American Idol Top 6 Performance Recap: Wanna Ya-ah-ah-ah-ah… Yahoo It! [Updated]

010924Jennifer Lopez making stank face and whipping her hair back and forth. A bored teenage girl with a “Sam Woolf” sign coming to life once a camera gets thrust in her face. Randy Jackson sitting on a couch, compiling his grocery list.

These are not the images that lead to true American Idol Moments (™) — or as Goosies From the (Seven-Figure) Block calls ’em, “moments-moments” — but inexplicably, they’ve become the visual focus of executive producer Per Blankens and his Season 13 team. “Pay no attention to the six kids singing their hearts out! We’re paying mid-six-figures for Keith and J.Lo’s hair and makeup, and we’re going to get our money’s worth, dammit!”

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That’s a shame, really. Because tonight, on Idol‘s Top 6 performance telecast, two-thirds of the season’s much-maligned contestants refused to bring their grandma’s stuffing to the Thanksgiving table (metaphorically speaking), carried genuine feeling and artistry to the stage and earned the right to bask in a little uninterrupted camera time. In other words, they were damn good as they navigated a dual theme of country/rock.

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But look, I like to think of TVLine as a safe place for the Idoloonie Nation, a forum where we can tear away the husks of Harry Connick Jr.’s neediness and the silk of special guest Grumpy Cat’s fur, then chow down on the delicious sweet corn served up by Caleb, Jessica, Jena and Alex. (Oh, did I already reveal my cards and let you know I am expecting — no, demanding — a C.J.-Sam Bottom 2 come Thursday? Whoops!) The table is set, so let’s jump right to my letter grades for tonight’s performances:

Jena Irene: Heart’s “Barracuda” — Grade: A | Can I admit I was a little anxious on Jena’s behalf tonight? I mean, bad enough that she got the tough show-opening slot (for the second time in three weeks), but then having to work her way through the deadly obstacle course of Ann Wilson’s vocal template? Yikes, it’s probably an easier job being the Idol stylist who has to tell J.Lo that the show’s run out of body glitter. Turns out, though, my fretting was for naught. Right from the opening verse, Jena gorgeously handled the rapid-fire wordplay, the piercing high notes and even the shifting rhythms of Heart’s classic rock anthem — all while infusing it with her trademark husky tone and playing beautifully with the band. She was, to sum things up in one word, stupendous. The judges, however, started muttering complaints about Jena looking tense and needing to “release” a bit more, but I think maybe it was just a case of them being programmed to always find some fault with the first two numbers of every episode.

Sam Woolf: Imagine Dragons’ “It’s Time” — Grade: C+ | Oh Idol producers, just because you instruct every camera operator in the studio to film Sam in extreme closeup, and just because you keep jabbing those soulless girls in the front row with 100-volt prods so they’ll scream like they’re at a One Direction concert, doesn’t mean Sam is ever going to embrace the “heartthrob” label you keep foisting on him. So just cut it out already! But let’s talk music, shall we? As always, Sam showcased a scratchy-sweet tone and solid grasp of pitch. But on the flip side, except for that intense glory note near the end, I didn’t feel like Sam had read and reread the lyrics, lived in them till they fit as comfortably as an old t-shirt, and then delievered them with the kind of conviction that made you feel his only purpose in life was to convey the message of the song. That shortcoming is most likely a product of Sam’s youth and inexpeirence, but as Keith noted, it’s probably not going to be solved before the competition is over — especially if he winds up going home as a fifth-place finisher next week. (Yeah, that’s my subtle way of saying Sam has in no way proven himself to be Top 4 material. Somewhere, Allison Iraheta, Chris Daughtry, Jason Castro, LaKisha Jones, James Durbin and Amber Holcomb are nodding their heads in agreement.)

C.J. Harris: The Guess Who’s “American Woman” — Grade: D+ | I appreciated Keith’s advice that perhaps a nasty-lothario anthem wasn’t the best choice for kind and gentle C.J. But the problems on this performance ran deeper than lyrical connection. For starters, C.J.’s pitch was as bumpy as an airplane with the fasten-seatbelt signs illuminated (resulting in yet another “intonation” lecture from Prof. Connick.) And then there was the lack of propulsion in C.J.’s delivery; the band was rocking hard, but C.J.’s vocal had all the driving force of a Matchbox car being pushed out into Freeway traffic. Is it too cruel for me to say I hope the lyrics “I gotta go/ Bye-bye” prove to be prophetic? Actually, don’t answer that.

