American Idol 2014 – Yes, I’m doing this again

American Idol top 13, Fox

American Idol top 13, Fox

By this point, I don’t know that I need to defend my enjoyment of American Idol.  Been there, done that.  And while the ratings have dipped of late, it is still the best show of its kind on television in terms of producing legitimate pop-artists.  In five seasons of The Voice, despite the show’s ratings success, only one singer has registered a top 10 single.  And three seasons of X-Factor have gone almost completely unnoticed.  Those shows seem more like a vehicle for celebrity judge notoriety than developing talent, a trap I think Idol kind of fell into last season.

And speaking of last season, I need to address my tens of readers who have enjoyed my recaps in the past:  I apologize for quitting on you last year.

In truth, it kind of felt like the show quit on us, and I just threw my hands up and said “fine”.  I stopped recapping the show because it was painfully uninteresting.  2013 was a rough year for Idol.  Candice Glover won in the most predictable, horribly judged, and manipulated season in the history of the program.  Right from the start of last season, the promotions made it clear that they wanted a female winner after five straight WGWG champions (that’s “white guy with guitar”, for the uninitiated).  Then, they stacked the finals contestants with strong female talent and weak male talent (with no guitar in sight), to the point that we just had to suffer through the first five weeks of voting until all five of the guys had been picked off, leaving only the girls to decide who would be the first woman champion in six years (shocker!).  The producers must have also decided that they wanted a teen pop queen to promote, because midway through the season, the worthless panel of judges suddenly couldn’t stop gushing about Angie and Amber, the two fresh-faced, 18 year-old contestants, despite the fact that Candice and Kree Harrison (horribly old at 22 and 23) had CLEARLY established themselves as the best talents in the competition.  Thankfully, America wasn’t buying this manipulation, and Candice and Kree faced each other in the finals, which is about the only positive thing I can remember about last season.

So I had some trepidation heading into this season.  But, I have found the auditions and Hollywood week performances to be judged fair, and the new panel of judges to be competent, with no specific, producer driven, manipulated agenda regarding who ends up winning to be evident so far.  I’ve also found this year’s judging panel, led by first-timer Harry Connick Jr, to be quite entertaining – but in an honest and genuine way.  Connick is the best judge.  He’s honestly critical when needed and not fooled by vocal theatrics. He’s also very funny.  Jennifer Lopez, back after a one year hiatus, is good in the old Paula Abdul role.  Her critiques are more honest and sober than Paula’s were, as she handles the duties of can’t-be-mean judge.  Keith Urban is the only returner from last year (thank god), and has actually gotten better now that he doesn’t have to deal with mess of last year’s panel.

So, with all of that having been said, let’s talk about tonight’s performances and discuss this season’s contestants.  The theme tonight was Song That Truly Defines Me As An Artist And Also As A Person, or some such nonsense.  Here we go, in order of performances…

DEXTER ROBERTS “Aw Naw” by Chris Young – Honestly, this could have been any modern country song.  It was forgettable karaoke.  Decent voice, no performance.  In fact, Dexter’s Mom’s hair outperformed him tonight.  The judges also called him on his lack of personality, assuring him that he has it, he just needs to show it.  They also told him that last week.  I think maybe they are giving him more personality credit than he deserves.  My wife called him “Dexter the Dud”.  So he shall be.

(I’m listening to an 80’s channel on DirecTV as I write this.  LL Cool J’s “Goin’ Back To Cali” just came on.  First, none of us here call it “Cali”.  Second, I want to see someone cover this on Idol)

MALAYA WATSON  “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars – I really like this song and thought the energy was a good fit for the delightfully spastic Malaya.  And while she was indeed fun to watch, she was vocally flat.  Still, she’s only 16 (Sixteen!!!), and this show is “about learning and growing”, as Keith put it.  Me and the wifey like Malaya a lot.  She reminds us of our Niece, Morgan.  She’s cute, fun, kinda crazy, and Malaya even moves like her.  And Morgan is a great singer, like I believe Malaya will prove to be as well.

(Cindy Lauper’s “I Drove All Night” is on now – such a great and underrated song.  Let’s put Lauper in a judges seat next season!)

