American Idol 2014 Top 6 Performance Show Recap: A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock N’ Roll

American Idol 2014 Top 6 contestants

The American Idol 2014 Top 6 took the stage to sing two songs each, one country and one rock n’ roll. It was a pretty solid night overall.
As always, I’ll be reviewing each performance and assigning the letter grade I think each one deserves.

Jena Irene, “Barracuda.” Great song choice. And the performance was fantastic. I was actually pretty entranced. But I’m a big Heart fan. So the fact that I was impressed says a lot. I think this is my favorite performance by her. Very well-done. Performance Grade: A+

Sam Woolf, “It’s Time.” This was a very smart song choice for him. It’s not much of a singy song, but his voice sounded pretty tight on it and it was all very entertaining and I found myself actually enjoying myself while listening to him perform it. Performance Grade: B+

C.J. Harris, “American Woman.” This was by far the worst performance of the night and his worst all season. Not only was it yet another odd song choice for him, the vocals were bad, the tempo was weird and he seemed uncomfortable. Performance Grade: D+

Alex Preston, “Animal.” I was very happy to see Alex finally sing an upbeat song. But before I go on, I have to say it felt weird. Ha. The vocals weren’t his best and like the judges said there was just something missing. Not sure what it was. It just wasn’t his bag. Performance Grade: B

Caleb Johnson, “Sting Me.” Why doesn’t he do really familiar songs? That’s risky. I really wanted him to do something iconic and the Black Crowes just aren’t it. This was fine. His vocals were fine, but I was bored. Performance Grade: B+

Jessica Meuse, “Somebody to Love.” Great song choice for her. I never thought of this one for her when I was making my suggestions, but I really thought it was great for her. It was also pretty awesome to hear an updated version of the song. I liked it. Performance Grade: A

Sam Woolf, “You’re the Still The One.” Well I never expected him to pick Shania Twain, but OK. Eh, it was all just pretty weird. It’s a good thing his first time around was so good because this one was mediocre at best. Performance Grade: B-

Caleb Johnson, “Undo It.” Another interesting song choice. But this one worked for Caleb better than Sam. Caleb is just a natural. He can basically sing anything he wants. I liked this one a lot. Performance Grade: A

Alex Preston, “Always on Mind.” Great song choice. Great version. I love how tender and soft it all was. It was definitely better than the first song. I don’t know if fans will love it, because it’s not a current song, but he sure made it his own. Performance Grade: A+

Jena Irene, “So Small.” She made a great decision by taking a completely different approach to her country song. Her first was up tempo and rockin and this was slower but she didn’t hold back the power. Her vocals were just as strong as the first time around. Performance Grade: A

C.J. Harris, “Whatever It Is.” This was a better song choice for him. He sounded much better, but even much better for him isn’t perfect. I really don’t understand how he’s still in the competition, but OK. This was a pretty middle of the road effort. Performance Grade: C+

Jessica Meuse, “Jolene.” PERFECT song choice. Especially since this was the only song suggestion I got right this week! So bear with me as I toot my own horn! Ha. Anyway, I loved the arrangement and the vocals. I thought it was one of the most entertaining performances of the night. Performance Grade: A+





  1. Gotta disagree with Brandon’s recap there.

    1. Always on My Mind by Alex was a train wreck. Here’s why.
    i. Half-way through the song, suddenly, the song went from a Hawaiian-happy-tone a capella Alex to a country band infusion that was completely on another key… and beat. It was painful to listen to.
    ii. I give Alex kudos for being original. No doubt about it. If he had stayed a capella the whole song, it might have come across better. The problem is, his rendition of a happier, lighter, one-man-with-guitar version did not fit the lyrics. Which is why many of us audience could not connect. You cannot have a happy guitar paired with a set of lyrics geared to deep, heartfelt emotions. Its like putting vinegar in coffee.

    2. Did Sam even show up? I think I can make a drinking game of how many times the cameras pan to young girls watching when Sam’s singing. I’ll be plastered by de thrid refrnn…….. zzzzzzzz…….. Let’s face it, A.I. was really working the young girls in the audience tonight. They did it at least twice for every performance. Yes, the judges were extremely polite to Sam, once again.

    3. CJ – ………….. needs some singing lessons. How much further are the producers going to string him along? He’s got a lot of hardships, I got that. But, can he sing?

    4. Jessica’s “Jolene” was far from outstanding. I’ve no idea what Brandon or JLo saw in that performance. It annoyed the heck out of me that the first 2/3rds of her song were fairly monotone and hard to hear. It looked like she was about to break into tears at one point, then snapped out of whatever trance she was in and finished fairly well. I think the judges were trying to be nice … overly so … to her tonight.

    5. Jena and Caleb, once again, saved the night. You can say Caleb is redundant, predictable, … but, the boy is pure energy on stage. Tell me anyone else (other than Jena) brings as much entertainment to their performances and I’ve got a bridge to sell you in the Bering Straight. Its akin to seeing a pro-bowler bowl his/her 6th strike in-a-row, “oh how mundane, another strike…”. Caleb’s doing what Idols are supposed to do—perform! Jena, if it weren’t for Caleb, would be out-shining everyone. Her country piece was far from perfect, but she still out-sand, out-performed Jessica, CJ, Sam, & Alex… and I expected both Jessica and CJ to out-do Caleb & Jena in that category.

