‘American Idol’ Recap: Jena Irene, Alex Preston & C.J. Harris Get High Marks, Demi Lovato Is A Guest Judge

Lisa Timmons | April 17, 2014 5:10 am

After bidding a tearful farewell (on my part at least) to Malaya Watson, only seven contestants are left. And since Malaya was clearly my favorite, I’m struggling to figure out who of the remaining finalists deserve my love and support. This week’s theme is Competitor’s Pick, meaning that the kiddos have to select their song choice for the evening from a list compiled by their fellow six competitors. And, there are some super random guest appearances from the likes of Demi Lovato and Terry Bradshaw.

Host Ryan Seacrest welcomes the singers still in the running, bringing all of them to the stage. Their entrance is followed by the arrival of the celebrity judges, Harry Connick Jr., Keith Urban and the always flawless Jennifer Lopez, who is a lemony delight in a shiny yellow dress.

We see American Idol mentor Randy Jackson chatting with the kids in a garden party as they all share the songs they have selected for their buddies/secret enemies. Caleb Johnson is the first singer to take to the stage with “Family Tree” by Kings of Leon,as picked by Alex Preston. As always, Caleb sings his glorious rock and roll heart out. He should thank Alex for picking a song that really showcases his crazy pipes while still sounding modern. America, I think I have a new favorite.

Keith immediately congratulates Caleb on the song choice and calls him a “consistent, dynamic performer.” Jennifer tells him, “That was pretty amazing. Good job!” Even Harry was impressed with this start to the show.

Next to perform is Jessica Meuse. The southern-fried rocker chick has decided to sing Miranda Lambert‘s “Gunpowder And Lead,” as suggested by Sam Woolf. As soon as she launches into the chorus, it becomes clear that this is one of her best song choices so far. Bonus points to whoever suggested the wind and smoke machines. Also, for anyone who’s remotely old enough to remember the Lady Lovely Locks cartoon (I’m sure none of you are), Jessica is a dead ringer for villainess, Duchess Ravenwaves. This has me totally biased toward her.

JLo says that Jess was “a little bit off, vocally.” She thought it wasn’t “natural.” Harry also feels the same way. He blames a “lack of rhythmic delivery.” He basically says she has no rhythm. Keith starts off by praising her voice, but he too felt that her energy wasn’t there. Wow, I totally gauged that performance incorrectly.

The audience is then surprised by a visit by pop star and former X-Factor judge, Demi Lovato, who’s basically just there to hang out. She joins Randy and the awaiting contestants in the lounge.

Sam and Alex take to the stage to perform “Let Her Go” by Passenger as a duet. In an attempt to recreate the casual rehearsal space in which the boys frequently jam together, Idol has the the two of them sitting on a couch on stage as they perform. When they finish their song, Sam receives female screams of “We love you Sam!” Harry thought it was too “saccharine.” He calls it simply “OK.” Keith calls it “chintzy.” JLo pipes in with, “I think the girls loved it.” Ryan puts Demi on the spot to give feedback. She liked the energy, wanted to see more effort, but says they sound good together.

After a commercial break, Ryan introduces Terry Bradshaw. Huh? This is beyond random. Back to singing. Caleb’s selected “Gravity” by John Mayer for C.J. Harris, who has returned to the stage with his trusty guitar. Keith loves it. Jennifer thinks he’s growing more comfortable every week. Harry praises his ability to connect with the audience and calls it his “best performance to date.”

Ronda Rousey makes an appearance briefly in the audience. While it really makes no sense that she’s there except for the UFC affiliation with Fox, I don’t care because she’s the shit.

Dexter Roberts is next and he’s singing a selection from C.J. Harris, “Muckalee Creek Water”  by Luke Bryan. Keith liked the song, but cautions him not to over-sing. JLo said she liked the “darker quality” of the choice but wants him to push himself harder. Harry wants him to sing more complex melodies.

It’s clear the show’s stylists are struggling to figure out how to dress Jena Irene. Her outfits just keep getting weirder. I feel like someone’s chasing her backstage before the show with some pinking shears and a bedazzler and just going to town on her outfits. Her first look tonight is gladiator diaper.

Jena and Caleb have teamed together for their duet. During their little interaction, I will say that the fact that Caleb is supposedly taking her to prom is beyond adorable. They clearly have crushes on each other. #Awwww  The song they sing together is “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. Despite her weird outfit, Jena’s hair and makeup are perfect. JLo loves their energy together, but Keith wants them to let loose a little bit more. Harry agrees.

Alex Preston, shaking off the less than stellar review of his duet with Sam, takes to the stage for his version of Ed Sheeran‘s “A Team,” the song choice provided by Dexter. When he finishes, JLo can barely start her critique because the audience is going nuts. All of the judges call is a perfect song choice. In fact, it’s Harry’s favorite of the night. Keith praises how well he made the song his own.

Jessica picked “Sail Away” by David Gray for teen heartthrob Sam Woolf. Harry commends his improvement but didn’t think the song choice was great. Keith also likes how much progress he’s made. Jennifer appreciated the nuance of his performance.

Mixing it up, the three Alabama natives, Jessica, C.J. and Dexter are up for a trio. They join forces for “Compass” by Lady Antebellum, complete with a costume change. Harry tells them, “It simply wasn’t good.” He says they were out of tune. On a softer note, Keith says the singing wasn’t great, but enjoyed what they did separately. When Demi is called upon to judge, she compliments Jessica’s voice but says that they never came together as a group.

We return from commercial break to see Terry Bradshaw playing with a guitar. I say “playing with” because he’s not actually playing it.

Jena is singing “Creep” by Radiohead as selected by her prom date, Caleb. She starts off at the piano. I have to say, this is actually one of my favorites of hers. JLo is totally rocking out. Both Jennifer and Keith stand up to applaud Jena. Her boooooooyfriend, Caleb, gives her a bashful smile. It’s clear the judges loved it unanimously, even grumpy old Harry her calls her “a phenomenal talent.”

All in all, it looks like C.J., Alex and Jena delivered the judges’ favorite performances of the evening. Caleb was strong as usual, and there were special appearances by Terry Bradshaw and Demi Lovato that made no sense. For the rest of the season, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the romance developing between Jena and Caleb. As for you, make sure to vote and join me for tomorrow for a recap of tonight’s results show.

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