American Idol 2014, top 6 recap – Paging Donnie and Marie…

•April 23, 2014 • 1 Comment
Photo from Americanidol.net

Photo from Americanidol.net

Top Six. It actually feels like there is an end in sight to this thing. That’s a good feeling.

And, speaking of good feelings, we have finally bid adieu to Dexter The Dud, who America saw fit to eliminate last week. If you are one of the tens of readers who have been following along with me, you know how little this bothers me. Frankly, America, what took so long?

Tonight’s theme is A-Little-Bit-Country-And-A-Little-Bit-Rock-And-Roll, which I think means that they all have to duet with Donnie and Marie Osmond (google it, young ones). Actually, it just means that they are singing two songs. You can figure the rest out.

Let’s do this! In order of performance, starting with the rock and roll portion of the show…

JENA IRENE “Barracuda” by Heart – Thank god it was 70’s Heart. 80’s Heart is so bad and usually the Heart-era of choice for Idol contestants. But 70’s Heart is pretty solid. And so was this performance. Jena sounds fantastic. I wish she would have pushed her performance into the energy of the song a little more (and the judges seem to agree), but I’m nit-picking. This was pretty awesome. And my wife and I both thought she had cool pants.

Hey, look! Ryan is taking a selfie with the hot group, R5! I’ve never heard of them.

SAM WOOLF “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons – This is about exactly what I expected from Sam – kind of an improvement from earlier in the season, but still not close to being worthy of winning this competition. Still, he has learned to use his face more effectively, and he seems more comfortable surrounded by the band, which is all nice. BUT…J-Lo got  goosies? Really? I thought the judges went a little bit overboard in their praise, here.

C.J. HARRIS “American Woman” by The Guess Who – This was a vocal wheelhouse song for C.J. He sang and performed it well. My problem is, I’m so tired this of this song that I just kind of wanted it to be done. But that’s just me. As opposed to Sam, I thought the judges were a little too hard on C.J. He was better than they gave him credit for.

ALEX PRESTON “Animal” by Neon Trees – Kinda pitchy, dawg. This was the most rockin’ that Alex has ever been. It kinda worked, and I could see how, with his own band that he was comfortable with, he could pull this off great. The problem was more with his vocals, tonight. Again, the judges seemed to critique hard, which would be okay if not for the glowing Sam review still ringing in my ear.

CALEB JOHNSON “Sting Me” by The Black Crows – Ryan described this song as “the ’92 smash”. This was not a smash. But, as usual, Caleb smashed it. He was in full Meatloaf form tonight and totally fun to watch. BUT…I am weary of Caleb’s totally ordinary song choices. The crowd loves him, the judges love him, he keeps feeling the adulation and praise, but I find his song choices to be completely uninteresting. It doesn’t seem to be impacting him, yet. But I just wonder…

JESSICA MEUSE “Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane – More of the same. Solid vocal, but she looks like she is thinking about something completely different from the song she’s singing. For someone as seasoned as she supposedly is, I just don’t get that. Honestly, she looks bored. Keith echoed exactly what my wife had just said about her eyes being void of emotion. Maybe she doesn’t have a soul? Something to think about.

And now, it’s time to get a little bit country. In order of performance…

SAM WOOLF “Still The One” by Shania Twainn – Apparently, Sam is auditioning for a high school musical. And the high school girls loved it. I didn’t. My wife hated more that I did. She called it the worst song of the season. Harry looked like he was in pain. The judges were really kind in their attempt to tell him he was terrible. Which he was.

CALEB JOHNSON “Undo It” by Carrie Underwood – This was a far more interesting song by Caleb. The song had more structure and movement. He took a country song and just made it sound like his own. Clearly, his earlier number was more powerful, but this was more interesting.

ALEX PRESTON “Always On My Mind” by Willie Nelson -I can’t stop smiling. What a beautiful song choice. And Alex put his troubadour spin into full effect. Amazing artistry. That was my favorite song of the night, so far. I completely disagree with Keith – Alex communicated the heartbreak.

JEAN IRENE “So Small” by Carrie Underwood – I’m beginning to think the Jena can sing anything. Nothing about this felt like country to me, which I really liked. She made it a pop-song. She made it her song. And she continues to make this her competition. The difference between Jena and Caleb is the her songs are really interesting, while Caleb just belts out what sounds like the same one-note rocker all the time.

C.J. HARRIS “Whatever It Is” by The Zac Brown Band – Funny thing about C.J. He is kind of grouped under the country umbrella, genre-wise. But whenever he sings a pure country song, they end up being his weakest performances. No exception, tonight. This was mediocre, at best. Forgettable.