    If you ask me, Jena and Caleb saved the Country portion of the show.

    Its time to jettison CJ. As nice a guy as he must be, its time to cut the umbilical cord. And, right now, I have a hard time finding #3 from Alex, Sam, & Jessica. I’m leaning Jessica, at the moment.

    • You always offer some good comments. But – you’ve got to realize too – that some people don’t like “screaming” – whomever it comes from.

      • Still not sure where this ‘screaming’ concept comes from. Neither Caleb nor Jena have ‘screamed’ into the mic.. if anything, they sing atop the band, and they’re the only two doing it. I’ve stated it several times, this season, the sound-crew has done a terrible, terrible job. A.I. went all out on visual effects this year, plunked down a bunch of ca$h into that new theater; but forgot to do a few simple Sound Checks.

        Alex & Sam, for example – if you noticed – are almost always playing/singing without the band. A Capella. Why? One reason has to be they cannot be heard OVER the band when the band is playing.

        You could barely hear Jessica last night.

        Sing loud & proud, or go A Capella—its not a ‘screaming’ issue. You just prefer cafe-style music. No problem with that.

      • Jessica came in very loud and clear last night. Hope someone else will comment on this because I have experienced sound problems up until last night. Maybe the problem was on your end. By the way – what do you think about two of the judges shaking their heads with the music for some contestants? And what about Ryan showing the results of the vote immediately following Jessica’s performance? (after the first 6 had performed)?

      • I only heard Jessica in the last third of ‘Jolene’. I had to concentrate to hear her otherwise.

        I might come off as a grumpy kitten here, but I’m tired of the camera panning to show JLo boppin’ around in her chair OR Keith looking down at the lyric sheets to sing with the performer. I’ve seen it. I know JLo bounces. Its terribly redundant at this point. I long for the days of Season 6~8 where the cameras would stay focused on the contestants for 90+% of the performance. Sometimes, they’d show Paula swaying in her chair, but it wasn’t as up-close, and not as often as they air JLo.

        Ryan has to show the results to pay homage to A.I.’s advertisers—Facebook. It’s cheesy. Especially in light of the fact that the manner in which votes are tallied and weighed is far abundantly clear. Smoke & mirrors – welcome to Hollywood.

    • I disagree here..Alex did wonderful, Sam did wonderful. CJ should have been gone before it even hit the top 30! Can you imagine how awesome Dexter wouldve been lastnight?! Jessice sounded pitchy to….an I totally LOVE her! Yes, Caleb and Jena, as always, ruled the roost!! I have said all along that it’s going to come down to them in the end. Both are PHENOMINAL!!!

      • I agree with your take on CJ – I would have preferred to have had Dexter in place of CJ last night, but hey … Affirmative Action rears its head again.

        Please go back and re-listen to “Always on My Mind” again. You’ll pick up what I’m getting at. About 2 minutes in, right after the camera pans to young girls with mouths agape (sigh), you’ll hear the rest of the band come in… on a different key.

      • That would be the fault of the band…not the singer. I judge the singing…not the band…the band isn’t who will win and receive a contract!

  2. Americanidolnet is bias and obviously showing Jena Irene win giving both songs A even she is that worst on 2nd song. Harry comment is correct. we didn’t get where she going… lolx

      • actually Jake no they cant .. they are supposed to be judges/ impartial. To do anything stands in danger of influencing the vote.

      • No we’re not supposed to be impartial, but we are supposed to judge and that’s what we’re doing. This is a fan site! Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. That includes readers AND writers here.

      • They are no longer the judges…WE ARE!!! They just give I put now. WE are the ones voting now!!!!!

      • This is their media website. That’s why they wrote bias comment on contestants without needing my permission.

      • This is a privately owned and operated fan site with no association to Idol or FOX in any way.

        The entire point of having writers and discussions is to give opinions which obviously reflect individual preferences. How boring, stale, and sterile this fan site would be without opinions.

      • everyone is entitled to an opinion, but that is what it is..OPINION not FACT. art is not science. what pleases some, disgusts others. if you don’t like the performer, don’t listen. BUT, talent shows, more in some, less in others

    • I think Branden is being honest with the contestants and us and I agree with Harry’s thoughts, too. I’m finding Harry is the fairest judge at this stage and he is now taking his job more seriously, too.

  3. I think the show picks who they want to win, I don’t believe any of the ones who are left will be that big in music. . But I give it to CJ he keeps hanging in there. Maybe Idol has picked him this year.

    • CJ should have been gone WEEKS ago! Long before Majesty was gone….long before about 30 or so other people. He ALWAYS looks like he’s in pain…always straining to hit those notes…and STILL doesn’t hit them!!!

