Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dim the lights... and the winner is....

The videos take a while for some reason - and then both start which spoils the surprise. Sorry! Alternatively, go to Fox direct at this link.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Final Performances: Caleb v Jena

Here are the songs performed by this year's two finalists as they battle for the American public vote.

It's all sort of OK, but nothing more. Not Caleb's fault but this is a very tedious track and isn't going to set the world light if he wins. The ending is something from the early 1970s. I even listened to this a second time in case I had missed something or perhaps it's one of those songs that grows on you. No, I didn't. It doesn't. It may well cost Caleb the title and certainly won't get many fans other than the good ol' rockers already with him anyway.

Of the two singles, Jena's is considerably better and she even sems more comfortable on stage. Maybe Caleb isn't on top of the world healthwise? She is certainly making a competition of this and if it were down to just these two songs, she'd win easily.

Of course, it isn't down to two songs and here, with the Aerosmith number Caleb really does show what he can do and does so with what seems like renewed belief and spirit. Nice job. He's got the panel on their feet and is looking like a star.

Jena reprises this excellent and very well-delivered version of the classic I Can't help Falling In Love With You. the notes were perfect and that went down very well, maintaining a balance between these two.

A late 60s track by the Beatles for Caleb sort of summarises why he's doing so well but also why he may not win in the end. You can only never really do more than just cover something like this and whilst he does that really well and the notes are sound, it doesn't really inspire.

I never tend to think of Florence & The Machine as commercial and this is a brave choice by Jena. It works, though, and is current and she adds a sexiness that Florence didn't manage in a superb staging and well-produced set.

If this were the last memory of the pair as America goes off to vote then it would be Jena that returns with the crown. However, there is a terrible sing-a-long at the end. Who's idea was that?

This is dreadful. Caleb looks and sounds as if he really doesn't want to be there doing this. Jena tries to carry the track along but all the odd notes and strange tempo brought in by the other 11 turn this into a train wreck of an ending. Neither will benefit from that in the slightest and Jena may lose a few, despite her efforts, as some notes were not at all good.

I predict a Jena win, just.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Someone has to come 3rd.

Someone had to come 3rd and this year that's Alex. He ended with his own song Fairytales which I hope is a big hit for him. He writes well and has a super understanding of music, lyrics and interpretation. Against the powerhouse of Caleb and the dazzling light of Jena in the Final 3 he didn't stand much chance but will have built up a cool fan base and many admirers in the industry behind the scenes too.

He'll do well, not just on tour for the next few months but I see him in the credits for some big hits in the years to come.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

American Idol - 500th Show and The XIII Season Final 3

Here is the brief look back over 13 years of Idol! It is quite remarkable to think we were all 13 years younger when this all started. After that there are videos of the three performances by each finalist. No commentary yet - this will be added later today. We miss Jessica.

Nice compilation with some groovy old moments, including Simon Cowell and many of the judges from the old days.

Jena is so lucky to get Radiohead's Creep. Missing from the main video, this is really good - perfect for this 17 year old. It's between her and Caleb and, on this form, I'd give her the win based on tonight. There's one more week to go, though!

A shaky start, unusually for this fellow and I even began to wonder if he was going to falter. he didn't look or sound comfortable and, again, highly unusually, didn't do the song justice.

We get told about Caleb's voice and even get introduced to the Idol Voice Doctor, laying it all on a bit thick as if the producers were worried about him losing votes or something. Odd. It was, indeed, quite noticeable how he seemed to be holding back a bit but nevertheless put on a super show and this was a fabulous track chosen by Randy.

Demi Lovato sang this panel's choice. Now it's Jena's turn. It is a hard song and she did well. Something somewhere was missing but she certainly made an effort to make it her own and entertain. I am finding her just a little screechy this week - in tune, though, and full of energy and she can occupy the stage and seems comfortable interacting with the band. Not quite as much as Caleb but confident none the less. I can't yet decide between her and Alex for the Final 2.

Stay is the panel's choice for Alex. Interesting as this was a Rihanna song. He performed that very well - as always he manages once more to transform songs into something a bit special and that brings him back into the running after a nervous first track. Nice. He is very talented and possibly the most talented of the three. Perhaps not the 'star' or 'idol' but the talent.

