AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Hemorrhaging, Raging, and 'Defying Gravity' for IDOL's Top-3 (updated w/ photos)
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome to our Three-Round Battle Royal! For the second year in a row, American Idol fans have voted the correct Top-3 through the maze of eliminations into the semi-finals. And tonight, for AMERICAN IDOL's 500th episode, we had a slobberknocker.
In one corner we have the underdog, wearing high-waters and no socks, hailing from Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, The Artistic Mystic, Alex Preston.
In the next corner, from Asheville, North Carolina, battling bronchitis, but keeping classic covers alive, we have the Rock 'n' Roll Renegade, Caleb Johnson.
And in yet another corner, the favorite, from Farmington Hills, Michigan, Jena Irene the Singing Machine. Now, let's get ready to rumbllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllle (Michael Buffer, please don't sue me)!
Coming immediately on the heels of the always emotionally taxing Hometown visits, each of Season XIII's remaining Idols performed three songs on Wednesday's penultimate performance show. The first round was made up of songs suggested by the surprisingly not-worthless "full-time" mentor, Randy Jackson. The next round was songs that the judging panel of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. selected, and the final round consisted of songs the Top-3 had previously performed on the show and were determined by their hometown fans (and by hometown fans, I mean the show's producers).
After Ryan Seacrest introduced the finalists, they employed stall tactic #1 by bringing out the show's doctor, who said that Caleb has been suffering from bronchitis, and as a result has a vocal cord hemorrhage. Wasn't he the one bragging last week that his high-belting didn't hurt his voice? Someone needs to learn about vocal rest. Or perhaps karma is coming back to bite him for this faux pas.
Next, apparently nine performances and video packages of the hometown visits weren't enough, so Seacrest welcomed two DJs who call them self The Chainsmokers to "perform" their "hit" song "#Selfie." I don't know what is going on, and I don't want to, but Happy 500th episode IDOL!
After taking a quick shower to wash off that grossness, on to the performances:
"Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS
Three-Word Review: Holy Vocal Damage
Randy said that he was looking for a modern song to prove that Caleb can be relevant in today's music scene, so he picked a song from 1988. Unfortunately, whether it was song choice or vocal damage, this was the worst performance I can remember from Caleb. Not only were his soaring high notes not present, but there were so many missed notes that I lost the melody on multiple occasions. However, apparently this close to the finals, the judges have no desire to critique the contestants.
Randy Cliché #1: "The show always goes on."
"Pompeii" by Bastille
Three-Word Review: Blue Alex Group
To use Randy's tried-and-true catchphrase, Alex looked like he was "in it to win it" tonight. Not only did he accompany himself on the guitar, but he switched over to drums at one point, and then bounced around stage with an energy that we haven't seen from him all season. While there were some intonation issues, it was the type of performance that I think Alex should have come out with weeks ago. Also, was anyone else waiting for the percussionists to pour paint on their drums a la Blue Man Group?
Titanium" by David Guetta Featuring Sia
Three-Word Review: "Something Has Changed"
Ok, first off, did the WICKED tour leave the "Defying Gravity" lift on stage after their last swing through LA? (Did anyone notice Jena struggle to release her safety harness?) Also, like most musical theatre dorks, I am extremely partial to the "stripped down" version of this song that Brittany Snow and Anna Kendrick performed in the shower in PITCH PERFECT, so I had high expectations for this one. Unfortunately, Jena didn't performed it as well as I had hoped; she had issues on both the top and bottom of her register, and she did seem unusually guarded throughout the number. It seems like something has changed within her, something is not the same...
"Demons" by Imagine Dragons
Three-Word Review: Oh, That Hurt
This performance was nearly as painful to watch, as it probably was for Caleb to perform, and that's just too bad. Caleb has been nearly too perfect on every song this season, so to see him struggle and have his voice abandon him was disappointing for this stage in the competition. So, like Harry, I will forgo any further critiques and move on.
