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American Idol VIII: Nine, 3/26/14

March 27th, 2014 · No Comments

Tonight’s theme for American Idol, Season 13, was “I’m With the Band,” which basically means rock night (or, as Ryan Seacrest explains it, “songs of rock royalty”) but the theme is broad enough to encompass diverse styles. All nine remaining contestants–five men, four women–had to front a stage band. At this point in the competition, we’re starting to see who the front-runners are and who’s inconsistent:

1. Alex Preston, who keeps proving he’s this season’s Phillip Phillips, starts the competition off with a soulful falsetto-range rendition of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.” The judges like it but are generous with their advice. Keith says, “No matter what song you do, it’s you,” but he’d like more edge, more unpredictability. J-Lo says, “Your voice is undeniable.” Harry says he’d like to see more stage movement, more energy, because it’s hard to watch a guy stand center-stage for a whole concert.

2, Neither African-American girl has lived up to the potential she showed in the semi-finals.  It’s more and more apparent that for Majesty Rose, the question is how much longer she can hang around. She came to this season via the “American Idol Experience” at Disney in Orlando, where singers who win the competition are given preference in the producers’ audition round. She sings “Shake it out” tonight and her voice almost disappears into the music. J-Lo tells her, “Vocally a little all over the place but performance-wise a 10.” All over the place won’t cut it against this field for much longer.

3. Dexter Roberts gives one of his best performances in some time with Little Big Town’s “Boondocks.” As J-Lo points out, he’s become this season’s resident country guy. Harry suggests “Wichita Lineman” as a song that might help him show a more pop side.

4. Malaya Wilson is super-serious once again, singing The Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road” as a conservative ballad. She wasn’t a serious personality in the semi-finals–her gawky, geeky charm would be better suited to a girl-band song. Like Majesty (and Jessica), she has trouble developing a distinct style. J-Lo compares her vocals, oddly, to Michael Jackson.

5. Each singer tonight gets a little behind-the-scenes backstory for a prologue. For Sam Woolf, we see him sitting around having a guitar jam with Alex, Jessica, and CJ. For the second week in a row, he seems to be cultivating more of a mature, urbane style, belying his 17 years. He sings, “Hey There, Delilah,” in a style similar to Chris Isaak. Harry praises the bare-bones arrangement.  (Even though it’s band night, this performance is with a very small band.)  J-Lo says the song is “perfectly suited for you.”

6.  For the background prologue on Jessica Meuse, we see her standing in front of a sign for Slapout, so she really is from a place called Slapout, Alabama. She’s yet another of the female vocalists who’s been erratic in terms of style.  It’s a wonder she’s found enough of an audience to stay out of the bottom three. She’s not rock enough for alt, she’s too rock for country, but she’s not really alt-country, either. However, the judges compared her to Stevie Nicks at her audition, and that’s who she copies tonight with “Rhiannon.” It’s one of her best performances.  Maybe she should move completely into the rock category next week.

7.  CJ Harris takes the bluegrass of the Steel Drivers’ “If it Hadn’t Been for Love” and turns it into old-time blues. This is the first time we’ve heard him move completely into an R&B throwback mode. He sounds like something that might be found on some rare blues-appreciation collector’s record from the sixties. However, the judges say nothing about the style choice  and only offer harsh critiques of technique. Even J-Lo’s getting booed tonight. Ryan Seacrest points out Adele covered the song, too–so maybe he was expecting an Adele-style vocal (like Caleb last week).

8. Speaking of Caleb Johnson, every night is rock band night. Tonght’s his night to shine, and he’d better. Even I admit it, he is one of the best rock singers Idol’s ever seen. In the semi-finals he came off as missing from Team Blake’s farm truck on that other singing contest. Now he’s left the country far, far behind. He blues-shouts his way through Led Zep’s “Dazed and Confused.” He’s got J-Lo babbling again. This week she says, “Sexy! When you’re the front man of a rock band, you gotta have it!” Keith’s comment is that although this week’s theme is “I’m With the Band,” it was more like the band was with Caleb. As this season’s rock god heads to the lounge, he says, “Jennifer Lopez called me sexy!  I’m gonna buy her some flowers and take her on a date!”

9. Jena Irene closes the show with the task of following Caleb, and she–amazingly–pulls it off. Although she remarked a few weeks ago, “Something magical happens when I sit down at the piano,” she doesn’t play tonight.  She rocks her way through the “Bring Me to Life” song, the one with the “Wake me up inside” hook. She suddenly sounds like a completely different singer. I’d been thinking she needed to do delicate girly pop songs, but maybe she needs to go louder and edgier more often.  She might go deep into this competition after all. Harry gushes, “You followed it!” referring to Caleb’s steal-the-night rave.  J-Lo’s still babbling about Caleb. Seacrest suggests maybe Jena and Caleb should duet. That is something to keep in mind should they both make it to an episode when duets are assigned.

I now have a pattern: vote several times for Alex, Sam and CJ. However, Caleb made me throw a vote his way, too. As for who’s going home, I suspect this is the week Majesty Rose’s luck runs out. She was beyond a doubt the weakest performance of the evening.


Tags: American Idol