The American Idol 13 Top 6 will perform TWO songs tonight. First, a rock song, followed by a set of country tunes. We’ll be live blogging a big night of performances right here!
Tonight was a mixed bag of performances that ran from the great (Jessica Meuse, Caleb Johnson) to the not so great (CJ Harris). It may finally be CJ’s time to go. Finally. I think. If we have to lose someone else, I say Sam Woolf, who is improving, but not fast enough to be a dark horse. While his interpretations of both songs had issues, his vocals were strong.
Jena Irene dropped back a little bit this week.She seemed off her game in both songs. “Barracuda” had some awkward moments, and was karaoke in a way we aren’t used to from Jena. She just seemed off in “So Small,” although vocally, there were some really strong moments. I don’t think she has to worry at ALL about being knocked off her perch, though.
Caleb Johnson continues to be the reliable entertainer he always is. He’s just breezing through this competition. He makes it look effortless.
I give Alex Preston props for bravely stepping out of his box to take on the rocker persona in “Animal.” Now that’s he’s tried it, he needs to open the lid and get back in. His vocals were so breathless, it’s obvious he’s not used to moving around so much on stage. He was back in his element with a sweet and affecting rendition of “You Were Always on My Mind” in the country portion of the show.
And we come to Jess Meuse, who gave the judges what for tonight. The panel was obviously aware of the commotion their harsh critiques of Jessica last week caused online–and how unhappy she was–because they felt the need to re-explain last week’s notes in her critique. Their comments were also extremely generous, as if to say, “Bus? WHAT BUS. We don’t even know how to drive one!” They didn’t need to soft pedal. Jess came back this week raring to go, and she delivered one very good performance (“Somebody to Love”) and one GREAT one (“Jolene”)
The big star of tonight’s show was, however GRUMPY THE CAT! Heh. Still too many judges antics. It’s as if they pass a jar of adderall right before the show begins. EVERYONE NEEDS TO CALM DOWN. I just want to hear some sangin.
Oh. Now they’re labeling the remaining contestants! Sam is The Heartthrob, Jessica is THE REBEL, CJ is The Roots Rocker, Alex – The Troubadour and Jena – The Wildcard. What was Caleb? I’ll have to pick that up on the second pass.
The band is on stage tonight. As they ALWAYS SHOULD BE. Twelve performances means less stupid judges antics. THANK YOU JEEBUS. Jlo is super SHINY tonight. She sings a little snip of “a little bit couuuuntry.”
The video packages are little mini recaps of the Idol’s journey.
Jena Irene – Barracuda by Heart – There’s something about her phrasing that makes her words disappear. I think she needs to work on her breathing. Especially when she has to move around the stage. She has some strong vocal moments in this song, and is working the stage pretty well. She doesn’t re-arrange the song AT ALL, making it one of her more karaoke performances. I like it when she switches things up. Nice duet work with the backup singer that’s not Allison. Keith says she really set the bar high for everyone else. He thinks she can cut loose even more. Jena says she’s a little tense. She hates opening the show. Jlo says she has a real chance to get to the finale. They’re really pimping her with the “you could win” edit! Harry admires her strong voice. He advises her to think about what she can do before she hits the stage. They’re actually giving her some good constructive criticism. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 08 (1 855 443 6508) or Text 08 to 83676 - Download at iTunes
R5. whoever they are–some new boyband–are in the house. Random pimping is still random.
Sam Woolf – It’s Time by Imagine Dragons – Sam is still weird and stiff, but his intonation and phrasing is very good on this song. He’s singing with authority. He still looks really uncomfortable, though, as if he can’t wait to bolt the stage. Or that he needs to take a pee. The judges give the girls a few minutes to scream before they speak. Jlo, inexplicably, got goosies on that. What? She believed him. Oh, c’mon. Jlo says he came into his own with this performance. Harry thought it was a great song for him. He’s adding layers to his performance, says Harry. Blossoming. Keith said when he sang the high note, he felt it. He advises him to tap into his pain. Haven’t I been saying that? A few years of therapy, and he’ll be ready. I think he is improving, but by increments. Sam just celebrated his 18th birthday. They had cupcakes. Call 1 855 4 IDOL 12(1 855 443 6512) or Text 12 to 83676
Oh. Still too many antics tonight. Ryan goofing around on drums isn’t that amusing.
CJ Harris – American Woman by Guess Who – This is just OK. CJ doesn’t really pull off the angry rocker thing. He’s a heartfelt guy, full of soul. He sounds constipated rather than pissed off. And the faces. And still the pitchyness. Harry felt it was a good performance. He likes the cry in his voice. He brings up the pitchy thing. “Pretty good CJ.” Hm. Harry going a little easy on him. CJ doesn’t seem comfortable with the choice. Keith brings up the disconnect in his performance. He suggests he pull the emotion from somewhere else. Jlo loves the look. She thinks he pulled it off. It came together at the end. Poor CJ is a ball of nerves tonight. – Call 1 855 4 IDOL 05(1 855 443 6505) or Text 5 to 83676 – Download at iTunes
Alex Preston – Animal by Neon Trees – Alex is getting the Red Room treatment. Jeff Buckley and Jason Mraz are big influences he says in answer to a fan question. Oh. Look at Alex with his electric guitar kinda sorta rocking out! I was hoping he wouldn’t wuss out and re-arrange it into some weird thing. This isn’t his style at all, but he’s giving it the old college try. He’s having some breath issues, with a few bobbles here and there. A solid effort from Alex, if not spectacularly original. Judges feedback after the break! Keith wanted him to release a little more. Jlo was expecting more, it was a little contained. Harry thinks he gets a pass because he’s so good all the time. I don’t know about that! He notices that he couldn’t get his breath (Yep). Call 1 855 4 IDOL 09(1 855 443 6509) or Text 9 to 83676 -Download at iTunes
Randy, back in the lounge, thinks we hit “a few soft spots,” but things are about to pick up with Caleb.
