American Idol Top 6: Figuring out what rocked and what rolled

Jena won the "Sing Songs The Way They Sound On The Radio" Week prize.

Jena won the “Sing Songs The Way They Sound On The Radio” Week prize.

Things got a little intense last night. Basically, I made a joke about R5 and next thing I knew a million teens were coming at me on Twitter. I interact, so it limited my note-taking on the performances and totally ruined my recaps.

If you want to read my overall breakdown of Wednesday’s show, it’s HERE. Below is my song-by-song breakdown. Perfect thing to read if you need to kill some time.

Round 1

Geena Gina Jena Asciutto
“Barracuda,” by Heart
Urban was right – that is how you start the show. Heart is so dangerous to pick songs from because Ann Wilson’s voice is Top 10 all time. We’ve seen many contestants crash and burn singing Heart, but we’ve had a couple monster performances – see Underwood, Carrie. Jena ain’t no Underwood, but she didn’t need the U’s voice to sing Barracuda.

It’s a face-paced rock song, allowed Jena to be Jena and it was good. J-Lo’s out of her damn mind if she thinks Jena should win. She shouldn’t. She has a chance though because at this point who’s the best doesn’t necessarily matter as much as who picks and performs the best.

Sam Woolf
“It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons
I need to review something quick. All season long we heard the judges rip Dexter Roberts for sounding like “any singer in any honky tonk in Nashville” and “exactly the same as on the radio” and it was a bad thing. Sam Woolf sings Imagine Dragons’ “It’s Time” the same way they do and it’s a terrific performance?

It’s tough to believe in conspiracies, but they are fun. This SamSpiracy (copyright DudesReviewIdol 2014) is a little ridiculous. There was zero artistry, zero enthusiasm on stage and isn’t what you need to win this show. Sam was Dexter except hotter, younger and way more popular with the ladies.

There wasn’t much to his performance. His voice is no different than anything you’d hear at a college bar on a weekend. But the judges didn’t hear it that way. Oh hell no. He gave J-Lo goosies, which fully explains all the men she’s been married to. The unadulterated praise on the newly-minted 18-year old was gross. He wasn’t as good as they made him out to be but because they couldn’t stop with their praise, he’s safe.

CJ Harris
“American Woman,” by The Guess Who
The downside to writing this blog is my internal fight between being impartial and blindly loving contestant.

As much as I crapped on Dexter Roberts for being unoriginal and Sam Woolf above for doing the same thing, I enjoyed CJ Harris’ performance. I would have preferred to see him sing it more like The Guess Who and less like Lenny Kravitz, but that’s fine. At this point he’s screwed anyway because the only way he’s going home is someone saying something horribly racist/homophobic on stage or if the judges just tear apart Jessica Meuse for no good reason (oh, wait a minute!).

CJ was a victim of his own artistry. He’s got the most unique voice but he sucks at American Idol. There, I said it. He needed someone in his corner clearly explaining to him why these songs he picked are a terrible idea and pointing him in a direction of songs that are popular and can be re-arranged so they sound like his.

You know, someone like this guy.

But I will say this – when it came to the judges’ comments, Keith Urban is an idiot. He clearly doesn’t know what the song is about but just wanted to crap all over CJ because #SamSpiracy.

Alex Preston
“Animals,” by Neon Trees
He panicked. That’s what I’m thinking.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Alex had something planned for Neon Trees’ “Animal.” He had a great idea on paper, played around with it in his head and the band loved it. Then they played it and it sounded like hot garbage. So Alex ditched it and sang it as is.

That makes much more sense than Alex going in and doing what he did. It explains why, for the first time this season, he looked nervous on stage. It’s about time though – Alex has been running train on everyone this season and this kind of brought him back to reality. He needed this.

Good news for Alex is he’s been so good he, like Connick said (only smart think he said all season, BTW), gets a pass for the week.

And as I said, barring him dropping an N-bomb in his second performance, he won’t go anywhere.

Caleb Johnson
“Sting Me,” by Black Crowes
There’s no doubt is the most consistent contestant. He doesn’t have bad performances. He has good, better and best. Tonight was good. Song choice prevented better or best from happening.

He didn’t pick a bad song, but he didn’t have to. Caleb is in a weird position where he doesn’t need to make a huge move. He just needs to be good for two more weeks and when it’s Top 4 time, then he needs to blow the doors off the walls.

If you’re going to pick a Black Crowes song, you pick “She Talks to Angels.” You pick “Remedy.” You pick their cover of “Hard to Handle.” They’re not an incredibly popular band but those are songs people know. If he was fighting for his life, I’d say the song choice hurt him.

But he’s not. And he did sing the hell out of it.

Jessica Meuse
“Somebody to Love,” by Jefferson Airplane
Can you imagine being Jess right now?

She should be Top 4. Easily. It’s clear the judges don’t want her to be. We know it. They know. Based on tweets and replies, Jess knows it. But she still trudges forward.

Tonight she could have come up with an unoriginal cover like everyone else and hoped for the best but she didn’t. Her take on Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” wasn’t mindblowingly original, but it was original and that’s the point. She made the song her own.

