Friday, 25 April 2014

The One With The Grumpy Cat. The Top 5 Revealed.

This is the Top 6 for American Idol Season XIII.

It seems a much more exciting start than we've seen for a while. I'm not sure quite why but Harry nd Keith seem particularly popular. Ryan tells us that this week it'll be a little bit Country and a little bit Rock 'n Roll. So that's CJ stuffed then.

Jena starts with Barracuda, sharing the vocals very briefly with someone who I presume did it first. That was a strong performance but lacked something to remember her by other than the trousers which really should have been black leather and not black and white check. That wasn't as good as last week but it was competent.

Luckily they get two shots tonight.

Sam's next up and does soem track that suits him pretty well about Never Changing Who I Am. He is forgetting Harry's advice about looking at the girls and seemed to be so well-occupied with remembering what he is supposed to be doing that he didn't communicate that well. That's a pity because he is singing remarkably well and has built up a huge amount of support with lots of pretty teens in the audience clearly in love with the chap. He really has the looks and that will help him along no doubt. He is good too. But he must let go. Like the panel said to Jena, they're all holding back too much.

I don't know if that was Rock or Country.

CJ is on third. Nice chap. Doing American Woman. That's a good track from long ago and definitely Rock. But no, that didn't look right. He had a good vocal but that was boring. He held a guitar and occasionally did a riff or two but they were pretty useless efforts in the Rock vein. Keith gets it in one: he says how it's a badass song but he sang it without any meaning at all. CJ needs a good Country performance or he's out. No way can a potential American Idol deliver such a dodgy performance at this stage of the competition. If they don't make us sit up and take notice for the right reasons then they're not going to make the final. So far, interestingly, I would say only Sam has approached making me sit up and take notice but even he didn't hold my attention for long.

Alex, maybe, can do himself some good here by putting on something special. He should be able to pick something special - that is a talent he's shown to date that he has in spades so I'm expecting something good and something authentic. Animal by Neon Trees? Who? What? OK, let's find out. Er. I don't know what to say about that. Bits showed how good he can be but other bits showed some bad sides, like little communication of any meaning. It seems a commercial number that people could sing along with but that's about it. He was not really there and he looked very uncomfortable. Just like CJ. So he's in trouble and needs a good Country song as well.

Caleb is in his element with the Rock number and performs a frantic Black Crowes number. It's like he knew it by heart whereas the others have had to rehearse and try to remember the words and moves. The best by far so far - totally annihilating the others' efforts which looked pathetic in comparison. Very good indeed, even if the song didn't mean a great deal. Harry congratulates him. I liked the bit where he was on his knees and one of the backing singers ruffled his hair!

Jessica has to follow that? I guess if anyone can she can. Tonight she needs to get some points back from Jena too. And she does so in style. I have always seen Grace Slick in some of her performances and now she does Somebody To Love by Jefferson Airplane. Excellent. It ends a bit suddenly which is a shame as I was enjoying that.

I still think she could have expressed the lyrics better and I would love to see her continue as she has so much going for her - we just need that 'release' as Keith calls it. I want to see her doing something that she is totally comfortable with and that she doesn't have to think about. Get me the lyrics. I need her to speak to me.

Ryan shows us how they're doing with the votes at the half-way stage. Jena is out in front. That's interesting after such a good Caleb job.

Now for the Country shots. Sam's first. A familiar tune - Still The One but he looks so worried, almost as if he is scared of forgetting the words. He goes to the audeience but you feel that he's doing that on a cue and it's not as natural as it ought to be. The guy is just 18 today and is really having to cope with his new-found appeal. Relax, Keith advises. That's so necessary. The song was OK.

Caleb next. He's doing a Carrie Underwood number. I'd simply love to see him do Blown Away but it's Undo It. It sounds like something from a similar vein anyway and suits him fine. Unlike all the others so far, this guy does try to connect and seems to comprehend just what he is singing about. He has a birthday too today. 23. Still pretty young. That was OK and he surely has to fly through to the Top 5.

