Thursday, April 24, 2014

American Idol Season 13 - Top 6 Perform

Greetings friends and welcome back to our ongoing recap of American Idol season 13!  Last night actually wasn't too bad of a night in terms of performances.  Though, I still have to criticize the camera direction during the performances.  It's hard to get invested in these contestants when we're constantly watching the judges (still mainly JLo) instead.  But, there's no changing that this season.  I happened to see the songs that each contestant was going to perform before the show last night and I had already come up with my bottom 2 and likely eliminated contestant based on it.  My opinion didn't change after the performances!  So, this should be relatively short and sweet!  Let's dive into Rock and Country week.

Jena Irene
Song 1: Heart's "Barracuda"
Song 2: Carrie Underwood's "So Small"

When I saw "Barracuda" on the list for Jena I knew she'd nail it and she totally did.  Jena is definitely the Cinderella story this year.  In my mind, she went from a person we knew would be in the Top 13 but that's basically it to improving so much from week to week that she now could be the favorite to win the whole thing.  Her performance of Heart's classic was absolutely indicating that.  I have to slightly disagree with the judges (well I think Harry felt the same way as me) on the Carrie Underwood tune.  I could barely hear the song in there.  Everywhere I'm reading people thought it was amazing so maybe I misheard it or am too familiar with the Carrie version.  She definitely has a good voice, but I felt like her traditionally odd accenting of notes on this tune didn't work.  The arrangement was really bizarre too.  That said, I don't think it hurt her chances of staying.   

Sam Woolf
Song 1: Imagine Dragon's "It's Time"
Song 2: Shania Twain's "Still the One"

Poor Sam, he just has no chance anymore.  J Lo can keep calling him adorable and they can keep forcing the girls to "woo" every time they're on camera.  But, Sam is out of his league now.  He has a great voice, but there are no dynamics in there regardless of any effort he can provide.  I "imagined" how each of these songs would go before he performed them and they turned out exactly as I expected.  Both lacking in character but sung technically to perfection.  "It's Time" could not be more indicative in terms of elimination but he'll have some competition for getting the boot.  

C.J. Harris
Song 1: The Guess Who's "American Woman"
Song 2: Zac Brown Band's "Whatever it Is"

C.J., C.J., C.J.  There's not much more we can say.  We're at the point in the competition where his vocal abilities compared to what the rest of the competition is doing are now under the microscope.  We always knew his voice wasn't the strong point.  It was the emotional cry he threw into a lot of those songs that required it.  That cry was not really required on either of his song choices last night.  "American Woman" sounded exactly like the Lenny Kravitz cover minus the better voice of Lenny.  He sure had that rasp nailed down, but there wasn't much else to it.   Song 2 was ho hum and Harry and Keith nailed it.  The song choice was too safe and didn't provide much for C.J. to do with it.  The thing is, he couldn't do much with it anyway.  

Alex Preston
Song 1: Neon Trees' "Animal"
Song 2: Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind"

I still appreciate Alex's musical abilities but his improvement areas/weaknesses were on display in the Neon Trees song.  Lots of scratchy notes in the higher register and almost unpleasant to listen to.  At least the band was rockin it.  Actually, I should note that pretty much all of the "ROCK" songs were exact arrangements of the original bands (or covered hits).  The Country side is where we saw some tweaking for the "non-country" singers.  When Alex changes up a tune and plays with little musical accompaniment (other than his own awesome guitar playing) is when he shines.  The Willie Nelson classic was changed up just right for his stylings.  Yeah, there were some rough notes vocally, but the song suited his style.  I agree with Keith that he does things on that guitar that are uniquely Alex and it is noticeable and pleasant.  He certainly has more to do in the emotional depth category though.  He makes the songs sound pretty and feel the way they're supposed to feel but he needs to be feeling that in his body language and vocal as well.  Still, he should be very safe this week. 

Jessica Meuse
Song 1: Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love"
Song 2: Dolly Parton's "Jolene"

I thought Jessica was much improved this week on both performances.  Maybe it has something to do, as Harry said, with her just standing with her guitar rather than forcing human contact with the fans which has been awkward to say the least.  The guitar seems to be where she is most comfortable.  And obviously, her voice is awesome.  She rocked on song 1, song 2 was an interesting change to the country classic.  But, it worked for her.  Some things I'm reading about it rave much more about it than the judges did.  It certainly was good, but I wasn't feeling "Idol Moment" chills down my spine while listening to it. Granted, I was a bit tired by the time I watched the show last night!   But, I've always liked Jessica and it's nice to see she's still fighting the good fight at this point.  She should be safe for a couple weeks until she's duking it out with Alex to be in the top 3. 

Caleb Johnson
Song 1: The Black Crowes' "Sting Me"
Song 2: Carrie Underwood's "Undo it" 

Song 1 is my major complaint about too much focus on the judges.  All they did was talk about how Caleb dropped the mic and recovered awesomely and basically all we saw was J Lo and Keith reacting to it.  It would've been nice to see the contestant through the whole performance to accurately assess this stuff.  Back in the Randy, Simon, Paula days we NEVER saw the judges.  We could see Paula dancing but only because the camera was behind the panel and focusing on the contestant.  It's pretty jarring and absolutely has changed the focus of the show.  It's about the contestants?  I don't think so.  It's about the celebrity judges that they're paying loads to be there.  Oh, and they're pretty!   That said, there's no mistaking Caleb's voice and we heard and partly saw an amazing performance.  The Carrie Underwood tune sounded fantastic too, but the first thing I thought after it was done was "Interesting arrangement for 'Country' week".   I got Keith's joking assessment of the performance, obviously.  Back in the day (I'm starting to sound old and set in my ways), contestants would be forced to sing out of their comfort zone to show their versatility.  I guess when David Cook came in and masterfully changed songs to fit his style, that all changed.  Now it's "stay in your genre regardless of the theme week".  That's actually encouraged.  But, when the first songs of the night pretty much all sounded like carbon copy arrangements of the originals it's difficult to hear all of the country songs turned into ROCK songs throughout the night.   I'm sure Keith was really looking forward to this theme week and clearly showed some disappointment with some of the arrangements.  But, it's hard to not give Caleb credit for singing yet another strong female singer's song and bringing new meaning to it while rocking it out.   The guy is a monster out there from a vocal perspective.  I still say it's hard not to see him in the finale.  I'm still leaning towards Jena for taking the crown due to her journey being more interesting.  But, we have more weeks left.

Elimination Pick
There's not much assessing to do here, so I'm not even going to bother.  This is how it's going down.  If it goes down the only other way, I won't be surprised. 

Bottom 2: Sam, C.J. 

Elimination Pick: C.J. Harris - We gotta give the guy credit for singing out of tune all the way to the top 6!  But that's far enough thank you!

Like I said, if Sam goes home it's not a shocker either.  Anyone else going home?  Absolute shocker.

Well that's it folks!  I may have mentioned this last week but I will be getting a new tiny addition to the family next week, so I'm thinking the chances of me recapping the show are pretty slim.  But, in my defense, I think I already figured out who is getting booted next week!  (Sam or C.J. whoever is left!)   If I have some time I'll post something really quick. But, I'm sure any remaining readers after my 10 years of covering this show will understand if I finally take a week off! 

Hope you enjoyed my ramblings and I'll see you in "some" form next week! 

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