Alex Preston: Neon Trees’ “Animal” — Grade: B- C+ | I wavered back and forth between a B- and a C+ for this performance, but after a second listen, it’s clear the lower grade is warranted. The faster-paced “Animal,” while representing a badly needed departure from Alex’s standard operating mid- to slow-tempo ouevre, didn’t bring out the best in the New Hampshire native’s voice. The opening verse, while a bit nasal, bopped along OK, but by the time Alex reached the bridge, he wound up sounding winded and struggling to sing in tune. And it’s not like he was throwing himself into the physicality of the song with much gusto, either. The judges, though, couched their criticisms with phrases like “a little bit something missing” (J.Lo) and “release a bit more” (Keith) and “you kind of get a pass” (Harry). What’s that, Connick? Oh, yeah, we already knew Alex gets a pass: Dude has been glued to the mic stand all season without any complaint. If Jessica were guilty of the same crime, you guys would have her pilloried in the public square!

Caleb Johnson: The Black Crowes’ “Sting Me” — Grade: A- | Caleb kinda sorta had to be great on the “rock” half of the show, and thankfully he didn’t disappoint (even with a momentarily dropped microphone throwing him off for all of 2.4 seconds). I loved the Season 13 goofball’s interactions with the backup singers during that vampy verse, the hair-whipping abandon he brought to the stage and especially that supersonic howl he used to cap off the performance. Sure, I’d have preferred it if Caleb had been more careful about his diction — was I the only person unable to grasp at least a third of the Black Crowe’s words? — but I also wouldn’t argue too vehemently against J.Lo that the dude had himself a moment.

Jessica Meuse: Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” — Grade: A- | Congratulations to me, I’m a psychic now! That’s because, even before Jess sang a singly, solitary note, I knew exactly the lack of enthusiasm and nitpicky dismissiveness J.Lo would bring to her critique. Oh, you saw it coming, too? Yeah, I guess we all saw it coming the second the cameras cut to #ILuhYa and she was furiously scribbling a note instead of executing her hair-ography. Keith wasn’t much better, really. But at least this week, Harry got it right, telling Jessica she’d proven herself to have “a fantastic voice” and having brought intensity and a “rhythmic delivery” that — if there is any justice left in the Idolsphere — will propel her right into the Top 5. (I dug Jess’ quavery tone on this jam, too, it’s worth noting, as well as the sly, sexy smile she used to punctuate certain lines and phrases. How come nobody made mention of that!?)

Sam Woolf: Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” — Grade: B- | Granted, this “first dance at the wedding” favorite was probably two sizes too big (emotionally) for innocent Sam, but I appreciated his decision to tackle a female artist for a change, and to apply a touch of sandpaper to a polished gem of a ballad. It may not have been the deepest musical moment of the night, but it sounded good to my ears. Sure, Harry was right that the performance could’ve used more in the way of dynamics, but J.Lo (shedding a good chunk of her hard-won credibility this week) had nothing much to offer than an ode to Sam’s cuteness. I mean, if all this grown woman is going to act like a 13-year-old grabbing a Tiger Beat at the checkout counter, maybe she should consider exiting the judges’ table and wading into the SwayBot pit from whence she came!

Caleb Johnson: Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It” — Grade: A | Keith made a little dig at the end of critiquing — “I can’t wait to hear what country song you do later” — that seemed to indicate a lingering displeasure over Caleb emphasizing the rockier elements of Carrie Underwood’s smash, rather than really wading into a true Nashville moment. I guess I got what he meant, but I didn’t really give a hoot — since I was too busy enjoying the way Caleb dialed the angst and fury of his performance all the way past 11. Personally, I enjoyed “Undo It” even more than “Sting Me,” perhaps because Caleb’s masculine approach brought out a little added menace in the lyrics, or perhaps because Carrie’s melody pushed Caleb’s voice to new and growly heights or perhaps because his ad-libs over the final chorus were so magically on-the-mark. Caleb poured so much of himself into the performance that he broke out sweating and asked to borrow Randy’s fan. (That’s just how he kids! Everyone knows Randy doesn’t have any fans! Badum-bum.)