Alex says he's doing Always On My Mind which is a superb song. This fits him like a glove. I hear Paul Simon in his voice and also some more modern influences. That was good. Quite a brave performance of such a classic. That lifted him to #2 after Caleb tonight. You do feel that he cares about the song he sings and the way he delivers it. Keith makes a fair point that he didn't quite get the power across of the meaning but then few have tonight.

I worry a bit about his popularity with voters as evidenced by the half-time placings. That should have helped him.

Now it's Jena. She has also chosen Carrie Underwood and sings So Small. For me that could be the best performance of the night. She sang that almost perfectly and all the feelings came across which so many of the others have failed to do. Very very good job. She has to move through. She also had the leather trousers, strangely enough. The make-over team have done an excellent job with her, Harry isn't that impressed which is surprising. She is very natural and she takes #1 for me tonight. If only Jessica could get the same passion out there.

CJ now doing a Zack Brown Band number Whatever It Is. That seems much more like his kinda number. Nice job and he won't have done any harm with that. He hasn't had the best of nights and needed to make a mark tonight with at least one track. Nice chap but I can see him going because Alex has probably saved himself, Sam has so many fans now and did well both times and Jena and Caleb should romp home. Just Jessica left to compete with.

But Jessica plays a trump card with Dolly Parton's Jolene. I do wish she'd moved a bit but she sang it very well and she did communicate it well. This was a good job and will have blown CJ's chances of staying. Two super songs. I put her Top 3 this week, that should appeal sufficiently to enough people for her to be safe.

And, yes, the results confirm what I'd expected. Caleb, Sam, Alex and Jena take the Top 4. Jessica is 5th and we say farewell to CJ in 6th place. As has so often been the case this series, people have been doing their very best performances as they go! Until he lost it emotionally, CJ was doing a superb job of his farewell number. Maybe had he chosen similar tracks for his earlier performances he would ahve stayed a lot longer.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Jena and 5 others make it through to another week.

The judges talked a lot of sense yesterday, or whenever you saw the Top 7 perform. Keith appealed to everyone to 'cut loose' and that sums it up - so far, apart from a couple of notable efforts, the contestants have either played pretty safe or just don't have that special something to distinguish them from 'just good singers'. On another programme they might have called it the 'X Factor' perhaps.

Jena excelled herself last night and Caleb has been establishing himself as a totally natural great performer. Jena had previously been somewhat in Jessica's shadow and I am still seeing Jessica outlasting her but now she has pretty much evened things up.

Sam may have established a good solid support amongst the teen girls now. He's not the best act but I think he and Caleb may outlast Alex and CJ. I like Alex a lot but don't see him winning. CJ had a good night but unless he picks substantially better songs he's getting to the end of his run. Dexter is lucky still to be there in my view.

Of the girls, Randy says Jena is the one to beat - and I think he includes the boys too in that!

Coming 6th and 7th this week are Jessica and Dexter. So Jena sure did trounce Jessica in the votes, and deservedly so on the acts we saw but as fan base sizes that is more interesting. 7th is Dexter so he's the one to go. I think that is fair enough. 7th is a pretty good position.

Sam will be very pleased at coming at least 5th, as will CJ. I have a feeling that Alex, Caleb and Jena will have been the Top 3.

So it's all down to song choice and getting some sort of connection next week. Someone needs to make their mark.

Dexter performed Lucky Man at the end and did probably one of his best performances! A fine time to do that but there you go. Or rather, there he goes.

The Top 7 perform

It is getting interesting now. After this week there will be just six remaining. At last, too, we have a 'moment'. Two actually.

Competitors' Picks is the strange theme where each one picks a song for their competitors. Luckily each gets to choose from six and Randy Jackson should ensure fairness. Otherwise the opportunities for sabotage are all too evident! So unless all six really really dislike one of the others all should be well.