JESSICA MEUSE “Jolene” by Dolly Parton – She was a little less dead behind the eyes this time. I could actually see some emotion in her eyes. Contrary to Keith’s opinion, I liked the rock & roll arrangement.

So, as we wrap up tonight’s show, I have come to realize that my wife is really excited by Grumpy Cat.

grumpy cat

 

I’ll need to process that a little. In the meantime, here’s how I rank tonight’s performers, based on some kind of combination of both of their performances:

  1. JENA IRENE
  2. CALEB JOHNSON
  3. ALEX PRESTON
  4. JESSICA MEUSE
  5. C.J. HARRIS
  6. SAM WOOLF

What troubles me is that the judges were way to kind, and even over-praising of Sam. If influenced, America will likely save him for it. If so, that likely means that C.J. is going home tomorrow night. Too bad, because I still think he is way more interesting than either Sam or Jessica. But, he is no better than fourth place this year, with the power-three of Jena/Caleb/Alex continuing to set themselves apart from the rest of the competition.

That’s all for tonight! Let me know what you thought and I’ll be back next week for the top five.

Five Songs I’ve Been Geeking On – April 22, 2014

•April 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Alright, let’s drop the “this week” from this Geeking On series. Now I won’t feel so much pressure to get something out every five days.  Anyway, here is what I’ve been geeking on, um, lately!

1. “It No. 3” by Nick Waterhouse – This one has gotten under my skin in a big and great way over the past couple of months. I’ve actually dreamed about it. In my dream, a younger me was hanging out on the deck of some beach house with a bunch of friends I didn’t recognize. We were lounging around on the deck and watching the sunset following a day of sand and surf. This song comes on, and I decide to get up and groove with the kind of carefree smoothness I didn’t even know I had until this dream. Soon, several others joined me, and Nick Waterhouse was providing the soundtrack to the greatest summer dance party ever.

For what it’s worth, the rest of this album is freaking great, too.

2. “Hurry Up Sundown” by Bruce Springsteen – So, in honor of National Record Store Day, Springsteen pulls together four songs he had lying around in the unused scrap heap of his latest album and assembles a delightful little vinyl ep called American Beauty. And, it serves as further evidence that Springsteen’s scraps are better than most artist’s “A” material.

The standout track is this ode to summer nights. It’s not lyrically complicated, but the sound is that of euphoric release from some oppression (in this case, the working day – a familiar foe of Springsteen’s characters). This will be on my heavy personal heavy rotation from now through the summer.

3. “Candy” by Wake Owl – I don’t even remember how I acquired this song or when I first heard it. But it’s been shuffling up on my Spring Mix lately and causing me to stop and get lost in its retro-soul groove, set to a modern, Black Keys kind of aesthetic. There is a play going on with the vocalists that, too me, seems to be about the search for meaning in love, while believing not to be capable of it.

4. “The Real Thing” by Jerrod Niemann – I’m not a big fan of contemporary country music. I have nothing against it, I just don’t find much of it to be compelling. I also feel that way about much of Jerrod Niemann’s new album. But “The Real Thing” stands out as a riveting exception. This bluesy, slow-burning piece of country soul is infectious. Put your player on repeat and let this seep into your soul for a while. I don’t think this has been released as a single yet, but it deserves to be a massive hit.

(I couldn’t find a video or stream for this song yet, which is surprising because Niemann’s album is currently a hit and this song is soooooo good. Worth checking out on iTunes)

5. “Let The Music Play” by The Drifters – I recently stumbled across this forgotten tune from 1964. Almost instantly I could tell it was a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition. And The Drifters sing it beautifully. This is another one that will sound great all summer long, feeding my weird hunger for nostalgic and under appreciated oldies.

 

American Idol 2014, top 7 recap – the calm before the storm

•April 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

top 7

There are seven left. That still seems like a lot. But it’s going to roll down hill fast from here and soon we will crown a new Idol champion and wonder what, if any, impact they will make on the pop music landscape.

Unfortunately, at this point in the season, we usually get a week where a lull of intensity settles in with the contestants. This was that week. They’ve all made through half of the eliminations and might be feeling kind of comfortable. Or tired. Either way, it creates a lack luster night before things heat up again when they realize how close they are to actually winning this thing!

But before we analyze tonight’s mostly average performances, we have to say goodbye to someone who had no business leaving before Sam Woolf. Last week, following the judges ridiculous save of Sam, Malaya Watson was voted off the show. To be honest, I did find that her act was starting to get a little predictable and slightly stale, but she was still consistently superior to young Mr Woolf. But, with no save left to use, it was farewell to Ms. Watson.