I don’t think it was her best. I think it was enough for her to not be the worst of the first round and that’s what should matter.
It won’t though. While Hasshole Harry said some nice things, Urban and J-Lo proved the #SamSpiracy and nitpicked the shit out of Jess’ performance. It was shameful.

Round 1 Rock Ranks: 1) Jena; 2) Caleb; 3) Jessica; 4) Sam Woolf; 5) CJ Harris; 6) Alex Preston


Sam Woolf
“Still the One,” Shania Twain
That was perhaps the worst performance in the history of American Idol Top 6 performances. I’m talking all-time bad.

He didn’t sing it well. He was out of tune and instead of turning it into a guy version of the song, he sang it like Shania Twain, if Shania was getting strangled in a vat of gravy while she sang.

The only thing that impressed me was how well the judges sold the performance. The highlights:

“That was a good song for you lyrically. The girls were going crazy here man.” – Keith Urban
Basically, Urban just said he sucked but because he’s a heart-throb it’s OK.

“You’re so cute it’s crazy.” -J-Lo
If you compliment looks and not voice that’s bad.

“The song was a good song for you, you sang it well and my favorite parts are when you go over to the girls or when you’re having feelings.” – J-Lo
So basically the first half is a lie and the second half says what Urban said – Sam is lucky as shit the girls think he’s hot.

“Now it’s a matter of not singing it perfectly…blah blah blah technical stuff.” -Harry Connick Jr.

Do you watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? I do. And I noticed something. When Guy Fieri starts talking about the technical aspects of a dish right out of the gate, he hates it. Same with Connick. Once he started jibber-jabbering about the technical aspects about singing it was clear he was trying to confuse everyone to take away from one simple fact.

Sam sucked and he should be going home.

But he won’t because #SamSpiracy.

Caleb Johnson
“Undo It,” by Carrie Underwood
You know all those times I talk about picking the right song that every Idol viewer/voter will know? This is one of those times where I’m the person I talk about.

I’m not a country guy. I know the songs that made it from the country station to the pop station. When it comes to Carrie Underwood, I know Last Name. I know she can sing massive songs. I know she’s ridiculously hot. I do not know “Undo It.”

Now I’m not a country guy at all and I don’t vote, so as far as Caleb is concerned I’m an asshole who’s opinion is worthless. I just think the song choice was wrong because there are probably a lot of people like me who won’t vote for him because they had a similar experience.

All that said, Caleb’s voice sounded awesome. The song sounded bad ass and he really picked the right artist to sing.

Alex Preston
“Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson
As uncomfortable as Alex looking during the rock portion he looked as comfortable during the country portion.

Alex’s sound isn’t exactly unique; in fact, it’s quite popular these days. Perhaps that’s why he’s been so successful on the show. What makes him different is his ability to make minor changes to songs and make them sound original and doing Willie’s classic was no different.

Despite what the Aussie Asshole said, there was feeling, depth and emotion in Alex’s voice. He picked it perfectly, sang it perfectly and showed why he’s winning this season.

Jena Irene
“So Small” by Carrie Underwood
How I feel about most of these country songs is how J-Lo must feel all the time. I’m sitting here in my living room, perhaps a little drunk, wondering if what I’m hearing is good because of the original or good because of what I’m hearing.

I know Underwood and Jena doesn’t sound like here. They’re similar in the power – Underwood is vastly superior; that’s not really a debate – but the tone is so different it makes for a unique take. I don’t know this song at all but thought Jena sounded terrific.

If this performance did anything, it proved she’s more than a rock singer and if she’s smart, she’ll try and perform out of character to give herself a chance at getting into the final.

As in Final 2.

CJ Harris
“Whatever It Is” by Zac Brown Band
Great call. Popular song, popular band and that equals some extra votes.

Question is will it be enough?

CJ wasn’t the worst of the night. Sam was. That’s how bad that last performance was, but thanks to the #SamSpiracy I have a better chance of winning American Idol than Sam does of going home this week.

What disappointed me about CJ’s performances was this was a theme that he should have excelled at and instead, he was just so ordinary. I wanted so much more and I want to hear more, but I fear my time with CJ has come to an end.

But that jacket? The best. Paisley pattern FTW.

Jessica Meuse
“Jolene,” by Dolly Parton
This song was made for Jessica to sing on Idol and she did an OK job with it. My jaw was still attached to my face as she sang, but it wasn’t bad.

However, the judges made it seem like it was really bad, which made me question my expertise. When I heard Urban say he didn’t like the arrangement, I realized what the critical comments were all about – #SamSpiracy.

Jess is in serious trouble Thursday night.

Country ranks: 1) Alex Preston; 2) Jena Irene; 3) Caleb Johnson; 4) Jessica Meuse; 5) CJ Harris; 6) Sam Woolf.

If it’s up to me, CJ and Sam are the bottom two and Sam is sent home. Since the judges clearly don’t want Sam to leave yet, it’ll be Jess and CJ in the bottom two and CJ is headed out the door. Get your tissues ready. I hate the #SamSpiracy.