"Stay" by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko
Three-Word Review: I'm....Getting.....Tired
I give up. I don't know much, if anything, about fashion, but what in the Sam Hill is he wearing? Is that the first chartreuse suit in the history of IDOL? The judges loved this performance, but unfortunately, it just kind of lulled me to sleep. I'm familiar with the song, but not being much of a Rihanna fan, Alex's rearranged rendition did little to move me. As I have said all season, I love Alex's artistry, and would probably put his album on when I was falling asleep each night (is that a compliment?), but sometimes his performances venture too close to lullabies to get excited about.
Final Performance Announcements #1-#4: After welcoming back the rest of this summer's tour lineup, Seacrest announced some of next week's finale performances. CJ Harris and Dexter Roberts will be singing with Darius "Don't Call Me Hootie" Rucker. Jessica Meuse will be performing with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles. Malaya Watson will be singing with my favorite Grammy-winning Buckeye-fanatic John Legend, and Sam Woolf will be performing with Season 11 IDOL champ Phillip Phillips.
"Heart Attack" by Demi Lovato
Three-Word Review: For Her Album
I imagine that Jena will probably have a number of songs like this on her eventual album, and they very well could be hits. However, these aren't the types of songs that I think best show her off. Most pop songs have a limited vocal range, and Jena needs to be able to belt to the rafters. Also, whether it is rock, EDM, or at the piano, Jena always has a little bit of an edge to her, and while this is a weighty for a pop song, it just doesn't provide her enough opportunities to exercise her personality. So, it was fine, but not exciting or inspiring.
Finale Announcement #5: Demi Lovato was the best part of THE X FACTOR, and her guest spot on Glee was one of the highlights of the season. And next week, FOX will welcome her back to perform on IDOL with all of this season's girls.
HOMETOWN/BEEN THERE, DONE THAT PICKS
Ok, JLo. You wanted a "moment-moment?" You got a "moment-moment." Vocal hemorrhaging or not, Caleb performed this song with the rebellious spirit and vocals that you must have to cover Led Zeppelin well. It clearly wasn't his best vocal of the season, but it very well might have been his most entertaining performance. As Caleb ended his performance by slamming his mic stand on the stage over and over and over again, he seemed to be squeezing every ounce of rage out, just in case that was his last performance of the competition. After two sub-par songs, Caleb needed something memorable to have a shot at next week's finale, and he just might have had that.
"Story of My Life" by One Direction
Three-Word Review: On the Radio
Three lessons learned from this song. First and most importantly: Despite being pigeon-holed as the season's indie artist, Alex clearly has the talent and ability to be a player on the contemporary music scene. Secondly, first-year Executive Producer Per Blankens loves making the backgrounds for the performances on iMovie. And finally, audience "rhythmic" clapping should be outlawed on all singing competitions. The cameras found a girl during this performance clapping on the 1 ½ and 3. If the entire crowd was doing the same, the fact that Alex performed so well only serves to magnify what an amazing musician he is.
"Creep" by Radiohead
Three-Word Review: Winner :|| Chicken Dinner (like how I got around my three-word rule there?)
As I've said already, Jena is my pick to be crowned champ next week, but I was feeling a little uncomfortable after her first two slightly underwhelming performances tonight. Well, after this one, I need not worry any more, because Jena closed the show with her best performance of the season (other than last week's "Can't Help Falling in Love"). She is so multi-faceted that I often forget that she plays piano and that it was an original song that saved her during Wild Card Week. Not only do I think that Jena deserves to be AMERICAN IDOL's next champ, I think she is the champ that American Idol needs. I will talk more about that in a Finale preview next week, but this performance certainly should guarantee her a spot in next week's Final Two.
Should Be Eliminated
Best of the Night
As much as I have despised the much-maligned Randy Jackson this (and every) season, I have to give it to him, his song choices were far and away superior to those of the judges. Oh, that kind of hurt a little...
Also, what does it say about the producers' confidence in their judges and mentor's selections to end the show with songs that we have already heard this season? In my perfect world, the retreads would have kicked off the show, and it would have concluded with exciting new ones. If "ifs" and "buts"...
Ok, who do you think deserves to be in the Finale next week? Did you have a favorite performance tonight? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @BWWMatt
Photo Credit: Michael Becker | FOX