The American Idol Top Six started the evening with a whole lot of a little bit of rock n’ roll with Jena Irene belting out “Baracuda”. But the one who stole the entire evening with his rocking madness and charisma was, once again, Caleb Johnson. I’ve never seen Randy Jackson so pumped over any performance before. While gettin’ down on “Sting Me” by the Black Crowes, Caleb lost his mic and slid for the recovery without missing a beat — the William Moore of headbangers everywhere. It was a show stopper and a legend in the making, and judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban ate it up. Jennifer called it an awesome moment and the mark of a true performer. Losing the mic was a potential disaster that Keith said Caleb “spackled right over”. Good description, Keith. “That’s rock n’ roll right there!” Randy Jackson yelled with fist pumping enthusiasm. “Reckless and wild.” Yeah!!! And it was Caleb’s birthday.
Keith called Jena’s “Baracuda” by Heart “killer”, and that she had set te bar high. “You can cut loose!” (Which is what the judges and audience have been waiting for from everyone but Caleb. Jennifer reminded her that she had reached a pivotal moment and anything extra could help her win it all. Jennifer has mentioned Jena winning two weeks in a row, which is giving unfair advantage. People will vote per her suggestions. Didn’t catch what Harry said.
Sam Woolf followed Jena with “It’s Time” by the Imagine Dragons. Last night was his 18th birthday. He said he and his fellow contestants “jammed and had cupcakes”. Sam’s performance caused Jennifer to have goosies. “I believed you. We want you to be the best of who you are.” Harry Connick, Jr., could already hear him in concert or on record. “You’re always adding layers,” he said. “You’re blossoming.” Keith cited two moments for Sam — his high note and the last notes. “There was still a weight about it,” Keith said. “When you tap into all those emotions, it’ll explode.” — Sam did better as far as loosening up just a little. But, I’m with Keith. He has an exceptionally beautiful voice. He just needs to touch our hearts with it and the emotions the song conveys.
Unless there’s a hitch tonight, I suspect our beloved C.J. Harris will be eliminated. His version of “American Woman” by Guess Who was only okay, and he still doesn’t carry the tune well. He always sounds a bit off. Harry called it a pretty good performance and a good song choice. Keith disagreed. The song, he said, was not in C.J’s zone. “You’re a sweet guy,” Keith said. “The singer of that song is not a good guy. He’s a bad-ass.” Then Keith went on to tell C. J.– if he continues– to think of someone or something that makes him angry for a song like that. Then gave him voice shop talk that I doubt C.J. understood. Jennifer said she loved his look. — Yes. He looked great. — But, she said, “rock n’ roll is not your thing. But you did pull it off at the end. You sang for the crowd and it started coming together.” — I hope C.J. finds a musical career after Idol, but he needs some really good voice and music instruction first. C.J.’s got that soulful, crying voice. He just needs it shaped.
Alex Preston is one of our favorites. His voice is second to none and he does amazing things with it. But he seems stuck in a groove of restful arrangements when he needs an eye-opening, break-out performance. He chose “Animal” by Neon Trees, and, as always, did a good job. Keith got the first booo of the evening when he said he wished Alex would release a little more. Jennifer reminded Alex that rock n’ roll is about wild abandon. About letting go. Harry called him a sensitive and thoughtful performer, and liked the upbeat tempo, though he did not feel that Alex was “centered”. He blamed it on the fact that Alex was wearing socks.
Jessica Meuse sang “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane and sounded, as Harry said, fantastic. “You can stand and deliver, powerfully,” he said. Keith agreed about the vocal strength, but added that her eyes seemed to be on disconnect. The didn’t reflect what she was singing. Jennifer felt there should be more freedom to Jessica’s performance. “You need to feel it,” she said. “Think about the words of the song. Your voice is so powerful. You want the energy of the body coming out of your mouth.” — I agree that Jessica has one, deadpan look which is totally disconnected from that awesome voice. I’ve never understood how she can sing that well and not show a scintilla of real emotion on her face. She smiles and looks beautiful, sings even more beautifully. But she’s as emotionless as the women in the Robert Palmer video “Addicted to Love” — except those girls have more rhythm.