Back to tonight! The theme was “Each Of The Contestants Gets to Pick A Song For You And Then You Have To Choose One Of Those Six Songs To Sing On The Show” or something like that. These high concept themes are exhausting. Also, we had the customary duets, plus one trio, since we have an odd number. I gave minimal consideration to these performances tonight, but couldn’t help but be a little impacted by them. Anyway, here’s what I thought, in order of appearance…

CALEB JOHNSON “Family Tree” by Kings of Leon (selected by Alex– This started a little flat, then picked up once Meatloaf, er, Caleb jumped into his higher tone voice to rock it out. It was a typically great performance by Caleb. It was also typically lacking that extra something special that makes me really sit up and take notice. Clearly, this guy is talented. He should be in the final three. But, to put it in J-Lo terms, I never get goosies from him.

JESSICA MEUSE “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert (selected by Sam) – Oh, Jessica. Apparently she is afraid of ponies and thinks she may have been abducted by aliens. Maybe they just abducted her stage presence. I thought her vocals still kind of rocked (though the judges disagreed), but she just has no idea how command an audience’s attention. If she figured that out, I think she could own this season.

Hey, look – it’s Demi Lovato! And, back to the show.

DUET: ALEX PRESTON AND SAM WOOLF “Let Her Go” by Passengers – This started out perfectly adequate and then got worse from there. I mean, I would’ve kicked them down a dollar if they were performing outside of the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, but it really wasn’t that good.

Hey! Terry Bradshaw’s here! And, back to the show.

C.J. HARRIS “Gravity” by John Mayer (selected by Caleb) – Me likey. I know America has their sights on eliminating this Spongebob lover, but I thought this was strong. I agree with the judges that this was a little under performed, but just slightly. Connick Jr. is right on when he points to C.J.’s ability to connect to a song. He is the strongest contestant when it comes to that.

Hey! It’s some Dutch/German DJ named Martin Garrix!

And look! It’s someone named Ronda Rousey, who apparently fights! And, back to the show.

DEXTER ROBERTS “Muckalee Creek Water” by Luke Bryan (selected by C.J.) – Textbook Dexter the Dud. It’s too bad this adrenaline junkie doesn’t seem to get his fix by performing on stage. And it was clear that he was really trying to put some feeling into his performance, but it still didn’t work. Because he can’t. We all get that. But American will probably put him through because he sings anthemic, popular country hits that generate a reaction from fans of that genre. But there is nothing special about what this guy does week to week.

DUET: JENA IRENE AND CALEB JOHNSON “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones – This is my favorite Stones song. And Jena and Caleb sang it really well. If I’m being honest, I thought the band was kind of muddled on this, but I won’t hold that against Caleb and Jena, who are separating themselves from the pack.

ALEX PRESTON “A Team” by Ed Sheeran (selected by Dexter) – This was a total wheelhouse song for future dermatologist, Alex. And he took advantage, delivering a comfortably strong number. I still feel like I need to see something that surprises me from Alex to convince me he should win, but he is easily a top three performer.

SAM WOOLF “Sail Away” by David Gray (selected by Jessica) – This was a perfect song choice for Sam. I thought last week’s performance was stronger (contrary to Harry’s opinion), but it was nice. It didn’t require a lot of emotional acrobatics, which is good. Because while Sam may like to climb, he is not a fan of climbing emotional heights.

Hey everyone! Terry Bradshaw is holding an electric guitar and sitting with the band! And, back to the show.

TRIO: C.J. HARRIS, JESSICA MEUSE, AND DEXTER HARRIS “Compass” by Lady Antebellum – Oof. This was bad. It’s like they are from three completely different Alabama’s. I blame it on the soul-less Jessica and Dexter the Dud.

JENA IRENE “Creep” by Radiohead (selected by Caleb, making him the only person to have two selections used) – Wow. Can we just stop the season and make Jena the winner now? This was easily the best performance of the night. Maybe Jena was mad that none of the contestants used any of her suggestions on the show. Or, maybe she has just grown up past them all over the last several weeks. This is such a unique song, and Jena made it her own. She is so talented. And, thankfully, she seems to have stopped peeing her pants before performances. But, more than anything, when the crunch of the guitar came into the song, I wanted so desperately to cut to band, revealing that it was being played by Terry Bradshaw. That would have put Idol back on top.

