The Top 5 singers on American Idol probably got less sleep this week, because even they didn’t know the songs they would be singing until the top picks were tallied from the public’s vote, resulting in two songs apiece picked by loyal fans for their moment in the footlights. Every singer was asked to name a secret crush as they came on stage this week, and two of the guys got in-person greetings from their dream girls! Harry Connick, Jr. went with Western flair this week, and Jennifer Lopez took silvery sparkle to a new level in her mini-dress. Jason Mraz did a fine job playing mentor this week, especially meaningful for his coffee pal, Alex Preston. Still, the question remained, how well can America match singer to song?
The first pick came for Alex Preston with The Neighborhood’s,” Sweater Weather,” and it seemed a fine fit! Alex got a special delivery of the microphone from his crush, Zooey Dechanel, along with a hug! Jason offered some microphone tips to make Alex more relatable, and he really laid into the song. Keith Urban was really clapping, but he really wanted Alex to “go soaring” with his voice, and Jennifer Lopez agreed, saying she wished he’d have “pushed more.” Harry Connick, Jr. gave Alex A+ for getting all the words, and said he could hear him singing something like that on his own record. Tween hottie, Austin Mahone, took a selfie with Ryan Seacrest to break news of his upcoming EP before Caleb Johnson performed the song selected for him, Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” A bit over staged and theatrical, the song seemed to stifle Caleb’s natural instincts somewhat, his natural power skipped with the lack of movement. Still, he managed praise, Jennifer Lopez noting how it was “challenging” to take it to a ballad. Harry Connick, Jr. reminded Caleb to “preach to the people” rather than sing into a camera. Keith Urban praised it has a great song, but urged Caleb to let feelings take the lead in driving the song, not just vocal ability. Jena Irene, Sam Woolf, and Alex Preston all joined for a medley on American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life,” which everyone enjoyed, Keith Urban so much so that he gave it a standing ovation, loving that they let loose! “Human” by Christina Perri was chosen for Jessica Meuse, and it was one of her best performances all season, pulling out a tender vulnerability that she very seldom shows. She got her greatest applause ever, and Harry Connick, Jr. really praised that she was putting all of the advice together, and still really focusing on the song’s meaning. Keith Urban loved the moment of her voice cracking, showing that she was “human” and bringing more beauty to the performance. Jennifer Lopez noted that when she came back from that vocal crack, she gave power to the song.
Sam Woolf was drawn out of his comfort zone with Ed Sheeran’s “Sing,” being very current and upbeat. He was given a special greeting by Ariana Grande, his crush, and that brought a spring to his step! Jason Mraz liked the choice because it forced Sam to move more, and Jennifer Lopez noticed, saying it was the most relaxed she had seen Sam all season. Keith Urban was not quite as impressed, but said Sam “did as good as you could do.” Harry told Sam he needed to stay in the pocket, and stay with the band in their solid groove. Jason Mraz complimented that Jena Irene “sparkles,” and her chosen selection of “My Body” by Young the Giant was vivacious as all get out, Jena dressed in a striped red shirt, showing herself off as the truest performer, and savoring the love from the crowd! Standing ovation came again from Keith, who loves that Jena goes from soft ballads at the piano to songs like this with equal ease-“killer” was his word. Jennifer Lopez remarked on the “signatures” that are becoming part of Jena’s every performance, and Harry Connick, Jr. said that Jena moves more and “uses the stage” better than any of her fellow contestants. Caleb Johnson and Jessica Meuse were most entertaining in their duet of the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.” Keith Urban didn’t comment much on the feelings of singing such a sensual song with a partner, but did say their duet “killed it.” Alex Preston had one of those “moments” longed for by the panel with “Say Something” from Great Big World. Softly singing in a starched white shirt from a stool, Alex sang as if the song was his own. Keith Urban was moved to ovation again, Harry called it “the performance of the night,” and Jennifer loved “the look and the lighting” as well. Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” was the next pick for Jena. Despite looking sensational and so stylized, and moving the audience to a roar, the performance was not a wow for the panel, only so-so. The arrangement was not seen as right for her, and “nice job” from Harry was the tone of her comments. The Fray’s “How to Save a Life,” was the second pick for Sam Woolf, and he fed the fans with his red-faced style. Being shaky at the start only seemed to endear him to the panel, as he found his vocal footing by the end. “Summertime Sadness” by Lana del Rey seemed to fit the deep, dark tones of Jessica Meuse’s range has well as the stunning red dress she wore, looking more elegant than ever. The audience love came in waves, and Harry Connick, Jr. gave congratulations on the performance and the perfect song. Keith Urban said there was a David Lynch kind of mysticism in the song, and he wanted Jessica to “lean in” more to find it. Jennifer Lopez, too, asked that Jessica “dig in more.”
As he has before, Caleb Johnson closed the night, this time with Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night,” as opposed to Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night,” as Harry playfully teased. All across America, TV screens were certainly ablaze! Jennifer Lopez And Keith Urban not only stood in ovation, but head banged for all they were worth! Keith Urban quipped “what a tender ballad” Caleb had offered– poking fun! Harry Connick, Jr. simply said you can’t sing the song any better, and Jennifer Lopez raved “that’s called bringing down the house” and remarked that the band looks forward to performing with Caleb any song, anytime, because of his spirit and generous presence as a performer. Caleb is indeed ready for the tour bus!
Someone goes home tomorrow night, and five becomes four.
American Idol broadcast, April 30, 2014 FOX Networks.