Dull Night on American Idol: Contestants Struck Out on Home

“No more Mr. Nice Guy,” Jennifer Lopez warned the Top 12 American Idol contestants last night. After quick snapshots and memories of “Home” — the theme of the show — each contender chose a song that should have shown what home meant to him or her. For them, the song choices touched on memories of hometown life, whether evoked by lyrics or just association in time and place. But, somehow, hardly any of the performances connected with those who were listening. It made for a very dull performance night. The only thing that was entertaining was the judges. They were great.

“Suddenly I See” by K.T. Tunstall, was the choice for Jena Irene, who said it was her close family ties at Farmington Hills, Michigan, that inspired her. “There’s no place like home,” she said. But if she suddenly saw anything, it was not the advice of the judges. It wasn’t a bad performance, it just didn’t go anywhere. Nothing connected. Judges agreed it was not the best song choice for her, though they still admired the uniqueness of her voice. Harry Connick, Jr. said he was “waiting for her to bust out”. Which she never did.

A favorite, Alex Preston, struck off in a different direction for this Mt. Vernon, New Hampshire native, accompanying himself on the electric guitar and singing a sort of rocker-blues version of “I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin DeGraw. Jennifer said the arrangement did not suit the song, but gave him credit for taking a risk. Harry said Alex was a little overpowered, and though Keith Urban applauds originality, he cited the arrangement as unstable and not centering into the song. It was a mess.

Jessica Meuse took us to Slapout, Alabama, with a glimpse of her loved pets, and a wave to a supportive party in Montgomery in neighboring Montgomery County. She also said she even missed the cows, which prompted Ryan Seacrest to make a quip about steak night in Montgomery. Jessica chose “White Flag” by Dido, a song with a lot of passion, which she sang dispassionately. Her voice is still top of the line among the Twelve, but it was a lackluster presentation.

Though Harry said he understood Jessica’s need for understatement, this performance was like she wasn’t even present and was sharp throughout the song. It was actually Keith Urban who gave the top performance of the night when he belted out a line from the song with passion and presence, causing the audience to erupt in shouting and applause and Seacrest to say they were having to scramble for a call number for Keith. Kieth’s purpose was to show what they meant by singing to connect with people. “You’ve got to really believe it,” he said. “I don’t care about pitch if you sing it like you believe it.” This caused a continuing debate among the judges about pitch vs. connection. Jennifer just said she was hoping for a superstar performance and it didn’t happen.

Dexter Roberts pulled in the first consensus of “best performance of the night” from heretofore disappointed judges. Dexter said his song choice, “Lord Knows I’m A Lucky Man” by Montgomery Gentry, said just what he wanted to say to his supportive fans back in his hometown of Fayette, Alabama. He also mentioned the song was for his granny, who had passed away. Keith loved that he took little liberties with his phrasing, and that at one point, had to be inside the moment. Jennifer triggered all-around head nodding when she said the night so far had been hard on everyone. “You have to surprise us,” she said. Then she smiled and told Dexter, “And you did.” Harry summed it up with “best performance of the night.” Keith had mentioned that Dexter must have briefly forgotten the words, which turned into what he termed, “Inside the moment.” When Seacrest asked about it, Dexter simply replied as he walked away, “I don’t know. I was just grieving.”

Emily Piriz of Miami attempted a shout out to her Cuban heritage and the Latino audience, as well as attempting to pay homage to Jennifer Lopez by singing Lopez’s hit song, “Let’s Get Loud”. This big song completely overpowered Piriz. The cute, tiny performer seemed to be swallowed up by it. You could see Jennifer at the beginning of the performance smiling and gyrating and trying to encourage the young girl along. But even Jennifer soon slumped and her disappointment was evident. But she couldn’t bring herself to judge the petite contender harshly, praising her for representing the Latinos listening and saying Piriz did a really good job. But though Harry tried to soften his critique by saying it took a lot of courage to sing the powerhouse Lopez song, he told Piriz, “You have to match the intensity, like a locomotive. The production was too big for you.” Keith said he loved it, but wanted her to be more confident. Then someone mentioned the trademark “hair whip” that Jennifer does. It was a night of examples. Audience, judges, and host persuaded the beautiful diva to do the hair whip, And she did — to more loud applause.

Last week’s firecracker, Caleb Johnson of Ashville, NC, fizzled this week with the Rush song, “Working Man”. Caleb said Ashville was the home for eclectic music and he loved it. Caleb still has the big voice, but the arrangement just didn’t vibe. “There’s a big difference between being consistent and being predictable,” said Harry Connick. “Where are you going to take this forward?” Keith said Caleb was one of the best singers of the Top 12, and one of the best rockers in a long time. Jennifer just said it was a great job. To us watching at home, it lacked the power and energy we were anticipating. It was disappointing.