Okay, taking all of that into consideration, here’s how I rank them this week:

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

To me, it Jena alone on top, then Alex and Caleb pretty much even, then C.J., then everyone else pretty much even. So, I don’t know if Dexter really was the worst this week. But I just am tired of him. And I’d be okay with Sam finally going home too. I’m worried that it might by C.J., since he was in the bottom two last week. I don’t believe he deserves it, but it might be him. I’m still a little confused about how Jessica has never seemed to find herself in the bottom two or three. Maybe this is the week that changes.

Here’s my top five, looking at the whole season, power ranking:

  1. JENA IRENE
  2. CALEB JOHNSON
  3. ALEX PRESTON
  4. C.J. HARRIS
  5. JESSICA MEUSE

Bottom line – it’s about those top three. That is your competition. The other four are just killing time. Don’t screw it up, America.

 

 

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

•April 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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?

 

 

American Idol 2014, Top 8 recap – It’s starting to get good.

•April 3, 2014 • 1 Comment

American Idol's top 8 - Fox Television

We’re down to eight, which usually means we have kind of identified who the top two or three contenders are and we’re just kind of waiting for everyone else to drop off. But tonight, most of the top 8 rose up and gave a performance worthy of making us think they could compete for the title. And, I’ve had to rethink my power rankings a little bit.

But enough build-up!  It’s late and I need to crank this out.  The theme was “Sing That Song You Sang The First Time We Saw You In Your Audition City”, or something like that.  Also, top 8 means we are making everyone sing a duet in order to fill the two hours.  So, I will be weighing tonight’s rankings based on the combination of their two performances.  Because that’s what I do.  So, in order of their appearances…

JESSICA MEUSE “Blue Eyed Lie” by Jessica Meuse – Jessica sang an original song at her audition, and it sounded fantastic with the band.  I would dig this song if it was on the radio.  It was her best performance by far, though I still thought she could have shown a little more animation toward the end of the song, which Harry also kind of observed.  Still, this was wonderful.  I started laughing when Keith compared Jessica to Grace Slick, because I had just written “sounds Jefferson Airplaney”. I loved this.

C.J. HARRIS “Soul Shine” by The Allman Brothers – C.J. will never be vocally perfect.  But his greatness comes in his passion and connection to his choices. This was a front-runner kind of performance (though it was on a night filled with front-runner performances). He spun his country-folk-soul magic all over this song. It was an easily enjoyable performance.

DUET: JENA IRENE & ALEX PRESTON “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink and Nate Ruess  – This worked really well.  What surprised me was how much Jena outperformed Alex, both vocally and connection-wise.  Alex seemed slightly uncomfortable, but this was still solid for both. And, it made tonight’s show three for three with great performances.

SAM WOOLF “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran – Sam loves lamp. At least that’s how it seemed with several random lamps set around him on stage. I was actually worried that the lamps would outshine Sam (Ba-da-BING!). Actually, Sam gave what I think was his best performance of the season.  It only fourth best so far tonight, but still his personal best.  Harry wants Sam to smile more.  But, as we learned a long time ago, sadly, Sam can’t.

DUET: JESSICA MEUSE & CALEB JOHNSON “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” by Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks – Solid paring, solid song-choice, solid performance.  Jessica really impressed me tonight.  I liked her playful coyness here.  I guess she just needed an onstage foil.  Caleb was his usual brand of reliable greatness.

MALAYA WATSON “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha Franklin – Malaya is so fun to watch.  And, of course, she can sing.  This was soulful and dynamic.  It’s almost starting to feel easy for Malaya.  Too easy, maybe?  Is she starting to blend in?  I ask that in the same way that Caleb, who is clearly a front-runner, gets kind of lost in the scenery by singing the same kind of song every week.  Malaya sang beautifully this week.  But when the show was over, I wasn’t really thinking about her.

DEXTER ROBERTS “One Mississippi” by Brett Eldredge – This was a decent performance. Not special. My wife called it a “snoozer”. Dexter the Dud, aka Snoozer. The judges seemed to love this, but come on!  This was nowhere near any of the previous performances.  Except maybe Sam.  Maybe.

DUET: MALAYA WATSON & SAM WOOLF “Lucky” by Colbie Caillet and Jason Mraz – Oof.  I thought Malaya was going to eat Sam up on this, but I think he kind of dragged her down. In truth, this was a terrible song choice for Malaya.  The whole thing came off like a bad high school musical. And watching Sam have to sing a love song with someone was highly uncomfortable.

JENA IRENE “Rolling In the Deep” by Adele – Wow.  This was a stunner. She turned this overly exposed song into a riveting torch ballad. It built up to this cool, Lana Del Ray type of intensity. It was awesome. Jena has become electric and, dare I say it, a front-runner.

