AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Contestant Delivers Moving Performance Worthy of IDOL Hall of Fame (Updated w/ pictures)
Well, it has been quite the tumultuous week for our final four AMERICAN IDOL contenders. After an ill-conceived "twist" forced the finalists to vote whether or not to heave an elimination last week, the two (Jena Irene and Alex Preston) that voted for the elimination which ultimately sent home preteen-girl favorite Sam Woolf, have been bombarded on social media by angry members of Sam's Woolfpack.
Then after last Thursday's elimination episode, Caleb Johnson used an offensive slur when talking about online haters. Whether either of these controversies will impact the outcome of the competition will not be clear until this week's results show, but with the always emotional Hometown Visits hanging in the balance for the Top-3, every voting factor will be magnified this week.
To make sure that the viewers make fully informed decisions, the finalists performed three songs each; a break-up song, a dedication (a la Casey Kasem), and then a make-up song. As always with IDOL Season XIII, the results were a mixed bag. There were some painful performances and one that I believe will go down in the IDOL Hall of Fame.
Ok, here are my thoughts on each performance. Let me know if you agree in the comments below:
"You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi
Three-Word Review: He's Ready Now!
Normally when an Idol contestant takes a stroll through the crowd it looks awkward and forced, however, whether the North Carolina rocker was on-stage or in the audience, he seemed in complete control of his surroundings tonight. I can't imagine that there is a stage on Earth that he would not kill on. However, I am becoming more and more conscious of the fact that Caleb never really changes up a song. It is pretty much always the arrangement and melody of the original with a few signature wails throw-in. While I would pay to see him do that, I have to wonder if it is enough to sustain him with the crowded final-four field.
Random Observation #1: This #IdolSelfie thing where they want viewers to press themselves against their TV screens to get a selfie with their favorite contestants reeks of desperation. The Powers That Be are trying so desperately to keep IDOL relevant on social media, but whether they admit it or not, the show is on the backside of its popularity. IDOL is now like "fetch," stop trying to make it happen.
"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson
Three-Word Review: Follow the Rules!
There are hard and fast rules for singing competitions; don't sing Whitney, don't sing Celine, don't sing Mariah, and don't sing Kelly. Just don't; especially when you don't even have anything approaching the vocal range and commitment to performance of those iconic artists. The opening segment of this song was lazy and started way too low for her. I've really tried to get onboard the Jessica train, because I felt like I was being too harsh on her in recent weeks, but it's just not going to happen (like "fetch"). As a theatre-first fan, I can't make myself get behind a performer who seems completely disinterested in conveying the message and emotion of the song she is singing.
"Too Close" by Alex Clare
Three-Word Review: Rockin' the Stankface
Even though it was a stripped down version of a song played with an acoustic guitar, this felt different to me from Alex. He added a certain amount of grittiness into the song that I don't remember in the original; he also seemed a little sinister in this song. While Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez didn't seem to think so, I thought Alex's performance was full of weight and showed something that we don't normally see for him; and I'm not talking about the stankface he was throwing in either.
"Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar
Three-Word Review: She's Only 17?
Though it was reminiscent of last week's "Barracuda," this song still surprised me how in control Jena is in terms of performance. She appeared to be a seasoned rock star working the crowd and the stage. That being said, I do agree with the judges that she felt unusually restrained vocally. However, considering she is going to have to belt out two more numbers, I can understand her hesitance. Her voice is the most commercially interesting of the season, and her performances are the most ready to tour today. Will she win? I don't know, but she deserves to be one half of the finale.
Random Observation #2: Watching JLo strut down the runway, I wondered if she has ever even thought about belting like Jena while walking like that. Considering I'm not sure she has ever actually sung live on stage in her life, I don't know that her demoing how Jena should own the stage during a performance is the most helpful.
"Traveling Band" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Dedicated to: His friends and bandmates back home
Three-Word Review: Ready to Rock
I really liked this performance because it is out of Caleb's typical catalogue. Even though it is a rocking classic, it is from a decade or two before his hairband go-to songs. Again, it sounded very similar to the original, but when you sing the original that well, I guess there is no need to change it.
"So What?" by Pink
Dedicated to: The Haters
Three-Word Review: In Fourth Place
Man that sing-songy opening was grating. There really isn't anything about this song that I liked. So, instead of sounding like one of the haters that she dedicated the song to, I am going to leave it at "grating."
"Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga
Dedicated to: Fans (Really? Doesn't seem like she took the dedication theme too seriously)
Three-Word Review: The Total Package
What I love about Jena as a contestant is that she is able to give huge, massively satisfying performances while taking chances with song choice and arrangement. Caleb gives those big performances, but never strays from his tried and true standards. Alex deconstructs everything he does, but his performances are always so small and introspective. Jessica is just unsatisfying on both levels. While I didn't love the opening of this song, I really appreciated the artistry and the vocal on the last 2/3s of the song.
"I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz
Dedicated to: His girlfriend
Three-Word Review: Already Heard It
Ok, we get it. Alex is friends with Jason Mraz, and will make an album very similar that of Mr. A-Z someday, but I am starting to get frustrated that Alex never does anything other than this song. It honestly seems like he has been doing that exact same song every week, often multiple times. While that has clearly gotten him this far in the competition, it just doesn't stack up to the vocal pyrotechnics of Caleb, nor the electrifying performances of Jena.
"Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney
Three-Word Review: Pathos Over Flash
Finally, Caleb switched up a classic rock song. While the melody was pretty much the same as always, Caleb kept it low-key mostly throughout and added a lot more pathos than we are used to hearing in that song, even from the Sir himself. I really enjoyed that performance, even though it was his least flashy of the night. Might have to get that one on iTunes.
"You and I" by Lady Gaga
Three-Word Review: No "Moment Moments"
I had never heard this song before, but when I saw Jessica was doing Gaga, I didn't imagine it would work this well. While I don't know that it was enough to redeem her from her extremely shaky first two performances, I did enjoy this song. It fit her voice and sensibility perfectly, it just didn't have the "moment moments" that JLo always talks about, something that Jessica desperately needed before voting opens.
"Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley
Three-Word Review: I'm Not Ashamed
I have said in other articles in the past that I come from a long line of male criers, and I am not ashamed to say that I, not only got goosebumps multiple times during that performance, but I also teared up at the end as well. My dad, who is firmly in Camp Caleb, texted me after that song simply saying, "Holy S**t." He then compared it to the iconic Katherine McPhee "Over the Rainbow." This is a performance that will be remembered long after AMERICAN IDOL goes off the air, and just might propel Jena to stardom.
"Yellow" by Coldplay
Three-Word Review: Was It Enough?
No doubt that Alex is an incredible artist. Whether he turns out to be a recording artist or a songwriter/producer, his creativity will propel him to a solid career in the music industry. That being said, I'm not sure that what he offers is that of an IDOL champion. What he does is amazing; what he has is unique, but who he is is not the type of performer that traditionally inspires massive amounts of people to vote. Either way, I think this performance should ensure him his hometown visit and a spot in the Top-3.
Since we are down to just four, I don't think they will give us a Bottom Two or Three tomorrow, so I will just go with who...
Should be Eliminated
Best Cumulative Night
Best Performance of the Night
So, do you think that Jena's performance is a legendary as I do? Do you agree that Jessica is clearly the Final Four's weak link? Let me know what you think in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt.