American Idol is down to the Final 5 for season 13. Either Caleb Johnson, Jena Irene, Alex Preston, Jessica Meuse or Sam Woolf will win, and tonight they all perform twice for your votes.
The “theme” for this week is wide-open as they will all sing songs chosen by Twitter users. Fans have submitted their suggestions over the past few weeks, and the contestants each got to select two of the options to sing.
Joining the singers this week as a guest mentor is Jason Mraz, who has been repeatedly referenced this season as being one of Alex’s musical inspirations. The two have even had dinners together, which makes it seem a bit unfair, but that probably won’t have much of an effect except for the fact that the bar is set much higher for Alex this week.
THIS…is American Idol!
We start the show by finding out who the Top 5’s celebrity crushes are.
Caleb Johnson: Rose McGowan
Jena Irene: Harry Styles
Sam Woolf: Ariana Grande
Jessica Meuse: Jensen Ackles
Alex Preston: Zooey Deschanel
As someone who recaps the CW’s Supernatural (which stars Jensen Ackles), this makes me love Jessica even more. She just earned her SPN Family cred. Ryan Seacrest didn’t, because he credits Jensen for starring in Dawson’s Creek (which he did for a handful of episodes more than a decade ago). I’d prefer Dark Angel or even Smallville.
And because of FOX synergy, Deschanel shows up to give Alex a hug.
Ryan introduces Jason Mraz, calling him “legendary” and “a household name.” Really? I like him and his music, but that seems a bit extreme.
Alex Preston: “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood
This is another song right in his wheelhouse. It’s a bit up-tempo, but not like last week’s Neon Trees debacle. My favorite part is when Alex smashes his guitar and runs around the stage. Just kidding, he simply stands in one place and plays his guitar the whole time, like always. If anything, the arrival of Jason Mraz as a guest judge makes it clear that Alex is just a poor man’s Mraz. The judges spend most of their time talking about how cool it was for Alex to hang out with Jason, but they also wish he did something more with the song because it lacked entertainment.
Caleb Johnson: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
Really America? I hate whoever suggested this song and Caleb for picking it. The other songs on his list must’ve been awful, because this is the most overdone song on these singing shows. It’s impossible for me to look beyond the appalling song choice. I suppose it’s admirable that he tries to do a more emotional version, but I don’t think it’s that good. The big, long glory notes are epic, but the rest is just sleepy and dull, two things I don’t associate with Caleb. Jennifer Lopez likes that he did it as more of a ballad but Harry Connick, Jr. thinks he sang to the camera, not the audience. Keith Urban accuses him of putting the technical part of singing ahead of the emotion. When it’s done, Caleb hilariously points out that the song has been done a lot and seems kind of ashamed of picking it.
Alex Preston, Jena Irene and Sam Woolf: “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors
Oh great, a trio. Sigh. I recognize Jena and Sam, but who’s that guy in the red jacket? It can’t possibly be Alex because he’s walking around WITHOUT a guitar. The whole thing is just kind of awkward and pointless and silly, like a middle school talent show. I’d much rather have more Mraz filler and 10 solo performances than shoehorning in these group numbers.
Jessica Meuse: “Human” by Christina Perri
Jason gives her helpful advice on different ways to hold her guitar. This is such a powerfully evocative song and Jessica nails the emotional component of it. There were a few off notes, but I can give her a pass on that because of the content. Keith actually liked the humanity of when her voice broke a bit. As usual, the judges are so underwhelming with their commentary and it seems to hurt them to give her a compliment. Come on, it was moving and emotional, which is the only thing they praised C.J. for every week.
Sam Woolf: “Sing” by Ed Sheeran
There’s way too much Ed Sheeran this season. This is the third Sheeran song in five weeks, and the second one for Sam. Sam scores cute points from the audience by saying he misses his little dog Buddy, but things get awkward when Sam’s celebrity crush Ariana Grande comes out to give him his mic. What are the odds that Harry, Rose and Jensen are also going to show up?
