Monday, April 14, 2014

American Idol - Who Takes 2014?

I thought I’d said all I had to say about Idol for the year, but much to my surprise, a few friends have asked me what I think about contestants this year.


Actually, they asked me a few weeks ago, but I’ve been busy.


Suffice to say, not going much into details, people have been dropping out about where I thought they deserved to drop out, which is not a surprise.  So I guess I saved myself some typing there.


Every year I watch the show, that’s what happens.  Inevitably, what occurs is that the audience learns a few things shooting out of that opening week.  Some people just aren’t prepared to sing with band behind them. Some people aren’t ready to sing for THAT many people.  They might be excited to see you, but unlike back home you can’t back the room with family and friends who are going to declare every second you are on the stage as the greatest thing they’ve ever seen.


It’s a singing competition, yes, but it’s also a fashion competition, a swagger competition, and a personality competition. 


And every year, there’s a weird thing that happens where someone who should be knocked out early just hangs on, and on, and on, and on…


But I guess we’ll come to that.


And I think I mention this every year, and I’ll mention it again: Going to the bottom three isn’t always a bad thing, because it forces people into a protection mode.  They vote you up because they don’t want you to go.


Otherwise they get a little lazy and then you get the so-called “shocking” eliminations.


Which, eh.  It’s a game.  SOMEONE has to lose.


So here’s where I think things are going to shake out, with my usual caveats: I don’t think America votes the way I want them to vote.  I think someone I don’t really care for always clings to life.  And ultimately, even if I like the winners, I rarely buy, or even want to hear, their record.


(For the (ahem) record I have so far bought two idol winner recordings: Phillip Phillips’ first record, which had a few really catchy songs on it, and the best of Kelly Clarkson which, I learned, still had a lot of stuff on it I just flat-out didn’t care about.)


One final note: I think these things are kind of fluid, and people will usually go out within one or two slots of where I think they’ll go out.  Until I get to the end, we get “shocking” results, and inevitably one of the people I think will drop out in the middle comes in as a big winner.




The saving of Sam will probably go down in history as the biggest waste of save of all time, assuming the show runs past this year.


I like Sam.  He seems like a good guy, and he has a lovely voice.  And what I don’t really get is how he’s had such an emotion-filled life (as least from what we’ve seen, where he’s living with her grandparents, I’m sure there’s a story there…) and yet he can’t connect those emotions to any of his song choices.


The thing of it is, last week they only gave us a bottom two, which tells me that Sam is still down there, and not long for this competition.


My running theory is that they saved him simply because the save choices were running out, and if things shook out badly, they would be forced to use it (or look cruel if they didn’t) when CJ came up for saving.


And speaking of…




Man, does CJ seem like a great human being.  I mean that.  Unlike Sam, his difficulties in life seem to be right out in the open, and they show up in every scratch in his voice.


And man, that voice, it’s filled with… with just everything.  I suspect he could spend his weeks singing about how much he loves bacon, and people would figure that bacon done broke his heart.


(He always sounds as if he just came out of a fistfight where he won, but just got hit in the throat.  I say this as a compliment.)


But he’s always, always, always out of tune, to the point where I frequently sense he’s forgotten the song he’s singing and is starting to panic.


The fact is, the guy just doesn’t have the ability to sing, and stay, on key.  And that’s not a terrible thing.  But there are better singers here, and CJ should have been gone a long time ago.




I’m keeping Dexter low here, but I’m going to be honest: I think he could take this competition. 


The judges harp on him, hard, for sounding like every other singer on country radio.  Well guys, guess what?  If he wins this thing, he’s going to be just another dude on country radio, singing about his dog and house and how much he loves his tractor.


If you can take a guy, stick him in a studio, and create a record that makes him sound like everyone else, well, the problem isn’t his voice.  It’s the songs they stick him with.  So hand him a few songs that should be hits and watch him fly.


But to recap – he’ll either go out here or take the whole thing.  And either way, I shrug.




If Stevie Nicks were to retire tomorrow, Fleetwood Mac should take Jessica on the road and pretend she’s 70s-era Stevie.  The sound is just uncanny.


I even think Jessica is a decent songwriter, based on her one original I’ve heard a couple of times now. 


What she’s not good with, however, is killing me.  She’s not good with a band.  Or they aren’t good with her, I dunno.  But every week, it seems like they find a way to be out of step with each other.  I think all those years as a solo act have just killed her for working with a band, and for whatever reason she just can’t get into that groove.


When she comes out, plants her feet, and plays the guitar, there’s wonderful stuff here.  But working with other people is just killing her, and I don’t think she can fix it.


It was really apparent when she sang her original song, and the arrangement was boring as drying paint.  Harry remarked that he thought Jessica forgot to sing a line, but no.  What was needed was a little solo instrument – pedal steel, a violin, something to fill that gap – but Jessica doesn’t know how to do that, and the band isn’t helping her.


It will be her death in this competition.


I really want a copy of her solo record, however.  Just can’t figure out how to get my hands on it…




You know what?


I want Alex to win.  Badly.


It’s clear he knows how to write.  He knows how to arrange.  He can step on the stage and give a performance.


And while Harry, who is usually pretty smart about these things, complains that Alex never gets out of his coffeehouse vibe, well, he just did a few weeks ago with his One Direction song. 


Alex is ready to make a record, and in the event that he loses, I’ll probably do something I’ve never done before and start downloading his weekly iTunes songs.


Man, I hope he wins.




Truthfully, I love Jena, and I think it’s for all the right reasons.  She’s got a great voice.  She’s got a great rock/opera sound that, at its best, can really work for her.


I think what might ultimately take her out is song choice.  She kind of fluffed I Love Rock and Roll this last week, and I could see her blowing a couple more choices and dropping out of there.


I’ve gotta say, though, I’d love to see her meld the rock/electronic thing, like Harry was talking about.  I could see her doing some real damage with Jane Child-type stuff.


And man, I’ve gotta hail her.  The judges’ bottom-three picks to keep the competition alive for nine more hours a year have always been filler before.  People who are mostly there to desperately cling to life and get themselves into the top then. They aren’t there to win.


Jena is going to come closer than anyone I’ve ever seen.  She might even be able to take it all, if she pushes hard enough and doesn’t drop anymore song choice balls.




This guy.  This guy’s voice…


I remember him just blowing it a couple of years back, and since he’s returned I keep waiting for the moment he just blows it again.


But I think screwing it up that first time has changed his life, and he’s changed it for the better.


All of his performances are first rate.  There are no missed notes, no missed cues, and he’s taking the joy of having a band behind him all the way.  He seems to know it may never be this good again for him.


That’s infectious, I must admit.


But having heard his song choices, I’ve gotta admit I have no interest in his record.


I wish the man no ill will, and if I’m honest with myself, he deserves to win.  He’s got the best voice in the competition, and he seems to want it more than anyone else.


But I wish him luck when it comes time to sell albums…