Last night's show opened with each Idol revealing his or her celebrity crush. Sam digs Ariana Grande, Jessica loves Jensen Ackles (because of course she watches Supernatural), and somehow Caleb loves Rose McGowan. I’m legitimately tickled by that. Alex has a crush on Zooey Deschanel, and then wouldn’t you know it, there she is to start the show! Alex, Ryan, and Zooey hang out onstage together for a good long awkward moment that none of them are enjoying. Truly, THIS is American Idol.
Tonight’s guest mentor is Jason Mraz, who does a terrific job throughout. He embodies the showmanship that our top five mostly lacks, and he’s able to give them some helpful hints on working the crowd and faking charisma. Plus, he has lovely arms. Jason Mraz is my celebrity crush, I’m not gonna lie to you.
Alex Preston, “Sweater Weather” by the Neighborhood
Jason suggests to Alex that he move the microphone stand up a bit, which will force his face up and make him look up at the audience more, and Randy goes “OH! AHHH! YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE THAT WILL DO, THAT WILL MAKE HIM LOOK UP AT THE AUDIENCE.” Yes. Yes, Randy. But it’s good! They mess with the tempo of the song a little bit, to give it just a tiny bit of funk, and Alex actually moves his body ever so slightly. It’s progress! The performance is not overwhelming, but it’s nice. The judges are lukewarm.
OH MY GOD AUSTIN MAHONE IS HERE! Here’s what Ryan says: “Hey, Austin, you have an EP coming out, right? So we want to do an #IdolSelfie,” and that’s just what they do. They pose, and I guess the point is for you to take a selfie in front of your television. I truly cannot imagine a sadder thing.
Caleb Johnson, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
Jason urges Caleb to listen to the lyrics and make an emotional connection, and not surprisingly, Caleb only really connects during the louder parts of this song. His performance is a little by-the-numbers, which the judges actually pick up on; Keith tells him to “let the feelings drive the singing, and not the other way around.” Caleb says he doesn’t know if he would have picked that song for himself, as “it’s been done so many times.” Preach!
Alex, Jena, and Sam sing a version of American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life,” which makes the song sound more like a commercial jingle than it already did. These duets and trios are time fillers and nothing more, and I’m just going to be honest: I fast-forwarded through them. Sue me.
Jessica Meuse, “Human” by Christina Perri
Jason definitely has his work cut out for him with ol’ Jess. She is, in many ways, the anti-Mraz; she seems to have zero interest in moving a crowd. He tries coaching her on the basics of stagecraft, and Jessica admits, “there is so much more to performing than [she] ever thought there would be.” Yeah! Like, you know, the entire performing element of performing. Anyway, this is a song that should show Jessica’s humanity a little bit, and while her voice cracks with something that might be emotion, she still has the shark eyes.
Sam Woolf, “Sing” by Ed Sheeran
So again, here they take a celebrity cameo and drain it of any potential spontaneity or fun: Ryan asks Sam where his microphone is, and then who comes out onstage with it but SAM’S CRUSH ARIANA GRANDE! And then all three of them share an awkward moment that lasts forever! Mraz urges Sam to “get funky,” which Sam can’t even say without giggling, so this should be good. And that’s what it is. It’s good. Not mind-blowing, not revelatory, but competent. Harry urges him to ride the groove, and Sam replies with what can only be called a blank stare.
Jena Irene, “My Body” by Young the Giant
Jena worries that this song will make her move around the stage, and that that might compromise her vocals, but I’d say this is a good time to learn how to move and sing at the same time. This is actually kind of a good choice for her. She is dressed like one of Les Jeunes de Paris. The judges praise her signature moves and licks, with Jen even saying “I love your signature phrase … ” and then failing to remember her signature phrase. Listen, she’s too busy looking for her own face in her monitor to pay attention to what’s going on.
SO then at 9:15, all the Idols have performed. We could take the duets/trios out and made this a tight and entertaining hour, but Fox wants to hold us by the ankles and shake change out of our pockets. On to round two!
Alex Preston, “Say Something” by A Whole New World
I will never understand what people see in this song. It is bleak, it is soulless, and some versions have Christina Aguilera yelling all over it. No thanks. But bleak and soulless is right up Alex’s alley. He crushes it, if one can be said to have crushed this song, and the judges go bananas.
Jena Irene, “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse
In this round, the songs are requested via Instagram videos or something, and some guy from South Bend urges her to sing this song, adding a truly heartbreaking “rock on, Jena,” and a weak devil sign. We are even giving devil signs lethargically this season. Anyway, “Valerie” is a rock song from the Zutons that Mark Ronson remade into a jazzy number, and here Jena declaws it even further and turns it into something you’d hear on a smooth-jazz station. The judges say she should have gotten funkier with it. Tonight, they should have had a celebrity cameo by Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk from Parliament.
Sam Woolf, “How to Save a Life” by the Fray
A teenage girl asks Sam to do this adult-contemporary Grey’s Anatomy tune, and I officially give up on trying to understand 21st-century teenagers. It’s a little shaky throughout, but if you like Sam, a song by the Fray is not such a controversial choice that it’s going to change your mind.
Jessica Meuse, “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Rey
These request videos are so obviously scripted, I truly have no idea why they’re doing them. I also have no idea why anyone would request a Lana Del Rey song for Jessica to sing, since emotional detachment is Lana Del Rey’s whole thing, and if there’s anything we need from Jessica, it’s emotional engagement. This one goes nowhere. The judges want her to dig in more. If it hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to.
Caleb Johnson, “Still of the Night” by Whitesnake
Okay, whatever Oregon weirdo requested this song and then wrote himself a monologue about why it’s a perfect choice for Caleb: good on you. This one makes Keith and Jennifer get right up out of their seats and bang their heads, which is a tough thing to do while you’re checking your monitors to see how good you look, but wouldn’t you know, they manage. Anyway, this is a perfect show-closer and even though it sounds exactly like the original, this show needed a good Coverdaling.
I think Sam and Jessica are in the bottom two, and Jessica’s goose might finally be cooked. But again, I have no idea how the world works anymore.