The panel choose Demons by Imagine Dragons. This is missing from the full programme video so I'm glad I pulled in the individual videos. Good job. Harry makes a good point that people should really have kept quiet about Caleb's sickness as most people wouldn't notice and you simply can't 'make allowances' at this stage. He is either a winner or he isn't. I reckon he'll make the final on these two alone.

We hear Titanium so often in these contests and memories of annoying versions put me off this at first but Jena didn't do the usual and gave us a super performance. She screeches a bit at the start and it was, as Jennifer commented, a bit shaky at the start. However, she came through at the end.

Alex's home town people choose Story Of My Life from One Direction for Alex to do. He did really well but following Caleb was tough. He was confident this time but the panel seem very polite in their reviews. It looks, to me, like Caleb v Jena, especially knowing what she finishes the show with.

Led Zeppelin from way way back in the early 70s is the choice of his home town people. Well, watching Jennifer move to that was pretty mind-blowing and Caleb performed his heart out on that one with some excellent graphic display in the background that emphasised the whole thing. I don't really know that his singing was that good but it was one hell of a performance and Harry was spot on in how Caleb took full advantage of the opportunity to make his mark, voice or no voice. Jennifer seemed to be indicating that he had to be in the final and she would be getting him there. She clearly is more than a little taken with him and Jena.

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Top 4 Perform

Caleb kicks off the show with Bon Jovi's You Give Love A Bad Name. I don't think I have seen such confidence in any previous Idol contestant. This guy really does seem to enjoy himself and fits in with whatever is going on in the band behind him too. Very natural and you have to say that he is always note perfect and genuinely entertaining. He deserves his place. I am not sure how long he would last as an individual artist out there on his own - he needs a band in my view - or whether he will ever be seen as truly original and different rather than just a kid doing old rock numbers. (Doing them very well for all that.)

Jessica looks the part. Her song is Kelly Clarkson's Since You've Been Gone. Beautifully dressed and presented this week by the make-over team but there was something missing from the performance. It started a bit strangely and then she seemed to be on full volume all the way through but didn't do that sort of stuff with the same quality and style that Caleb has. She's good and looked comfortable out there. The panel spent hours telling them how they wanted to see her emotions and they're right in that we seldom do feel what she's actually communicating.

Alex sings Too Close. Now I don't know this one but it didn't matter as Alex is excellent at getting lyrics across. Once again, he shows quite some talent in understanding music and full marks for this choice and the way he put it across. He is now 'pin-up' idol and the trousers are beginning to get a bit annoying but we have to put all of that out of our heads. He is very likeable as well as expert in his field and I suppose we could call him a music geek! Nothing wrong with that and there have been one or two winners in the past in similar vein. I am, for the first time, recognising that he could well win this.

Heartbreaker by Pat Benetar was not one of her best known songs but it does suit Jena. Full on from the very start, I am not so sure it was something I would want to hear many more times but it did show how good she is at this sort of thing. Not easy by any stretch of the imagination and so it did seem a bit desperate at times and way too fast and breathless. I much preferred Jessica's performance, though, to this despite the fact that Jena was moving around and rocking out a lot more.

First round to the boys.

Fabulous! Caleb does Creedence Clearwater Revival's Travellin' Band. I guess there isn't really much too that song but it was great to hear it again - I was a big CCR fan in 70 - and he just looks and sounds like a professional act with this sort of track.

Jessica does So What by Pink

It's missing from the video so I've added it here. She clearly liked that herself but I go with Harry - she needs to connect.

Jena has Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. Oh dear, that didn't work. She tried and did a reasonable job of the vocals herself but the staging and ridiculously annoying drumming and strange backing voices definitely did not work. Not her fault so I can't be too critical of the girl but that will not help her in this competition. It was a bit desperate too. Disappointing because she is better than that.

Alex has I'm Yours by Jason Mraz. This could be his chance to take the second round. Missing from the main video so added below.

Keith spots that the guy finally relaxes near the end and that's when we get to see the real Alex. That was excellent and once again, it's the boys who are in charge this week.

Maybe I'm Amazed by Paul McCartney is Caleb's very smart choice. He can, in fact, sing it far better than the Beatle too. So we have a well-written song performed as it really always should have been. That'll see Caleb though to the Top 3, no problem. Very good. Marvellous job, Caleb. If this were the Final he would be walking away the winner now.