Alex Preston: Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” — Grade: A- | Like J.Lo, I really enjoyed Alex’s acoustic lullabye arrangement of this sad-timey classic because it took the melody in new directions without ever losing sight of (or respect for) the original. Even the imperfections — the flat conversational opening lines, Alex’s crackly falsetto at the finish — added to the beauty of a guy pleading his case in front of his neglected woman. Plus, on a shallow note, Alex’s cream-colored jacket with the sequined lapels was pretty nifty — one of the more un-cautious fashion decisions by a fella this season.

Jena Irene: Carrie Underwood’s “So Small” — Grade: B+ | “I messed up — sorry,” offered an adorably contrite Jena after she noticeably botched a big note right near the end of her performance. But aside from that glitch, the rest of Jena’s night was…well, I can’t say great, but I can certainly say…interesting? J.Lo alluded to Jena’s voice dominating the mix, and it did: The sparse, piano-heavy backdrop was oddly airy, leaving Jena’s big, booming voice to float over the top as it shifted from whisper to wail and back again. ( “I could put her voice on toast, it’s so good!” I wrote in my notes.) Yeah, I might have preferred the whole thing to come a half step down, the better to protect Jena’s voice from straining, but the good moments were copious — and really, really good

C.J. Harris: Zac Brown Band’s “Whatever It Is” — Grade: D | Not in tune? Then not in my Top 5. What say you, America?

Jessica Meuse: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” — Grade: A | I’m not gonna make mention of what the judges did (and didn’t) say about Jess’ show-closing rendition of Dolly’s plea to the Other Woman. It doesn’t matter, in the end. What did matter, to me anyway, was seeing a bright, committed young vocalist reinventing a hallowed country classic in a way that made me hear it with fresh ears (while playing to her own strengths). Gone was the quiet, acoustic template, the whispered plea made over tea. In its place, we had a raucuous band of musicians amping up the noise, with Jess making a full-voiced entreaty to Jolene as her world was crumbling down around her. Capped off with a final falsetto yodel (that gave me shades of Jewel), this is one I’m gonna have to consider adding to my Top 25 All-Time Idol Performances gallery. Yeah, I really loved it that much.

SHOULD BE BOTTOM 2: Sam & C.J. (C.J. going home)
WILL BE BOTTOM 2: Sam & C.J. (C.J. going home)

What did you think of the Top 6? Who were your faves? Who’s in trouble? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments! [Programming Note: We’ll have a new episode of Reality Check again next week — we didn’t film one for this week due to me being out of the country. Sorry!] And for all my reality TV-related news, interviews and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. HTGR says:

    I’ve seen very little of the season so I don’t have much to go on, saw large parts of tonight, although it didn’t always have my full focus anyway it seemed to me:
    Jena and then Jessica and Caleb are the strongest contestants?
    Alex and CJ the weakest?
    Jena really pulled off the Barracuda surprisingly well! That was quite something. Not quite as great on the second song, but not bad.
    Jessica wasn’t bad. Not clue what Keith was going on about her Jolene arrangement. The arrangement and styling were good. Although it was a touch robotic compared to the Jolene of one the best of The Voices contestants- Vicci Martinez. I wouldn’t say it compared to that, but it was solid.
    Sam was sort of eh. Didn’t have enough bite to his rock song. Second one was pleasant. Maybe a touch lacking in bite again.
    I’m not sure I get the Alex guy. The other time I heard him he made a weird mess of that Police song and I wasn’t really drawn in by anything tonight.
    Caleb seems pretty good certainly, although I suppose even if very good he might eventually get a bit to same old same old? I don’t know. I’ve barely seen any of the season, just guessing.
    Things seemed better overall than the couple other times I tuned in a bit?

    • Winks says:

      Alex is actually one of the stronger contestants. I think he consistently displays the most individuality and his voice is solid. His first song tonight was really not him and unlike anything he’d done prior. He, along with Caleb, has never been in the bottom.

