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American Idol Recap: Selfie-Destructive Tendencies

Ryan is very serious at the top of tonight’s episode, because he has grim news to share: “Tonight is when this group has got to break up.” I think the writers wrote this intro hoping the two-people-get-voted-off twist would work last week, but when Alex and Jena revolted, they forgot to do another draft. The group already did break up, and now we’re left with four people who can’t wait to be done with this whole thing. (Six, if you count me and you.)

Oh, but we’re back to our whimsical ways soon enough. It’s “Love Night,” which is a theme that is utterly without meaning. And check it: Tonight, Ryan reveals that the benevolent producers of American Idol will give you a chance to TAKE A SELFIE WITH YOUR FAVORITE IDOL! What does that mean? Allow to me explain: Each Idol will appear on television and pose in front of some negative space, over which you may stand, in front of your television, and take a picture. Someone got paid for that idea, folks. I’m starting to think those Jack in the Box “Social Media Coordinator” commercials are found-footage documentaries.

Also, Ryan is rocking some very light stubble, and you are correct in assuming that the judges make it seem like the biggest, most hilarious thing in the world.

Let’s get into the performances. Since there are only four people left and Fox refuses to shorten the performance shows by even 30 minutes (even as they are canceling Enlisted and Surviving Jack), each Idol will sing three underrehearsed songs (but they will be rushed and truncated, so we don’t miss a second of this selfie business).

Round One: Love Songs

Caleb Johnson: “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
Not the best vocal performance he’s ever given, but he’s kind of cocky now, so he can get away with doing things like going up to the judges’ table and throwing his arm around Keith, which is really the kind of thing everyone should feel free to be doing all the time, because why the hell not? Keith loves it, Jennifer says pleasant things, Harry tells him to do different runs because he does the same runs over and over.

Jessica Meuse: “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
Jess says she’s dated a lot of duds along the way. Think for a minute about how boring a guy Jessica Meuse thinks is a dud would be. Well, that guy’s favorite song is Jessica Meuse’s dial-tone version of “Since U Been Gone.” That song needs Kelly’s range, or Ted Leo’s passion, and Jessica has neither. Is it time to retire “dial tone” as a cultural reference meaning “monotonous,” since none of us has heard an actual dial tone since late 1998? Forget it, Jake; it’s stale-cultural-reference town. Jennifer says pleasant things, Harry tells her to show us how she feels, Keith says she lacks confidence.

Alex Preston: “Too Close” by Alex Clare
I hate to say things like “you know what this sounds like” in these recaps, because it’s my job to describe this show to you, but you know what Alex Preston’s version of “Too Close” sounds like. Other people have done acoustic versions of this song, and Alex’s style is pretty clear by now. There are no variations; there is no growth. Harry says basically what I did but that he likes it, Keith wishes it were darker, Jennifer says pleasant things.

Jena Irene: “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar
Some viewer asks Jena what’s her favorite moment of the season so far, and she says collecting enough credits from her tutor to graduate high school, which she’ll be doing this June. So her favorite moment from this show has nothing at all to do with the show. She is of course pitch-perfect on this performance, but it lacks heart. (Which we can forgive, because she is a child.) Keith says it needed a big moment, Jennifer says pleasant things, Harry says she needed to perform more, even if she’s wearing heels (and Jennifer agrees, then Harry makes her do a RuPaul’s Drag Race catwalk presentation in heels, because really only Harry is still aware that there’s a viewing audience).

Round Two: Dedications

Caleb Johnson: “Travelin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Idol-wise, only Caleb seems to be having pure fun performing on this show. This is a balls-out, good-time, happy-ass performance, even though I can’t imagine whom he would be dedicating it to. Jennifer says pleasant things, Harry praises the Idol band, Randy loves it.

Jessica Meuse: “So What” by Pink
Hey, have you ever wanted to hear this song significantly slowed down and sung with a vacant smile while Jennifer Lopez lip-synchs along and watches herself in her monitor out of the corner of her eye? Me either, but now I have, and I can tell you it’s the dullest. It’s like Jessica saw the title of the song and was like, “Oh, this song is about indifference — got it.” Harry says her first two songs were zeroes, Keith agrees, Jennifer says pleasant things but mildly indicates that she didn’t like it.

Alex Preston: “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
Are you still reading? Did you fall asleep when you read what Alex Preston sang in round two, and then did you wake up in a dystopian future with a long white beard? I did. Three fingers up for District 12 or whatever! Alex Preston doing Jason Mraz is like one bowl of oatmeal dressing up as another bowl of oatmeal for an office Halloween party. Jennifer says pleasant things, Harry says it was too much like the original, Keith says he loosened up at the end and should stay that way.

Jena Irene: “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
Randy tells her she needs to do a good performance so that she can win American Idol, which is really solid advice, and in the middle of it, a person in the audience shrieks “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH JENA” and Randy doesn’t even acknowledge it. He’s too busy saying the most obvious, banal thing in the world to relax and improvise around a spontaneous moment on live television. I have a theory that Randy has singlehandedly sunk season 13, but we’ll get to that tomorrow. Anyway, Jena does a decent version of this song, which, outside of the pristine Gaga production, isn’t really much of a song at all. Keith likes it, Jennifer says pleasant things, Harry wonders why she didn’t do the higher parts (which she says she didn’t do because it would have sounded too yell-y, and I immediately love her for her restraint).

Round Three: Make-Up Songs

Caleb Johnson: “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney & Wings
Very good, I guess. I can’t evaluate these things anymore. It’s like when you go wine-tasting; after the second tasting room, your mouth is numb and you feel the same way about everything. (Of course, in the wine-tasting analogy, you are also drunkish, which I am not and perhaps should be.) Harry says it was phenomenal, Keith agrees, Jennifer says pleasant things.

Jessica Meuse: “You and I” by Lady Gaga
Jessica is singing this song with a specific person in mind, whom she will not name, and it actually makes a tiny difference in her vocal performance. She connects a little bit more, which is to say that she almost connects. Keith says it’s the perfect song for her, Jennifer says pleasant things, Harry says she killed it (but says it with Jessica’s lifeless eyes, which is either expert-level shade or he’s just really tired).

Jena Irene: “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis Presley
It’s a stripped-down piano version of the song, and it is striking and passionate and unique and just right for her, but it is also the ELEVENTH THING WE ARE HEARING TONIGHT AND WE’VE ALSO BEEN SO BUSY WITH THE SELFIES. Jennifer says pleasant things (and then goes up onstage and kisses her), Harry says it was incredible, Keith calls her a “musical platypus” and they probably make comedic hay out of that for five minutes, but I fast-forward.

Alex Preston: “Yellow” by Coldplay
Jesus Christ, I give up. Harry says it was one of the great performances of the night, Keith praises his “poetic vulnerability,” Jennifer says pleasant things.

It really should be Jessica who goes home tonight, but the Facebook grandmothers and the TV-selfie-snappers have taken over the asylum, so God only knows.

Photo: Michael Becker / FOX