Family Tree by Kings Of Leon was Alex's choice for Caleb. Alex does know his music so should have chosen well for the big rock man. It's missing a hook. Caleb performs well enough but it's not one of his best. A good effort but maybe Alex was looking a little too deep and this might be one of those tracks that grows on you after a few times. Here, though, tonight, Caleb has just the one. Hope the voters get it.

Anyone who comes from a town called Slapout gets remembered. Sam chooses something called Gunpowder and Lead for Jessica. I think it's by Miranda Lambert. It's one of those hard hitting Country numbers that might have been written at the same time as Blown Away. Similar vein, but not as good, nowhere near as good. Jessica, though, is very good on stage, working well with the band and seems totally at home. Nice job, That should pull in a good number of votes from the Country states which will keep her in.

Unlike what the panel says to Caleb, Jennifer and Harry, in particular, spend a long time giving advice to Jessica. It's not so much that they don't like her but really want her to win but need her to take notice and improve to do so. She takes it all well but must have been a bit upset to have several minutes of advice still coming trough in front of everyone at this stage.

Demi Lovato appears on stage - no adverts for X Factor USA, though!

Sam & Alex have a duet. Passengers' Let Her Go is another great track that I think we can credit Alex for choosing. That suited both of them very well and should do them no harm whatsoever. Their fans will have enjoyed that.

Caleb chooses Gravity for CJ. Again, this ought to be good. Yes, that's what CJ needed. Really suited him. Not a stand-out track by any means on its own but that will have helped him considerably. He may well stay in and make the Top 6 now and should be thankful to Caleb for that.

CJ chooses a bluesy Country Mutterly Creek Water (I think). Now CJ knows Dexter well so I expect him to know what he's doing. This was OK but whilst it will keep his Country fans happy enough I am not so sure it will bring the votes flooding in. Harry wanted him to make it his own song and, if this year's American Idol is going to be more than a karaoke act then they have to more than sing other people's stuff well.

Caleb and Jena have a duet. The Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter. Great. Not at all easy. It's not really a track to fit into 2 minutes but they produced a first class effort and as Jennifer points out immediately that could be a 'moment'! Good performance and Caleb was, for once, actually outsung by Jena. For her, a really much needed uplift and she looks a lot better too. They work well together. I got the impression that Caleb was staying back just a little to help highlight Jena. Just a brilliant choice and Sir Mick can count on her if he needs someone on stage with him for that number. I'd back her to last the full 10 minute version too!

Alex has an Ed Sheeran number chosen by Dexter. The A Team is a pleasant number. It's another sugary version - well structured and very friendly. Huge audience response. They liked that. As the panel each point out, that was a perfect track for him and Harry has it as his favourite performance so far. That'll delight Alex, who may get another week with that job.

Jessica chooses Sail Away for Sam, a David Gray number. A very impressive vocal performance indeed, but I am not so sure he 'connected' as well as he might, something that the panel have been going on about for week after week.

Jessica, CJ and Dexter are singing together. They have a similar background and get on pretty well, understaning where each other fits in. Doing Lady Antebellum's Compass. A simple enough track and they get through it OK. Nothing spectacular though.

Jena winds up the show. Caleb has chosen Creep for her and that could be amazing. These two have taken over the show tonight, big time. Fantastic interpretation and some brilliant notes in there. Finally something to remember someone by - twice in one show. Her odds to win this thing have just dropped remarkably. Thank you, Caleb.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Top 7 revealed.

No save from the judges now so whoever gets the fewest votes is out of the competition. X Factor did have the chance for one of the bottom two to survive - the panel decided, regardless of who actually came bottom. Only if they were split 50-50 would the public vote be used to decide. Here it is totally down to the numbers who pick up a phone and dial.

CJ and Malaya are the two at risk this time. One will make the Top 7.

