Up the Backstretch, American Idol Pushes Contestants to Fight for the Title

Going back in time, the American Idol Eight brought out their A games last night for a “really good shoo” — (a line that Ed Sullivan made famous). We viewers were treated to each contestant’s baby picture — including Ryan Seacrest — and home videos of little musical abilities unfolding. This was followed by a repeat of the song that snagged a golden ticket for the ride to fame and fortune.


Jena Irene and Alex Preston

Included in the entertainment line-up, though not judged, were duets. Jena Irene was paired with Alex Preston for a twosome of “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink and Nate Reuse. I love Alex Preston, but I also love that song. The awkward echo of it didn’t ring true for me, but my Village Gang (Katie, Tammy, and me) — connected by cell phones — couldn’t come to a consensus on that one. So in the digit department the thumb indicator wouldn’t go up or down, so I give it a waggle.

Jessica Meuse and Caleb Johnson

Jessica Meuse and Caleb Johnson took me away from “that’s nice” to a heart-throbbing, blood-pumping version of “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks. I loved the interplay between Caleb and Jessica. It made me a believer in their stormy romance — as brought to us by the lyrics. Fan-tas-tic!! It got three thumbs up from the Villagers.

Malaya Watson and Sam Woolf

Malaya and Sam sang “Lucky” by  Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. It was just another okay, and was saved from three thumbs down because Katie LUVs Sam. We all love that mellow, dreamy voice. But, even though he’s better, he’s still as awkward as Nancy Reagan publicly uncoiffed and dee-frocked. Sam sang his part better than Malaya did hers, and I would love to hear him sing a solo in just that genre of music. But not with Malaya. She wasn’t always in sync or in tune with him. “Lucky” that she redeemed herself later on.

C. J. Harris and Dexter Roberts

The Alabama Boys, C.J. and Dexter, sounded “Alright” together on a Darius Rucker song. They sounded better than alright. They were good, and seemed to work well with each other. Katie’s husband Randy said it was a good thing it wasn’t another love song. (Thumbs up on that one, bro).

Back to the Beginning songs:

Jessica Meuse

“Intensity” was the word used by Jennifer Lopez to sum up her first impression of Jessica Meuse. Keith Urban loved her ferocity in singing her original song, “Blue-eyed Lies”, but advised her to get the rest of herself in line. Keith had commented back in the auditions that Jessica did something with her shoulder — a small, cute, idiosyncrasy he thought she could capitalize on. Then he accused her of wearing Harry’s shoes. Good observation on the ensemble Jess was wearing — an awkward red dress with shoes that looked like men’s store brands. Who chose this train wreck and when will they be shot? Jennifer loved Jess’s performance and could already hear her album. Harry compared Jessica to Cher with her cool presentation. But whatever else she did not have going, Jessica Meuse’s original song is good enough for a single and so is her amazing, out of the mainstream voice.

C. J. Harris

Judges were feeling it when C. J. sang “Soul Shine”, by the Allman Brothers. Jennifer called it soulful and in touch with people. Harry told C. J. he was special enough to be here and had gotten infinitely better by listening to the advice of the judges. Keith thought C. J. had really “ranged it up” and was happy for him when the young girls screamed “Love U, C.J., and were invited on stage by Seacrest. Not only have I loved C. J. through thick and thin throughout this competition, I have also observed his naked fear of returning to nothing. He’s gotten a glimpse of a better future for himself and his family, and he wants that brass ring. But as much as I love him as a person, I doubt he’ll make it to become the next American Idol. But as long as he can hang on in the competition, there is that much more chance of a singing career that doesn’t require his life spent in rural Alabama. He has the voice and the presence. Now, as Keith and Harry have told many others, C. J. just needs to hone his craft. We Villagers loved his shining soul and his “Soul Shine”.

Sam Woolf

In my opinion, Sam Woolf may be going home tonight. Not because I don’t care for his voice — his voice is amazing — but because he can’t seem to overcome his awkward, shy, stage presence. He started out shy in his American Idol audition, and things haven’t changed much. He sang “Lego House”, which wasn’t his best performance, though he did look a tad looser. Judges feel he is still not emotionally connected with his audience, and I totally agree. Harry loved his shy, sweet demeanor, but loathed the lack of eye contact with the audience. Keith called his sound soulful, while Jennifer caught a glimpse of his early promise.

Malaya Watson

Harry called Malaya Watson a “goldmine of talent” when she sang The Queen of Soul’s “Ain’t No Way”. Keith thought it was about growth and loved that she had such control. Jennifer said she was blossoming into a star, and loved that she had more control and poise. Harry called her presenting and entertaining, but advised vocal coaches to help her with runs to make sure they were right with the chords. This was Malaya’s best performance to date, but she still screeches on the very high notes. It’s as if she claws her way up. Our cat, Dickens, laid his ears back when Malaya’s voice started climbing. My husband picked him up and said, “She hurts my ears, too, Dickens.” And left for another room.

I think Malaya is sweet and talented. But she was right when she said she thought she might be too young for the competition. She could be a singer to be reckoned with, but needs some maturity and training. Loved her father, by the way. On the video he looked like a sweet and loving dad, and very supportive of his little girl. We give thumbs up on Papa Watson. Our consensus was that she sounded great until she hit the very high notes. If my thumb was a clock hand it would be set at about 12:45 on the clock face.

