American Idol 2014 top 11 recap – Return of the contestants!

American Idol’s Top 11 – Fox Television

To be honest, as last night’s show started, I was still shaking off the two hours of sub-mediocrity that I sat through a week earlier. It actually left me a little scared as this week’s show began (especially after the first performance).  And J-Lo’s Pepto Bismol outfit didn’t encourage me.  But before we get into all of that, we have to say goodbye to last week’s receiver of fewest votes.

Emily Piriz went home last week, and a little too soon for me.  Granted, her performance was not good, but I could say the same for almost every contestant last week.  In week one, Emily was among the best, so I felt she deserved a pass.  American disagreed.  Stupid America.  Still, I don’t think she was ever going to win this thing, so I can live with her early exit.  And the judges agreed, though not unanimously (Jen, do you understand that you can’t save everyone who gets voted out?).  Bye-bye, Emily.

So, with a spot on the summer tour on the line, the top eleven tackled the theme of “Songs Of The Cinema – That Is, Songs That Are From Movies, Or Have At Least Appeared In A Movie At Sometime Or Another” or something like that.  Essentially, much like the last two weeks, it boiled down to “just pick a song you like and we’ll figure out when it appeared in a movie”.  Thankfully, this week’s overall impression was good, with many strong performances.  I am also happy to report that clapping was not a distraction last night.  In fact, clapping was mostly non-existent.  I will assume that the show’s producers are among my tens of readers, read my blog post last week, and promptly took action. And with that settled, let’s review last night’s contestants, in order of performance…

SAM WOOLF “Come Together” by The Beatles (from Across The Universe) – Sam delivered a perfectly decent vocal. Unfortunately, this was a televised performance. This song demands to be sung with attitude and Sam doesn’t know how to do that. He continues to perform with the same vacant expression, and demonstrated last night that he has no idea how to command the stage. I get it – he’s young and needs to develop. But that’s why he can’t win this competition – it won’t develop soon enough for him.

JESSICA MEUSE “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel (from The Graduate) – This is the second week in a row that I thought Jessica missed on an opportunity to blow the show away with a stand-out performance.  It wasn’t all her fault – the band really dropped the ball on this one.  But she should have asked for a more stripped down accompaniment to begin with.  the first part of the song, when Jessica performed alone with the guitar, I thought was really good.  Once the band kicked awkwardly in, Jessica kind of fell apart.  Harry complimented her on playing through it, but I thought she could have been better even with the gaff.  J-Lo says she thinks Jessica can still win it.  I used to, but I’m not sure anymore.

So, after the first two performers, we were more or less continuing on from where we left off last week – right in the middle of Mediocreville.  And beads of nervous sweat were starting to form on my forehead.  But wait, what’s that I hear on the horizon….

CJ HARRIS “”Can’t You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band (from Blow) – Yes!!!  This is the CJ I have been waiting for all season!!!  A fantastic song choice and an A+ performance from this BGWG (see what I did there).  This is the kind of music I hear Harris making post-Idol.  He sang with passion and intensity and looked like he absolutely belonged.  J-Lo couldn’t stop moving (which is good, because I’m pretty sure you are supposed to shake up the Pepto before consuming it, let alone wearing it).  This was the first GREAT performance on Idol in two weeks.

DEXTER ROBERTS “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (from Forrest Gump) – Dexter the Dud predictably rolls out this likable and uber-familiar anthem to his home state.  He then dudded it up with a perfectly adequate performance.  Harry told him, essentially, that he keeps making smart choices with songs that his audience will know and like and he keeps performing them competently.  But that wasn’t a compliment (though it may have been taken that way).  What I think he’s saying is, this is a smart tactic because it will keep you in the competition for a while, but you can’t win that way.  At some point, Dexter has to become an artist.  So far, he’s been nothing more than a strong performer of country karaoke.  He looked good last week because everyone else was so bad.  But this week, with several really strong performances, Dexter is just another face in the crowd.

BEN BRILEY “Bennie and The Jets” by Sir Elton John (from 27 Dresses, allegedly) – *sigh* This one is tough for me.  I will start by saying that the judges pretty uniformly panned the performance.  But I kind of liked it.  I liked that he took on something out of his country-comfort zone.  I like that he kind of jazzed up the first half of the song rather than, as Harry pointed out, hammer the keyboards like Elton does on this song.  But I get it – it was uneven and kind of weird at times.  I think I like Ben because he is an entertainer, not just a guy trying to stand (or sit) and sing as perfectly as possible.  At one point, he kind of reminded me of Casey Abrams from a couple of seasons ago.  I thought Casey was great!  But Casey went home early.  Twice (the judges used their save on him that year).  Hmm.  Maybe it’s a me-thing.