KRISTIN O’CONNER “Beautiful Disaster” by Kelly Clarkson – As Dexter the Dud was for the boys, Kristin is for the girls.  She’s the one female I would have swapped out for someone else.  And this performance didn’t do anything to change my mind.  This was the first ballad of the night, which I initially thought might work in her favor after two kinda mediocre rockers.  I thought wrong.

(80’s channel is playing “With or Without You” – with please!)

BEN BRILEY “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash – This was the first performance of the night that worked.  Briley is so much more authentic than Dexter the Dud and deserves to be around for a while.  Eventually, one of these guys is going to cancel the other out, and Briley deserves to stay.  Harry thought the performance was too fast and bordered on kitsch.  I usually agree with Harry’s critiques, but I think he was completely wrong here.  I loved the frantic pace and saw nothing kitschy about it.  Keith and J-Lo agreed with me.  I feel okay putting it that way, since I said it before they did while watching.

(Blue Oyster Cult, “Burnin’ For You” – this would actually be a great song for Briley if they ever do a BOC theme on Idol.  “Godzilla”, anyone?)

C.J. HARRIS “Radio” by Darius Rucker – Harris was one of my favorites from the tryout rounds.  But while this was a solid and capable performance, I prefer my C.J. a little more and bluesy and smoldery.  Harry also missed “the cry” in his voice.  But his brother and girlfriend were sure having a good time!    Harris should be safe this week, but if he keeps playing it straight-country, he runs the risk of getting drowned out by Ben Briley and Dexter the Dud.

MK NOBILLETTE “Satisfaction” by Allen Stone – First, an admission; I didn’t get MK.  I didn’t understand why the judges gushed over her during all of the tryout phases.  And it wasn’t just the judges – I’ve read very complimentary things about others who review the show.  What I’ve seen up to this point was a decent voice and zero charisma.  But tonight?  Well, I kinda got it.  This was a solid song choice and she sang it really well.  But this was a missed opportunity for me.  With just a little more confidence, she could have created a memorable high point.  Instead, it was the best vocal to this point in the show, paired with a bland performance.  But it should move her safely into next week.

MAJESTY ROSE “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae – Outstanding song choice.  But did they import an old audience from Hee-Haw for this song?  Come on, people!  Clapping on the wrong beat, really?!  You are better than that!!!  So painful.  But not painful enough to take away from this great performance.  Majesty is another one of our favorites, and she delivered tonight in every way.

(In case you’re wondering, it’s Julian Lennon’s “Too Late for Goodbye”.  I don’t need this song to be performed on Idol.  Ever.)

JENA IRENE “The Scientist” by Coldplay – This whole performance just felt awkward.  I think she would have been better served sitting at the piano.  Harry thought she captured the emotion of the song, but I completely disagree.  And Mrs. Morris backs me up on that.  Good voice, but a swing and a miss on emotional connection.  None of that matters, though, as long as Ryan is able to deliver to us the meaning of the song’s title on his mobile device.  I actually didn’t know why it was called “The Scientist”.  Turns out, it’s being sung from the perspective of a scientist.  Huh.  A thing like that.

ALEX PRESTON “Beautiful Mess” by Jason Mraz – Preston always looks uncomfortable, and the Capri pants weren’t helping tonight.  But lo and behold, the uncomfortable Mr. Preston showed up and delivered the first stunner of the show.  Great song choice, beautiful performance.  I was captivated by the intimacy of this.  And again, strangely, I disagreed with Harry who thought Alex was out of tune and disconnected.  Keith and I found the opposite to be true, and we’re right.  This was my favorite moment of the night.

(I’ve switched to the 60’s channel.  It’s “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris.  When is Idol going to do Instrumental Night?)

JESSICA MEUSE “The Crow and The Butterfly” by Shinedown – Wow.  I was not expecting this.  I do not remember Jessica as a rocker.  But this suited her really well.  A really strong vocal gave J-Lo her only goosies of the night, and I like my J-Lo with goosies.  The performance was a little stiff, but the vocal was among the best of the night putting Jessica in the top-tier this week.  Outside of that, does Jessica come off a little too cool for school?  Is it just me?  Keep on eye on that.  It could cost her votes later.