      • GuitarBlue says:

        Alex has a pretty strong base going into tonight, although tonight was not his best for song choices.
        He should avoid bottom 2, simply because Sam (formerly saved) Jessica (bottom 2 last week) and CJ are all floating in the bottom half of the top 6 in overall popularity polls right now.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      Agreed. Alex was pretty bad tonight. His second song was definitely decent, but the first one was a few notches above grade school talent show.

      And let’s not forget the best Jolene from The Voice and it wasn’t Vicci Martinez. The gay spitfire on Ceelo’s team whose name is escaping me cuz he didn’t last that long. Cody? Cady? Something like that. That was awesome.

    • Matrix says:

      How many times are you going to mention Vicci Martinez and her performance of Jolene in this blog?

      • Steve says:

        yep, she’s baaaaaaack. Even though she swore she’d never watch idol ever again. lol. If you think this is bad, just wait until she starts going off on her tirades about Haley over and over and over again. -insert emoji rolling it’s eyes skyward here-

    • scarpe says:

      People on this website love Alex. I don’t get him either but anyone who says as much tends to get clobbered with “you suck” comments . But…I really don’t get him. I thought his Willie Nelson was a disconnected snooze. Other point: Agree w/Slezak about Caleb. I much preferred the country song. It was great. The rock was good but it was not as transcendent as the judges suggested. Jessica is amazing and intense. I hope that she can withstand being this year’s Idol Female Whipping post.

      • ElleKay says:

        My 4th place favorite spot is a revolving door between Alex, CJ and Sam but Alex shows up there more often than not. He’s been middle of the pack for me all season, with some really good performances mixed in with snoozefests.

  2. Timmah says:

    For all the pimping that they do of Samjaya, I hope the show gets him as the winner. It deserves it.

    • Davey says:

      The thing is, at least Sam can sing.

      • Wendy says:

        Thank you!! Yes, Sam can sing. He is a young kid, I wish people would just listen to the voice and not focus so much on stage presence.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Yes, Sam CAN sing. I don’t get all the Sam Hate here. I don’t believe he deserves to win the competition but his tone is lovely and his pitch is spot-on.

        • jga94 says:

          Yeah, I don’t get all the Sam hate in the blogs either..,,,I’d take his tone and delivery (with enunciation) any day to the others—I know there’s a lot of Jena love here but for the love of good music….her vocal tricks and her warbled singing (I hardly understand any word she’s singing) are irritating to me…Caleb is way ahead…then maybe Jess…and Alex has had moments as well (altho not really a fan of his arrangements)…

          Sam may not win but I am looking forward to what he does and looking forward to his improvements…..because i really think there’s something special about him….

          CJ…bless him…he seems like a nice fellow and has a really soulful voice….I hope Sam outlast CJ and maybe Alex…heck even Jena (if luck is with him)….

          • Mary says:

            I think hate is to strong of a word. He is pitch perfect but shows no emotion either in his voice or eyes when he sings. It is like watching a robot up they going through the song but not feeling anything. He has made attempts to change but sorry not enough for me. I will say in a few years and some life experiences he would stand a chance. I believe there are a lot of good singers in the world but not everyone belongs on the stage.

      • Alan Dvorkis says:

        Right. I do not understand why people do not like a kid that sings both beautifully and in tune. Yes he has emotional attachment issues but close your eyes and listen. As Harry pointed out, the last few notes of Still The One were simple breathtaking, when he finally relaxed cause the night was over. Relax kid and you can achieve greatness. I truly believe he has the most potential. I also agree he is not close to tapping into it. I doubt he goes home tonight. Cj was simply awful.

  3. Eric says:

    Jessica was amazing tonight!! That is all.

  4. Winks says:

    So, did I hear correctly, the finale is going to be a final 3? That could be interesting. Someone more intuitive than me, please tell me how that is going to affect things?

    • Davey says:

      Makes sense because none of these contestants is running away with anything. But if Jena wins this thing, her records sales will be low. I still think Caleb is going to win but what kind of album would he make? And it would be a bit sad, since Bo Bice and Daughtry were both so much better and never won as rockers.