DUET: C.J. HARRIS & DEXTER THE DUD “All Right” by Hootie – Hmm. I don’t think these guys fit together. Dexter’s voice is cleaner, but C.J. is so much more connected and passionate.  I’ll take him every time.

CALEB JOHNSON “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin – Bluesy and full of attitude, Caleb delivered another get-out-of-my-way performance. This boy loves to perform. And he’s obviously great.  So why do I always feel a little bit let down by him.  I recognize that he should be the easy favorite to win this whole season. But I never feel like he is the favorite to win.  Is it just me?

ALEX PRESTON “Fairytales” by Alex Preston – Alex, like Jessica, played an original song in his audition.  And like Jessica, his song sounded great with the band. This was strong.  Being that he wrote it, it was easy for Alex to be connected, and it showed. He is just so easy to root for.  I don’t know if he is going to win this competition this year, but I think he is still my favorite.

So, taking all of the performances into consideration, here is how I rank the performers tonight:

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

Malaya’s poor duet hurt her overall rank for me. And Jessica strong duet, paired with a fantastic original song, moved her up for me.  The fact that I ranked Alex fourth is a testament to how strong tonight’s show was. I strongly believe that Sam should be going home, but America is often hard to read.  If it’s anyone but Sam or Dexter, I might have to pick up my mobile device and start voting next week.

And now, here is my new power ranking:

  1. ALEX PRESTON
  2. JENA IRENE
  3. CALEB JOHNSON
  4. MALAYA WATSON
  5. JESSICA MEUSE

I kind of shook up power ranking tonight. Jena continues to get better every week and, in my opinion, won the night. Meanwhile, Caleb and Malaya are starting to get kind of samey feel stuck in the same spot. I swapped Jessica for C.J. in the fifth spot based also on her recent growth. But I could easily swap them again next week (assuming they are both still around).

Okay, that’s it.  I”m going to bed. See you next week!

Mixtape – March, 2014

•March 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The plan is to create a monthly mixtape of music I’ve been listening to. Some new, some old, some familiar, some largely unknown. You know, a mixtape. But not on tape.

So, here is the March 2014 edition.  It was supposed to be twenty songs, but apparently Black Eyed Sceva wouldn’t embed.  Go check out their song “Justified”, because it’s awesome.

Enjoy!

Five songs I’ve Geeked on This Week – March 30, 2014

•March 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve tried to do this in the past, but I could never get it going with a good weekly consistency. The basic idea is this – I listen to music almost constantly. And in a given week, there are at least five songs that I will be geeking-out on in some way, be it a new song that I am really digging, or an old song that I’ve rediscovered or am just now discovering for the first time. This is my way of sharing with you those songs that I am geeking-out on so that, hopefully, you can geek-out with me. Because geeking loves company, as I’m pretty sure the saying goes.

After you’ve checked out the five, let me know what your favorite is.  And let me know if you absolutely hated anything, also.  It won’t change my opinion, but I like to get to know my readers (all tens of them).

1.  “Settle Me Down” by The Men – This is a piece of well crafted, mid-tempo, lo-fi gold.  The vibe is nearly country, and it sounds like it should have been a rock and roll hit about 40 or 50 years ago. Yet, it’s as fresh as 2014. In fact, it should be a hit today!  But radio is all screwed up.  Takes up residence right in my garage pop sweet spot.

2.  “Seasons” by Future Islands – I like the new album by this band, but it can get real samey.  By far, this track is the highlight, and I can’t get its melancholy synth-pop groove out of my head.  Wrestling with change and growth will always get my attention, too.

3.  “Friday” by Joe Jackson – Rediscovered this gem from the early days of Joe Jackson’s catalog.  This is practically a blue-print for what Ben Folds would do on his early work.  35 years later, it still sounds great on a Friday afternoon (or any day, really).

4. “Prince Johnny” by St. Vincent – I have no idea what Annie Clark is singing about, here, but I love listening to her sing about it. I’m sure I could find out pretty easily, but wouldn’t that remove the delightful mystery of the lyric?  The brooding, pulsing beat is hypnotic. Especially when she sings “whoah-oh-whoah-oh-whoah”…oh, just listen to it.

5. “Wichita Lineman” by R.E.M. – The Jimmy Webb written song has long been one of my absolute favorites, but I just recently discovered this delightful live cover by Athens Georgia’s greatest local heroes (thanks to my friend, Phil).  That the song is so enchanting in this grungy and electric arrangement is a testament to how great and timeless it really is.