  4. Jessica #1 Dexter should still B here not some of those boys oh well he will still go along ways!!!!!!

  5. Jena is awful. Her version of Carrie Underwood’s So Small was terrible. Could not understand one word! And she is a screamer.

    • I’ll grant you here country song wasn’t her best–even she said so herself on stage, on air. But, hey, she’s not a country singer.

      I have no idea, however, how you can consider her a ‘screamer’. Whatever I say, though, is hardly to change your opinion, so I’ll leave it at that.

      • I find her voice and personality annoying. Her annunciation of the lyrics is the worst. She tried to over -sing every duet and even the band last night.

      • I’m betting no matter what she sings, you would not vote for her. I find her humility genuine.

        Enunciation is an issue for many of the contestants this year.

        Let me ask you this—how many times have you seen Sam or Alex play with the band? In the “I’m with the band” week, you could barely hear them when the band was playing aside them. The sound system this year is as such that if one does not sing over the band, one is not heard clearly.

        It doesn’t matter if its Jessica or Jena or Sam or Alex or Caleb .. or even CJ. When they sing softly, it often comes across as mumbling gibberish because the mic- & sound system are just bloody awful this year. Whatever digitizing system they’ve installed, the end product of a singing competition is a disaster. I think this must be why Jena and Caleb come off to many as ‘screaming’ into the mic. I personally don’t hear it that way at all — I just see those two as the only ones capable of singing atop the band.

        Everyone else needs to sing a ballad or go completely a capella to keep the band noise away from their performance. Problem is, once you go a capella or ballad, all those pitch & key problems come to the forefront… loud-&-clear.

        I’m not sure what else you see in Jena that is threatening, other than she’s liable to out-last whichever contestant you are routing for.

      • Jena’s performance of So Small was terrible. That’s how I heard it. Never felt it.
        Lets see how long JLo fawns over her. I don’t get it.

      • Jena has an awesome voice and annunciates words just fine …she had a very unique sound! And I LOVE it!
        I predict it coming down to Jena and Caleb.

  6. Something about Jena bothers me. I don’t think Jessica has it to win; the best personality, stage performance and VOICE goes to Caleb as I’ve said from the beginning (and I’m not even a Rock fan). I can’t imagine putting a Jena Irene CD into my player….would be torture

    • Let’s don’t give up on Jessica yet – if she is not in the bottom two tonight – believe we can see a new awakening of AI fans. I hope and pray I’m right.

    • I would love to have a Jena Irene CD…or a Jessica Muese CD…or a Caleb CD…or Sam…or Alex! They all have their own unique style and I love each of theor voices for different reasons! I DON’T think CJ should even be there!!!

  7. After Keith and Jen’s fawning, I was so relieved to hear Harry say he didn’t get where Jena was taking the melody during her country song. It was exactly what I was thinking! I don’t get her appeal, but I understand many people love her unique style…different strokes for different folks. Also, she makes smarter choices.
    Case in point, Caleb. I agree with Branden, I wanted to hear something more iconic from him. Although I know he had a “moment” with that song last night, today I can’t even recall the melody. I would bet that after last night’s show, more people were humming Barracuda than Sting Me.
    For me, Jess was the most enjoyable last night. I loved both of her song choices and she performed well. And, yes, I’ve had both songs going through my head all morning long.
    Last, but not least, Alex took Always On My Mind to a whole new level for me. I never would have imagined I would ever entertain the thought of buying that song, but I will now.
    And the rest are still on Gilligan’s Island.

    • Bet you didn’t like Keith and JLO shaking their heads while Jena performed, either. Your post was so accurate in everything you said. Your best bet now is to leave this link and come back tomorrow – after the votes have been counted.

  8. While Caleb delivers on each performance, the delivery is getting too much the same for me. It was very evident last night when the country song was almost the same as the rock ‘n roll (?) song. I’m not sure what threw Alex off his game, but his performance was a step down from the way he usually sings. He sounded unsure and at times pitchy. That’s not Alex, but it was last night. Last night instead of marching in place he looked like he was stomping insects. He needs to learn to move on stage or stand still. My ears cried when CJ sang. He was that off-key. Sometimes it sounded like he was sharp and sometimes flat. I liked Jena and Jessica. I’m liking Sam more than I did at the beginning because he is making an effort to follow the judges’ advice, and I like his voice. Either way I give them all credit because I’d never have the nerve to stand up in front of everyone even if I had a great voice.

  9. You know, it wasn’t a bad night. There have been much worse for this group. I will say that I was not loving Jess’ version of Jolene at first but as the song went on it grew on me and I ended up really liking it. I wonder what Dolly thought.

  10. Just listen to the live crowd reaction at the end of each performance. Its hard to deny their reaction with some of the performances given.

  11. You gave Jena an “A” last week for Creep and an A+ this week for “Barracuda”. You need your ears cleaned out! I’m a Jena fan but didn’t like her performance last night!

    • Been watching the show a short while this season. There are only two performers that touched my soul, every time they sang. Caleb and jena. So, I will agree to disagree.

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