Keith gave M. K. Nobilette some pointers about how to hold her guitar while not actually playing and said hers was a good song choice of “Drops of Jupiter” by Train. Jennifer called it a nice song, and was pleasantly surprised when M.K. briefly raised her voice to a higher level in the middle of it. “But it still was not a breakout performance,” said the judge. A surprising statement from Harry brought a few boos. “It looks like you just don’t want to be here,” he said. “No, you can play and sing. But you’ve got to work on what’s hard for you. If you do that, you’ll improve.” M.K., an adopted child, has a look of sad-sweet vulnerability about her that comes through in her voice. But like Harry, I don’t know if she’s meant for American Idol. She’ll have to climb out of herself and into the limelight in order to go the distance.

Although C.J. Harris, another favorite of Jasper, Alabama, sang “Waitin’ on the World to Change”, by John Mayer, he still has not done what I know he can do with that voice. Jennifer “loved the performance”. Harry said C.J. was consistently sharp, but got across the emotion (which he did). “All that’s missing now,” said Keith, is to do something different to the song. You can do an artistic take. I kept waiting for you to do something great.” C.J. chose this song because he really is waiting for the world to change where people make no difference between black and white. “It shouldn’t be,” he said.

Young Sam Woolf moved from his native Michigan to Bradenton, Florida, where he’s living with his grandparents. He sang “Just One” by Blind Pilot, because it reminded him of Michigan and his old pals, and said hopefully he would connect. Sam sat at the edge of the stage crooning to bright-faced and eager young girls, which should have brought out every male instinct he had. But, bless his heart, he looked slightly terrified and a little teary. Harry said he really liked the song but it needed some “emotional dynamics”. Keith said he had a “tone like buttah (butter) — don’t you just love Keith’s down under accent!!?? Jennifer told Sam he needed to “push outside his comfort zone”.

Although young Malaya Watson, the Michigan band member, went back to her keyboard, got a different hairstyle, and seemed more subdued, she was still hard on the ears. She’s a sweet girl with a lot of young enthusiasm, but if there’s a great voice in there I haven’t heard it yet. However, Jennifer told Malaya she gave her “goosies” with her version of “Take Me to the King” by Tamela Mann. “It was like you were telling a story to us,” she said. “I had tears in my eyes.” Keith said it was a beautiful song, a great choice, and loved her range. Harry thought she was in danger of running off the track again. Yep, Harry. It sounded like steel wheels sliding against steel rails to me there at the end.

Ben Briley, whose too-fast and funky version of “Folsom Prison” last week left me cold, came out with a more than passable performance last night of “Turning Home” by David Nail. Ben’s personality has shone throughout the season and his great sense of humor never fails him. As the cameras took him back to his roots, with enough relatives to fill up his small town of Gallitin, TN, Ben quipped that he was pretty sure it was his huge family that kept voting him through. Jennifer told him there was “feeling there” in his choice of “Turning Home”. Hard-hat Harry claimed the song felt “shouted”, and didn’t connect. Booooo, Harry. Keith commented on Ben’s incredible voice. “You have the ability to take it where you want to go,” he said. “Don’t focus on technicality rather than emotion.” Then everything went “down home” when Seacrest brought out deviled eggs — Ben’s favorite food — and shared them around.

Majesty Rose of Goldsboro, NC, ended the night with “Fix You”, by Coldplay. I was disappointed in the performance, but Harry said he liked her confidence. Jennifer said she didn’t have to go far for the big thing. Keith said he was gonna see her next week. I think the show was running out of time and Majesty got short-shrifted on the comments. Maybe that was for the best.

But it was Jennifer who voiced the disappointment of judges and viewers alike. Like her, young or not, nervous or not, it’s time to step up to home plate and bat one out of the ball park. Of their performances Jennifer said, “It HAS to be powerful. You have to kill it. You don’t have to shout to do it. You just have to kill it.” —- Amen, sister.


38 thoughts on “Dull Night on American Idol: Contestants Struck Out on Home

  1. I was very disappointed in last night’s performances. I expected much more from the Top 12 at this point in the competition. I’m beginning to wonder if the winner will be the singer who is the least bad rather than the best. Who’d have ever thought my favorites of the night would be the two country singers, Dexter and Ben, and C. J. They were the high points for me in this lackluster group.

    ~Jena’s “Suddenly I See” fell flat. I didn’t like the song and it did absolutely nothing for her.

    ~Alex – I liked the song and thought he did OK, but he didn’t knock me out like I had hoped he would.

    ~Jessica’s “White Flag” is a wonderful song, but man oh man, was she ever pitchy sharp. She looked better last night, but I wish she’d stop using food coloring, or whatever, for shampoo.

    ~Dexter’s “Lucky Man” was the best so far. He needs to work on his lower register. The lyrics completely disappear when he sings low notes.