  5. Siera says:

    You are such a Sam hater michael! You’ll honna eat your words!

  6. shaunna says:

    wasn’t CJ’s version of American Woman an almost-copy of Lenny Kravitz’s?

  7. Natalie says:

    As I keep listening to Alex on “Animal” over and over I don’t understand what most of you didn’t enjoy. I loved it, my favorite of the night

    • Davey says:

      The recording of Animal is better than what Alex did on the show. The recorded version is quite catchy. It’s a shame his other song isn’t available because I would have bought it.

      • LeahKittyS says:

        You could always use KeepVid. Or there are several YouTube-to-MP3 sites that are free and legal. That’s what I always do.

        • HTGR says:

          Youtube Video and Audio Downloader 0.3.4 seems to be one of the best one that currently works. It can even nab the 1080 and 4k videos too. Not that FOX is 1080p or 4k, it’s 720p.

        • Davey says:

          Thanks. I am not a techie but I would like to have both Sam’s rock song and Alex’s country. Will look into those suggestions.

    • Syb says:

      I’m a big Alex fan ,but I thought Animal was one of his few pedestrian efforts. Now Always on My Mind was exquisite. That’s the Alex I love.

  8. kevin says:

    Pretty good night! Top 4 definitely should be jena, caleb, alex and jess.
    I think jess is a great vocalist, but I don’t think her personality is suitable on Idol, she reminds me a bit of elise (s11)
    I hope the judge’s effusive praising of jena (she deserves it) doens’t create another joshua ledet situation.

    • Syb says:

      They really are so far ahead of the other two that it would be a felony if they weren’t top 4. After that, I think we’re talking pure taste in music. But I think Jena should be one of the two, For me, I’d like Alex to join her in the finale, but either Caleb or Jessica are as worthy if their styles are your preference.

  9. Cheryl says:

    I’m not sure what Jess is thinking about when she sings but for me she doesn’t connect with the song. I do really enjoy her vocals and looks but her performance lacks energy.

    • LeahKittyS says:

      I disagree” this week, specifically regarding “Jolene.” If I were Jolene, I would be running for my life if I saw Jess coming for me.

    • Stormy says:

      She’s a veritable whirling dervish compared to Crystal Bowersox.

      • Stormy says:

        Carrie Underwood was just as awkward during her time on Idol. Jess is stiff, but I’d actually buy her music, especially if “Blue-eyed Lie” is indicative of her writing ability.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      There’s no presence. I’ve seen plenty of people really work the audience holding a guitar, but she stands there strumming away with no energy. It’s a shame because she is a talented girl, but I don’t think the stage is her friend. But in fairness to her, the vast majority of them cannot do so either, so she’s in good company.

  10. GuitarBlue says:

    Sam is the first one to break into the itunes top 400 tonight>>>

    You’re Still the One (American Idol Performance) Sam Woolf >>>

    Current Rank on the iTunes Top 400 Chart: #332………………………………………………………….

    Jena still holds-on at #299 from last week, with “creep”

    • Lynn says:

      Forget the voting – let’s get down to the numbers that really matter. The iTunes sales! Fortunately, I think CJ has a lock on the bottom spot in that category as well. When autotune can’t even help your sales …

  11. Terry says:

    Well, if CJ doesn’t go home tomorrow night, he is winning this thing!

    • GuitarBlue says:

      Maybe seeing the cat tonight was a reminder of the 9 lives of CJ on this show. Outlasting Kristen, Emily, Ben, MK, Majesty, Malaya, Dexter and ??

      • LeahKittyS says:

        Ohh, clever…very clever…we shall see…

      • Jill Moya says:

        Not to mention Briana Oakley who had a better voice than all of them! They picked a terrible Bria over her for the last wild card spot.

      • Winston says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex or Jena goes home tonight because America clearly doesn’t know what they are doing. Alex I would understand but Jena, GINA!!!

  12. Sara says:

    First time in a while but I think Sam deserves better grades than Alex this week. I think “It’s Time” should have gotten at least a B- – I think it’s one of his better songs recently. I was not a fan of either song Alex sang tonight. I thought he could have done a lot better with “Animal”, and while “Always On My Mind” was miles better, it didn’t deserve an A-. Not this week. I’m still convinced either way that it’ll be Jena and Caleb in the final two, with Jessica as #3.