Malaya is the one to go as CJ scrapes through to sing another week. Malaya's farewell track is quite emotional - she does her best with I'm Changing and you can tell that neither Jennifer nor Harry are convinced she was the right one to go but Keith leans over and reminds them that she'll be touring the nation all summer anyway. In a way, I think she was a couple of years too early in this competition.

CJ was lucky and now needs to pick some very smart numbers for next week. With Sam coming at least 6th this time in the polls my feeling is that Jena and Dexter should be next to go.

That's it. Down to seven. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Top 8 Take 2

Sam was saved last week so there are still eight contestants left. Ryan looked more delighted than Sam at the news! I guess that, after being in the lower part of the voting results list since the start of the Live Shows, he must be getting resigned to the fact that others are more popular.

I would not have put him at the bottom but it is so difficult to tell with this show. So many Country fans out there tend to dominate the voting and make it difficult for anyone not in that genre. They also keep some people in who really are not likely to score heavily in the main Billboard charts or break into Europe. Anyway, let's see how they get on this week on 'Eighties Night'. That's music from before when all of them were born!

David Cook comes in to mentor them. My God, he looks old. I suppose it was a long time ago when he won - one of the few, in fact, who won without playing the Country card. He should be able to give them good guidance as he was brilliant in his choices and interpretation.

First up is Jena with I Love Rock And Roll. She looks like someone who would sing this well and certainly has the right attitude. Can she transmit that on stage? Great start, slowing it right, right down. When she gets up and moves around, though, the mike seems a bit quiet. I know she would have been wanting to start quietly and build up but it still needed to be louder. Eventually it seems to have more volume but by then she has started to sound a bit urgent or desperate. A good try and, with some more rehearsal and a bit more control, that could be good. Something was missing - it needed more 'roar' from someone who can 'roar'.

Dexter next. He has another good ol' boy song Keep Your Hands To Yourself with lyrics that are more like something from the 40s than the 80s but that's his good' ol boy style. He did a good job of this, neither fantastic nor bad, just good ol' boy average and I still don't see him filling halls or arenas. Pubs, village halls and clubs maybe. He's a nice, likeable fellow, probably missing his tractor now. I would have thought he'd have been back on it by now but no, the voters are right behind him in a big way. I have no idea how he's going to do.

Alex and Sam get a nice track to perform as a duo. The Girl Is Mine. This is a gentle sing-a-long sort of track that not even Paul McCartney or Michael Jackson could do a great deal with. It starts and stops. They blend well but that's not going to be replayed a great deal.

Malaya has a Chaka Khan number. That should suit her. Through The Fire was not a huge hit so there is an element of risk with this not being a Dexter anthem or classic 80s number. She doesn't seem as comfortable at all with this. The notes are slightly off and her tone is getting tinny and, surprisingly, her timing is poor. This was quite painful to listen to. She has done much better and we all expected a lot more from her. Keith says she should not try so hard - it's like she wasn't being natural and when she is then that's when she is at her best. Jennifer also starts by saying 'We know how talented you are' which basically means that she isn't going to comment adversely. Harry also remarks that she was over-conscious of what she was doing but she didn't think she was. Anyway, that was pretty awful but I wouldn't be surprised to see her make it to next week, regardless.

Jena & Caleb are the second duo with It's Only Love, full rocks socks on. Jena looked much better for this performance and was great, as was Caleb. They worked really well together.

Harry walks into the audience and joins a bunch of teenagers while Jena and Caleb perform. He gets one of them sitting on his shoulders and she's still there when he returns to his seat. It's a bit odd and the girl does look a bit uncomfortable after a while. Keith's off the cuff remark, which I won't repeat, and Harry's reply have already been commented on by a reader and I have to agree with her - something went wrong there but I don't think any offence was intended and Harry is just unpredictable anyway.