    ~Emily — I agree with Harry, “Let’s Get Loud” is too big a song for her. Only someone like J-Lo has the performance skill to pull off that song.

    ~Caleb’s “Working Man” turned me off. Belting and screaming are OK in small doses, but it’s boring when that’s all he does. “Predicitable” was the perfect description from the judges.

    ~M.K.’s “Drops of Jupiter” was a total bore. She was too blah and had pirtch problems. Unless the LGBT community gets overwhelmingly behind her, I think she’ll be leaving tonight.

    ~C.J. sang my favorite John Mayer song, “Waitin’ on the World to Change” and I thought sang it well. I didn’t notice that he sang sharp, as Harry claimed.

    ~Sam’s “Just One” was new to me and I liked it, but only because I like his voice. In spite of the fact that a bunch of fawning girls were only a couple of feet in front of him, he STILL seemed unable to connect emotionally. He simply has to open up and show some personality. His good voice will take him only so far in a competition that’s as much about personality as it is about singing.

    ~Malaya’s “Take Me to the King” was certainly better than last week, but I thought she went from one extreme to the other. I found it lackluster and uninspiring. Now for a technical observation. I was surprised when Keith asked if her last note was an F-sharp above high C. NO WAY! An F-sharp above high C is in full-on coloratura territory and Malaya is definitely not a coloratura. I was really surprised Keith didn’t know that.

    ~I thought Ben’s “Turning Home” was beautiful. He has a wonderful voice and I totally disagree with what Harry and Keith saying he shouted and didn’t connect. Booo! And I nearly started drooling when the deviled eggs appeared. They’re one of my favorite foods, too.

    ~Majesty — I don’t really know what to say about this. She has a very nice voice, but I think this was a terrible song choice for her. She sang as if she thought singing softly equaled emotion. It didn’t move me at all and I love this song, and Coldplay. Then she was so flat on the high notes it almost made my ears bleed. I hope she does much better next week. I think she can.

    There are several who could end up going home tonight and it will be interesting to see who the viewers chose. As for next week? When they’re this far down, the only way is up.

    • Loved your observations. Got several chuckles because oh so true.

      — I’m beginning to wonder if the winner will be the singer who is the least bad rather than the best. Who’d have ever thought my favorites of the night would be the two country singers —

      Also love your technical insights. It may be Greek to me, but love hearing you speak it.

      — As for next week? When they’re this far down, the only way is up.– Amen and amen to that.

      • I think technically sometimes, like Harry does. In case you’re interested, here’s what a coloratura sounds like singing above high C. Malaya is NOT it. This is the “Bell Song” from the opera “Lakme” and this is the most beautifully I’ve ever heard it sung. Her vocal control is out of this world.

      • I saw her sing this on a PBS program and had to pick my jaw up off the floor. This aria has been recorded by every coloratura soprano who’s been alive since the invention of the phonograph, but never this well. I’m glad you enjoyed it. .

      • Sorry I missed a few of your comments. Yes, I’m doing it right now. Sometimes I don’t get that space of time I need for writing — takes lots of concentration. The time element has been coupled with one of my bad sinus headaches. Will catch up with you later.

      • Gosh, I’m sorry about all the sinus headaches lately. Is there anything you can do to prevent them? I suppose if there were, you’d be doing it. I hope you’re feeling better now.

      • I’ve had to deal with them all my adult life. Dr’s tell me I have tiny ear canals and tiny sinus passages. So does my son, which is so odd because he’s a big guy. He and I both also have tiny ears. Mine are pointed, so Mike calls me an elf. ha.ha.

      • Oh, I guess having smaller than normal ear canals and sinus passages would definitely be a problem.

        Hmm…pointy ears? I guess there are worse things to be called than an elf.r

      • LOL My record, tape and CD collection would boggle your mind. I also have over 550 DVDs.

        Now you’re REALLY going to stick out your tongue. 🙂

      • You have to remember I worked in the record industry from 1962 until 1990 — first RCA Records then the recorded music division of Reader’s Digest. I got free LPs and cassettes, then later, CDs of anything I wanted. At RD we licensed music for those huge sets from other record companies. I dealt with them on the licensing agreements and they were VERY generous with thieir LPs and CDs, too. It’s not like I bought ALL that music. Now I mostly download music from iTunes to listen to on my iPod.

        I don’t buy many DVDs anymore now that I have Netflix. Because we live many miles from a movie theater, the only way I could see movies that interested me was to buy the DVD. In addition to the distance from theaters, the two witinin an hour-and-a-half drive only have PG family movies, like animated films, or super hero blockbusters. They don’t show any of the niche films I love.

        There are both pros and cons to living in Nowheresville, USA

      • Yeah. When Mike and I read this he said, Gotta get through all those snow days. I don’t own an iPod, but Montana is always wanting to download some onto hers. Do you switch around a lot on all those movies and music? I’m actually hearing some new stuff now. I don’t listen to the radio unless I’m driving and only hit the oldies. I’ll admit, the new stuff is getting better.

