American Idol season 13 may not have the best singers, but it has the most interesting themes. This week brings yet another brilliant twist, one that could be full of sabotage (but, sadly, not the Beasties Boys song).
The theme for the Top 7 is Competitors’ Choice. Every contestant picks a song for every other contestant to sing, and then the singers get to choose which of those six options they want to perform. It will be curious to see what the contestants think of each other, and whose suggestions get picked.
THIS…is American Idol!
Caleb Johnson: “Family Tree” by Kings of Leon
5 Fun Facts: He likes tennis, he snores, he’s scared of the dark and spiders and he loves horror movies. None of those are that fun or surprising.
This is Alex’s choice. It’s a fine performance, everything you expect from Caleb. He has the big rocker voice and he picks up the mic stand and walks around with it. I don’t think he’s capable of giving a “bad” performance, but there isn’t really a big moment or anything particularly special about it. It’s just another consistent Caleb song.
Jessica Meuse: “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert
5 Fun Facts: She has eight tattoos and designed seven of them, she loves wolves, she was rejected from a music school, she was almost killed by an evil pony and she thinks she may have been abducted by aliens. All of this makes me love her even more.
This is Sam’s choice. It’s definitely a bad-ass song that fits her voice beautifully. I like how she starts off slow and moody, then rocks out. I think it’s another fun performance from her and she’s finally hitting her stride. The judges completely disagree and thought she was off and uncomfortable. Harry Connick, Jr. thinks she needs to get rhythm, possibly by dancing to funk music in her hotel room. I feel like they’re a lot harder on her than anyone else. Their main complaint is that she needs more swagger.
Alex Preston and Sam Woolf: “Let Her Go” by Passenger
These guys are paired up for another cool slow jam they worked up together. I like their friendship. The set is like a post-college apartment with a couch and a few posters on the walls. It’s so chill and relaxed, but that works for them. I love this song and really love their version. These guys may be restoring my faith in Idol duets. The judges didn’t like how cute it was. Meh, the overly sincere and pained emotion of the original is actually my least favorite part of the song, so I like this a lot.
When it’s done, Demi gives her critique. Wow, this really IS The X Factor. Can Alex and Sierra show up to perform, please?
C.J. Harris: “Gravity” by John Mayer
5 Fun Facts: He loves Spongebob Squarepants, he loves grilling and taking pictures. he wants to be a stand-up comic and he’s a neat freak. Yawn.
This is Caleb’s choice. Sigh, another dull, insipid John Mayer song from him. Sorry, but every time I hear this song I wish it was Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity.” He contorts his face and looks like he’s going to cry from the pain, like always. The fact that his son is in the audience and is wearing giant headphones is a perfect metaphor. Keith Urban idiotically says he likes C.J.’s voice every time he hears it and J. Lo praises him too, though they want him to have some arc in his emotional delivery. How are the judges SOOO in love with this guy and SOOO harsh on Jessica? The only thing they seem to care about is his emotional connection and Harry says it’s his best yet. Wow, the judges and I are in total disagreement this week.
Dexter Roberts: “Muckalee Creek Water” by Luke Bryan
5 Fun Facts: He’s n adrenaline junkie who wants to skydive, he loves strawberries and crickets, his first plane ride was scary and he’s ridden in rodeos. Another yawn.
This is C.J.’s choice. I don’t like Dexter, but I think it’s pretty unfair that he ALWAYS performs in the first half of the show. It’s another country karaoke performance where I can only understand less than 50 percent of the words he sings. If you like Dexter and/or country music, this is probably good. The judges thought it was fine but seem as unenthusiastic as I am because he’s never really spectacular. The fact that Harry is giving the same feedback as he was six weeks ago (not doing the same version as the original) is a bad sign. Again, I ask why C.J. got a ton of praise from the judges when it was just as unspectacular as this.
Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene: “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones
I suppose the producers realized they had the perfect duet pairs last week, so they’re just repeating them. Jena describes it as a “sick-ass duet.” They have an amazing big brother/kid sister vibe. They rock and I am so ready to skip to the finale when these two battle it out. Because, really, they deserve to be the Final 2 more than anyone. Except for maybe Briana Oakley and Kenz Hall. Never forget!
Demi loved it and begs Jena to want to do a duet with her. Are they setting up Demi to join American Idol as a fourth judge, maybe even for the rest of this season just to add some excitement. Because that’s not the worst idea.
Alex Preston: “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran
5 Fun Facts: He gardens, he cooks, he likes freestyle skiing, he wants to be a dermatologist and he was a linebacker for his high school football team.
This is Dexter’s choice. It’s so inside Alex’s wheelhouse that it might as well be the entire wheel. He sounds just as good as you probably assumed he’d be when you first found out he was singing this song. I can’t fault him for it because it sounds great, but it’s the same thing he does every week. He stands there, plays his guitar and does his thing. Even with his artistic skill, he’s the most predictable contestant of the season. Like Harry asks, can Alex really win by doing this same small thing every week? He’s simultaneously creative and boring.
Sam Woolf: “Sail Away” by David Gray
5 Fun Facts: He likes to climb roofs, he’s bad at sports, the first song he wrote was called “Thinking of You,” he pulls pranks on his grandparents and he can do tricks on his skateboard.
This is Jessica’s choice. Like C.J., Sam is repeating an artist (he did Gray’s “Babylon” back at the Top 30). Vocally I don’t like it as much as some of his recent performances, but I’m actually starting to really enjoy his emotion. Yes, there is some. Maybe this was the right emotion for him to play, but it felt so wounded, pained and melancholy to me. He’s still not great, but I felt it. Harry thinks he should choose more popular songs, but all of the judges praise his emotional progress. When it’s done, Sam, Alex and Caleb share a big brotherly hug.
C.J. Harris, Dexter Roberts and Jessica Meuse: “Compass” by Lady Antebellum
It’s the Alabama trio singing country. C.J. thinks it feels like Group Night in Hollywood, which makes Jessica relive that crazy mom who called her out and said no one would ever vote for her. Suck it, dumb crazy mom, because Jessica has never even been in the bottom. Despite being from the state, they have far less chemistry than the two duets from earlier. For me, the trio just highlights how much worse C.J. is than the other two. Harry is blunt and says it just wasn’t good at all. Demi agrees with Harry that the harmonies didn’t work, but they were good individually, especially Jessica. Wow, she’s just a random guest and is still willing to give harsh criticism? Good for her.
Jena Irene: “Creep” by Radiohead
5 Fun Facts: She wrote her first song when her sixth grade boyfriend broke up with her, she peed her pants in her first performance with her band when she was 12, she’d like to be a make-up artist, she took ballet and she wants a tattoo skull with “Underneath We’re All the Same” written under it.
This is Caleb’s choice. I feel kind of bad because Jena is the only person who didn’t have one of her suggestions chosen. However, this is her second time with the Pimp Spot, while Jessica, C.J. and Dexter have never had it. This is, oddly, a perfect song for her and let’s her show off her full range and her dark side. Like Caleb last week, it’s so far ahead of anything else anyone did tonight. Keith and J. Lo give her a much-deserved standing ovation. The judges declare her the frontrunner, which she definitely is now, and Harry explains that he never gives standing ovations because he takes his job seriously.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a double-barrel country guy Bottom 2 tomorrow with C.J. and Dexter, though Sam could just as easily be there because he’s been in the bottom so many times. I suppose Jessica could be in trouble, but I don’t think the judges’ obvious desire to torpedo her will work, nor will their insane praise for C.J. I think/hope it’s finally his time to go.
(Image courtesy of FOX)