MAJESTY ROSE “Let It Go” by Adele Dazim (from Frozen) – Conversely to Ben Briley’s performance, the judges liked this much better than I did.  Don’t get me wrong – I like it!  I just didn’t love it.  Vocally, the song kind of got the best of her.  But I did enjoy the way Majesty pranced around the stage kind of pixie-like. Truthfully, it all felt a little to musical theater for me, which is not what I want to see on Idol.  It probably doesn’t help that we’ve also seen and heard this song performed amazingly by Dazim so much recently (Oscars, Tonight Show, etc.).  But while she’s no Adele Dazim, I like Majesty. And I think she should pass through easily to the top ten.

CALEB JOHNSON “Skyfall” by Adele (from Skyfall) – I felt like this should have been better than it was.  I also feel like I type those words a lot regarding Caleb.  BUT – he demonstrated an incredible voice, a solid performance, and an interesting song choice that worked for Meatloaf, er, Caleb.  Easily top-tier, but still not going to be number one.  One of these weeks, I need to see a number one performance from Caleb.

MK NOBILETTE “To Make You Feel My Love” by Garth Brooks (from Hope Floats) – First thing’s first; this is a Bob Dylan song.  Brooks’ version appears in the reference movie to fit with this week’s theme.  Okay, just needed to get that off my chest.  Now, as for MK – pretty good!  This was easily her best overall performance.  I was ready to send her home last week.  And while this doesn’t change my mind that she earned last week’s chop instead of Piriz, I’m glad I got to see this great performance.  In addition to strong voice, this was the most connected and confident I’ve seen MK be.  Well done!

ALEX PRESTON “Falling Slowly” by Swell Season (from Once) – Great song choice for Alex and beautifully delivered performance.  This reminded me of week one Alex, and helped me forget about week two Alex.  This is the Alex that I think has the potential to win this competition.  It was simple, elegant, and wonderful.  Now, at some point, he is probably going to have to demonstrate that he can also captivate with something more energetic.  But for now, quiet balladeer Alex is a winner.

JENA IRENE “Decode” by Paramore (from one of the Twilight movies – I don’t care which one) – Fantastic.  I love Jena’s big voice.  This is the first time I felt the song choice really worked for her.  And man, did it work.  She can sing powerfully, but also enter into delicate moments within the song give it and her a depth that will stand out if she continues to make these kind of song choices. Like CJ, I have been waiting for the moment when Jena explodes with something great.  The wait is over, and I hope it is the start of a trend for both of these contestants.

MALAYA WATSON  “I Am Changing” by Jennifer Hudson (from Dreamgirls) – This is the exact right kind of song to help contain Malaya’s spaz-mode, while channeling that energy into a strong vocal.  This was not perfect, nor was it the best performance of the night, but it was confident and powerful.  And a lot of fun to watch! Back to back great performances for Malaya put her easily in the top-tier of contention for this year’s Idol title.

All in all, this was a really strong night, save possibly for this moment:

Last week’s carnage is forgotten.  And, as I see it, this is how the eleven performances ranked:

  1. CJ HARRIS
  2. JENA IRENE
  3. ALEX PRESTON
  4. MALAYA WATSON
  5. CALEB JOHNSON
  6. MK NOBILETTE
  7. MAJESTY ROSE
  8. BEN BRILEY
  9. DEXTER ROBERTS
  10. JESSICA MEUSE
  11. SAM WOOLF

I wavered between Jessica and Sam as far as who should be ranked last.  Half of Jessica’s performance was actually very good.  Then the band came in and started kicking things around and it all went off the rails.  I’m going to give her a pass because of that.  But given that 15 year old girls are in love with Sam, America’s vote may not be so kind to Jessica. Personally, I would rather see Sam or Dexter go, because I think we’ve seem them be as good as they are going to be, and it’s not good enough. I still believe Jessica is capable of something extraordinary that we just haven’t seen yet.  And if I am being completely honest, removing myself from all of my own bias, I think Ben Briley might be in danger of getting cut from the summer tour tonight.  And that’s a shame, because I know he would at least be entertaining.  Sam and Dexter the Dud?  Not so much.

What say you?

 

 

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~ by themattmorrisshow on March 13, 2014.

One Response to “American Idol 2014 top 11 recap – Return of the contestants!”

  1. Never even watched who got sent home last week. Disappointed it was Emily tho. I thought she had a lot of potential.
    Have to say I am truly pretty bored with the show.
    Only saw a few so I can’t comment on everyone as of yet.
    Survivor wins out over this show in my house.
    The ones I did see …
    Poor Jessica , it was worse than audiance being off the beat!!
    But still a bit too much whine in there.
    And your right on the nose about her missing her chances of doing much much better. I’m not sure she’s listening to the constructive criticism.
    Caleb sounded great.
    Makala did a great job.
    CJ did a good job better than I thought he would.
    But I’m a marshall tucker fan and sometimes it’s hard to get past original artists sounds.
    Now I will go torture myself and watch the rest of them.

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