Friday, April 11, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 8 - April 2, 2014

Top 8 - April 2, 2014 - Audition Songs

1. Jessica Meuse - "Blue Eyed Lie" A+

Jess becomes the FIRST EVER American Idol to sing an original song during a live voting round. And what an awesome song. Her audition instantly captured my attention and I loved this longer performance of it. I loved the grit and the passion of it. The studio recording, which I purchased off iTunes, is worth a listen and is an awesome addition to my music collection. One complaint: the big bridge is just a repeat of the same lyric. Kind of kills the "build" of the song, but a minor complaint over all. Can someone explain why Keith Urban said she should move around the stage more when she was literally performing on a pedestal?

2. CJ Harris - "Soul Shine" C/C-

I've never been a big fan of this song in any way and CJ has consistently proven himself forgettable week after week. Not the sort of performance I would remember without re-reviewing it for this blog. CJ's gritty tone can be appealing in a small dose, but he overuses it each week. CJ seems like a nice guy but I'm not sure how he made it into the Top 8 over more talented contestants who were cut in the early rounds.

Duet #1: Alex and Jena - "Just Give Me A Reason" A-

The two most interesting, unique voices in the competition came together beautifully on this duet. There was the right amount of passion and their voices sounded awesome together.

3. Sam Woolf - "Lego House" C

The part of the show where I can fall asleep and not miss anything... Sam sings in such an affected, flat tone, with absolutely no emotion or feeling. I feel like there is something blank in his eyes and something missing in every performance. It's funny to me that Alex gets labeled "shy" or "awkward" when to me he is light years more comfortable in his skin and his performances than Sam. I've seen better performers in high school musicals. (And in the movie High School Musical.)

Duet #2: Caleb and Jessica - "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" A

I LOVED THIS. One of my favorite songs and I see where the producers were going by choosing the Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks duet for these two. They had an easy chemistry in this song and sang rings around the next two duets (Dexter & CJ, Malaya & Sam).

4. Malaya Watson - "Ain't No Way" B

A powerful and beautiful performance by Malaya. I admit I counted her out completely as a joke contestant in the early rounds of voting after her hideous performance of "Runaway Baby" and over the top personality. Her latest performances have changed my mind on the front. I still contend she may have been even better if she had come back at age 18, but there's no going back at this point. Her big notes at the end veered into her usual, unpleasant lane, but she did rein it in pretty quickly.

5. Dexter Roberts - "One Mississippi"A-/B+

Dexter's best performance in a long time. Season 8 Top 4 finisher Allison Iraheta sounded beautiful singing the harmonies in the chorus, and it really added a lovely quality to the entire performance. A quiet moment from him that he desperately needed to showcase some of his much-lacking versatility. Here is a performance that I wouldn't mind listening to multiple times.

Duet #3: Malaya & Sam - "Lucky" F

What an insipid, twee song and what a flat performance. According to the Official YouTube page for this performance, "It's a duet you simply HAVE to see!" (emphasis not mine, trust me). The vocals were embarrassingly off, the "oooooohs" sounded god awful, and the both of them looked obviously, glaringly uncomfortable. Listening to this back in order to write this review is almost painful. Idol, please never make 16 and 17 year olds sing awkward love duets to each other ever again.

6. Jena Irene - "Rolling In The Deep" A

WOW. This was a stunning, haunting performance in which Jena completely reinvented the song that we've all heard a thousand times, in a thousand cover versions, to the point it sounded like an entirely new song. This girl is unbelievably talented for any age, let alone 17 years old. Her voice is instantly recognizable from the first note and she signs with just the right amount of passion and emotion to entirely convey the meaning of the song. This was near perfection.

Duet #4: CJ & Dexter - "Alright" C-

Their voices did not blend well together and there were plenty of bum notes that stood out like sore thumbs. Absolutely forgettable, but at least it wasn't a train wreck like Sam and Malaya's duet.

7. Caleb Johnson - "Chain Of Fools" A-/B+

I didn't at all remember Caleb's audition so it was awesome to hear him sing one of my favorite 60's songs. Much like Jena, his voice is instantly recognizable. A fun performance without angst or deep meaning. His voice reminds me so much of David Coverdale of Whitesnake.

