It’s ironic that the Final 4 contestants of American Idol season 13 are singing about love, because the last week has earned the show a lot of hate.
First came the unanimously despised twist from the results show in which the contestants were forced to decide whether to send someone home or keep everyone safe and have a double elimination this week. Alex Preston and Jena Irene were the two singers who voted in favor of an elimination, resulting in Sam Woolf going home. Despite Sam’s tweet of support, there was still some backlash against the two.
Then came an interview Caleb Johnson gave in which he complained about how Twitter lets “a bunch of retards” talk to him with their idiotic song suggestions while also jokingly suggesting that his favorite part of stardom will be “the hookers, the cocaine.”
It makes the whole American Idol experience a little uncomfortable to watch, like rooting for the L.A. Clippers in the NBA playoffs. Will songs about love (and break-ups) help ease the tension? Will Ryan Seacrest make jokes about how awkward the past week has been?
THIS…is American Idol!
Ryan lets us know that “This is when it gets real.” So I guess the previous few months were just pretend? Jennifer Lopez is looking pretty in pink for the love theme and Ryan is sporting some major scruff.
Everyone will sing three songs, with break-ups, make-ups and dedications. And we start with the heartbreak.
Caleb Johnson: “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
Sadly (or thankfully), he doesn’t beatbox like Blake Lewis’ iconic version of this song from season 6. It’s pretty much impossible to match the awesomeness of that performance, which I’d put in the pantheon of Idol‘s greatest moments (alongside things like Fantasia’s “Summertime,” Kris Allen’s “Heartless” and Candace Glover’s “Lovesong”). Caleb does his thing, but perhaps because it’s the first of the night, it feels a little weird. I really don’t like the part where he gets right up in Keith Urban’s face and screams. The judges are nice without being overly effusive. Harry Connick, Jr. suggests doing different runs besides his signature scream that he does every time.
Jessica Meuse: “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
All of these sad stories of break-ups are depressing, as is the fact that the photos of the exes have blurred-out faces. Jessica busts out the electric guitar and rocks the song. It’s not that great to start with, but once she hits the chorus, I think she settles nicely into the groove. However, I can’t help but wish that she went unplugged and did a softer, more country acoustic version. The judges criticize her (though I think it’s kind of warranted this time) as Harry tries to get her to have her body match the emotions in her mind.
American Idol Season 14
Ryan announces that auditions are coming this summer for season 14, beginning in Minneapolis and heading to the judges’ hometowns, New Orleans, New York City and Nashville. They’ll end in San Francisco, the bus will be back and Ryan says that next week they will announce a new twist to the audition process. I don’t think FOX has officially announced the show’s renewal yet, so I suppose this is breaking news. And is it too early to hope that Kenz Hall is eligible since she didn’t actually get to perform on the live shows? If so, I’m declaring her the frontrunner.
Alex Preston: “Too Close” by Alex Clare
Alex does what he does and, to my ears, it sounds a lot like what he does every week. Has he sung this song before? It’s another piece deconstructionism. He’s like Bob Ross, painting the same happy trees and mountain landscapes every single week. The judges, especially Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban, are finally getting bored with Alex repeating himself, suggesting that he needs to do something special and different if he wants to win.
Jena Irene: “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar
This kind of bad-ass song is perfect for Jena and she slays it with her energy and vocals. Maybe it’s because the first three performances were so boring, but this woke me up and marked the beginning of the competition tonight as far as I’m concerned. Keith and Harry didn’t like the way she moved, finding it too staged and restrained, but J. Lo loved it (before giving Jena a demonstration on strutting your stuff in high heels). Either way, Jena won the “Break-up” round by a mile.
Caleb Johnson: “Travellin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
The second round is for dedications, and this song is dedicated to his band back home. These songs choices are so weak and obvious for Caleb. They show no real creativity, like he did back when he did “Skyfall,” and it’s exactly what you might think. I’ve grown bored with his screaming and rocking. It pumps up the audience, but it’s too comfortable. The judges love it and once again use it as an excuse to praise the band.
Jessica Meuse: “So What” by Pink
She dedicates it to her hater, which is cool. Oof, this is rough. I don’t like the vocals at all and it doesn’t fit what I think is her asset. She’s a dark, dangerous, mysterious country rock performer, but this kind of song (and the Clarkson song before it) are too mainstream for her. The judges, like me, don’t think these first two songs suited her at all. They’ve been unfairly harsh on Jessica all season, but tonight Jessica deserves it.
Jena Irene: “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
It’s dedicated to her friends. I love this weird, rocking arrangement and I love the laser show. It certainly fits her desire to be an EDM artist. The vocals are a little weird and lacking, however, mostly because I think she still hasn’t mastered holding a mic. Keith loved the arrangement, but J. Lo didn’t.
Alex Preston: “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
It’s dedicated to his girlfriend. Based on how much he’s talked about Jason, I feel like Alex’s girlfriend should be a bit jealous. I imagine he doodles “Mr. Alex Mraz” in his spiral notebook. It’s sweet, fine and instantly forgettable. J. Lo is still worried that he doesn’t do anything special or surprising. Harry thinks he didn’t deconstruct it or change it enough. Obviously Alex is too in love with Jason to dare to change it too much, which is why contestants shouldn’t do songs just because they like them.
Caleb Johnson: “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney
The final round is all about make-ups, meaning songs about falling in love, not about cosmetics. I know it’s confusing, but since it rhymes with “break-ups,” the show couldn’t resist. Caleb’s story is pretty funny, because the first time he kissed a girl was right in front of that girl’s dad. Awkward!
I respect that he’s doing a completely different kind of song, but “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” proved he’s not a particularly gifted emotional vocalist. He’s just not good unless he’s scream-rocking, which he does a few times in this song. Keith and J. Lo give him a standing ovation because they’re sheep. The judges strongly disagree with me and call it “absolutely phenomenal” and J. Lo says it’s his best performance ever. What am I missing? Because I didn’t enjoy it at all.
Jessica Meuse: “You and I” by Lady Gaga
Her first boyfriend was when she was 8 and they just ate, held hands and played video games. She calls it the perfect relationship. This is a 200 percent improvement over her first two disasters. This song suited her and she nailed it. The judges love it, but is it enough to overcome her flaws? Despite prodding, she refuses to tell the judges who she was singing about.
Jena Irene: “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley
She and her best friend dated two brothers back when they were 13, and it sounds kind of adorable and sweet. She’s finally sitting at the piano again. The song choice made no sense to me at first, but once it begins, it all comes into focus. It’s simple, beautiful and AMAZING! Seriously, what she does with the song, and her vocals on it, are sublime. J. Lo stands up towards the end and then goes over to kiss Jena because it was so good. And it was. This has been a bad season and a bad night, but that performance was, by far, the best of the entire season. There’s a good chance Jena just won the entire season with that performance, like Candace did with “Lovesong” last year.
Alex Preston: “Yellow” by Coldplay
I feel badly for Alex, because Jena is impossibly to follow after what she just did. This is another safe performance directly in his wheelhouse, like everything he did tonight. It’s decent, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s more of the same. On the bright side, the show ended on a high note after a pretty weak night.
Jena has absolutely nothing to worry about tomorrow night after her last performance. Odds are Jessica will go home after some really bad performances tonight, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Caleb or Alex get eliminated. I know exactly what they’re going to do every week, but at least Jessica has the capacity to surprise me.
(Image courtesy of FOX)