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AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Viewers' Choices Make Tough Night for IDOL Top-5, Ariana Grande Surprises Finalist (Updated w/ pictures)

Related: AMERICAN IDOL
AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Viewers' Choices Make Tough Night for IDOL Top-5, Ariana Grande Surprises Finalist (Updated w/ pictures)

Well, now it's time to get serious. American Idol has navigated through a tumultuous Season XIII to get down to a fairly acceptable Top-5 (if you're not ready to get serious yet, check out my fun IDOL pieces on the battle between THE VOICE and IDOL and casting the Top-5 in real and imagined musicals, then come back and get serious.)

Perhaps last week's goodbye to the tonally deficient C.J. Harris has erased my disappointment in the early eliminations of Majesty and Malaya, but for the most part, the five finalists have all shown something that warrants their inclusion.

This week's theme is another first for the show; all of the songs were suggestions made a few weeks back by viewers. How it worked was the producers compiled the suggestions, picked a handful, and presented them to the contestants, who made the final decisions. Coming into the night, I was excited that nearly each contestant picked one song in their wheelhouse and one that required a bit of an artistic stretch. Unfortunately what happened was the songs suggested were mostly upbeat radio hits, and didn't necessarily lend themselves to live performance. So, as with most things IDOL, some of the suggestions resulted in magical moments, while others resulted in me wanting contestants to disappear.

Like we have seen from Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry, and David Cook, this week's guest mentor, Jason Mraz, far exceeded the low mentoring expectations that "full-time" mentor Randy Jackson has given us. Mr. A-Z's specific, actionable suggestions seemed to result in significantly improved performances. If you are unfamiliar with just how musically intelligent Jason is, check out the episode of Daryl Hall's web-series where they play together.

Do you think that FOX and the IDOL Powers That Be will ever get the hint that anybody, literally ANYBODY, would be a better mentor than the Dawgfather?

Ok, now that I am done with my weekly Randy rant, onto the performance reviews (I will be back with pictures as soon as FOX makes them available):

Random Appearance #1: After Alex declared that Zoey Deschannel was his celebrity crush, he seemed very underwhelmed to turn around and see her on stage. Don't forget to check out Fox's New Girl on Fox, Tuesdays on FOX at 9/8 Central on Fox.AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Viewers' Choices Make Tough Night for IDOL Top-5, Ariana Grande Surprises Finalist (Updated w/ pictures)

Alex Preston
"Sweater Weather" by The Neighbourhood
Three-Word Review:
Middling At Best

Like most non-showtunes released post-2004, I was unfamiliar with that song, and as much as I love Alex, I don't feel the need to rush to iTunes to buy it. The sections where he sounded like he was driving over the dividers in the middle of the road and the rapping were cool, but the song itself was uninteresting. Alex was solid as always, but there was nothing remarkable, nor memorable about that performance for me.

AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Viewers' Choices Make Tough Night for IDOL Top-5, Ariana Grande Surprises Finalist (Updated w/ pictures)Random Appearance #2: Austin Mahone joined Ryan Seacrest backstage for some obligatory album promotion and an awkward "IDOL selfie" social media play.

Caleb Johnson
"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith
Three-Word Review:
Thought C.J. Left

The always outstanding Caleb seemed to channel the recently departed C.J. at the start of the song and confused "emotional" with "out-of-tune". He seemed extremely uncomfortable with this slowed-down arrangement, and while he killed the money notes, this was the first time that I thought one of Caleb's performances disappointed.AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Viewers' Choices Make Tough Night for IDOL Top-5, Ariana Grande Surprises Finalist (Updated w/ pictures)

Random Observation #1: I can't be the only one out there that gets super excited for 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY every time IDOL goes to its cheesy split-screen, can I?

Group Performance #3: Jena Irene, Alex Preston, Sam Woolf
"Best Day of My Life" by American Authors
Nine-Word Review:
Harmonies Are Cool, but Jena Put Boys to Shame

AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Viewers' Choices Make Tough Night for IDOL Top-5, Ariana Grande Surprises Finalist (Updated w/ pictures)Jessica Meuse
"Human" by Christina Perri
Three-Word Review:
Domo Arigato Jessica

This is a perfect song for Jessica, because in the original video, we aren't sure if Christina Perri is supposed to be human or a robot. That's appropriate, since I cast Jess as a few other-humanly characters in my casting article. From a technical standpoint, I was glad that Jessica controlled her normally fast vibrato and sang the song's extended notes almost exclusively straight-tone. That being said, her voice sounded uncharacteristically thin on this one, so I'm not sure what I felt about it. So far all of the songs have been mixed bags of interesting, but ultimately disappointing elements.

Random Appearance #3: Sam's admitted crush, Broadway baby Ariana Grande, brought out his mic and AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Viewers' Choices Make Tough Night for IDOL Top-5, Ariana Grande Surprises Finalist (Updated w/ pictures)proved that Sam is just as awkward and uncomfortable as he appears to be.

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