Alex Preston Hits The Bull’s Eye on American Idol’s Top Ten Songs Night

Judges cheerfully argued over song choices, singing styles, and artistry last night, while making references to mirror-mirror and magic carpet rides. I might not have understood it all, but I was definitely entertained. I liked Ryan Seacrest’s interviews with the contestants over the sound board, prompting one hopeful to ask what a “cough button” was. Ryan explained it was to help smooth out those pesky tickles, or dry throat coughs that can come at the worst possible time — like while on the air. I think everyone was impressed with all the bells and whistles. I know I was.

M. K. Nobilette was first up, with a spunky new look, but a weak and anemic singing style. She started out with her voice lost in the low notes of the Pink song —– and at one point was thrown off. Though she recovered quickly, Jennifer Lopez pointed out that she had turned away for that moment. “You’ve got to keep going,” she said. Keith loved her look but mentioned that she didn’t come back into the song at the right place, and Harry simply said it was not one of her better performances. “I didn’t feel it,” he said.

Dexter Roberts, who has been praised for picking just the right songs, sang “Cruise” by The Florida-Georgia Line to a wildly cheering crowd and some mixed reviews. Jennifer thought he should have done more to rally the crowd and take them “on a magic carpet ride”. Harry id not like the performance and told Dexter he needed to get bigger than the song. (Jennifer disagreed). Keith thought Dexter showed his artistry by making it different. He especially liked the beginning, where he toned the song down, and wished he had done the whole song that way. Personally, I loved it. But whatta I know.

Jena Irene sang “Clarity” by Zedd, which everyone kept calling electronic music. Harry said he was getting a clear idea of who she was as an artist. “This might be your wheelhouse,” he said. I don’t know where they’re getting these words, but they’re blowing my mind. Okay. I just looked up wheelhouse, the idiom — in one’s wheelhouse. It’s a baseball term (of a pitch) within the zone that is most advantageous for a batter to hit a home run, or within one’s area of expertise or interest. (Dictionary.com) Harry also commented that there wasn’t much to that tune (Clarity), which opened a can of worms. Harry back pedaled a little, assuring the audience that he did listen to electronic music. Keith took exception (in a nice way, of course), stating rather emphatically that he LOVED that tune. He called it the best performance of the evening, and praised Jena for her strong signature sound. Jennifer said she loved hearing her sing that song, but suggested that she take the middle of the stage and hold there. “Get the whole audience with you,” she said. “That’s your place. In the center.” Jena started out her song working the crowd at the side. I wasn’t crazy about the song, but I still love Jena’s voice when she does something with it.

Judges were in accord over Alex Preston’s version of “The Story of My Life” by One Direction. Keith loved Alex’s journey on stage and could see his artistry coming into play. Jennifer called it a beautiful vocal and, for her, he evoked Buddy Holly without the glasses. She also reminded him it was okay to smile. Harry told Alex he had hit the bull’s eye and that his artistry was on target and leading the pack. One Direction gave his performance a thumbs up. I was hooting for him. What a VOICE! If you didn’t see it and didn’t record it, invite yourself to the neighbors who did. Or, better yet, just watch it here.

Malaya sounded great but her song choice, “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars was awkward. She sang it well and with feeling, but it just didn’t sit right. And yet, Joan Baez sang, “Virgil Cain is my name, and I rode on the Danville train,” in the song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. But for some reason Baez doesn’t sound awkward at all, probably because you know she’s telling a story. And, of course, little Malaya is no Joan Baez. Jennifer Lopez had goosies and was feeling the love, while Harry said Malaya sounded sincere in interpreting the lyrics. He also gave her some advice on matching her runs with the chords, saying she needed a week with the music people. Keith said she knocked it out of the park, and was showing more control. “You pulled back and it pulled me in,” he said. During her interview with Ryan Seacrest, Malaya (age 16) mentioned she had never gotten flowers. So at the end of her performance she received a big, ugly green vase of beautiful flowers from Seacrest and the gang, which he mentioned they put on Harry’s credit card.

Caleb Johnson channeled Lady Gaga, though in a very masculine, rockin’ way, with “The Edge of Glory”. Harry liked the half-time groove and gave him an A+ for originality. Keith called it an interesting song choice paired with Caleb’s “killer tone”. But, he called the arrangement inconsistent and lumbering. “You’ve got a voice like a locomotive,” he said. Jennifer said her take fell somewhere between the “two of thee”. She said Caleb sounded great, but lacked the feeling, merely showing off vocally. “You need to feel every word,” she said. At this point Harry and Keith switched sides, with Harry putting on a thick Aussie accent, and Keith imitating Harry with made-up, high-sounding, and incomprehensible words. It was a hoot.

C. J. Harris fell off his high pedestal from his great performance the week before. He chose “Invisible” by Hunter Hayes, and, though he killed it in rehearsal, he died onstage. It was totally off-key, though he still put his soulful sound and emotions into it. (Love ya, C.J.!). Keith said he was rooting for him, but he had to stay in control of that pitch. “You have everything going for you,” he said. Jennifer was very disappointed and simply said how C.J. had “killed it in rehearsal”. Harry said he didn’t give a rip about rehearsal. What counted was what happened on stage. He wanted to know if C.J. actually knew what they were talking about when they talked about pitch, and being in tune. “You have a tendency to sing sharp,” he said. “You’ve got to discipline yourself and get that pitch in check.”

