American Idol Top 8, Part II: The 80s couldn’t have been this boring because everyone was on blow

Apparently this is what J-Lo looked like in the 80s, which is the opposite of what she looked like tonight.

Apparently this is what J-Lo looked like in the 80s, which is the opposite of what she looked like tonight.

It’s nights like tonight that I wish I did cocaine instead of talking about how awesome it is.

With a theme like “The 80s” it should have been a rousing success. We should have gotten hair bands, arrangements of songs we never would have imagined being arranged that way and pop songs we all know and love.
Instead we got bored to tears. A bump of the ayo yayo would have helped things go a little quicker and probably would have made me sweep my living room.

American Idol should be about winning American Idol. Contestants who focus on that do well; those worried about their post-Idol careers don’t. The few who can balance both usually fare pretty well.

It was wonderful having David Cook – my ex-man crush – on as a judge because he clearly knows what needs to be done to win the show, moreso than losers Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry. Those little things are the difference between third place and winning the show.

Right now, Alex Preston and Geena Gina Jena Irene are the only two who understand both what it takes to win and what they want post-Idol. CJ Harris took a step in that direction tonight. The rest? They’re just worried about post-Idol and that’s why what should have been an epic week turned worse than Eddie Murphy’s singing career.

On to the recaps:

1) Jena Irene
Good news is she was awesome. She took a song that is old enough to be her mother, a song that everyone who’s ever listened to music knows, and she made it sound so new. She could have gone out and belted Joan Jett note for note and it would have been cool, but the slow intro to the dark goth-esque rock? That was pretty solid and if I dug her sound – not a fan – I’d iTunes the shit out of that performance.

Bad news is she’s first out of the gates and that’s never a good thing. I hate saying the first person to sing is completely safe, but Jena had the third- or fourth-best performance of the night (I’d put her third because I preferred CJ ahead of her) and it should be good enough to keep her going.

Still, wouldn’t it have been so much better to see her sing Roxette? Or Motley Crue? Hope we get to see her do something with Gaga.

2) Dexter Roberts
It wasn’t really hard to figure out what Dexter Roberts was going to sing. It was going to be the Georgia Satellites or the Fabulous Thunderbirds or any of the other classic Southern Rock bands. It was going to be a party song. And it was going to sound the exact same way as the original.

So he does “Keep Your Hands to Yourself’ and it went about as expected. It was loud, the building was rocking but it wasn’t a Top 3 or Top 5 performance. While it was obviously rocking in LA, it wasn’t the same attitude in my living room. Even my 2-year old – who routinely stares at the screen wondering why daddy is acting like a crazy person – said “that was so cliche” (I might have made that up). I’m still waiting for Dexter to be Dexter, but maybe a cliched country star is who he is. If most drunk 20-year olds can’t tell the different between Luke Bryan, Jake Owen, Cole Swindell, Joe Nichols, Charlie Worsham, etc., than why should Dexter try and do anything any different? Formula works and this kid knows it.

He’ll be bottom three, but expect him to be the first one out.

3) Malaya Watson
So when I made my picks on what I thought the Idols should sing, “Through the Fire” was the first thing that popped in my head for Malaya. I didn’t pick it for two reasons: 1) So cliché for her; 2) It’s not a very good song. Most people only know the song thanks to Kanye stealing it, speeding it up and making it sound hot on “Through the Wire,” but the reality is Chaka Khan’s song isn’t something you get pumped up or excited to hear.

Technically speaking, Malaya sounded fine, but you could see the panic in her face. She knew that the song was connecting with the crowd and you can bet it didn’t connect with voters at home.

Now I’m not saying if she would have sang what I picked – U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” or Roxette’s “Must Have Been Love” – would have been better, but people would have remembered it. Based on song choice alone, we’ll see Malaya in the Bottom 3 and a ton of tears from J-Lo when she gets voted out and there’s no save to use.

4) Jessica Meuse
There were so many powerhouse songs or songs Jessica could have easily flipped into her version of rock/country and it would have been the type of performance people remember. She’s been as high as the third-best performer on the show, but today showed why she’s just another contestant and out of the class of Caleb and Alex Preston.

