American Idol 2014, top 8 recap – It’s the Top 8! Again!

top 8 again

You heard me right – we are trudging through the top 8 for the second week in a row.  Which means…the judges used their save last week!  Wow, it must have been one of the real front-runners that got voted out for the judges to pull that out.  Someone like…Sam Woolf? What?!?

Are you kidding me? Why?! Because he’s cute? Kinda? Because it certainly wasn’t because he has any chance of winning this thing. Majesty, who was voted out a week earlier, had a better chance of winning. Sam was, basically, next on the chopping block. This was not an unexpected vote. He’s been a regular in the bottom three. He ain’t gettin’ any better than what we’ve seen from him. He has made that abundantly clear. I’m not even sure he wanted to be saved. He was the least enthusiastic person on the stage when it was announced. Although, I will say that his sing-for-your-life performance of “Babylon” was the most bright and engaging performance I’ve seen him deliver to date.  It wasn’t save-worthy, but good. I think it’s because he thought he was gone and it was a sense of relief for him. It was the most relaxed I’ve ever seen Sam Woolf.

But it doesn’t matter.  He’s back. And from now on, America’s vote is final. C.J. and Malaya, take note. You were the other two bottom three dwellers last week. Better show up tonight.

Speaking of tonight, the only thing good about keeping Sam around is that we get an extra song for 80’s Week! So, let’s see how it went. In order of performance…

JENA IRENE “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Jena just feels right. She looks and plays the part perfectly. I personally didn’t care for this reinterpretation of an epic and familiar party anthem, but I thought Jena sold it well. And, that was a lot of plaid she was wearing. Harry and J-Lo get what I’m saying. She takes chances and makes you believe in them, even when you don’t really want to.

DEXTER ROBERTS “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” by The Georgia Satellites – David Cook was dolling out some pretty solid advice to Dexter The Dud. And the result? Meh. Again, Dexter the Dud is a master of picking the right songs that are big, fun, crowd pleasers. But, again, he didn’t seem to totally connect. His co-guitar player outshined him. Now, I think this was an improvement over previously missed connections, but not much. Keith encouraged him to do something spontaneous. Then Harry almost kicked him. It made sense.

DUET: ALEX PRESTON & SAM WOOLF “The Girl Is Mine” by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson – This actually sounded really nice when it was just an acoustic performance through the first verse, then the band came in and quiet stormed it all up. Bleh. Still, the two sounded good together (Yes, even Sam). But watching them, I wasn’t sure they how badly they wanted this girl they were fighting over. Sam thanked the judges and America for saving him. Of course, American voted him out, but who’s really paying attention.

MALAYA WATSON “Through The Fire” by Chaka Khan – My wife loves this song. I expected Malaya to kill it. But she kind of just wounded it. I think my problem with Malaya is that, often, she reminds me that she’s just a kid. Sometimes that kind of works, but not on a song like this. My wife is out-of-town, so I can’t give her opinion. I’m going to guess she was disappointed.

DUET: JENA IRENE AND CALEB JOHNSON “It’s Only Love” by Bryan Adams and Tina Turner – I loved this song in high school. These two had fun, and so did Harry. He went into the pit and put a tween-age hand-clapper on his shoulders. I would say this was a pretty even performance, with Jena maybe just slightly out-performing Caleb. Then, Harry walked back on stage with the tween-ager still on his shoulders. She might still be there.

JESSICA MEUSE “Call Me” by Blondie – Wow. Jessica’s name is huge on the stage. I liked this arrangement, with more crunchy guitar than disco keys. Her voice was solid. And I’ll give Jessica credit for making a little more effort to be in the moment, connected to the crowd and the song. Still, she missed it. Harry nailed it (sort of) with his “you need to sing the shuffle and the groove” comment. She just kind of meandered. The day Jessica just let’s go, she will own this competition. But she’s running out of time.

SAM WOOLF “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper – This is the moment! Can Sam earn the judges save? Actually…yeah, he kinda did. He played solo acoustic, with no band accompaniment, and it was really good. He emoted with his voice in a way I haven’t heard before. And while he didn’t transform into Captain Emotion, he was actually kind of expressive. Now, I still don’t think he should have been saved last week, but this was solid. I think the greatest thing to happen to Sam was the “private” pep-talk that David Cook gave him during rehearsals. Maybe, just maybe, something clicked there.