EMILY PIRIZ “Glitter In The Air” by Pink – Just lovely.  I didn’t want this to end, I just wanted to keep listening to Emily sing this.  It’s funny, because I honestly did not remember Emily Piriz at all when she was being introduced.  I obviously had seen her, but had no idea what to expect.  It was a beautifully performed ballad, and the judges couldn’t say much else besides “great job”.  Well, Keith encouraged her to be sure and show us the yang with the ying, but I thought the ying was just fine tonight.

(Apparently, Tommy James and the Shondells recorded a song called “Sweet Cherry Wine” back in the 60’s.  I’m listening to it now, which is inspiring me  to push for a Songs About Alcohol theme night on Idol.)

SAM WOOLF “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty – Yawn.  This is one of my wife’s favorite songs.  When she reads that last sentence, she will probably throw up a little.  In truth, Matchbox Twenty is nobody’s favorite band, and Natalie is especially not a fan.  It was probably unwell for Sammy Joe Woolf to choose this song tonight, also.  It was ordinary and forgettable.  Uninspired.  J-Lo said Sam is like a quiet storm.  Like smooth jazz?  Well, he was all quiet and no storm tonight.  But little girls love him so he should be safe for next week.

CALEB JOHNSON “Pressure In Time” by Rival Sons – Caleb dons his “next Meatloaf” persona and brings to show to a rocking close.  There were lots of pistons manly firing manly behind him and…Hey!  It’s Taylor Hicks!  Soul Patrol!!!!  Apparently, he’s never left the Idol studio!  He just lurks around in the dark and pops his head out occasionally during shows!  Well, now I can’t concentrate on Meatloaf – er – Caleb.  But what I think I’m hearing and seeing is a strong vocal, great performance, a song I don’t care for, but one that works really well for our rocker.  Top tier performance.

Soul Patrol!!!

It should also be noted that Randy Jackson, in his new role as guru of bad advice, was present tonight.  As each performer took to the stage, a message from Coach Randy appeared in the bottom right of the screen.  But because the sound mix was so bad, I couldn’t hear anything he had to say.  And so, more appropriately, Jackson’s greatest contribution was cutaway shots to him in the singer’s lounge, nodding a kind of creepy approval after each performance.  Well done, dawg.

Here is how I would rank the contestants, based solely on Wednesday night’s performance:

  1. ALEX PRESTON
  2. EMILY PIRIZ
  3. CALEB JOHNSON
  4. MAJESTY ROSE
  5. JESSICA MEUSE
  6. BEN BRILEY
  7. MK NOBILETTE
  8. C.J. HARRIS
  9. MALAYA WATSON
  10. JENA IRENE
  11. DEXTER ROBERTS
  12. SAM WOOLF
  13. KRISTIN O’CONNER

Woolf will get the little girl vote and be safe.  Despite my ranking, I worry that C.J. may be vulnerable since he didn’t get the fan vote last week and he may get canceled out by Briley and Dexter the Dud.  But O’Conner earned an early exit this week.

What say you, Idol watchers?

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~ by themattmorrisshow on February 27, 2014.

2 Responses to “American Idol 2014 – Yes, I’m doing this again”

  1. Again I think your critique is spot on.
    However , MK I think has a beautiful voice . I didn’t remember her at all until I heard her sing a ballad which I liked better than last night. Must be my lack of interest in the song she did perform.
    I do wish Emily would have been able to sing the entire song she did terrific ! She’s top on my favorites.
    Jessica seems older , bet it comes from hard knocks through life but I really like her. She needs to loosen up though, doesn’t look like she’s having fun but she seems the serious type. I’m sure the pressures of the show don’t help that . She’s already in survivor mode mentally (this meaning she wants to win, starving artist, but will not ever give up in life no matter what)
    Malaya is great.
    And Caleb (Meatloaf ! I said the same thing last night) I remember him but not his performances in previous seasons so I have to say what a change! He’s found his rocker calling. Needs to be careful of looking too arrogant tho.
    I think this year is already starting out sooo much better than last year.
    I almost didn’t tune in because of that mess.
    Also I loved “sweet cherry wine” 😜

    • Yes – waaaaaaay better than last year. The biggest difference is that there was such a huge chasm in terms of quality of talent, that it wasn’t at all compelling. This year, you can already see that some of the artists who didn’t perform well last night have the potential to turn it around and rise toward the upper tier next week. That makes for an unpredictable and very entertaining competition.

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