willie Nelson purist.... but I agree with whoever (Highlander? G_?) wrote the post last week about Alex's "much-vaunted musicality" not being *all that*.  

I wish that Alex had done Keith Urban's coffeehouse and mellow-beach-bar classic "You'll Think Of Me".  It would've suited him beautifully...

Sam and CJ - meh.  I think one of them will go.  Probably CJ. 


jnewlin
jnewlin

Jessica won the night.  If American Idol were based solely on talent and potential (and not popularity) she would be the next American Idol. Deep down I believe the judges realize this too. She's mature and professional enough to take their weekly criticisms to make improvements. I really hope she can stay in the running long enough to win the voters over.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

I like betteroffdiesal's suggestions.  I think it is unlikely that Alex will be on the bottom(probably wrong about that but what the heck)  His version of Always On My Mind was just about perfect and it was the last song he sang. 

I would be amazed if either Jena or Caleb is at the bottom so it will probably be Jessica or Sam.  I guess Alex is possible too considering the mess he made of his first song.

betteroffdiesel
betteroffdiesel

 1-12:


1) Caleb's "Sting Me"

2) Sam's "It's Time"

3) Alex's "Always On My Mind"

4) Jessica's "Somebody To Love"

5) Jena's "Barracuda"

6) Caleb's "Undo It"

7) Sam's "You're Still The One"

8) Jessica's "Jolene"

9) Jena's "So Small"

10) Alex's "Animal"

-

-

-

11) CJ's "Whatever It Is"

12) CJ's "American Woman"


Predictions from L.A.:

1) Caleb

2) Sam

3) Jena

4) Jessica


Bottom 2:

Alex

CJ (Eliminated)

KokoSnoot
KokoSnoot

I wish Sam would bust out something like "New Sensation" by INXS... I guess I'm the king (queen) of wishful thinking. 

Jenny11
Jenny11

@Highlander1- yes, thank God there's only one John Mayer!  I especially don't like some of the ways he's acted in the past.... some of the crude quotes he's given to magazines.  Bleh. 

McCovey44
McCovey44

@Highlander1  Agree that Caleb is Idol XIII.  I don't know if Caleb will have a big selling career but I think he will be packing stadiums, then arenas, then clubs until he's 77 years old.  Touring and ripping it up on stage.  That's his future, in my opinion, and its not a bad future to have.


I find myself a bit in the minority here in that I really enjoy Jena.  She brings something unique to each performance each week.  I don't get the somewhat snotty way she's treated here.


I think she's really pretty too...which could possibly explain some of the dilemma in the paragraph above.

Jenny11
Jenny11

@McCovey44 Yep.  Except after last night's performances, I think Jess has moved into second place for me.  (Only slightly, though... I like both girls a lot.)  

All the rest... meh.  :-\ 

Jenny11
Jenny11

Oh, and as far as versions of "Jolene" - I thought Jessica sounded great, but she made the song a little bit TOO rock & roll.  (Though it didn't bother my enjoyment... I like her more and more every week, and now would love to see her in the finals with Caleb.) 

But one of my favorite studio versions of "Jolene" was done by a girl on Adam's season, Alexis Grace.  And yes, I'm aware that it was the song that got her kicked off (undeservedly, and way too early) ... but I bought her studio version and it's lovely.  The perfect balance of plaintive and tough.  Jessica could have brought a little more plaintiveness to lines like "I cannot compete with you, Jolene"....

betteroffdiesel
betteroffdiesel

@jnewlin  It will always be based on popularity. I'm amazed that Caleb has been a front-runner, ONLY considering his off-putting appearance. Jessica and Sam are really the only two pretty ones of the whole Top 13. 

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@jnewlin  Everything is based on popularity!  Why should Idol be any different?  And the sound of a voice is subjectively pleasing or displeasing rather than an objective observation.  In other words, different strokes for different folks.

betteroffdiesel
betteroffdiesel

@DeirdreC  Alex in the bottom is based on predictions here in L.A. as well as Wikipedia's result prediction, with CJ being eliminated. 

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@McCovey44 @Highlander1  I'm kinda resenting the "snotty" remark! ;-)

I liked Jena at the beginning.  I even reminded people about her when we were all caught up with sweet Majesty and crazy Malaya and deer-in-the-headlights MK.  Jena's voice started to stand out in the mediocre crowd.  But I just don't like that she went from lovely Jena to a wannabe rock goddess.  I don't like her voice that way.

Jenny11
Jenny11

@McCovey44 - I like Jena a lot too.  I think Highlander's probably right that the producers are pushing her to be the Pat Benatar of the season... but that's OK with me, because that's my kind of music.  :-)  

jnewlin
jnewlin

@Jenny11 I agree! I would like to see Jessica in the finals as well.

Jenny11
Jenny11

@betteroffdiesel - I think the limited voting has been great this season.  It's helped the top talent, like Caleb, stay at the top.  In an unlimited-voting season, it might have been harder for Caleb to get his due.  

Jenny11
Jenny11

@DeirdreC @jnewlin  - I'm with Jnewlin on the popularity issue... "Unfortunate, but true". 

I think it's SO very unfortunate that Idol has become a popularity contest.  Though the limited voting does seem to be helping a bit!  :-) 

And I'm with Deirdre on this quote:  "Idol and the judges seem more concerned with finding a younger audience than they are with finding talent."  As I mentioned yesterday, that's what's made me lose some of my interest this season.  :-( 

(On a side note, I guess I'm an "older viewer" (40-something :-) ... and I do like Jena's voice.  A lot!!)  

jnewlin
jnewlin

@DeirdreC @jnewlin True. Unfortunate...but true. I believe the reason Jena is so high in the running is not due to her voice as much as it is popularity with those in the same age bracket as herself (i.e. Glee fans.)  Same with Sam (i.e. young girls.) I would like to see Jessica, Caleb, and Alex in the remaining three.

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@betteroffdiesel @DeirdreC  I hope all those predictions are right about CJ.  Alex has never been in the bottom but neither had Jessica until last week.

I didn't know Wikipedia did result predictions.  How's their record?

Jenny11
Jenny11

@KokoSnoot I so agree!!  I would LOVE to see him sing "My Best Friend's Girl", "Touch and Go", "Since You're Gone".... or "Magic", or "Shake It Up"... :-)

DeirdreC
DeirdreC

@jnewlin @DeirdreC  I would agree with you up to a point.  Idol's biggest problem ratings-wise is that its audience is getting older.  I'm not sure that many mid to late teens watch it and the younger ones are now limited in how many times they can vote.  

Your pick for top 3 is also my pick.  Idol and the judges seem more concerned with finding a younger audience than they are with finding talent.  That being said, I know a lot of adults who prefer Jena and Sam to any of the other contestants.  I guess it is a matter of taste.  Jena is not to my taste but she apparently has a lot of people on her side.

And I rarely pick the winner, but I don't take it personally.

RodneyHo
RodneyHo moderator

@KokoSnoot @betteroffdiesel@DeirdreCWeird! I'm having a good year so far with predictions (and believe me, I've had some pretty hideous years.). I'm 6 for 8. With CJ almost certain to go home tonight, I should be 7 out of 9.

Jenny11
Jenny11

@RodneyHo @Jenny11@KokoSnoot - Awww.  Too bad.  So now is a good time to start!  (If Sam stays.)  Or, could any of the others pull off Ric Ocasek... ???