    • jga94 says:

      I agree with you but…Slezak—at about this level of the competition—has always shown bias for and against some contestants….clearly he likes Jena and Alex (really an A- for AOMM?…that was like easy listening radio…it was ok but not A- okay)….

  13. Becky says:

    That is the Haley story all over. Scotty lauren alaina- she dropped her last name too. Then Haley. I think jlo was a judge

  14. danin says:

    Neh neh neh.. Caleb struck gold w/his first song A no A- bull.Jesse was pretty dang good on Somenody to Love, B+. Jena gets a B for Barrcuda. And I liked Alex’s Neon Trees..B+

  15. unicornwasp says:

    jason averett must be thanking the idol gods for randy holding grumpy cat. so many thought bubble options.

    • LeahKittyS says:

      Yes! That didn’t even occur to me! I can’t wait for Reality Check, let’s hope he takes you up on that suggestion.
      Awesome username, by the way. It reminds me of that Doctor Who Season 4 episode where the Doctor and Donna met Agatha Christie.

  16. Timmah says:

    Alex gets an A+ for Always On My Mind, Jess an A for Jolene. Everything else was just a’ight for me.

  17. I haven’t been able to watch much of this season, but when I have, I’ve been absolutely infuriated by the camera switching away from the contestants while they’re performing. Then they linger away for such a long time, it’s just ridiculous. There’s no reason for them to ever switch away at all, but they do it and overdo it. It must be a European thing.

  18. Colton Smith says:

    Jena for the win
    again a great night for american idol ,
    i like this season , its the underated season
    jena is a true talent with a unique voice and great entertainer
    when you hear her on the radio you will recognize her voice

    cj ,its time for him to go , i like him a lot but he
    hasn’t deliverd and sam should be next

  19. Carson says:

    I like Jess and Alex as top 2, but for some reason it seems like the producers want a Jena and Caleb finale.

    Sam and CJ need to be gone yesterday.

    • Timmah says:

      I’ve had that feeling for awhile too, that the Caleb-Jena finale has been predetermined. I would love to see Alex and/or Jess sneak in there, but it’s probably not gonna happen.

      • Mary says:

        Personally I would like to see a Jena, Jess final but there is no way that is going to happen. My next would be Jena, Caleb don’t care to much for Alex.

    • karyn says:

      My thoughts exactly.

  20. GuitarBlue says:

    I’m in an elimination pick-pool and taking CJ to go this week, I picked CJ as elim in the first top 8 week but got a free ride with no elimination. I picked Dexter to go last week and best point jump in the past was that I picked Ben to go out on top 11 week. I think that the 2 song solo’s this week will be the last for CJ, though I think he’s a great guy and will be popular on the tour. –

    • Mary says:

      God I hope you are right. I was irritated when he mention his friend dying last week and thought he just brought another week with pity votes. If he doesn’t go I think it might be Sam or maybe Alex.

      • Stormy says:

        He’s been shuckin & jivin the viewers for a while. Playing the baby card, the Dad card, the dead friend card. Open your eyes and ears, people!

      • MAB says:

        So scared for Alex. They are talking shock results tonight. I swear if CJ out stays Alex or even Sam or just about any of the rest. I will come through the computer and slap those who are voting for him because they think it is funny. Yes I am talking about you Angie_Overrated and others like you. It is just so wrong. Kidding of course, I won’t slap you but will be really upset.

        • Mary says:

          I will join you we can hunt them down and torture them. At this stage anyone would be a shock boot besides CJ or Sam as far as I am concern. Better not be Jena or Jessica the rest I can live with.

        • Angie_Overrated says:

          Sorry, MAB. I LOVE CJ!!! It reminds me of one of those joke dating shows like Joe Millionaire or that new one where they’re sending dumb American girls to the UK to win the affections of a Prince Harry lookalike thinking it’s actually Prince Harry.

          But in all seriousness, Jena deserves to win this season. If it’s not Jena or Caleb, this season will undoubtedly go down as a cataclysmic disaster. Out of the final 13, they are the only 2 who can actually sing.

