Idol: Caleb and Jena Bring Judges, Audience, to Their Feet

When the dust cleared after knock-out performances by Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene, they found themselves on the American Idol home stretch and several lengths ahead of the competition. Last night was “All Things Love (Luh?) Night, broken up into segments of three songs each, beginning with break-up songs, moving on to dedications, and finally to make-up songs. Host Ryan Seacrest was doing his ruffian imitation with the scruffy look. I like it. Makes him look more masculinely mature, don’t you think?

In the make-up song segment, Caleb slayed Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”, bringing Keith Urban to his feet before the song even ended. The cameras zeroed in on Urban as Caleb’s voice captured and rode the emotional vibes, playing on Keith’s own musical emotions. It was a performance and voice that revealed Caleb’s softer side, but still had “Caleb” written all over it. At the end, both Jennifer Lopez and Urban were on their feet. The blue-eyed, laser intensity of the “no-standing-o” Harry Connick, Jr., beamed his total awareness of the the killer performance which he called absolutely phenomenal. High praise, indeed, from this thoughtful judge.

In a conversation with my sister just before Jena Irene’s performance of Elvis’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”, my wish for Jena was that she would go back to the piano and sing mid-range vocals. Her much-lauded high notes get on my nerves and her lower register just doesn’t register. Hey. I got my wish. Jena’s subtle, powerful, and hauntingly beautiful take on the King’s iconic song, was, as Connick said, “incredible”. Once more judges Keith and Jennifer were on their feet, with Jennifer going a little over the top in her “throes of emotion”, saying she just had to give Jena a kiss. They met mid-way for the huggy/kissy and, even after getting back into her seat at the judges table, Jennifer had to rein in her continued enthusiasms. I was not impressed, but, whatever. She’s a diva. What can I say. Keith was “spellbound”, calling Jena a species unto herself — a “musical platypus”. That’s okay, Keith. I catch your drift, dude. It was, as Harry would say, absolutely phenomenal. The girl was awesome. I would buy this record.

Alex Preston’s best out of three was “Yellow” by Coldplay. Harry called it one of the great songs of the night, one that Alex really needed. This was also in the third round of songs – the make-up segment. His first round in the break-up segment was his unique and entirely forgettable version of “Too Close” by Alex Clare. The judges words of praise seemed a little forced and weak, like they wanted to say something nice. It wasn’t a bad performance, it was simply Preston predictable. Same for the dedication round “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. Alex has an awesome voice and “coulda been a conthenda” if he’d gotten out of his shell and his rut. Again, judges did the best the could.

Jessica Meuse, with the most unique of all the voices, could have made it to the top IF (1) she had lost her poker face, and (2) she moved, wiggled, jiggled, whatever. She did a little better in that department with “So What” by Pink, but not enough, I think, to keep her from going home tonight. Jessica’s best song of the evening was Lady Gaga’s “You and I”.

Caleb Johnson kicked off the evening with a great performance of “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, and later dedicating “Traveling Band” to his band back in Asheville, North Carolina. The audience was hot and so were the judges and the band on this one.

Jena’s first song out of the chute was Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker”. Keith loved her musical ability but did not feel a full, energetic release, like it wasn’t the music itself that was moving her. I agreed. But Jennifer disagreed. She called Jena’s performance controlled, commanding, and confident. Vocally, Harry called it a 10 out of 10, but noted that she still was not connecting. I thought she sang it okay, but I really couldn’t get into it. Sometimes I close my eyes and just listen. Didn’t help. For her second performance, Jena did “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. Keith liked that she had changed the melody in the chorus, but Jennifer did not. though J-Lo called the girl “a force to be reckoned with” and that she was now rising up toe to toe with Caleb. Harry just gave a laconic “Good choice. Nice job.” My sentiments exactly.

So that covers the Final Four, I think. Now we’ll see who gets the heartbreaker final cut before the triumphal hometown entry and the wearing of the laurel.

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11 thoughts on “Idol: Caleb and Jena Bring Judges, Audience, to Their Feet

  1. Well now, I thought last night’s show was the best so far this season. I liked everybody and most of the song choices. Caleb is in another league altogether. He blew the roof off once again. He totally blew my socks off and I even checked to see if MY OWN roof was still there. I’m calling it now: I think he’ll win. I also think Jessica will go home tonight. She’s had a zillion opportunities to “connect,” but still doesn’t. I think viewers will firnally realize it.

    Unlike J-Lo, I wasn’t all that impressed with Jena’s Presley number. The song has a beautiful melody and has long been one of my Elvis favorites, but in attempting to make it her own, it ceased to be the song I loved. I still think of Jena as a rocker…an “also ran” to Caleb. But I do like her voice and her command of the stage and her performance style is mindboggling for a 17 year old.

    I liked everything Alex sang last night and especially his final song. He’s the soulful musical poet of the group and I hope he makes it into the final three. Like Harry, I am in awe of his ability to deconstruct a song and put it back together in the Alex style. It’s wonderful.

    Are you ready to call it yet? Who will win….who will go home tonight?

    • I agree. I think Caleb will win barring catastrophe. Yes, the show was better. Especially better than last week.

      I also grew up with Elvis and hold every one of his songs dear to my heart. He was . . . well, he was the undisputed king of rock n’ roll. But Jena’s voice and haunting melody took it in another direction. Not better than Elvis’s by any means. Just different. And the first song I’ve heard since a very early piano performance, that I’ve actually heard the beauty of her voice. I hate her high notes. They may be correct but the tinny voice doesn’t do them justice. I think you hit it when you reminded me she’s only 17. The depth of her voice will grow.

      Almost all the way through I have been a fan of Alex, and he’s had some awesome songs. But mostly he stays at Alex level, so, therefore, he’s going to lose.

      Thanks for the chat. I conked out soon after Idol last night. Tammy watched it with me. Then Katie called just as I was seeing Tammy off and I couldn’t find my phone. I dug in my purse till I was about to explode like a feather pillow. Mike had put it on the charger for me. No wonder I couldn’t find it.

      • Do Tammy and Katie both live close to you? I know you’ve mentioned watching this and other shows with them.

        That’s kind of funny about your phone. Poor Mike, he was only trying to help. I don’t have a cell phone so I don’t know much about them, but I take it they don’t ring while being charged.

      • Yes. They both live just down the hill from us. Tammy down one side toward the highway and Katie down the other side in the same subdivision. We walk back and forth when the weather is right or it’s daytime. Katie works all week, so we don’t get to see each other very often. We just pick up the phone and call. Katie and I do Idol by phone, calling every commercial break. Tammy comes up every once in a while and watches it here with me, or she’ll call, too. We keep the lines hot on Idol nights.

      • Yes, I’m looking forward to it, too. I’m kind of surprised that anyone has been able to come up with a different format for a singing competition show.

        I just realized the finals for The Voice and American Idol are BOTH next week. Looks like I’ll be putting in some serious TV time. Guess I’d better sign off here and go see who has made it to the Idol finale. I have recorded the results show.

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