This time it’s on you, America. For the first time in show history, you picked the songs for the “American Idol” top five to sing on Wednesday (April 30). So if you didn’t like what Caleb, Jena, Jessica and Sam and Alex served up, then maybe you should clear the cobwebs from your playlists.
Regardless of the theme, we’re sticking with our conviction that big Caleb Johnson is the one to beat, even if potential runner-up Jena Irene put some serious heat to his feet this week.
Here’s how Wednesday’s show went down:
Alex Bundles Up, Strips It Down
America wanted to hear Alex Preston sing “Sweater Weather” by the Neighbourhood and, well, the judges pretended that he was pleasantly rocking it with another uncharacteristically uptempo tune. But really it was a cold fish. “I wouldn’t have minded hearing a bit more soaring,” Keith Urban said of the straight-line arrangement. And when Jennifer Lopez says “you could do this in your sleep,” in this case that’s not a great thing.
Alex was back in his emotional ballad lane with a teary, unplugged take on A Great Big World’s “Say Something,” which earned a standing ovation from Urban. “It was a beautiful performance,” said Harry Connick Jr., dubbing it the best of the night.
Caleb Swings And Misses, Then Hits A Grand Slam
Johnson is stomping his way to the finale and Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” was practically a layup at this point. He started off a bit shaky, but eventually brought his typical intensity and vocal fireworks. Lopez said it was both tender and beautiful (yet “challenging”), while Harry encouraged Caleb to eyeball the audience, not the camera.
Urban dinged the big man a bit for not bringing the right emotional intensity, marking one of the first times in a long time that Johnson got some not perfect marks.
But man was he back on top with Whitesnake’s hair metal anthem “Still of the Night.” CJ killed the high wailers, the seductive middle section and a bluesy scream that got JLo bouncing around like a fan girl. “Awesome!” Urban gushed. “Dude, it was killer!”
Jena Finds The Mind Body Connection
Mraz encouraged Jena to get her march on for Young the Giant’s propulsive “Mind Body,” and she definitely brought some sizzling rock fire to one of the most electric performances of the night. “You probably move more than the other remaining competitors, I think that’s huge,” Connick said, praising Irene’s stage swag.
Things got jazzy for her second tune, Amy Winehouse’s version of “Valerie.” And once again Jena nailed it again with a seductive, funky take on the Zutons hit that clicked with the house and the judges. “Your vocals are killer,” Urban said, though Lopez begged to differ with the older-skewing, draggy arrangement.
Jessica’s Only Human
Jessica Meuse needed to show that she was really “Human” this week and Christina Perri’s song was an opportunity to do just that. Gently swaying while wearing what appeared to be a white lab coat, Meuse hit some power notes, but mostly had the blank look of a medical resident giving a pelvic exam.
Earlier, mentor Jason Mraz tried to explain to Meuse the importance of performing her songs with a spark, and Connick thought Jessica seemed focused and dialed into the emotion, even if her vocals were uneven. One stone-face deserves another, which is why Lana Del Rey’s drowsy “Summertime Sadness” was a perfect choice for song #2. Wearing a flowing red dress, Jessica nailed the tune’s sleepy-eyed vibe, while giving it a bit of bite.
“That’s such a perfect song for you,” Connick said, praising the viewers for a great choice.
Sam Gets (Relatively) Funky
Sam Woolf got a gift with Ed Sheeran’s right-now hit, “Sing.” But it was a surprise visit from his crush, Ariana Grande, that really got him going. Channeling Mraz with his porkpie hat game and Sheeran with some acoustic strumming, Woolf took another step toward loosening up on stage, but you could read his funk deficit in the audience member’s polite clapping.
When Keith says you did “as good a job” as you could on a tough song (he said tough twice) and Lopez says you got funky, for you (i.e. “relative funky”), that’s not so bueno.
By the time he got to the Fray’s “How to Save a Life,” it seemed pretty clear that Sam’s vanilla stage persona and meh vocals marked him for a potential ticket home. Though it was a “yikes!” for Lopez at first, she thought the wolfman hit his groove toward the end. “It just all seems one volume,” Harry said.