Dexter Roberts

Dexter Roberts wowed us with his “One Mississippi” by Brett Eldredge. Jessica loved hearing the different nuances in his voice. And mentioned his great back-up by Allison, a former American Idol contestant. All of us viewing the show immediately noticed her voice when it first came in on the song with Dexter, and we’re dying to know who she is and what year she was on. Harry said he “sang the crap out of that song, and was touched by it. (So were we, Harry). Keith must have been texting his wife instead of listening to Dexter’s song because his comment was so totally out in left field. “Pay less attention to sound and more on the lyrics,” he advised. DO NOT listen to Keith, please, Dexter. That song was perfect. Perfect. Listen to Harry.

Jena Irene

Jena Irene wowed me once before with her unique voice and she did it again last night singing “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. Wonderful job! But in all the weeks in between she lost me. And even though her performance last night was great, I can’t seem to see her in the same limelight I did before. I’ve gone on to others in the competition. Harry called it a great job. Keith liked the way she made it her own and never went into the version everybody knows. Jennifer wants her to come out and blow the rest of the competition off the board to win this thing. I don’t know about that, but we give Jena three reluctant thumbs up. The only girl we’re really rooting for is Jessica.

Caleb Johnson

Keith called Caleb a Blues Warrior, a Soul Conquerer, and a Rock n’ Roll Viking. Sounds like epic heroism. But also — them sounds like fighten’ woids to me. Maybe Keith means Caleb can blow the competition away, too. But put Keith’s violent nomenclature with Seacrest’s prodding the kids to turn on each other in the spirit of competition, and we see the insatiable desire of The Hunger Games for ratings. I love it that the kids can be friends. Please don’t push them to devolve into a lot of little Tonya Hardings. Jessica said Caleb delivered and Harry called it a really solid performance, but would rather hear a ballad every once in a while instead of singing something loud. I agree that Caleb did a credible job on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”, but the different tempo kept throwing me off. Caleb did this song better at the try-outs.

Alex Preston

Alex Preston was “shakin’ out that vibrato” according to Harry Connick, Jr., who enjoyed it. Alex sang his original “Fairytales”, and melted our hearts. I could listen to it all over again. Jennifer said he had stayed true to himself throughout the competition, and had seen some new moves from him during his performance. Keith had to rapidly throw in something as the show was running out of time, so he just pointed out that the other contestants were singing the song with Alex back in the lounge.

We’re getting to the point where a favorite may go home. It’s cryin’ time.


One thought on “Up the Backstretch, American Idol Pushes Contestants to Fight for the Title

  1. I thought the duets were just OK. The pairings struck me as a bit odd except for C. J. and Dexter. While C. J. handled his pitch problem better in his solo performance, in the duet I don’t think he was able to handle singing harmony with another singer and his pitch problem reared its ugly head once again.

    I realized last night that Jessica occasionally reminds me of a cross between Joan Jett and Ann Wilson of the band “Heart”….albeit with a country twang. I still don’t care for her voice, but I thought her original song, “Blue-eyed Lie,” was a good song.

    As I said above, C. J. was much more on pitch last night. He’s obviously been working on improving and it showed.

    I’ve never heard “Lego House” before and it seemed like a truly nothing song to me. I LOVED Harry’s comment about Sam not connecting with the audience. It was a typical spot-on observation from Harry and I agree. Gosh, I do love him as a judge. Sam is good looking, yes, but I don’t think that will keep him in the competition much longer. I agree with you that he may be going home unless he has enough young female voters to keep him in the running.

    I thought this was Malaya’s best performance to date. My immediate reaction was, THAT GIRL GOT SOUL !!! and she’s barely 16. And she has serious performance chops. Given a few more years to hone her craft, she could be headed to a successful career.

    I liked Dexter’s performance. BTW, the Allison you asked about who was singing back up for Dexter was Allison Iraheta, who was on season 8 with Adam Lambert. She was also in the “I luh you papi” performance J Lo did with Jessica Sanchez and Pia Toscano a couple of weeks ago.

    I though Jena Irene was terrific. And she DID change up Adele’s “Rollin’ in the Deep” and got praised for it. Too often when contestants do that in an attempt to make it their own. they end up being criticized for it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jena makes it into the final three or four.

    “Keith called Caleb a Blues Warrior, a Soul Conquerer, and a Rock nā€™ Roll Viking.”

    I loved the “Rock n’ Roll Viking” handle. šŸ™‚ I thought Caleb’s “Chain of Fools” was marvelous and I liked the change of tempo, but like Harry, I’d like to hear him do a ballad. And like Adam, he can belt, but has a lovely softer side to his voice, too. At least that’s what I’ve noticed on the VERY brief occasions when he used it.

    I was absolutely smitten by Alex, but I usually am. It was a beautiful original song and Alex just gets better and better. He could very well be our winner.

    Signing off now to go watch the results show, which I have recorded. I’m not going to take the time to proofread this so I hope it’s not full of typos. That would be a first if it’s not.


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