8. Alex Preston - "Fairytales" A-

Alex is such a unique talent and I have a feeling his original songs are awesome. He is the kind of contestant that fits well into the modern radio landscape of singer/songwriters and bands like Ed Sheeran, A Great Big World, American Authors, and Passenger. Of all the current contestants, he might just be the most likely to have current radio success. "Fairytales" improves each time I listen to it, as I hear more of the lyrics and the flourishes that Alex puts in the song.

Best of the night: Jessica
Worst of the night: CJ
Best duet: Jessica & Caleb
Worst duet: Sam & Malaya

Friday, April 4, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 9 - March 26, 2014

Top 9 - "I'm With The Band" - March 26, 2014

1. Alex Preston - "Don't Speak" A-

This was a pretty polarizing performance by Alex, but I loved it. Alex is showing actual potential to be an American Idol winner - he consistently reinvents songs and has a definitive, recognizable style. I loved the jazzy, sort of reggae twists he put on this No Doubt song. I loved that the song choice was unexpected and light years away from his performance of One Direction's "Story Of My Life" last week.

2. Majesty Rose - "Shake It Out" B-

I loved the physicality Majesty put into her performance. So often Idol, the contestants forget that it's not just a singing competition. The entertainment industry is, by nature, a visual one and a true performer incorporates visual, emotional, and technical aspects. Unfortunately, Majesty doesn't have the big voice needed for some of the songs she's been tackling lately and it showed on the big, belting notes. She was really fun to watch, but just listening to it on its own, the vocal performance doesn't hold up.

3. Dexter Roberts - "Boondocks" B-

Dexter has not had a performance on the Idol stage that I truly liked since "Simple Man" - maybe his lane is anthemic, bro-country songs but it's a lane I don't necessarily want to go down. It's consistently forgettable. And the way he ended the song felt lazy and uninteresting to me. I can't really fault his vocal delivery, I guess, it's not like he sang badly or out of key, but I would hate to have an Idol winner be so generic.

4. Malaya Watson - "The Long & Winding Road" A-/B+

Malaya has really come a long way from her first disastrous performance of "Runaway Baby" - she is learning to demonstrate control with her voice. I must say watching the show live, I liked this performance a lot better than when I've listened to it back after the fact, but maybe it was just the fact that it was a breath of fresh, different air after the previous 2 performances. She has such an interesting way of delivering her songs that I've sat here listening to her song about 3 or 4 times as I write this.

5. Sam Woolf - "Hey There Delilah" C

OF COURSE. Of course Sam would play "Hey There Delilah". It's a bland, inoffensive song that even your grandmother would like. Hey, kind of like Sam himself. The equivalent of eating crackers or white bread or chicken broth. Love or hate Malaya, you can't say she is ever boring or bland. Sam has no emotion in his voice, no sign of life behind his voice - it's so wooden I can't stand it. Moving on...

6. Jessica Meuse - "Rihannon" A-

I hear a hint of subversiveness in this performance and I absolutely love it. Her performances have been a little bit generic, a little bit Stevie Nicks-lite and I am glad to hear her gain some of her intensity back. Interesting that she does so on such a whispy song.

7. C.J. Harris - "If It Hadn't Been For Love" C+

A lot of grit in C.J.'s voice - and just a bit too much to be appealing. I like hearing songs on Idol that I haven't heard before, but the affect in his voice is distracting and prevents me from enjoying this performance like I wanted to. On repeat listens, much like Majesty's performance, it doesn't quite hold up.

8. Caleb Johnson - "Dazed & Confused" A+

Caleb is an absolute tour-de-force. There is no other way to describe him. In a season where a lot of the contestants seem to be sleepwalking through their performances (C.J., Sam, Dexter, even Jessica), Caleb "brings it" every time. I love the way he interacted with the band, I love his stage presence, his persona, that rock star, Grade A Caliber quality he brings to the show.

9. Jena Irene - "Bring Me To Life" A

Jena is the only one who could have followed Caleb after his amazing performance. I love the physicality of her performance, how she commits herself 100%. I love how mature she is beyond her years, her amazing songwriter ability, and her extremely unique and identifiable voice. She played off the band as well, embracing the theme of the week. There was such a beautiful, unexpected, brief moment in the middle of the song where she slowed the song down with only a piano for accompaniment. She is truly one to watch.

Best of the night: Caleb
Worst of the night:  CJ