DUET: C.J. HARRIS & MALAYA WATSON “I Knew You Were Waiting” by George Michael and Aretha Franklin – Hmm. This…didn’t work so much. C.J. was a little better than I though he would be on this song, which was clearly out of his wheelhouse, but overall this was forgettable.

ALEX PRESTON “Every Breath You Take” by The Police – In a decade full of iconic songs, this is one of the most, well, iconiciest. And here’s the problem: the song, as originally performed, is dark and brooding, which matches the lyrics which are, contrary to most people’s understanding, kind of sinister. i just heard Harry say the same thing! This is not a love song. Knowing that, this sweet and endearing interpretation was way off. And, if I’m being honest, that kind of bugged me. I think J-Lo, even without getting the original’s intended darkness, got what I meant. But, if you can put the original meaning aside, and allow it as a reinterpreted love song, Alex owned this performance. It was gentle, simple, and wholly endearing. He reinvented a classic and made us glad he did.  BUT – Harry was right about Alex needing to be more of an entertainer. He can’t rely solely on the quiet coffee-house vibe on every song. So this was hard. Because while it didn’t work for , it was still kind of fantastic.

DUET: DEXTER THE DUD & JESSICA MEUSE “Islands In the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton – This was bad before it started. Yeah, I don’t like this song. Harry and Keith ditched J-Lo and rand up the upper-deck, presumably to get as far from the song as possible. Dud started off really bad and kind of got better. Jessica kind of smiled politely through it, but mostly looked like she just wanted to get it over with. So did I. Not so much because their performance particularly bad, but because, as I stated previously, I don’t like this song.

At this point in the show, the judges and Ryan spontaneously broke into “Like A Virgin”. It was better than “Islands In The Stream”.

C.J. HARRIS “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty – David Cook nailed it. 25 years later, this song still feels tired from being over-played. But C.J. gave it a treatment that made it fresh again. The vocals started a little shaky, but he pulled it together. The sparse, folk arrangement was lovely and engaging. Apparently, John Mayer had done this song similarly, but I never noticed. And C.J.’s emotional rasp fit perfectly, in a way Mayer never could. I don’t know what will happen ultimately with C.J., who was in the bottom three last week, but I love him. And this was really great.

CALEB JOHNSON “Faithfully” by Journey – Bam. That was really strong. He nailed it without just copying Steve Perry’s vocal. It felt to me like he kind of disconnected from the emotional power of the song just briefly towards the end, but he pulled it together. Truly, this was a great performance. And the softness in Caleb’s face during the opening verses was right on. There’s really nothing more that needs to be said.  Caleb closed because the night was his.

Before I rank tonight’s performers, I need to ask a serious question. Does anybody know the details of Jennifer Lopez’s contract with Fox? And if you do, is there a clause that indicates that she is required to have a certain amount of close-ups on her during the contestant’s performances? Because we have been getting a lot of J-Lo live action emoticons lately. And hey, I get that she is easy to look at, but the director needs to know when to pull back on the reigns a little.

So, after some brief consideration, here is how I rank the top eight performers based on this week’s performances (combining solo and duet, with emphasis on duet)

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

Overall, this was another strong night. Lost of solid performances, nobody was awful, and everyone did something that was at least kind of interesting. But, someone has to go home. It should be Dexter, but it likely won’t be. Even though I keep slotting Jessica in the bottom three, she never seems to end up there. Sam actually performed well this week. So, as much as it pains me to say it, Malaya, who under performed, might be in trouble. And if she is voted out, the judges save, which should still be in place to appropriately bring her back, will have been wasted one week early. What a shame.

TOP 5 POWER RANKING

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

I’m shaking up the power rankings again this week. Caleb has finally earned my number one, while Alex is starting to show some cracks. C.J.’s back in, while Malaya is sliding a bit, and in danger of facing American’s wrath.

That’s all I got. What say you?

 

 

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~ by themattmorrisshow on April 10, 2014.

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