Recap: ‘American Idol’ Season 13 – Top 4 Performances – Love: Break-Ups & Make-Ups Night

05.07.14 3 years ago 24 Comments

Has Jessica Meuse seriously become our “American Idol” frontrunner? 

After last week's “No” votes sent Sam Woolf home, both Jena Irene and Alex Preston had some fickle fans grumbling about their lack of solidarity.

Then Caleb Johnson had to go and give an idiotic interview calling his Twitter kinda-fans “retards.” 


Jessica had the only clean week!

Click through for some Love-themed recapping!

8:03 p.m. ET. The show begins with a brief recap of last week's drama. 

8:03 p.m. I want Alex Preston to advance, because next week is Home Visits and I want him to return to the high school where I used to substitute teach. Jennifer Lopez is very pink for tonight's Jennifer Lopez Fashion Show.

8:05 p.m. Ryan is scruffy. And they're doing THREE songs apiece tonight.

8:06 p.m. Yikes. That was some of the worst judge-and-host banter in “Idol” history, right down to J-Lo's shriek when Ryan touched her shoulders.

8:06 p.m. We'll be starting with Caleb. Let's see if Seacrest makes him atone for his sins after comments.

Song: “You Give Love a Bad Name”
My Take: Caleb tears into some vintage Bon Jovi exactly like you'd expect him to. I think there's some extra enunciation in this performance, like he's trying to articulate heartbreak. Then, mixing things up, Caleb goes to the judging panel, singing a bit to Keith, and then strides through the audience. The part with Keith seemed very “rock star.” The part with the audience didn't work. Real rock stars get hoisted and torn to pieces in the crowd in the best way possible. But nobody can touch Caleb. Oh well. I don't blame him for trying. That was a fine and Caleb-y performance, replacing the rootsiness of Jon Bon Jovi with that anthemic soar that Caleb specializes in.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith thought it was “killer” and he loved Caleb making it his own at the end. J-Lo always feels like she's at a rock concert when Caleb performs and that he's ready for primetime. Harry felt like Caleb was fantastic, but urges him to think of different “runs” and “licks” to mix things up for his concerts. Ryan makes no reference to Caleb's “retards” comments and sends Caleb over to do a shoot with a silhouette, allowing online fans to take selfies with Caleb. Hmmm… I hope people have some fun with that.

Song: “Since You've Been Gone”
My Take: Jessica Meuse should stop dating guys with pixelated faces, but I guess she's got a type. Blink, Jessica! Blink! I wonder how much of her dead-eyed performances could be solved by more frequent on-stage blinking. And I wonder why it took me this deep into the season to get distracted by by her lack of breathing. The arrangement of the song is awful, especially when Jessica gets to the chorus and I can hardly hear her over the reverb and what may or may not be backing singers. I can't tell. On the chorus, Jessica sounds shrill and thin-voiced. That was acceptable, but unremarkable. But a break-up song really has to have more emotion and connection, but Jessica was wooden and trying to get the song out, rather than feeling it..
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo felt like Jessica felt the song. I did not. She didn't think it was the best song for Jessica's vocal style. Harry is glad Jessica has two more performances. He wants her to show it more. Then Harry Connick Jr. quotes the late Pete Postlethwaite! Wow. Did not see that coming. If you're curious, Harry and Pete Postlethwaite were in 1999's “Wayward Son” together. Keith wanted Jessica to get more into the performance, to rock it more.

Song: “Too Close”
My Take: Alex Preston's arrangement is initially almost unrecognizable from the Alex Clare original, but I know that it doesn't deserve the “Idol” audience's against-the-beat clapping. I may have been initially confused, but there are a couple cute cut-aways to audience members (and J-Lo) singing along with Alex. He's putting a lot of his familiar Alex beats into this performance and, as such, it's probably more nourishing than either of the first two songs tonight. Jessica's performance was just karaoke. Caleb's performance was a tremendously fun jukebox musical showstopper. But Alex's performance was processed through Alex. Of course, if you don't like Alex? You won't have liked that performance. And even if you like Alex, you may feel — as I do — that it's not easy to distinguish between his Alex-y moments.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry liked the performance very much because of the effort put into deconstructing and reconstructing it. “I liked the performance, but I love the fact that you do that week in, week out,” Harry says. Keith sometimes feels like Alex takes weight away from songs. Keith felt Alex didn't take command of the phrasing. “You're so unique,” J-Lo coos. J-Lo likes that Alex is always himself, but she worries Alex isn't giving himself the “moments” he needs to actually win.

