Thursday, March 6, 2014

The “Home” Theme For The Top 12 Never Really Hit Home – American Idol 13 Recap

Last night's theme was “Home” for the Top 12. They were to pick a song that represented or reminded them of where they are from. The show should have been filled with powerful and emotional songs, but most fell short of that.

This season, American Idol production spend well over five million dollars on the new set and stage. Its 360° design is meant to immerse us more fully into the feeling and energy of the artists performing... but what happens when some of the artists themselves don't have much feeling or energy?

Some of this season's contestants seem very apathetic both during their performance and while sitting in the new lounge just off the stage. This drains the energy and weakens the momentum of the entire show. There are a few, however, who seem to be genuinely trying to bring that 'wow' factor, but I feel they are trying to swim upstream against the lackluster moods of others.

Jena Irene - Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Jena was the first one on stage and chose “Suddenly I See.” It was a nice upbeat song, and she had the look and the personality that was good to see for the opening. She did have a few vocal issues in the beginning, but still really radiated her energy outward. I think she did really well and ended on an great note. Keith liked her presence but wasn't crazy about the song, and Harry said she needed more energy... which goes back to trying to swim upstream.

Alex followed with “I Don't Want To Be.” I'm not sure who was responsible for his wardrobe, but it was not right at all for him or the song. Alex did not too badly last night. He was in tune, but to me, it seemed he had chosen the wrong key to sing in. Jennifer didn't like the arrangement (I agree), and Keith thought it was just too unstable (I also agree).

Jessica Meuse - Credit: Michael Becker / FOX
Jessica hit the stage with “White Flag.” She looked great and her genuine smile made her glow even more. She has such an amazing sounding voice that without much effort she had captivated those listening. Most of the song was very soft but strongly shared the emotions within her. I was quite surprised that none of the judges agreed. Harry said she wasn't present in the performance and was off-tune, and Jennifer felt she wasn't comfortable with the song. The way they spoke of her performance makes me wonder if we were listening to the same thing. For me, it was one of the top three of the night.

Dexter chose “Lucky Man” and nailed it. Simply sitting on a stool with his guitar, he showed his vulnerability, as well as his remarkable country tone. It was intimate and powerful, with amazing control. There really isn't much else to say. Defintely the one of the top three for me.

Emily showed nice stage presence with “Let's Get Loud,” and although the energy was there, the song did demand a little more than what she gave. Again, I'm left questioning why energy level are so low... She did have great tone, and one of the few that looked really good. The only thing I found was she seemed to be singing under the music for much of the song. Her vocals were strong, but the music still overpowered her. Harry's comment was that the production was to big for her. I agree the production was big, but I think it was more of a 'levels' problem than a performance problem. I thought it was great, and she will be safe from elimination.

Caleb Jonson - Credit: Frank Micelotta / FOX
Rocker Caleb hit the stage with so much energy he should have been the one opening the show. He might have been able to set a higher mood and energy level for the others to follow. He sang “Working Man” with such presence you would think he'd been doing this forever. His rock tone is natural and powerful, and he worked the stage like a seasoned performer. Caleb is my third pick for the top three of the night. Keith said that he's the best singer he's heard in a long time. Jennifer loved his amazing voice, but Harry said he's too predictable... needless to say Harry is becoming very predicable in being 'booed.' I actually lost count of how many times he'd been 'booed' last night, and this is only the second live show.

MK's version of “Drops Of Jupiter” was nice. She seemed a bit stiff (and nervous) but really does have a great voice. MK is very talented and just needs to let loose a bit more and just have fun... and her talent will naturally follow. Keith didn't feel she was connected to the song (I think it was just nerves). Jennifer saw a few moments where MK did let go and found that amazing (I agree). Harry made the comment that it seemed like she didn't want to be there (and the crowd booed... again).

C.J. picked “Waiting On The World To Change” and was much better than last week. His voice is good, but he seems to be a 'one-key' singer. He had the power but showed no range. Vocally he's great in the mid-range, but that's where he stayed. Maybe it's his song choices... staying in his comfort zone, but with the same sound every week, he's not likely to go very far in the competition.

Sam sat down on the edge of the stage with his guitar and sang “Just One.” His performance was much more solid than last week's, but he still had some shaky spots throughout the song. Harry said he had no emotional dynamic, which I actually agree with, and Jennifer said she needs to see a more 'wow' performance. But the way the girls react to him... I think it's safe to say he will be here next week.

Malaya went a little gospel with “Take Me To The King.” She started the song sitting at the piano. It was slow and mellow but still had a good sound and range. She did look like she was struggling a little to reign in her natural (and abundant) energy. She hit the chorus and stood from the piano. Her energy started to come out, and by the end of the song, it felt as though she was doing more yelling than singing... but all the judges loved the performance.

Ben came out with “Turning Home,” and I really enjoyed it. He showed his range and control, and I felt the connection and feeling came across very well. Jennifer agreed, but both Harry and Keith felt no connection from him at all. I thought it was a great performance and worthy of being safe from the Bottom 3.

Majesty Rose - Credit: Frank Micelotta / FOX
Majesty closed the show with “Fix You.” She started very soft, which put her great voice front and center. I could see her emotional connection and feel what she was feeling. She picked up the beat half way through the song, and while she was able to show her killer range and control, it took away a little bit of the connection she made while she was soft and quiet... but overall, it was a great performance.

So, last night was a little disappointing. It didn't feel like these were the Top 12. Production really needs to work on helping the contestants add some 'show' to their performances. There's a new stage and new lighting, so let's put it to its full use.

Also, with the exception of Jessica, Malaya, C.J., Emily, and Jenna, maybe someone could work with wardrobe? I'm fine with the casual look, and the contestants wanting to be who they are, but they're not hanging out with their friends... they're performing in front of millions of people. Jeans, t-shirt, and ball-cap don't scream 'superstar.' I'm not saying suits and gowns... just try to be more in sync to what's being done and performed, that's all.

While there were no 'Wow!' performances last night, there were some really good ones. I'm confident that Jessica, Dexter, Emily, Caleb, Sam, Ben, and Majesty will all be safe. So, that leaves five who I'm unsure about, but I'm pretty certain C.J. and Jena will be safe.

My Bottom 3 prediction, then, is Alex, MK, and Malaya. However, I think MK will be around next week (I hope so anyway), but I'm tossed on whether it will be Malaya or Alex going home... for me, it's an equal shot.

Don't forget to tune in tonight at 8/7c on FOX for the results!

Tune to FOX every Wednesday and Thursday 8/7c for American Idol XIII

For everything American Idol visit the Official Website.

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