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.