Song: “Heartbreaker”
My Take: Jena has a lot of attitude, but I don't know if she has Pat Benatar attitude. She definitely doesn't have it here. She's got the voice to pull this song off and it sounds really good, including the big notes at the end, but something's missing and I don't know what it is. This is the most glued-to-one-place Jena has been for weeks. Is she working so hard to hit the notes that she can't strut? Does she not know how to pull off '80s bad girl? Does she not have an emotional connection to the song? I don't know. This performance is only half-there.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “It wasn't like a full, committed, energetic release within the song,” Keith says correctly. J-Lo thought it was a controlled performance and “very commanding.” Keith thought it was a 10/10 vocal, but that the performance wasn't connected to the song, that the movements weren't motivated by the music. He tells her to take the heels off. J-Lo does a fantastic down-stage strut to show Jena how it's done. Oy. What's Jena supposed to do in response to that? You know who can do what J-Lo just did and make it work? Yeah. That's right. J-Lo.

Song: “Travelin' Band”
My Take: CCR is a bit different for Caleb. This is the second straight performance in which Caleb has taken a song with roots-y realness and given it an '80s glam makeover. I thought it worked fine on the first performance, but honestly I think this makes “Travelin' Band” just a bit more generic than it should be. I'm holding Caleb to a much higher standard at this point because he's so consistent, but this might be where consistency becomes a less-than-awesome thing. That was vocally terrific and within the range of what Caleb does, I don't see how it could have been any better
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “You killed it again. You're gonna be tough to beat, I feel like,” J-Lo says. Harry thinks Caleb is luck to be surrounded by the musicianship of the “Idol” band. Keith knows that the band likes playing with Caleb.

Song: “So What?”
My Take: I like when Jessica smiles because it lets me know that she's a human. I don't think Jessica is great on the syncopated beginning to the song, but she puts more than her normal amount of energy into the choruses and she's boosted by the flames and light show behind her. She's not singing much, but she's shouting enthusiastically, which counts for something, I suppose. The director is easily distracted by J-Lo singing along and by the audience members singing along. But at least that shows Jessica was engaging people on that performance? Or maybe it shows that that Pink song was engaging viewers and Jessica was superfluous to its impact. I'd be hard-pressed not to give most of the credit to the latter. What did JESSICA add to that performance? Yeah. Nothing. It improved her more than she improved it.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thinks Jessica is terrific and an amazing talent, but he didn't think these have been the best songs for her so far tonight. “A song that doesn't suit you has no reflection on your talent,” Keith says, agreeing. J-Lo also agrees.

Song: “Bad Romance”
My Take: Lasers! So many lasers. Green lasers everywhere. Jena had really gotten much better in recent weeks when it came to using the stage and working the crowd, but this is the second straight performance in which she seemed either stuck-in-place or restricted by precision choreography. There's nothing spontaneous about when she climbs the checked boxes on stage or walks close to the audience. My review for this song is identical to Jena's last one: Very fine vocal, no stagecraft. As with Caleb, I'm holding Jena to higher standards. In a vacuum? That was just fine. So many green lasers.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith liked that Jena changed the melody on the chorus. “To me, you really give Caleb a run for his money when it comes to big performances,” J-Lo says. J-Lo loved the original melody and didn't love Jena's changes. Harry thought it was an interesting choice to change the melody and a good job.

