‘American Idol’ Recap: Caleb Johnson & The Rest Of The Final Four Take On Love Songs
With a giant heart blazing behind the American Idol sign on stage, it should come as no surprise that this week’s theme is love. In keeping with this topic, the top four finalists sing on three separate occasions. The first round has the kids doing a break-ups song, one under the guise of dedications and a final one for make-up songs. While Jessica Meuse and Alex Preston receive mixed reviews for their first two songs, all the contestants close the show with strong final performances.
The show starts with a reminder that we said goodbye to Sam Woolf last week when he wasn’t saved by the “major twist,” leaving Caleb Johnson, Jena Irene, Jessica Meuse and Alex Preston on stage and still in the running. Host Ryan Seacrest ushers the finalists to the stage, followed by Jennifer Lopez in a top knot, pink short dress and killer stilettos.
Caleb is the first to sing and his selection is Bon Jovi‘s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” He channels his inner ’80s rock god, rushing to Keith’s side on the judges panel and working his way through the crowd. Even Harry can’t help but crack a smile. Keith is the first judge to yell, “Caleb!” He loves that Caleb made it his own. Jennifer is equally effusive. Harry also thought it was great, but wants him to continue to build his repertoire of ad libs.
Jessica Meuse is up next with “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson. With her white guitar, she gives a rocker chick rendition of the famous break-up tune. Jennifer starts off by saying that she felt “the attitude was right.” However, she felt the song wasn’t the best fit. Harry agrees that it wasn’t her best performance but liked how she was emoting. Keith feels it’s all about confidence.
Alex Preston then delivers an acoustic version of “Too Close” by Alex Clare. Harry enjoys how he truly made the song his very own. Keith just misses the “command of phrasing,” but is also generally complimentary. Jennifer enjoys his originality but wants him to create more “moments” on stage.
The baby of the group, Jena Irene, tears into Pat Benatar‘s “Heartbreaker.” As she has been these past weeks, Jena truly leaves her imprint on the classic ’80s tune. Keith thought it was great, but that she wasn’t totally committed to the emotion of the song. Jennifer disagrees and thought that she gave a “commanding performance.” Harry noted that she wasn’t moving like she should have been. Jena blames her shoes and he tells he to take off uncomfortable shoes next time so she can really get into her groove.
The second round of songs, dedications, starts with Caleb singing Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Travelin’ Band.” When he wraps up, Jennifer tells him, “You killed it again. You’re gonna be tough to beat.” Harry gives props to the band. Keith points out that the band loves playing with Caleb.
Again, Jessica takes on “So What” by Pink. I would like to note at this point that her group of fans are called the Meuse Mafia. When she finishes, Harry jokes that he felt he was at Benihana, referencing the flames behind her. He emphasizes how much talent he feels she has, but says he doesn’t like the song choices. Keith agrees, much to the chagrin of the audience. JLo make it unanimous by concurring that the song wasn’t a great fit for her.
Jena Irene is next with “Bad Romance,” making it a rock and roll version with lots — and I do mean LOTS — of green lasers. We never see a judge reaction, which doesn’t bode well. Keith liked that she changed the melody with the chorus. Jennifer didn’t like the change she made but otherwise thought it was powerful. Harry says, “Nice job,” commending her musical choice.
Alex is up now, with a ukelele, and dedicates his song to his girlfriend, Jillian Jensen, of The X Factor fame. His ditty is “I’m Yours” by his personal idol, Jason Mraz. Jennifer gushes about him but continues to emphasize that he needs to create more moments. Harry wanted Alex to make it even more different than it was. Keith felt the last eight bars of the song were the best.
Now it’s time for the makeup songs. Caleb starts the round with “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. As they have been for all his other songs for the night, the judges appear positively gleeful at his performance. He gets a standing ovation from Keith and Jennifer. Harry liked hearing him sing softly and calls it “absolutely phenomenal.” Keith applauds him as well, saying “You nailed it!” Jennifer calls it his “best performance since the beginning.” Wow. He’s had quite a stellar night with positive critiques for every performance.
Jessica takes on Lady Gaga‘s “You And I.” With an emphasis on the country twang, this feels like her best selection of the night. Keith calls it “the perfect song.” JLo agrees and says, “I’m glad you did that song.” Harry makes the judges critique anonymous by saying, “You killed it.”
Jena’s makeup song, for which she takes to the piano, is “Can’t Help Falling In Love” from none other than Elvis Presley. Jennifer looks incredulous and then rises to applause Jena. In fact, Jennifer leaves the panel to give Jena a hug and a kiss. She tells her, “It was so beautiful. I was so moved. Honestly, I could cry right now.” Harry says, “Very simply put, it was incredible.” Keith calls her “spellbinding.”
Last to go for the night is Alex with Coldplay‘s “Yellow.” Harry lauds his performance as a great closer for the night. Keith and Jennifer both congratulate him on a great job done.
All in all, it looks like Caleb was the frontrunner with Jena close behind. But the real question is where Jessica and Alex stand, because let’s face it — one of them is going home tonight. What do you guys think?
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.