Host Ryan Seacrest walked out dressed in black on American Idol this week. Perhaps it was an indication of the seriousness of every selection for the seven remaining singers, or simply a daring wardrobe choice. There were lots of invited guests joining in on the critiques for what was dubbed “Competitors’ Pick” Night. Each singer chose selections for a fellow singer, and the singer had the final choice for the best fit for the night. Jennifer Lopez gave shimmer and sheen in her backless yellow dress, but not everything was sunny for the singers. The judges’ panel pleaded for “moments,” and most seemed to miss the mark. Who had great taste in singing and selecting the music?
It came to Caleb Johnson to open the night, and he shared his fears of spiders and the dark, despite his devotion to horror movies! He still proved fearless in taking on Alex Preston’s pick for him, Kings of Leon’s “Family Tree,” and he worked it like a rock machine! The performance was payoff on both sides, and certainly for the audience, too. Keith Urban raved, “I freakin’ love that song!” and he loved Caleb singing it. Jennifer Lopez chimed in that she “loved Caleb more,” and Harry Connick, Jr. complimented that he could hear that song “on you record” to Caleb. The bar was set very high already! Jessica Meuse shared her terrifying story of being chased by a red-eyed pony and her penchant for tattoos, and she said she was excited to sing Sam Woolf’s choice for her, Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead.” She looked the part perfectly, her blue blouse matching the streak in her hair behind the pink one, and black leather pants. Jessica went mobile, too, moving around the stage, and becoming more of a true performer. The panel felt she fell short, though, sensing a lack of attitude in her song, and Harry encouraging her to put on some heavy beat hip hop and dance to get her rhythm. Harry seemed really hoarse, showing that singing gets to superstars, too. Keith Urban said he saw “an energy dissipation” instead of getting revved up in the song. Jennifer Lopez implored that every singer had to “get serious” at this stage of the contest, and look for “big moments” to set them apart. Demi Lovato joined Randy Jackson to offer her two cents, and Harry playfully teased that “whatever Demi says is right!” Sam and Alex joined for a sweet duet of Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” which the panel found too sweet, but the audience, especially girls, found to be just right.
CJ Harris had a field day with Caleb’s choice for him, John Mayer’s “Gravity,” and he grabbed the moment, the smoke effect on stage well-spent. The song was soaked in soul, CJ style, and Jennifer Lopez smiled throughout. Keith Urban called the song a “good call” and a “bulls-eye,” urging CJ to create more of an arc in the song. Jennifer Lopez noted that CJ is getting more and more comfortable as a performer, and that now he needs to focus on “finding moments.” Harry Connick, Jr. offered his highest praise ever to CJ, deeming the performance his “best to date,” and that he had the greatest gift for any artist, “you always connect.” Dexter Roberts finds strawberries delicious, and it’s no surprise that he likes bulls and rodeo. Pointers on success were offered by singer-songwriter Martin Garrix, himself just a teenager, and bantamweight fighter, Rhonda Rousey, perhaps out of her element for a singing competition, but certainly able to deliver a punch. Dexter chose best buddy, CJ’s pick, Luke Bryan’s “Muchalee Creek Water.” The song has a dark, soulful mood, and Dexter delivered on that with his blues-infused style. Keith Urban cautioned that he may have over-sung due to the dark mood and low tones. Jennifer Lopez was pleased with the darker edge, but still was seeking “spectacular” performances. Harry Connick, Jr. praised the changes with the arrangement, but still wanted “something different” with Dexter’s singing, similar to his “One Mississippi” performance a few weeks back. A bearded Terry Bradshaw came on board, but his football broadcasting cadence didn’t quite match Seacrest’s for delivery. Caleb Johnson and Ryan Seacrest joined as duet partners for special a moment of “special heaven” that Harry noted as “one of the most special of the season.” Caleb kept his rocking pants on for “Gimme Shelter” with Jena Irene, and the two brought the house down! If it were scored, it would have been the best rated, even of the panel still was waiting for someone “to cut loose” according to Keith Urban. Dexter made a fine choice for Alex with Ed Sheeran’s “A Team,” and Alex slid into the song like a comfortable sneaker. Alex described his affection for gardening, cooking, and a dream to going to dermatology, but that will come later, because he certainly had his own share of screamers cheering him on at the last note! Harry Connick, Jr. and Jennifer Lopez both lauded the selection as “the perfect song,” and Jennifer especially wanted Alex to revel in his cheering fan moment. Harry praised that a simple performance could easily be strong enough to take the stage, And Keith Urban loved that Alex’s “signatures” on songs come so easily now. It was a good night for Alex Jessica chose the song for Sam Woolf, “Sail Away” by David Gray, hoping it would help him sail into the hearts of his waiting female audience a little more easily. Sam sold the song, but still seemed in his own world, rather than reaching to his fans. Keith Urban loved the look of the young artist who loves pulling pranks on his grandparents and roof climbing, yet the panel felt Sam would have been better served by a more popular song that everyone knew, so that the connection factor could come more naturally. CJ, Jessica, and Dexter formed the southern state-sharing trio, Alabama Power, for their rendition of Lady Antebellum’s, “Compass,” but the panel and those questioned felt that they lost their way singing together, despite solid individual voices.
Caleb became a Yoda of songs again, choosing Radiohead’s classic, “Creep” for Jena Irene to close the night. She was a vision in stoic, Gothic-like beauty, sitting at her piano, and belting out the chorus so powerfully that it overcame the heavy guitars. She proved that sitting down can sell a song stronger than ever for the right singer, and she took best in show! “I loved it, I love your fearlessness,” remarked Keith Urban. “You Jena-fy everything” raved Jennifer Lopez. Harry appreciated her “humility and intrigue” and called her “phenomenal.” Her praise could not have been higher. Will the voters follow suit? Even after a showstopper, someone will be leaving American Idol on Thursday. That tally will be another painful prick, taking seven to six!
Source: American Idol broadcast, April 16, 2014 FOX Networks.