A Little Bit of Country
Caleb Johnson took on Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It”. At the end my husband said, “Well, he really rocked that country song.” Keith echoed that sentiment when he told Caleb, “Can’t wait to hear what country song you sing later.” Jennifer said he did a great job but it was hard to compare with his first out-of-the-ballpark first performance, which she called “epic”. “Magic happened on that first song,” Harry said. This one sounded more forced, but it was still extremely good.”
My daughter-in-law Tammy loved Sam Woolf’s version of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” and thought he out-sung Shania. She loved his melting voice. My sister Katie thought he looked even more like Ricky Nelson. — This is our homegrown judging panel you understand. But, hey. What did the paid and famous judges say? Keith wanted him to relax more, saying that the song sings itself, like a lullaby. Jennifer called it “cute”. and loved it when Sam went over and sang to the girls. Harry said if Sam played back the song, he would hear that it was all sung in the same volume. He wanted Sam to “pull away”.
Willie Nelson’s version of “Always on My Mind” is still safe in it’s entirety. Alex Preston was no competition when his arrangement of the heart-rending song came off impeccably, smoothly, and emotionlessly, Ripped the soul right out of it. If you could merge C.J.’s soul with Alex’s musicality, you’d have the next American Idol. Harry applauded Alex as an artist in changing the song around. Keith told Alex he had a really strong style. “But I love that song,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. I just wish I could have heard more heartbreak. (Way to call it, Keith). Jennifer just called it a perfect balance for Alex. Whatever that means.
Jennifer got goosies again over Jena’s “So Small” by Carrie Underwood. Keith said he had watched her get better and better, while Harry said that the “ornaments” to her version of the song didn’t really match the song. (For which opinion he was booo-ed). My D-in-L Tammy loves Carrie Underwood and hated Jena’s version. “Her interpretation was all wrong,” said Tammy. “She put power where she needed softness, and softness where she needed power.” I think Tammy and Harry were on the same page, don’t you?
C. J. did “Whatever It Is” that the Zack Brown Band do. Jennifer said she thought it was more his style, but didn’t hit the mark. Harry said it was not his best, and had to kill it. About “killing it”, Keith suggested that if the song pulls him down vocally, scrap the song.
Jessica did Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” Miley Cyrus style. The judges didn’t mention Miley (probably for good reason – even though the stark raving mad little girl can REALLY sing). Harry said it was cool that Jessica did it like that. Keith said he hated the arrangement. He didn’t like the undercurrent of darkness. However, Jennifer noted that this time Jessica connected the song with her eyes, and I do admit that Jess fared a bit better on this one. However, Miley Cyrus had more emotion and inflection in the lyrics. My Tammy put me onto the Cyrus version. What Tammy doesn’t know about singers ain’t worth knowing.
The lighter part of the American Idol evening was taken up with the world famous “Grumpy Cat”. And he is hilarious to look at. As the cameras zoomed in after a commercial break during the show, Ryan Seacrest was holding the one-look wonder at the judges’ table. All three got out their picture phones to take a “selfie” with him, and Caleb Johnson kissed the cross looking little creature on the head. Seacrest just gave Caleb a wry look and went on with his spiel. At the end of the show, out comes Randy Jackson cuddling the cat and positions himself at the end of the contestant line, prompting Seacrest to laugh and quip, “The dog holding the cat.” Hey. Good one, Seacrest! Mark one up for you. Loved the show tonight mainly because of Caleb and the cat. Sounds like that could be the title of a new sitcom, huh? Who would write it? Hey, how about a song title. Somebody write it.
Okay. I’m outta here. Again. Waiting in breathless anticipation for tonight’s results. Sorry this is late. I’ve been gone all day. Taa-taa.