Jessica Meuse chose a controversial song of violence called “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. “It’s twisted,” she admitted. But it sure did sound good. I love that stand out, smoky voice. Jennifer said she was really happy and that song was “right in your wheelhouse”. (Again with the wheelhouse). Harry, of course, disagreed, calling Jessica’s performance one-dimensional. “Those are extremely evocative lyrics,” he said, “and there was a smile on your face the whole time. You gotta sing the lyrics.” (And look like you mean them, I think he meant). Keith liked it, saying she made it her own, and that it sounded like ’60s country pop. The judges had to squabble some more. For some reason Jessica brings that out in them. One of them took up for her, citing the “happiness of the melody”, and that it was a complicated song.

Majesty Rose, who was in the bottom three last week, said she got a wake up call, and felt humbled by the experience. “I know this is a critical song choice,” she said, and that she wanted to be friends with America again. Bless her heart. I know these young girls get overpowered by the outpouring of votes and the heady praise of strangers throughout the country. I’m sure it’s like losing your best friend when that outpouring dries up enough to land them in the bottom. Her critical choice this week was “Wake Me Up” by Avicii. Harry called it her feature vocal which she took in a different direction. “I loved what you just did,” he said. Keith disagreed. He called it a folk song with a driving beat, and didn’t care for the arrangement. Jennifer saw beyond the stage presence to the fear lurking behind Majesty’s singing and expression. “You’ve got to let it go,” she said. “You can’t let it get you down. You’ve got to come back.”

The last but not least of the line-up was the Woolf in sheep’s clothing. Sam Woolf, who was in the bottom three last week, sang “We Are Young” has a voice like an angel, but doesn’t seem to trust himself in front of cameras and a huge audience. He looks fearful and it detracts from his stage presence, even though he’s a young, good-looking guy that the girls could die for. It was obvious the show was running short of time. Keith just said he would be able to say more next week. Jennifer loved it. And Harry told the kid to be assertive. To own it. To bring it out. But there’s no denying Sam sounded fantastic and the audience loved it.

When Ryan asked the judges what the challenge was for next week, Jennifer said it was owning the stage and being comfortable on it.

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9 thoughts on “Alex Preston Hits The Bull’s Eye on American Idol’s Top Ten Songs Night

  1. First of all, I wasn’t sorry to see M. K. go. She has a pleasant voice that might be OK in a group, but she has trouble with the pitch on low notes, phrasing and is totally lacking in personality and charisma. She is not Idol material…all just IMO. Harry said once that he couldn’t imagine what kind of show she would do. I agree…she’s too one dimentional.

    I don’t remember a contestant ever being so completely out of tune as C. J. was this week. Another performance like that and he’ll be walking, too.

    Loved Alex and Caleb. Alex just opens his mouth and the notes float out like there’s no effort involved. Wonderful. And Caleb can do pretty much anything. He’s a good rocker, but has a beautiful voice for ballads, and is very at ease on stage. These two are definitely contenders. I liked Dexter a lot and it was smart of Randy to point that he needs to enunciate more. He does tend to swallow the lyrics, but he didn’t do it this week. I thought “Cruisin” was wonderful.

    Jena was definitely a highlight for me. I think she’ll be in it for a long time. Contrary to what Jennifer said, I thought Jenna owned the stage better than anyone else so far. She has good performance skills, something several of the others are lacking. I thought Malaya and Majesty were just OK. For me, this was one of Jessica’s best performances. But she does need to start moving around, showing some personality and stop being such a Johnny-One-Note. Everything she sings sounds too much the same to me. The lyrics discussion was interesting. I’ve heard that song dozens of times, but I guess I only heard the melody and beat. I had never paid attention to the lyrics and was surprised when I realized what they said.

    I’m on the fence about Sam Woolf. He has a pleasant enough voice, but he always looks like a deer caught in the headlights. He also exhibits just barely more personality than M. K. He needs a breakout performance.

    Thanks for the videos. It was nice to see these performances again.

    • Agreed on all counts. Tammy gave me a definition for the incomprehensible (to me) phrase “pumped up kicks, which was Jessica’s song. It means those tennis shoes (kicks) that can be pumped up. Where the twisted part comes in is about the gun. I really didn’t understand most of it. The melody was upbeat with darker underside. I love her voice, but you’re right. She needs to sing something different, with a different sound, instead having just a one act show.

      As for Sam Woolf, I’ve wondered why he hasn’t come out of his shell. Maybe he does lack personality. If that’s the case, voice or no, good looks or not, he won’t last all the way. I hope that if there is something there he’ll let it loose soon.

      You’re welcome for the videos. So far the best performer and singer is your New Hampshire boy, Alex. He may be good for the win. You just never know. If C.J. doesn’t get his act together, Alex and Caleb will be the front runners. I don’t see any of the girls winning.

      • I agree, this season’s win is up to the boys to lose. With the possible exception of Jena, I think it will be a male finale. As for Sam, not all good singers are good performers. Sam may be one of those.

  2. Further observations. Both Alex and Sam stand at the mic and play a guitar, but there the similarity ends. Alex owns the stage without moving around because he’s so expressive. Sam doesn’t do this; he just stands there. “We Are Young” would have been a perfect song for him to ditch the guitar and MOVE. Have you ever seen (the original) Fun. perform this song? You’ll see what I mean. Frankly, I don’t see how Sam can NOT move. My feet are a-tappin’ every time I hear this song.

    • You are so right about how expressive Alex is. I love him. So far he’s in the lead if you ask me. As for Sam, I hated his performance, but loved his singing and arrangement of it better than the original ones on the video, though they had the most energy. I don’t know if it was just after doing a lot of calling and talking about Tim, but it got on my nerves. But, I already had a tension headache so maybe I should watch it again when things have calmed down around here.

      • The band Fun. isn’t for everyone. They get a little maniacal sometimes, but I mostly wanted you to see how much energy they used on the song. Sam’s arrangement was much more low key and there’s nothing wrong with that. BUT…you still have to sell your performance. I’m starting to think Sam is incapable of doing that.

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