Jessica took on Blondie's Call Me. She's good. She looks fabulous, getting better each week. This ought to have been an ideal number for her but she wasn't sexy enough in how she delivered it. Jennifer says the same and wisely suggests that if Jessica doesn't feel comfortable doing sexy then she should pick different tracks. My guess is that Jessica will carry on. I hope she stays. She deserves to and I reckon she delivered the most commercial track of the night so far.

Sam must be really worried. It doesn't show, though. He performs Time After Time really well. I like his pacing with some youngsters around and just the one backing singer to remind us of Cyndi Lauper. That was an excellent job and if that doesn't get his fans voting then nothing will. Good job, Sam. It may be that many of his fans just thought he'd be safe and didn't bother but last week's shock may now have made them sit up and take notice. I had him down as a potential winner. Harry tells him to look at a Ricky Nelson video on YouTube. We should check that out and see what he has in mind.

Malaya & CJ are #3. That should be interesting - one desperate to hit those big notes and one so laid back he's almost asleep. George Michael and Aretha's classic I Knew You Were Waiting is a great track. Malaya doesn't start terribly well but soon picks up the thread and she makes up for her previous efforts, virtually taking the whole song over! CJ is more like a backing singer. A pleasant performance. Not stunning or memorable and it'll just get an average number of downloads but really nothing very spectacular. That is a bit worrying from a quarter of the set for this Season.

Alex has the Police number Every Breath You Take. He and David Cook will have understood each other well. Now that was the performance of the night. Fabulous version of the song - quite diverse from Sting and how great that was. Alex's voice is crystal clear and the contrast with people like Malaya's tinniness or strained tones tells a big story and hopefully, for him, will take him a long way further through this show. Harry distinguishes between him being a performer (brilliant) and entertainer (not so good). That's a fair point but Alex reminds me of someone like Paul Simon who was no entertainer either. I think he can get away without entertaining. Jennifer didn't like it that much - she missed the insistent beat of the original which was a class song but Alex totally transformed it. The lyric was originally sinister - Alex cleverly brought it round.

Jessica & Dexter play the Dolly & Kenny act. I wonder if Dexter will ever sing anything other than some huge Country classic?! Islands In The Stream is one of The Biggest Songs. They do a good job with this but it is just a karaoke sort of performance really. It pleases the crowd so I suppose they have the 'entertaining' factor! Harry would be pleased but he has disappeared into the crowd again. Keith too this time! Probably hoping to divert attention from their earlier remarks.

CJ goes for Free Fall by Tom Petty. This is a cool song. He ought to deliver this really well. It's his style and the sort of track I would expect to see him doing in the world outside. Some important notes at the very start aren't quite there but he will probably get away with that. It was OK, nothing like as good as I had hoped he would be. He ends very well, though, and will not have done himself any harm with that. I don't know how much support he has out there, though. I think he may be vulnerable - he needs a moment. As Harry, says, though, he does make a connection with the audience. Harry And Keith also spot the tuning mistakes. Not something we reckoned on for this guy.

Finally, we have Caleb. Expecting something a bit special to close the show. Ryan teases us before the break - a Journey classic. I'd forgotten that Randy Jackson was part of Journey. Faithfully, as David Cook says, is a major 80s anthem for anyone from those days. He can't afford to mess it up. He will, though, give him a chance to show how he can be gentle and handle lyrics not just belt out heavy stuff at pace. He does the track proud. Another fine performance from this unlikely looking Idol. Standing ovation from the judges and crew.

CJ and Malaya may need some extra fan votes to survive this week, against such excellent competition. Jena may be the one to go.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Top 8 Perform

I have yet to see this group as 'memorable'. Just two, CJ and Jessica, stand out as artists, the others being competent but not really spectacular. Alex has a great talent and I can see him working well in the industry albeit not in the limelight. Sam could get a good amount of teen support and might be able to sell a few albums with the right packaging. But really I see just the two potential stars.

Let's see if they can all show us a bit more to remember in years to come. I didn't know but the two I back are actually on first.

