American Idol 2014 Top 9 recap – Where the bands are

top nine

Top nine time! We’ve hit the middle of the Idol season, which kind of drags on like July of the baseball season. But we must trudge through so we can boil this thing down to a top five at some point, which is about when the excitement ratchets back up.

But first, we need to officially bid adieu to San Francisco’s M.K. Nobilette.  Which is fine.  I don’t have much else to say here.

This week’s theme was “Oh, We Don’t Really Care Anymore, So Just Pick Any Song You Want To Sing, But We Are Going To Move The Whole Band Out Of The Shadows And On To The Stage With You So, You Know, That’s Kind Of A Theme, Right?”  Or something like that.  Seriously, Idol, why are you even pretending that you still have themes? On with the show! In order of performance…

ALEX PRESTON “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt – I knew something was wrong when Alex was slotted in the opening spot (the show hasn’t opened strong much this year).  This wasn’t awful, I’ve just come to expect greatness from Alex, and this wasn’t. Instead, he kind of smooth jazzed and Jason Mraz’d the bajeebers out of this song, and it didn’t work.  It was vocally and technically fine, just not interesting.  Keith felt me.  And so did J-Lo.  Harry was feeling Alex’s ankles.  And then he ran off with one of Ryan’s shoes.

MAJESTY ROSE “Shake It Out” by Florence and The Machine – First thing’s first; does anybody else feel compelled to start singing Neil Diamond’s “America” during the vocal “oh-0h-oh-oh”‘s that play at the end of this song?  Is it just me?  Okay – back to Majesty.  I liked this!  I think a lot.  She performed with energy and ease, even when the vocals weren’t great.  The slight vocal gap was easily bridged by her confident enthusiasm.  I got a cool, Emile Sande vibe from Majesty on this.

DEXTER ROBERTS “Boondocks” by Little Big Town – Dexter the Dud’s greatest strength is his ability to pick familiar, country anthems.  It gets the crowd excited and, at least for a moment, makes them miss how uninteresting he is.  But, in case the audience misses it, the judges and I are here to drive home the point that this guy is nothing more than a passable country-bar, cover-band leader. In fact, it should be noted that, following Dexter the Dud’s performance, the judges were more interested in Harry’s giant gummy bear than they were in critiquing number.  And no, Keith, it wouldn’t have been a hit if we weren’t already familiar with the Little Big Town version.

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MALAYA WATSON “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles – I didn’t get this song choice.  As usual, Malaya’s voice was quite lovely. Still, as she rolled out this song, I felt it was kind of a miss.  BUT – as the performance progressed, she convinced me that I was wrong!  She moved toward the front of the stage and demanded that I take her singing of this song seriously.  And I did!  It’s a testament to her charisma and growing artistry.

SAM WOOLF “Hey There Delilah” by The Plain White T’s – As we’ve already come to understand, Sam has just one expression.  It’s a kind of emotionless brood.  I’ve given it some thought, and I think I’ve figured out what the perfect song for Sam would be – “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak.  That song would blend into Sam’s one expression perfectly.  Unfortunately, “Delilah” didn’t.  J-Lo’s comment was perfect – Sam needs to imagine who he is singing this song to so he can make an emotional connection.  But, as we’ve been establishing all season long, emotional connection is not in Sam’s performance tool belt.

JESSICA MEUSE “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac – This was a great song choice for Jessica.  But, as is usually the situation with her, the whole thing just fell a little short of great.  Her voice was solid, but she still looks kind of uncomfortable.  Maybe she’s played on her own for so long that she can’t figure out how to do the whole band thing.  It’s so frustrating because she feels like she has her toes right on the line she needs to cross to start dominating this competition, but keeps her heals placed in the middle of the pack. As the pack keeps thinning, we’re going to start running out of middle.

C.J. HARRIS “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by The Steel Drivers – What a cool song! I thought this was a great performance.  The judges disagreed with me.  Yes, he was occasionally flat, but his passion made us forget.  Yes, the song was not familiar, but that worked to C.J.’s favor (contrary to J-Lo’s opinion), giving us a glimpse of what I think would be his style and sound as an artist.

CALEB JOHNSON “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin – Wow. When I heard “Dazed and Confused” I thought maybe Ryan misspoke.  But Meatloaf, er, Caleb sang and performed like he belongs onstage.  And, most importantly, Ricky Miner and the band made this psychedelic blues number explode with appropriate ferocity. I think Caleb just earned his first win of the season.

JENA IRENE “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence – Jena is so seasoned on stage, I always have to remind myself that she is only 17.  This song fit her well, and she made the most of it.  I don’t think it was as good as Caleb, but it was much closer than I thought it would be.  J-Lo did make a good point about Jena’s need to let go just a little more on a number like this.  Still, this keeps Jena firmly in the top five power ranking.

I had a really tough time ranking the top nine this week.  The top three was easy, then it was tricky.  But I’m comfortable with where I landed.  Here’s my order:

  1. CALEB JOHNSON
  2. JENA IRENE
  3. MALAYA WATSON
  4. C.J. HARRIS
  5. MAJESTY ROSE
  6. ALEX PRESTON
  7. JESSICA MEUSE
  8. SAM WOOLF
  9. DEXTER ROBERTS

Sam and Dexter the Dud are the only two I want to put in the bottom three. Jessica has managed to mostly avoid the bottom three, but we’re getting to that point where our bottom is dropping out, making the middle vulnerable.  Despite what I think was a strong performance, Majesty runs the risk of another bottom three vote simply because she has been landing there regularly. Much of it will depend on where MK’s voters land. And that may just benefit Majesty. My gut says she saved herself and either Sam or Dexter are going home.  But that may just be wishful thinking.

With Alex’s forgettable performance, I have adjusted my power rankings accordingly.

TOP 5 POWER RANKINGS

  1. CALEB JOHNSON
  2. ALEX PRESTON
  3. MALAYA WATSON
  4. JENA IRENE
  5. C.J. HARRIS

 

 

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~ by themattmorrisshow on March 27, 2014.

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