The final four had to pick three songs each about love, one of the broadest themes possible.
The night started slow with a couple of terrible performances but the second hour showcased some great ones as well. So the night was a total mixed bag.
Jessica Meuse is most in danger of going home and had to hit three home runs to survive. She only hit one, her final “You & I.” Her first song was a complete whiff and her second was, at best, a slap single.
Caleb Johnson started okay, ended with a killer McCartney & Wings cover.
Alex Preston brought steady eddie work as usual but nothing incredibly interesting. (My favorite? “Too Close.”)
Jena Irene showed her usual broad range and I felt her behind-the-piano rendition of a classic Elvis song was the best of the night. Her “Bad Romance” was a train wreck, though.
My ranking for the night: 1. Jena 2. Caleb 3. Jessica 4. Alex
But who will go home? I unfortunately think Jessica is out. But at least with her final song, she will be leaving on a high note. Who else will be in the bottom? I predict Alex is going to be in trouble but survive.
Earlier in the day, Fox’s president said “Idol’ will certainly be back next year, as we expected, but wouldn’t say if it would be the final season. He was also open to the idea of bringing back the three original judges. I’d prefer to keep the current three but I bet they won’t be able to afford them – especially J. Lo.
As we know, Simon Cowell is available again but can he swallow his bitterness about “X Factor” and work with Simon Fuller again? I’m sure enough $$$ might convince him. But do we even want to go back there? It’s not as if anybody wants to see Randy Jackson back behind the judges’ chair! He’s been close to useless as a mentor.
And in “Idol” political news, as of early this afternoon, season 2 runner up Clay Aiken had a 369 vote edge on his Democratic rival for that party’s spot in a House race. They still need to count provisional and absentee ballots, according to this USA Today story. I’d say his chances of winning are pretty solid even though his rival has yet to concede. Winning the general election? He’s a serious long-shot in a heavily conservative district.
Ryan Seacrest also announced five audition cities for season 14, including hometowns of the judges: New Orleans, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Nashville and New York. A smaller bus tour will pass through include Portland, OR; Portland, ME; Reno, NV; Columbus, OH; Albuquerque, NM; Amarillo, TX; Myrtle Beach, SC; Branson, MO; Tallahassee, FL; Richmond, VA and Kansas City, MO.
Here are quick takes on the performances tonight:
Caleb Johnson (“You Give Love a Bad Name” Bon Jovi) – He showed some energy but it was a mostly pedestrian cover version of a song we’ve heard 1 million times. As Keith said, the only real highlight is when he hit a high note near the end that didn’t ape the original. Grade: B
Jessica Meuse (“Since U Been Gone” Kelly Clarkson) – Terrible song choice for her. J. Lo said it didn’t fit her at all. She was off key at times and didn’t bring the proper vibe to the song. One of her worst in awhile. Grade: C
Alex Preston (“Too Close” Alex Clare) – Unlike Jessica, Alex picks a perfect song for himself. The right pacing, the right feel for Alex. He just digs in and gives his fans exactly what they want. HCJ said he deconstructs songs and reconstructs it his own way. “Shows you’re a thinker,” he said. “I dig that, bro.” J Lo noted he’s predictable to a degree. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
Jena Irene (“Heartbreaker” Pat Benatar) – I remember Jordin Sparks sang this seven years ago. It works better with Jena. She started vocally a little weak but got stronger as the song moved along. I thought it work well. Keith felt there was an energy deficit. HCJ said there was a disconnect between her physical movements and her vocals. “Take your shoes off and jump around!” HCJ said. Grade: B-plus
Caleb Johnson (“Travelin’ Band” Creedence Clearwater Revival) – Despite the high energy, I wasn’t all that excited. Then again, maybe I’m just retarded. The judges were universally praising him. Grade: B
Jessica Meuse (“So What” Pink) – It was a better pick than the Kelly Clarkson song and HCJ said she is terrific vocally and an amazing talent but those two songs were not good for her. Grade: B/B-plus
Jena Irene (“Bad Romance” Lady Gaga) – She took some really strange key choices. It sounded like a big hot mess. Keith actually liked her choices. JLo says she’s a force of nature. Grade: B-minus
Alex Preston (“I’m Yours” Jason Mraz) – It was a pleasant version and I enjoyed the last note. Cute ukele, too. JLo still awaits the special moment. HCJ wished he had deconstructed more. Grade: B-plus
Caleb Johnson (“Maybe I’m Amazed” Paul McCartney & Wings) – Now, this is the Caleb that really shines. He brought range, emotion and his own sense of drama to the song. I am duly impressed. HCJ noted that he played softly at points, for once, and called it “phenomenal.” JLo said it was his best performance since the beginning. Grade: A
Jessica Meuse (“You and I” Lady Gaga) – Another pop song? Where did her country vibe go? But at least this Lady Gaga song has a melancholy country tinge to it. So it is by far the best song for her and thank goodness, it’s her last one. She looked animated, relaxed and into it. Bravo! JLo said it highlighted her voice. HCJ said she came out swinging and “killed it.” Grade: A/A-minus
Jena Irene (“Can’t Help Falling in Love” Elvis Presley) – We haven’t seen her at the piano for awhile and I actually like this quiet, introspective version of Jena Irene. That was one of my favorite Jena performances to date. Yowza! JLo got up to kiss her after a performance. “You just reinvented it!” HCJ: “It was incredible.” Keith: “You put these elements and put them in a unique way… a musical platypus.” Grade: A
Alex Preston (“Yellow” Coldplay ) – I wasn’t that taken by this one. It was good but not great. Keith: “Poetic vulnerability.” J Lo: “You sang it beautifully.” Grade: B-plus