I must be drinking whatever Keith Urban was imbibing because I liked pretty much everything the contestants sang tonight.
This was the best overall night for “Idol” this season. It helped that the weakest links are gone.
The theme for the top 5: songs suggested by fans via Twitter. And they picked well. For everyone except Caleb Johnson, the songs were current or relative recent.
Jason Mraz (“I’m Yours’) provided some expertise and appeared to help Jessica Meuse and Sam Woolf loosen up.
For the first time, I liked Jessica the most. She had two songs given to her that showcased the wounded bird part of her and she brought out more visual emotion than she normally has to date. She’ll never be Beyonce on stage but she is bringing more of herself out to us.
Sam is proving himself little by little, just getting more comfortable each week, proving the judges’ save three weeks ago wasn’t for naught.
Jena is now at ease and flowing with confidence. Plus, she is becoming the most marketable of the five as a pop star. Her fans appear to be quite dedicated. She did her job tonight and should make it into the final four.
The two guys who have not been in the bottom yet – Alex and Caleb – didn’t bust it out the first hour but found their place hour two.
This is going to be a tough call tomorrow night. I am now wondering if Alex’s singularity might actually hurt him. I felt he was the weakest of the night, even with a great “Say Something.”
So who goes home? I think the bottom two will be Sam and Alex. And in a shocker, Alex will go home. Yes, I’m going out on a limb but I feel Jessica, who many thought was most vulnerable tonight, performed well enough to avoid elimination.
Alex Preston (“Sweater Weather” The Neighborhood) – It was a perfectly reliably Alex performance, though it didn’t provide anything remotely surprising or bracing. Grade: B/B-plus
Caleb Johnson (“I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” Aerosmith) – I really hate this song but somehow, Caleb made almost like it. He seemed a bit nervous about it visually but vocally, he pulled it off. Grade: B-plus
Trio of Sam, Jena and Alex (“Best Day of My Life” American Authors). They had decent harmonies and had fun with a fun song. Grade: A-minus/B-plus
Jessica Meuse (“Human” Christina Perri) – She brought some of her humanity and vulnerability. I really felt her more than I usually do. The song fit her well. HCJ: “Even though you were thinking a lot about the input from us and Jason and Randy. There’s a lot of noise in your head. My favorite part of the performance is you really listened and want to get better. While there were pitch issues, whatever. You were focused on the meaning of the song.” Keith liked it when her voice cracked a bit cos it felt real. J. Lo liked it when she tapped into the emotion of the song. Grade: A-minus/B-plus
Sam Woolf (“Sing” Ed Sheeran) – Wow! Where did this Sam come from? Jason Mraz gave him a boost of confidence and loosened up. For Sam, he felt funky. JLo said that’s the most comfortable he has ever looked. HCJ said he liked him doing something different but he wasn’t always in the pocket of the band and laid back too much. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
Jena Irene (“My Body” Young the Giant) – She shows plenty of confidence and is very specific stylistically. I give her points for her uniqueness. HCJ said she can move around and has fun and uses the stage in a way that’s “not too choreographed.” Keith said she “leans in” as a performer but can play on the piano. Grade: B-plus
Caleb and Jessica (“Beast of Burden” Rolling Stones) – They had fun and it showed. It’s nice to see Jessica loosen up a bit, even if her movements are still limited. Grade: A-minus
Alex Preston (“Say Something” A Great Big World) – I adore this song and I thought Alex did justice. He brought proper heartache to a very sad song. Keith said that was a perfect marriage of song and artist. Grade: A-minus/A
Jena Irene (“Valerie” Amy Winehouse/Zutons) – She is relaxed, having a good time working with the band. Vocally, she is sounding great. I grooved with this one. JLo said it felt too laid back. Keith didn’t like this version. Grade: A-minus
Sam Woolf (“How To Save a Life” The Fray) – It was a lovely rendition. He is steadily getting more comfortable up there. JLo said when he hits the sweet spot in his voice, something beautiful happens. HCJ said there were some pitch issues and is too monotonous in terms of the dynamics. Grade: A-minus/B-plus
Jessica Meuse (“Summertime Sadness” Lana Del Rey) – This is another great song for Jessica to attack because it has an underlying sadness (as noted in the title) and she works that dynamic well. HCJ said it was a perfect song for her, a natural fit. Keith said there is a David Lynch mysticism in that song and her voice brought that out. He said she needs to “lean into” the song more. JLo wants more performance, left her a bit cold. Grade: A-minus/A
Caleb Johnson (“Still of the Night” Whitesnake) – This is more in his wheelhouse than that Aerosmith ballad. He just tore into it and gave us a fine way to end the night. Keith: “Killer.” JLo” “That’s what I call bringing down the house!” HCJ: “Fantastic!” Grade: A/A-minus