Jessica has some work to do this week. She takes on Lady Gaga too but a better song than Jena chose.
You And I suited her well. I wanted it to go on longer as it was the sort of track that she needs. Again, the song is missing from the main video so separately here.

Jena chooses I Can't Help Falling In Love which, of course, many people have done including Elvis. Slowed down, Jena sits at a piano and plays through this. Very effective and a cool move by whoever advises her. That was the 'moment' of the week and, perhaps, of several weeks. A brilliant performance by this young star. That will see her through next week and even made Jennifer come out and on to the stage to congratulate her which I don't think I have ever seen before. That's a big moment in this whole competition.

Alex has Coldplay's classic Yellow. Many people do this. I remember Alex Park making a fabulous version on a BBC predecessor to Pop Idol. Alex, we know, can reproduce this nicely but can he add anything to this one? Not really but it is still a very good performance and I think his fans will have found it a little special. His performances have all been very light tonight. They've suited him.

Overall, I think Caleb has to be safe and Jena rescued herself extremely well and will stay. Of Alex and Jessica it looks like Alex will make the final and, though sad to see her go, I feel Jessica's position is rightly 4th. She could, with better choices, have made 3rd and possibly made a different overall outcome possible as the only girl in the final.

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Top 5 decide to make it 4

Ryan starts off by telling us there'll be a twist, whatever that may mean. Harry gives a short speech to congratulate the five people who were unheard of a few months ago and who have all done pretty well and each will be remembered for some time. One for longer.

Keith Urban performs and this time we get it included in the video. That was something that could have easily have come from the 70s, a Bryan Adams release perhaps, except his voice needed to be stronger in the lower segments. Nice fellow but that wasn't particularly impressive, just OK. What was interesting was the way I couldn't help looking for all the things that he and Harry had been telling the contestants to do. Sure, most were there, all right.

I am sure Ryan claps the wrong way round.

The 'twist' is whether the person with the lowest votes goes home as usual or they all get to stay another week and then two would go. I would have expected them to vote to stay but although it was 3-2 in favour of staying together, it must have required a unanimous vote for that. I missed that bit. Anyway, that meant someone did have to go and it is Sam who comes 5th this year.

That was not what I had predicted - I did feel he had developed enough of a fan base to reach the final three at least. He and Jena seem the most 'today'. So, Alex, Caleb, Jena and Jessica make the Fab Four.

I expect we'll find out who voted which way in due course. Logically, anyone who thought they were not bottom would vote for someone to go. My guess is that Caleb would be pretty confident. Maybe Jessica or Jena too. But I would imagine Sam and Alex being dubious about their chances.

Anyway, that's it for another week as this Season draws closer to its conclusion. I am still waiting to hear another Phillip Phillips track since Home a year ago and struggling to recall having heard anything at all of Scotty from the year before. I still think Adam Lambert should have won some years back. This year there is a chance that someone will win who will be heard but there is also still the chance of a nice person just drifting along and ultimately away and not making much impact at all after all.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Top 5

It's a nice change to watch this without having seen a tweet or spoiler somewhere during the day! That's the problem with being a British writer across The Pond and usually only getting to see the programmes a few days after transmission. Although I cursed Channel 5 for dropping American Idol some months back I am actually now quite glad because good people put the shows on You Tube pretty damn quickly and I am as close to being up to date as I'll ever be.

So it's down to Caleb. Jessica, Jena. Sam and Alex to fight it out and see who gets the title this year.

America chooses something to do with a Sweater by The Neighbourhood for Alex. No idea what that is but we know he chooses really well. Normally. So let's hope America does too. It suited him but he is still not an easy watch. As an artist he's great to listen to and spot on with the tone and what the song means. A nice job. Is it enough tp get him to the Top 4. I don't know, which means much will depend on what the others do. Harry is rightly impressed with how Alex remembered all the words to a complex song having only heard it a couple of times before. That's a talent for a start!

Caleb gets I Don't Want To Miss A Thing. Is that Aerosmith? Ooh er. Dodgy start. Not like him to be off key so obviously but then it's a slow start to this song. He needs to get to that main section quickly and hope that he can belt that out and get the voters to forget all that. This is not going well. Finally he gets into the groove but it's a bit late and whilst he'll get credit for some big notes that didn't impress me at all. Jennifer says "that was a challenging song for you..." which says a lot. Harry and Keith are pretty polite but don't come out with the wow review that you'd expect from a Top 5 performer. So neither of the two guys have really done much so far. If anything Alex may have a small lead. Surprising. I thought Caleb would have totally killed that.