Song: “I'm Yours”
My Take: Instead of lasers, Alex gets hanging lights and off-the-beat clapping. I can't help but feel like Alex is trying to be respectful to his new buddy Jason Mraz, but it's hard not to be a wee bit disappointed by how totally this is a copy of the original, right down to the quirky vocal mannerisms at the end of notes. Hero worship is a dangerous thing and this isn't an Alex Preston performance. It's an Alex Preston Wants Jason Mraz to Like Him performance. It's not bad by any means, but it sure isn't Alex being Alex. The “Idol” director is very, very, very happy that Alex has a girlfriend to cut to in the audience. Honestly, I'm nitpicking on Alex as well. Jessica is the remaining contestant who isn't locked into her lane and cruising, but that's because she hasn't quite figured out what her lane is.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo felt like it was too linear for her, that she wanted to be surprised and Alex needed to raise the stakes. Harry wanted something more deconstructed. Keith liked the last eight bars.

Song: “Maybe I'm Amazed”
My Take: This is much better for Caleb. It's still the arena rock vocal tone and he's still being himself, but there's a pleasant earnestness and softness and tenderness. There are some slightly different Joe Cocker dance mannerisms, too. I like that he did the exact same thing with the first two performances just so that when he mixed things up with this performance, we'd be grateful. And I am. Well done, Caleb.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “It was so nice to hear you sing softly,” Harry says, raving that it was “absolutely phenomenal.” Keith says that it's one of his wife's favorite songs. J-Lo calls it his best performance since the beginning. And apparently we're ignoring the “retards” interview. Well… That's an approach, “American Idol.”

Song: “You & I”
My Take: More Lady Gaga. Jessica is backed by sproinging video hearts. I don't want to put Jessica in a corner, but this is much more comfortable for her vocally than anything she did in either of her first two performances. In the chorus, there are places either where her voice is straining, or where she's just being outshined by the backing singers again. But that was her best performance of the night as well.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “That is the perfect song for you,” Keith cheers. “That's what we've been waiting for all night,” J-Lo says. Harry felt that Jessica came through after two lesser performances.

Song: “I Can't Help Falling In Love With You”
My Take: Yay! Back on the piano for Jena. And for the third straight singer, it's the night's highlight. For Jena, this is her best by a wide margin. I don't know if this is an established arrangement that she's doing, but it's ethereal, nuanced and rather beautiful. I'm not sure what Alex is going to do to justify getting the Pimp Slot over this. Easily the best performance of the night. And it may, in fact, be the best performance of the season. It just gets better and better. That's a winning performance right there from Jena Irene. J-Lo is standing with 20 seconds to go and comes out and gives Jena a kiss before comments.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “This is my third year doing this, I've never gotten up to kiss anybody after a performance,” J-Lo says. “Look at me. I'm shaking,” J-Lo adds. “That took such immense courage to perform that song in that way,” Harry says. “Very simply put, it was incredible, absolutely incredible,” Harry closes. “You're like a musical platypus, baby. That was spellbinding,” Keith tells Jena. “That's some crazy Australian wisdom going down right there,” Harry adds. Jena salutes her mom.

Song: “Yellow”
My Take: STOP CLAPPING, YOU IDIOTS. Yes. You. If you were in the audience tonight and you were clapping along, you shouldn't be allowed to attend performances of music or anything requiring any display of rhythm. Good gracious. That was very good. It was Alex's best performance of the night. And it was still a let-down. Sorry, Alex. You didn't want to follow Jena tonight. That was bad planning by the producers. Nobody should have had to.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry is happy that he's a judge and he doesn't have to vote. Keith praises Alex's “poetic vulnerability.” “I think you're integral to this competition,” J-Lo says, without a kiss.

9:59 p.m. I'm just pretending that the first two rounds didn't happen for anybody, OK?

9:59 p.m. So tonight's clear winner? Jena. And I continue to feel what I've felt for the better part of a month: It has to be Jena, Caleb and Alex at the end for the season to maintain what limited credibility it still has. I don't hate Jessica. It's just her turn to go.

Your thoughts?

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