Jessica starts an sings her own composition. That's quite a brave thing to do at this stage. It is a good number and she certainly presents it with passion. I quite light the span between rock and Country too which won't do her any harm at all. Good job. Keith sees the Grace Slick connection. Whoever chose her clothes needs his or her head examining. The red dress stopped at just the wrong place looking more light those shorts that men wore in the 90s and looked stupid.

CJ comes on with Soul Shine. not a track I knew. He did a reasonable job with that. Nothing wild, though, but all the notes were right and he was a lot more confident. Well staged with great lighting. He does get through to people.

It looks like they're redoing their first audition numbers. That's quite a good idea - unless, of course, they had a poor initial choice.I did like the chance Ryan took when bringing two girls on stage to meet CJ. Maybe it was staged, maybe it just happened.

A duet next. Jena & Alex. Pink's Just Give Me A Reason works well at the start for both of them. It drifts in the middle, Jena seeming to miss the key and timing but it is Jena again who brings it back and gets it right. Alex never really gets noticed.

Sam is redoing Lego House. I like his choice of tunes and he is modern in many ways that some others aren't. It's OK but, again, lacks anything to make us want to rush to play it again. In fact, I very much doubt that many will do so at all. That may also mean he hits the Bottom 3 again. He ought to have lots and lots of teen fans dialling, though, and that was a competent and accurate performance that should mean he survives.
Harry has some great advice for him. Good reviews from the panel.

Jessica & Caleb make  good pairing for Stevie Nicks' Stop Draggin' My Heart Around. Not really the best of tunes but it works for Jessica pretty well and doesn't hurt Caleb's chances either.

Malaya had an Aretha Franklin soulful number, Ain't No Way and I have to say that she absolutely won that over and won everyone there over with it too. A very, very good performance of a track that suited her exactly. She has to make it through. I still don't see her as a star, mainly because I just see her as another version of several people out there already. That doesn't mean she is not exceptionally good, though. Very impressive. Jennifer says, perhaps unguardedly, that she will 'run away with this competition'.

Ryan shows a glimpse of Facebook votes and we see Jessica leading the over 21s and Sam the under 21s. Malaya, surprisingly, was 4th with the over 21s and 2nd with the under 21s.

Dexter and One Mississippi. He is one act I thought would have departed by now. This was a competent performance but I can't see that getting votes outside the farming belt. That may well be enough, though, for him. Alison Irahitra (sorry about the spelling) from Season 8 is his backing singer. Nice to see people from previous Seasons having success.

Malaya & Sam comprise duet #3. That'll be odd. The duet was really poor. Malaya tries to make it work, all credit to her, but Sam is just out of it. Useless. That might affect both their votes.

Jena does Adele's Rolling In The Deep. The start is a bit tedious but she pulls it together well and ended very well. In a sense she was totally disconnected from the band and I felt that she was maybe trying too hard. She is a good singer and performer but I would have preferred to see her singing something lese. She did make the song her own and she deserves credit for that. Will she survive this evening? Maybe, but I think she is vulnerable.

Dexter & CJ are duet #4. They get on well as it happens, coming from the same place. So this should work well for them and it starts to but is a bit dodgy in places. Dexter takes the lead and CJ sort of sings along. "I've got a roof over my head and a woman I love lying in my bed'. Now that's a lyric.

Caleb has another Aretha track. Chain Of Fools. I didn't like this at all. It just went on and on. All the notes and timing and stuff were just about as spot-on as they needed to be but it's just a track I don't feel gets anywhere. He has done some great tracks and has a super voice. Hopefully he will get another chance to do something great. He is big and loud but he's not going to win.

Alex also does an original song. Fairytales is a good song. His performance is excellent. Naturally, he is completely in touch with the lyrics, and that helps so much. He is someone you can listen to easily and I have a great deal of respect for this guy. He is the classic American Idol 4th place fellow. Really talented and deserves to win but I don't see that happening. Just the type of people voting.