When I heard that Jena Irene was going to sing the Radiohead song, “Creep,” on American Idol (season 13, episode 28), I was so excited that I bubbled up in my chair. The song is one of my all-time favorite songs. What I love most about the song is that the angst of feeling like an outsider creeps up in the melody and turns to angry bitterness, and I just knew Jena could really kill the power notes. I was sorely disappointed in Jena’s version of the song, because I didn’t feel her come out of that dark corner with her voice. The Radiohead lyrics, “When you were here before, couldn’t look you in the eye,” should wax a bit despondent. Jena missed the softness and insecurity that I love so much about the beginning of Radiohead’s original version of the song “Creep.”
It’s not that I just love the song so much that hearing any other version of it, including dark rocker Jena’s version, gives me the stink face. I came across a version of the song “Creep” done by a singer named Carrie Manolakos on Youtube that I absolutely adore. I’m not the only one who likes Manolakos’ version of the song, because she has over 2 million hits to her video which is underscored by a litany of overwhelmingly positive responses. Jena Irene has a great deal of potential. She has a Lorde meets Evanescence vibe that I kind of dig (and she kind of reminds me of Rachel from Glee), but I’m sour that she flatlined one of my favorite songs by Radiohead.
Jena Irene upstaged Alex Preston, much to my surprise. I love Alex Preston, because he’s so real and vulnerable yet musically confident that he sometimes comes across to me as bigger than the show. American Idol is almost a little too gimmicky for Preston. Alex Preston is one of those performers, with his quirky fashion sense and slightly awkward stage presence that some people absolutely love or simply don’t love at all. Being a big fan of his, I turned a little red with discontent when Idol judge Jennifer Lopez contended that Alex Preston sucked the life out of the song, “Every Breath You Take,” by The Police in a previous American Idol performance. Alex Preston, to me, is a real artist–the real deal, and I thought his version of “Every Breath You Take” was overwhelmingly sincere. So when Harry Connick Jr. claimed that Jena Irene gave a better performance than Alex Preston with her rendition of “Creep,” I threw an internal temper tantrum.
Speaking of internal tantrums, I also threw one when Sam Woolf got the only save of the season leading to the unspeakable ousting of the very talented Malaya, but for what it’s worth, Sam’s performance of “Sail Away” (during the same week Jena performed “Creep”) was the first time I really liked him. I thought he was in his element and was digging more into the lyrics than I’ve ever seen him do, yet the judges criticized him for picking a song no one really knew. Apparently, I’m not cut out for being an American Idol Judge.