It’s not that “Call Me” was a bad choice; it wasn’t. But the way she did it? Prancing on stage and playing to the camera and crowd isn’t when Jessica is at her best. In fact, that’s when she’s at her worst. Her vocals fine, but her stage performance was as awkward as the time Seacrest tried to high-five the blind guy.

Jessica has done a great job of being an arrogant dick. This week she wasn’t and it hurt. I hope she’s around next week to go back to being herself, because that’s the singer I want to hear on this show.

5) Sam Woolf
What Sam didn’t was more predictable than Dexter and that’s not good. The selling point on Sam was his heartthrobiness and his musicianship. The first has been there every week; his musicianship hasn’t showed up all season. Every week he takes a popular song and sings it pretty much the same way.

Obviously he couldn’t do that this week because synthesizers, but it was painfully clear he was going to find a modern cover of an 80s hit and play it off like it was his own. My first choice was “Time After Time” and I wrote as much until I realized I wanted to see Dexter play it with a bit of a Southern twang. My second choice was Jason Mraz’s version of “I Melt With You” followed by one of those makeup-wearing rock weirdos (Fallout Boy, etc) who cover 80s songs because it’s ironic somehow.

Sam was good. I liked it. It should keep him around. But he’s a one trick pony and shouldn’t be here and when Malaya gets canned next week, J-Lo might assassinate him.

6) Alex Preston
My first reaction when Alex Preston said he was singing “Every Breath You Take” was disappointment, mainly because I knew he wasn’t going to do it like Diddy (that would have been awkward for J-Lo, no?) I was so convinced it was going to sound like something I’ve heard before.

Then I took a sip of my cocktail and remembered “This is Alex Preston; he don’t do normal.”

That was legendary good. They’ll replay that on Idol 2020 and I’ll yell at every contestant who tries to do that song because you don’t do a song that can’t be done better.

What I hated was Connick and J-Lo. Their critiques reeked of desperation. This was the judges seeing the guy who was going to win the show put on the performance (maybe No. 2 behind Jena doing Adele last week) of the year and they realized they need to chop him down because otherwise no one else has a chance. Remember when they did the same exact thing to Phillip Phillips? They kept finding nit-picky things to take him apart and pounded those points into the group. What did Phillip Squared do? He figuratively flipped them all the bird and kept doing him. Let’s hope Alex does the same because the more performances we have like that one, the better.

7) CJ Harris
Was it good? I have a tough time telling because I love CJ so much. I want to hear him succeed and do well. I loved the song selection (even though him singing Jeffrey Gaines’ version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” would have won the night) and the arrangement, but I can’t tell if that’s going to resonate with America.

It’s clear CJ has talent. But it’s not clear if the voters recognize it. Honestly? It hurts to say I think he’s in trouble. That wasn’t one of the worst performances of the week; in fact, I think it was one of the best. I don’t think it being that good is going to matter much, which is too bad – CJ is one of the few remaining Idols who’s trying to win Idol and not just trying to set up his post-Idol career.

8) Caleb Johnson
Nobody knows who they are better than Caleb. He’s going to rock out and he doesn’t care.
This week was so primed to be the week Caleb clearly takes over the spot as the favorite but instead he was upstaged by Alex and it wasn’t close.

Picking “Faithfully” by Journey was a good call; it was slow enough the judges would get off his ass about rocking his face off every week, but enough rock that people would still want to make babies to his music. But it wasn’t good enough to really make people say “Caleb should win the whole thing.”

I don’t know if there was a song choice that would have done that for Caleb. Let’s be honest – he’s not taking a song, switching up the arrangement and making it his own. He’s going to cover whatever he does note for note and rock the fuck out. And it’s awesome and fun, so I’m not complaining and I can’t wait to see more.

The big winner was Alex Preston. He’s more in front of the rest of the field than Usain Bolt running in the Paralympics. Caleb was good and is the clear-cut No. 2 and I’ll move Jena into the third slot after her showing, even though I won’t be shocked if she’s bottom three (solely because she went first tonight).

So who’s going to be bottom three? Malaya for sure. I think CJ finds his way there too, which is a damn shame. The third might be Jessica Meuse, it could but shouldn’t be Sam Woolf but it will be Dexter Roberts. Malaya is going home and J-Lo is going to have a fit and trying to see J-Lo explain how they didn’t screw up using the save last week is going to be good TV.