America has spoken, via Twitter anyway.
On American Idol Wednesday, the Final 5 took to the stage twice to tackle songs chosen by fans and curated by producers, so you know they had to be good! Did America get it right or lead our competitors astray? Let’s break down the performances:
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Song: “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood
The performance: Alex is still totally freaking out from meeting his crush Zooey Deschanel and his idol Jason Mraz. But neither holds a candle to Grumpy Cat. She still wins everything. But we digress. Alex does a peppy rendition of the song and seems quite confident at the beginning of the performance, but loses us a bit in the middle when it’s clear he’s thinking too much. Overall, it’s fine, but it’s missing that oomph.
What the judges say: Keith Urban likes Alex’s moves but wants more soaring vocals, but good job. Jennifer Lopez says this song was a bit “easy” for Alex and that he should try to push himself, especially if he’s going to open the show. Harry Connick, Jr. gives an A+ for remembering all the tongue-twisting lyrics and says he can totally hear Alex on the radio.
Song: “Say Something” by A Great Big World (feat. Christina Aguilera)
The performance: This song, with its quiet moments and dramatic pauses, feels much more Alex’s style. It’s a little strange to have his duet partner completely silhouetted, but it works. He’s redeemed himself on this song.
What the judges say: Harry says that Alex gave the performance of the night because he obviously felt the anguish of the song but didn’t give into it. Keith thanks America for choosing the song because it’s the perfect marriage of song and artist. J.Lo signs off on everything her fellow judges said and adds that Alex looks great.
Song: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
The performance: Caleb pulls out the rasp and emotion (and a Sgt. Pepper’s jacket!) and it really works. This song totally shows off his vocals, but more importantly, is subtle in its power. This is perhaps the second time we’ve really felt him as an artist and not just a cover band frontman. Props to Mraz for drawing the heart out of him.
What the judges say: J.Lo says he “made it Caleb” and gave her goosies. Harry isn’t a fan of looking into the camera too much and suggests that Caleb perform to the in-house audience more. Keith suggests that to take it to the next level, Caleb needs to bring the emotion first and let the talent support that.
Song: “Still of the Night” by Whitesnake
The performance: He rocks it per yoosh, but we feel this thrusts him back into the cover band persona. Nothing to really complain about, but we want more Caleb and less generic rock sound. Where’s the artistry? Of course, we still love him.
What the judges say: Keith loves it and jokes about it being a tender ballad. Jen says it brought down the house and that the band loves playing with Caleb. Harry congratulates Caleb on the performance.
Song: “Human” by Christina Perri
The performance: This is an interesting song choice, and overall she does better than last week in the emoting department. No dead eyes here! Although she has the range for this, the quality of her voice doesn’t feel serviced by the song. A little bit of a struggle, but not a bad effort.
What the judges say: Harry says he’s proud of her for really taking the criticism to heart and improving. Keith actually loves the part where Jessica’s voice breaks a bit, because that’s the “human” part. How appropriate. Jen says the pause was a great dramatic moment and helped moved people.
Song: “Summertime Sadness” by Lana del Rey
The performance: Perfect song for the timbre of Jessica’s voice, and we have to laugh at the literal interpretation of the lines, “I got my red dress on tonight/Done my hair up real big beauty queen style.” We’re not buying the chorus, and there’s a bit of a shaky note in there, but overall, it’s pleasing.
What the judges say: Harry says it’s the perfect, natural song for her. Keith says she has that David Lynch mysticism in her tone but wants her to lean in. Jen echoes Keith and wants more physically, because the song left her a bit cold.
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Song: “Sing” by Ed Sheeran
The performance: Sam is still red from meeting his crush Ariana Grande (who lacks pants). Does it affect his singing? This is a more upbeat and funky (cue Sam giggle) song than anything we’ve heard him sing before. He’s not entirely comfortable with it (and totally bypasses the falsetto parts), but we kind of dig it. He should have been doing this earlier in the competition because it definitely showcases hitherto unknown soul.
What the judges say: Keith also notes how red Sam turned and thinks that it’s a tough song. Ouch. Jen thinks he was funkier and more relaxed than usual, perhaps owing to Ariana’s presence. Harry says that if Sam wants to funk it up, he needs to sit in that rhythmic pocket or something.
Song: “How to Save a Life” by The Fray
The performance: Yikes, the intro feels totally flat.. and that seems to continue throughout the chorus. What happened? Sam still has his magic hat on. Maybe the key is wrong for him. Sam fans will probably be disappointed with this performance, though the emotion at the end was nice.
What the judges say: Jen also admits her first reaction was “Yikes!” but says that Sam eventually hit a sweet spot. Harry says it’s the perfect song choice but Sam had pitch issues and problems with dynamics. He also appreciates the vocal break at the end because it shows emotion. Keith agrees with Jen. Hmm, wethinks two of the Idol judges were playing softball.
Song: “My Body” by Young the Giant
The performance: Mraz says Jena sparkles like a toothpaste commercial and we agree. She brings great energy to this upbeat anthem and works the crowd better than Caleb can. We’re bobbing up and down. Yeah! And she’s totally going to make Where’s Waldo attire chic again.
What the judges say: Jen likes Jena’s signature elements, like her phrase, “Come on, let’s go!” and the glowsticks. Harry notes that she moves the most and the most naturally of all the competitors. Keith says she’s a “lean-in performer” and that she’s absolutely killer.
Song: “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse
The performance: If her last performance is a 10, this is a 9, merely because it’s not nearly as infectious — though it’s still very well done. It’s an intriguingly simple performance, sort of big-band style, and we like having this opportunity to see her just own the song and stage with her moves.
What the judges say: Keith says that her vocals are killer. Jen doesn’t think the tempo or arrangement suited Jena and thinks it aged her, but says she’s still “the stuff.” Harry doesn’t really give a critique but asks what Jena wants her artist name to be post-Idol, which in itself is a vote of confidence.
Just a few notes about the group performances that have no bearing on voting: The trio of Alex, Jena and Sam doing “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors is actually kind of upbeat and fun, but the staccato “i-i-i-i-i-i” part of “life” is kind of painful. Caleb and Jessica’s paring on The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” is surprisingly cute. He actually gets her to giggle-sing, which is novel.
Overall, it’s an interesting night and America didn’t do an entirely bad job of selecting songs. Perhaps the viewers at home should have been choosing all along? Our standouts are Alex’s “Say Something” and Jena’s “My Body” for being completely solid performances. Alex has always been technically strong, but has been inconsistent with the performance aspect, so this outing may help keep him safe for him another week.
The weakest of the night are Sam and Jessica. It’s time, America. Let’s put Sam out of his misery. He had a nice ride thanks to the judges’ save, but he still has some growing up to do. Nevertheless, somehow we suspect that Jessica will be going home.
What did you think of the song choices? What would you have picked instead? Who should advance and who should go home?
Also, if you missed Idol alum Adam Lambert’s racy Details spread, check out his hilarious reaction to it here.
American Idol’s results show airs Thursday at 9/8c on Fox.
View original American Idol Recap: Who Rocked America’s Requests? at TVGuide.com
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