After last week's "Hunger Games"-style "shocking surprise," in which the final five said "no thanks" to saving one of their own from elimination, "American Idol"'s final four had a lot on the line Wednesday night (May 7).
In a season that has seen as much controversy as this, (i.e. none at all), front-runner Caleb Johnson might have opened the door this week thanks to his unfortunate slam against the "Idol" fans who picked his songs last week. He apologized, but would America forgive him on “Love: Break-Ups and Make-Ups" night?
And, more importantly would those footsteps from teen queen Jena Irene get louder?
Caleb Stays In The Pocket
Rocking a white denim jacket, Johnson took no chances in his show opener, growling through a serviceable take on Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name." Keith Urban called it "killer, man" and a "Caleb Slayer," which is good, right?
Dedicating it to his band back home, Johnson then motored full-throttle through Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band" like he was born to sing the swamp boogie classic. Jennifer Lopez was right, there's really nothing left to say about it. "You killed it again, you're gonna be tough to beat," she shrugged.
His make-up song was Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," and the soft-focus piano-ballad power vocals completed his flawless trifecta.
Jessica Gets Gone, And Might Be Gone
Jessica Meuse is still looking for that performance that will show that she's got a spark behind those thousand-yard-stare eyes. Her wobbly, rocked-up take on original "Idol" Kelly Clarkson's "Since You Been Gone" had kick, but her vocals were a bit shouty and off-key.
"I felt that you felt the song, the attitude was right," Lopez said, kindly suggesting that the song didn't quite fit Jess's vocal style. "I'm glad you have two more songs," Harry Connick Jr. added.
Her second tune, Pink's "So What," should have been a girl-power slam dunk, but once again Meuse's level of excitement was that of a B-list celeb reading a Teleprompter at 3 a.m. during a telethon. Lopez mouthed along excitedly during the song (because she loves the tune, not the version), and though Connick said she's a great singer and talent, he once again said the performance just didn't do it for him. "It wasn't right for you," JLo agreed.
Meuse's final selection was Lady Gaga's "You & I," which she sang like a tear-in-your-beer country ballad. "That is the perfect song for you! That is you!" Urban raved.
Alex Gets Close, But No Surprises
The resident sensitive troubadour Alex Preston got small with an impassioned, Ed Sheeran-like acoustic amble through Alex Clare's "Too Close." Harry liked it because it felt like Preston stripped the song down and made it his own. "It shows that you're a thinker, that you're concerned about the music you play," Connick said.
AP got the "awww" vote when he dedicated Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" to his visiting girlfriend. It was fine. She loves him, but Lopez was worried that Alex is just coasting and not surprising us. "I really wanted to hear something different and it wasn't that different," Harry groused about the too-similar cover of the overly-familiar hit.
Alex closed the night with Coldplay's "Yellow" and the judges agreed that he pulled out of his tailspin with a solid, poetic effort.
Jena Breaks Bad, Makes Us Fall In Love All Over Again
Watch your back Caleb, because potential spoiler (and recent high school graduate) Jena Irene took a big, meaty bite out of Pat Benatar's rocking "Heartbreaker," and, if nothing else, locked down the #2 spot for good. The judges were split, with Urban and Connick feeling like Irene didn't quite catch the energy of the song and held back and Lopez calling it a "very commanding performance."
Harry's best advice: "Take the heels off."
Jena showed Jessica how it's done with a metal-edge remake of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." The classic rock arrangement didn't totally work, but Irene sold it with her attitude and confidence. Keith and Harry really liked how Jena changed the melody on the chorus, but Lopez thought that switch didn't quite work.
Elvis' 'Can't Help Falling In Love With You" was Irene's make-up song and she might have broken some hearts anew with her impassioned, goosie-inducing piano ballad take. JLo was so overcome she had to give Jena a big kiss.
"The King! And you sat there and you just re-invented it. It was so beautiful," a shaky Lopez said. "That took such immense courage to perform that song in that way... Very simply put it was incredible," Harry seconded.
We find out who the final three are on Thursday night.