Caleb Johnson – Sting Me by Black Crows – Caleb is in his element. The singer is like a sturdy old workhorse. Week in and week out, he usually delivers. Tonight is no exception. Finally, a contestant brings some real rock n roll spirit to the stage. Great vocal. Unlike the performances that came before him, he makes it look effortless. He hits a major high note at the end. He drops his microphone and falls to his knees to grab it! Good thing it happened during the drum solo. Heh. He riffs off the band like the natural showman that he is. Jlo gives him a standing O. Jlo calls it some “real rock n roll.” She was impressed with the way he caught his microphone. He created a moment, she says. Harry says the performance was virtually impossible to beat. Randy loved that he was reckless and wild. – Call 1 855 4 IDOL 13(1 855 443 6513) or Text 13 to 83676 – Download at iTunes
Jessica Meuse – Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane – Jess NOT working the stage this week, although this is a song that kinda calls for it. She’s playing acoustic guitar. This performance is a little…inert? Although I’m digging the raspy growl she brings to her interpretation. She’s vocally strong this week. But she seemed a little tentative on stage tonight. Harry thought it was really strong. Harry, to clarify what he said to her last week, says she needs to stand and deliver rhythmically and powerfully. He wanted her body to embody the rhythm. Keith thought it was vocally strong. He still looking for a little more release. Jlo says there needs to be a freedom to a performance. “It has to feel like you’re feeling it.” The energy of her body has to match what’s coming out of her mouth, says Jlo. – Call 1 855 4 IDOL 10 (1 855 443 6510) or Text 10 to 83676
Sam Woolf – You’re Still the One by Shania Twain – His vocal is sturdy and strong, but he’s missing tenderness in his delivery. It’s so obvious that he hasn’t experienced what he’s singing about in his young life. He travels to the bottom of the stage to sing to the girls. A little awkward. This kid has so much living he needs to do before he comes into his own. Keith loves the song. He advises him to relax more. Jlo says he’s so cute, it’s crazy. It was a good song for him, he sang it well. Harry says not to sing it so perfectly. He needs to work with dynamics. That’s exactly right. His phrasing was rigid, as if he were singing it phonetically. – Download at iTunes
GRUMPY CAT IN THE HOUSE. He has the most personality of all of them. j/k. “I haven’t seen a face this grumpy since Simon was on the show with me,” says Ryan. Badabump.
Caleb Johnson – Undo It by Carrie Underwood – His rendition is more of a rock song than a country song. But then, so is Carrie’s original, kinda. I bet she’d dig this if she heard it! Caleb is killing it tonight. Although, it would have been braver if he’d approached a country song with a country vibe. Hey. It’s his birthday today! He’s 23. Jlo thought he did a great job with the song. But it’s hard to top his earlier performance. Harry agrees that the magic happened on the first song. This felt a little forced. Keith thought it was great. “I can’t wait to hear what country song you do later.” Ohhh. Was that some shade?
Alex Preston – Always On My Mind by Willie Nelson – Alex is back in his element. He sings with only his acoustic guitar to start, and it’s lovely. Beautiful phrasing. A very plaintive and sweet interpretation. He does a couple of unexpected things with his falsetto at the end. He made it totally his own. Nice. Harry feels lucky to have heard him do that in the competition. “You’re an artist,” says Harry. “You did a terrific job.” Keith always knows it’s him. He would have liked a little more heartbreak in his interpretation. Jlo thought it was beautiful. She liked that he didn’t take it too far away from the original (Like “Every Breath You Take).
Jena Irene – So Small by Carrie Underwood – Carrie is one of her inspirations. Jena should have played piano on this song. Is Keith going to make fun of her? She’s doesn’t sound very country, although there is a little steel guitar in the background. She’s having a few pitch problems here and there. Although her voice is strong, and she has some fine moments, there’s something here that feels off. Jena admits that she messed up. Keith thinks she’s a great singer. He says she gets better and better and better every week. Jlo says the power of the vocal took her away. More goosies. Harry didn’t know where she was going and didn’t like the way she ornamented the song. It didn’t work for him, but he doesn’t think it will matter for her. Nobody asked Jena what she meant about messing up? Not even Seacrest? They really are pimping her. ETA: I thought Jena had some timing issues, so I relistened. It wasn’t that. She had some pitch issues, and the phrasing was different than what I’m used to. Again, she had some strong vocal moments, but I didn’t fall in love with what she did with the melody.
CJ Harris – Whatever It Is by Zac Brown Band – I wish CJ had picked a song with more emotional heft. But this was pleasant enough. But a great competition song? Nope. Jlo expected a tiny bit more from him. Harry didn’t think it was his best performance. He needs to find things that will kill. A medium tempo song isn’t good enough (EXACTLY) Keith agrees, that he has to choose songs wisely. He felt the melody pulled him down. He dedicates the song to a girl that passed away back home.
Jessica Meuse – Jolene by Dolly Parton – No dead eyes here. Strong, strong vocal from Jess.You can hear the pain and pleading in her voice. I love the little breaks she takes in the phrasing. She even breaks out a little yodel. She ends on a really super cool minor note. One of her best. Harry felt she delivered it in a strong and convincing way. Keith hated the arrangement. He didn’t think it needed the dark arrangement. Jlo felt like she took their advice and applied it to her second song. Yeah, I understand why Keith didn’t like it. It was more White Stripes than Dolly, But I LOVED it. The changes she made to the tempo really packed a punch. Download at iTunes