Jessica gets Human by Katy Perry. Nice and Jason Mraz is a good mentor. This song really should suit her, I just hope she finally gets the lyrics across. This is her make-or-break week. Wow. Now that was good. Excellent - her best all Season and I can see that helping her along the way. Subject, of course, to what the others do and their second songs. Great.

{For some odd reason her performsance wasn't in the main YouTube video so I've added it separately.)

Sam has an Ed Sheeran number, Sing. With his colleagues faltering a bit he could even secure his place in the Top 4 if he does well here. Puppies take over the screen briefly and won't do much harm for his votes! He gets to meet his dream date and that's the delightful Ariana Grande. My goodness she is so pretty! Hope he can concentrate after that!

He really has improved a lot in confidence over the weeks. He is also quite 'modern' and could be someone that a record company would love to have on board. This is a competent performance. Not a brilliant song, in my view, that fails to show off his talents as well as it might but he copes well and I would place him an easy 2nd so far tonight.

Jena has My Body. It's a good choice by America and it was a stroke of genius by the make-over team to put her in tight jeans and a super red and white stripe t-shirt. That looked very cool and young. the track went on a bit but she danced extremely well without moving around as much as you'd think she should. Just straight, simple movements make it look as if she really is happy there. Harry says that she is the one who does 'move'. That'll do her good. Possibly enough to put her in the lead, even though it was a less than memorable song itself.

Caleb & Jessica do a duet of the Stones' Beast of Burden.

Alex's second song is the marvellous Say Something that is from A Great Big World but was, of course, what won Alex & Sierra the crown in X Factor USA at Christmas, This is such a good song and Alex performs it very very well. The girl needs credit too, of course, whoever she was. Nice. Not, interestingly, as impressive as a duo would be but that was good enough, hopefully, to keep him in and that could be bad news for one of the others. The question is which!

I do wish that trouser fashion would go away, though. That and the artificially controlled hair seem wrong for this guy.

Jena sings Valerie which is very well known and I was wondering just what she would make of this tricky song for almost anyone other than Amy Winehouse to do. She manages well and I do like the way she is moving now and the more I watch her the more I feel that she might just take this thing. Looks like this is also missing from the video so a separate one included.

The Fray are Sam's next performance and their wonderful How To Save A Life. Now he manages to get his own feelings across in this track and that's made such a difference to his chances. This toos eems to be missing from the video so it's included here.

A good choice for him and I feel that he may have enough fans well enough pleased with tonight's performances to keep him in.

The two to go still may well be the two who have to fight hardest to stay tonight. I have admired both Jessica and Caleb so far but they need to up their game.

Jessica is given Summertime Sadness, a Lana Del Rey song. So good. Her voice is perfect for that and it came across so well. Harry says how perfect that was for her. Could that make the difference? She needed that and Keith mentions how she got the David Lynch darkness in the song too. I like her. I would love to see her make the Top 4 but will it be at Caleb's expense?

Whitesnake's Still Of The Night is the choice of many, we're told, for Caleb. I am not sure I would trust heavy metal fans' choice of tracks to win votes on American Idol. They may have lots of great songs but is this the one to get Caleb in the Top 4? Well, it may just be. He did put everything into that and both Keith and Jennifer were up dancing and the crowd went crazy. So maybe that is a sign that he's going to be safe. OK, so that made up for the poor start. Which kind of leaves us without much of a clue as to who will, in fact, go.

Normally I would expect there to be enough Country votes out there to keep the Country act in. This year there isn't an out-and-out Country act but, of anyone, it is Jessica who should benefit from that. Sam will win the teen girls' vote and Alex gets the cool vote, I think. Jena and Caleb cross over the rock boundary, albeit from slightly different directions. there may not be room for both of them and one may go, despite their excellent performances tonight.

So if I had to put a bet on tonight I would be inclined to say it will be Jessica, based purely on the fact that she has been at the lower end of the voting register quite often in glimpses we've seen and, of course, was bottom two last week. If she does survive, though, then Caleb may be a surprise exit.