Jason urges Sam to get funky. Sadly, Sam is incapable of funk. The result is a performance that lays there like a dead fish and lacks any sense of charisma or excitement. The judges try to be polite by saying it’s a tough song and he was distracted by Ariana. The nicest thing they can say is that he was relatively more funky than usual. After this, I will be stunned if Sam isn’t eliminated tomorrow.
Jena Irene: “My Body” by Young the Giant
This is another performance where she goes all around the stage, interacts with the audience and it distracts from her vocals. When she actually stands there and sings, I love it a lot, but when she moves around, she loses focus on the vocals. I appreciate that she’s trying to do something that most of the other contestants don’t (like moving), but it’s also worth noting that her best performances are the ones where she sat at a piano. The judges are very positive because she’s more entertaining, moves more and bothers to put on a show for the audience.
Caleb Johnson and Jessica Meuse: “Beast of Burden” by The Rolling Stones
This is slightly better than the trio from earlier, but when they sing about wanting to make love to each other, it feels very ridiculous, like bad community theater.
After the commercial break there’s a hilarious moment when Ryan is talking to Ariana and Randy Jackson. Randy claims he’s “pounding” her new single in his car. She puts up her fist to pound it out with Randy, but he doesn’t see it and she awkwardly lowers her fist.
Alex Preston: “Say Something” by A Great Big World featuring Christina Aguilera
Like Jessica with “Human,” this is a very powerful song that does most of the work for him. This might be good if you didn’t watch The X Factor season 3, where Alex and Sierra’s performance of this song was probably the single best thing I’ve seen on a reality singing competition in several years. The judges must not have seen it, because they rave about how amazing he was. It was fine, but not the best version of that song and his eyes still seem a little blank to me.
Jena Irene: “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse
Once again, I don’t like how they rearrange the order of the contestants for the second half of the night. She’s very sultry and jazzy, like she’s performing in a night club from the ’60s or ’70s. It’s a good enough performance, but not one that has me getting out of my chair. At this point in the competition I need amazing, show-winning performances, and this just isn’t at that level. The judges all wish the arrangement was more up-tempo because it didn’t fit Jena’s style.
Sam Woolf: “How to Save a Life” by The Fray
Just like with Matchbox 20’s “Unwell” back in the Top 13, he slows it down and it doesn’t quite work for me. He also does a lot of weird intonation choices that seem kind of random, but at the same time it’s all monotonous. There are also some serious pitch problems. The judges think it got better as it went on, but it was still another bad performance. After this, he absolutely, definitely needs to go home tomorrow.
Jessica Meuse: “Summertime Sadness” by Lana del Ray
What the heck is going on here? Her hair is done up and she’s in a red dress with a slit that shows off the tattoo on her upper thigh. It feels like she’s playing dress-up, which confuses me. But her voice is killer on this song and she channels the plaintive sadness in the title. The judges actually praise the perfect melding of singer and song choice because of the David Lynch quality of the song. But they still pester her for wanting more physical connection. Jessica must have murdered all of the judges’ puppies, because there’s no other explanation for how critical they are of her every single time.
Caleb Johnson: “Still of the Night” by Whitesnake
Whitesnake on Idol? This is perfect for Caleb and, as expected, he slays it. It’s a bad-ass rock concert and Caleb is a rock god. However, halfway through, when he hits his big note, Keith and J. Lo stand up and start rocking out while Harry sits there with a stern look on his face. It was kind of uncomfortable because it’s obvious that Harry takes this job so much more seriously than the other two judges. Keith and J. Lo lose all credibility when they freak out like fans instead of judges. But yeah, this performance was awesome.
If we live in a just world, Sam Woolf will go home tomorrow. I don’t know who will join him in the Bottom 2. It shouldn’t be Jessica, but it probably will be unless all Supernatural fans power vote now that they know she’s one of them by loving Jensen Ackles.
(Image courtesy of FOX)