American Idol Top 8- Was This The Best Night?

OK, definitely, this was the best night of the season. Even the worst performances of the night are leagues better than some of the middle-graded performances of the past couple weeks. Two contestants got to sing original songs tonight, while two more contestants offered up some pretty unique covers of well-known songs. Plus, some duets were actually really good. I can’t complain. Someone has to go home, and hopefully that person is just simply the weakest remaining in the competition.

1) Jess Meuse- Blue Eyed Lie

Jess opened the show with her original song from her audition, and it was pretty fantastic. Blue Eyed Lie is now available on ITunes, thanks to Idol releasing the singles every week. So even if Jess can’t come out of this with a record deal, she’ll at least have a single out there to offer her fans. I think Blue Eyed Lie will come a long way in helping Jess get further in the competition. She has yet to be in the bottom 3, and I don’t see that happening here either this week. However, she needs to find a way to keep being creative and musically interesting in the following weeks. Prior to this, she was really coasting in the “average performance” area, and that won’t get her to the finale.CJ

FINAL GRADE: A

2) CJ Harris- Soulshine

CJ did sound pretty good, and was leagues better than previous weeks, but in a week that saw several contestants changing up their songs, and performing originals, singing a pretty good cover isn’t going to be enough. I think CJ remains in trouble, and after a lackluster duet with Dexter, I think he might be going home.

FINAL GRADE: B-

3) Jena and Alex- Just Give Me A Reason

I loved these two together on this duet. It was an interesting vocal pairing, but it really paid off. It’s a rare occasion when I would actually buy an Idol duet on Itunes, but I would buy this duet. They sounded great together. My only qualm is that Alex seems to have a hard time connecting to the person he’s singing with, but that’s a problem shared by another contestant… that we’ll talk about later.

FINAL GRADE: A-

4) Sam Woolf- Lego House

I really like his arrangement, and it was a much better performance from Sam this week than we’ve seen from him recently. He’s really been struggling, and I think Lego House was a good center for him to come back to. That being said, he still doesn’t connect… to anything. His vacant expression highlights that he neither has the emotional depth to understand what he’s singing, or the stage presence to pull energy from the audience. His fanbase is going to stop connecting with him soon if he doesn’t start connecting back.

FINAL GRADE: B

5) Jess and Caleb- Stop Dragging My Heart Around

Another solid duet. Not my favorite duet of the night, but this was definitely a win for both singers. I would say Jess looked more comfortable singing opposite Caleb than I expected her to be. She seemed to be having fun sharing the stage, and that was a little unexpected.

FINAL GRADE: B+

6) Malaya Watson- Ain’t No Way

I have a hard time believing that Malaya’s voice is as big as she thinks it is, and singing this song proved that she’s not in the same league as other powerhouses in Idols past (Jennifer Hudson, Candice Glover, Melinda Doolittle come to mind). The judges don’t seem to care, and I think in the long run that will hurt her. She also seems to lack a link between her song choices each week, which makes me wonder what kind of an album she’d produce. Throwing her a huge curveball and making her perform Colbie Calliat later didn’t help. She sang it well, but it lacked gravitas.

FINAL GRADE: B

7) Dexter Roberts- One Mississippi

Dexter just sat on a stool and sang tonight. He didn’t really change up the song a lot, but it worked for him in a way that CJ’s song didn’t quite work. The production helped by zooming in on his face, and stripping down the song so we could just focus on Dexter’s vocals. He has a nice voice, and one that I think his country fanbase would love. I could see him hitting the bottom 3 this week, simply because this week is really tight, but I don’t think he deserves to go home.

FINAL GRADE: B+

8) Malaya and Sam- Lucky

I give Malaya mad props for performing with a stick figure, and really trying to pull some personality out of Sam, but it wasn’t happening. She sang a song completely out of her wheel house and actually did a nice job. For Sam, the song was in his pocket, perfectly, and the vocal was solid, but he just looked so damn uncomfortable on stage. There was zero chemistry between him and Malaya, so much so that it was distracting. I ended up hating the number more because Sam sucked the life from it, as Malaya tried desperately to pump some back in.

FINAL GRADE: C+

9) Jena Irene- Rollin In The Deep

What a completely different version of that song. I’m glad she decided to not sing the song as written, because that would have landed her in the bottom 3 for sure. Instead, she reworked the song, and put another win in her column. She’s been going strong ever since she sang Decode, and this current Jena we have is doing everything right to make sure she’s in the finale. I realize she’s been in the bottom, and she’s been a wildcard, but she deserves to be in the top 3 right now.

FINAL GRADE: A

10) CJ and Dexter- Alright

It wasn’t that this song was bad, it was just really average. It didn’t do anything to help either contestant, and both of them could have used a win in the duet column tonight. Probably the least memorable number, because at least Sam and Malaya’s duet will be remembered for Sam being so painful to watch.

FINAL GRADE: C+

11) Caleb Johnson- Chain of Fools

I didn’t like his arrangement of this as much as I liked Jena’s rework, but Caleb sang the crap out of it. I agree with Harry that it would be nice to see the lighter side of Caleb, and the last time we saw it was Skyfall, and it worked out really well for him. If Caleb can tone it down again on the right song, he could have a moment again. Caleb is very much a contender this season, and Alex should watch out.

FINAL GRADE: B+

12) Alex Preston- Fairytales

Alex closed the show with an original that I’m positive will sell well on Itunes (even moreso than Jess’s song). Alex is ready to go, and he fits perfectly in with the type of artist that Idol is successful at marketing. At this point, Alex has been a consistently creative performer, taking risks with song choices and arrangements, and deserves to win this competition. The question is, will Caleb or Jena come from behind and take his predestined crown? At the beginning of the Top 13, I thought this was Majesty’s to lose, and she’s gone, so anything can happen.

FINAL GRADE: A

Should Be/Will Be Bottom 3: CJ, Sam, and either Malaya or Dexter

Going Home: CJ

I don’t think they’ll save CJ, nor should they considering he was in the bottom last week. I’d only support the save if the contestant was not in the bottom 3 the previous week. Contestants who consecutively land in the bottom 3 do not warrant a save, no matter how much I like them. I was 100% OK with the judges not saving Majesty, understanding that her time was up, and America had stopped voting for her.

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