      • “I don’t listen to the radio unless I’m driving and only hit the oldies.”

        Same here although I’ve had the radio on quite a lot since Frank has been away. I love the oldies, but he likes only classical and sometimes folk so I don’t play the radio when he’s around.

        As for switiching around, I often set my iPod on “shuffle” and that way I’m constantly surprised. I never know what will play next. It could be Led Zeppelin or a piano sonata.


      • I like the shuffle feature because I like to be surprised. I know I’m not going to get a song I don’t like because if I didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be on my iPod in the first place.

  2. Caleb should forget about Geddy Lee and his band Rush and watch how a master sings a rock ‘n’ roll song. Adam belts and screams, but the melody always reigns supreme in everything he sings. THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE !!

      • I never tire of Adam’s Idol performances. In spite of all his accomplishments since then, I still it’s some of his best work. I have all of his Idol performances in glorious hi-def saved on my computer.

      • Someday when I’m feeling energetic, I will burn them all to a CD for you. The files are way too huge to forward as email attachments because they’re all hi-def. I think the smallest file is 88 MB. If you can believe it, I’ve never burned anything to a CD (or DVD) and it’s time I learned how to do it.

      • Oh gosh yes!! I love learning new things, especially on the computer. Because Frank has been gone since February 1, I’ve had to go on his computer and learn how to do electronic payments and use his Quicken financial software. He calls me and talks me through it on the speaker phone. It’s been great. I even bought Quicken for my own computer so I could learn more about it. Once he’s back home, I won’t be doing our financials anymore.

        I had Photoshop on my previous computer for three years and never took the time to learn how to use it. *shameful, I know* One of my best friends, who’s a tech wizard, told me about a free photo editing program called Gimp and suggested I download that. Photoshop is ridiculously expensive. I haven’t done it yet and am kicking myself that I didn’t think of it sooner. Now would have been the perfect time to learn it with Frank away and so much time to myself.

      • Yes, I guess he’s progressing well. Last Thursday he graduated from the cast to a rather high-tech brace http://www.breg.com/sites/default/files/product-gallery/TScopePremier_044.png which is much more comfortable than the cast. At the moment, they have it locked in the straight position, but the angle can be adjusted as his range of motion improves.

        He sees the surgeon again on March 21 and is hoping to be released then, but the rehab people think he should stay for another week. He’s campaigning mightily to be switched to outpatient PT. He’s going stir crazy in the rehab facility even though it’s a lovely place, the therapists are good, and the food is excellent. But he misses all the things he can do at home. He will need outpatient PT in any event so it looks like I’ll be doing a lot of driving…at least twice a week or possibly three times a week to the orthopedic PT center at the hospital.

      • Cool looking brace. Gosh, if I was in a place like that I wouldn’t stir. Sounds great except for the painful part. Top of the line dungeon, huh? With everything but the rack. I don’t envy you or Frank these next few months. Hang in there, gal.

      • The truth is there hasn’t been any real, actual pain…not when he fell or from the surgery. At least that’s what he has said. There has been discomfort from the cast, having the staples removed, etc., but the real pain will come when he starts serious physical therapy. It hurts like the dickens when they start forcing muscles to move after having been totally immobilized for nearly two months. You know how painful PT is because you went through it with your shoulder problem. BTW, how is your shoulder doing these days?

      • Looks like I missed some while I was gone. I’m happy that Frank has not experienced the real bad, grueling pain. At least he’s been spared that much. Tim will be facing just what you were talking about. They are sending him to one of two VA hospitals. They have a really nice looking one in Nashville, but they mentioned the one in Murphreesboro. I’ll probably find out more today. I’ve been having to keep Tim’s grown kids and others of the family updated because they only allow one surrogate family member on the information list. So it’s been hard to keep up blogging and emailing lately. But I’m starting to get back in the groove. My shoulder is doing great. Thanks for asking.

      • Gosh, that’s quite a burden to put on one family member, but you’re a good person to designate. I’m sure you’re doing an excellent job of keeping everyone informed.

        Frank goes for his first PT session on Tuesday. They will set up a schedule for him then. I’m going to be runnin’ the roads for a while because I’m sure he’ll have to go twice a week, possibly three times. I loathe driving with him in the passenger seat. Coming home today he only spoke up once to tell me what to do — or not do — so it wasn’t bad. He told me to slow down for a right-hand turn I’ve made a thousand times, literally! *rolls eyes* It’s much easier when you have a passenger who doesn’t drive, but that rarely happens.

      • ” Mike tells me stuff I’ve known since infancy (slight exaggeration).”

        Well, it’s not much of an exaggeration. 🙂


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