          • MAB says:

            I know it is a joke but it is just so frustrating that he keeps surviving while more deserving singers go down. He is probably a really nice guy but come on already. I really don’t think he should have even made it to the finals.
            I think Caleb and Jena ore okay but I probably won’t buy their music post Idol. Possibly Jena but I would have to check it out first. I like some of her stuff but some sounds to screaming to me. Caleb genre is just not my type of music. I like soft rock but he’s too loud for me. I would buy Alex’s album without even thinking. I love his style and the recordings I have of him are just beautiful. I like Sam and Jessica too but they just are awful live. Jessica has empty eyes. Sam is stiff but is getting better. Well we will know soon who is going home. I just have a sinking feeling.

          • Angie_Overrated says:

            I appreciate that Alex is a very talented kid, but his style does nothing for me. It’s a bit too elevator music for my tastes, but I do concede he is talented. If he somehow ends up winning which I would seriously doubt, it could be worse. It could be Ms. No Charisma (i.e., Jessica), Mr. No Charisma and decidedly not a “heartthrob” (i.e., Sam) or my good pal CJ.

    • Fojo says:

      I thought Ben would outlast CJ and Dexter. He probably got on the producers bad side and they condemned his change in style (which I actually liked). I love CJ but… Bon vayage, adios amigo

  21. ninergrl6 says:

    I was at the taping. The acoustics in the studio SUCK, at least upstairs, which is where I was “seated” (stood for the whole 2 hrs so I could see) since I’m over the age of 21. Caleb definitely stole the show. CJ & Sam sounded really flat.
    I’ve never seen adults take more selfies than the AI judges. It verged on ridiculous, but it was nice to see them interact with the audience (the youngins on the floor at least) unlike the Simon/Randy/Paula era when the judges would literally leave the studio during every commercial break.

  22. Faye says:

    I would give Jena a B at best for both of her songs….and I like her. She allowed the band to over shadow her in the beginning of the first song or maybe it’s her lower register not being clear enough. The arrangement and delivery of the second song were not pleasing to my ears. It would have been lovely if she had done it solo at the piano…oh well.
    CJ signed, sealed and delivered his ticket off the show. Although, I expect to see Sam in the bottom with him.

  23. Jenna says:

    I am a die-hard Sam fan. I will defend that boy until I am blue in the face. However, I found myself wanting more from his “It’s Time” performance. I was truly expecting this to be his breakout moment, but I knew that would not be the case when I saw him standing on a platform with his guitar in hand. You should’ve heard me trying to plead with him through the television screen: Move, Sam! Please! Do something! Although it was a solid vocal, I needed more emotion in the bridge. The lyrics are so raw and they are conveyed with a certain pain. I feel like Keith hit the nail on the head when he said that Sam could be unstoppable if he just tapped into his feelings of sadness and anger. And it’s definitely there- We all know the kid has been through an exceptional amount at a very young age. You could see that fire in his eyes at the very end of his performance when he sang, “I’m never changing who I am.”… I just wish it was there earlier.

    • jga94 says:

      I am a fan as well of Sam but he did look uncomfortable…he looked more comfortable last week (even with the duet)…I think he should sing his own songs…his experiences are unique to him…so I think his singing his own songs will do the trick…hopefully CJ goes first so we have another week of Sam….

    • Fojo says:

      Are you serious? He connected a lot in “Sail Away” from the previous week (the judges hated it because Jessica chose it) but I thought “It’s Time” was one if his best performances. It was the first time he ever outdid Alex (who wasn’t too hard to outdo) and I’m starting to prefer him to Jena. I loved her initially but this “rock chick” thing seems so unnatural (vocally) and the producers are shoving her down our throat.

  24. Syb says:

    I was a little disappointed in Jena. I think she’s the strongest contestant of the season overall, but I can’t agree with the A on Barracuda. And So Small was just a little too melodramatic for me. I was spoiled by Matt Giraud’s more heartfelt stripped down version I guess.
    To me the hands down best of the night was Alex’s Always on My Mind. It was just beautiful in his usual understated way. I thought Jess did a great job on Somebody to Love. Caleb has one heckuva voice, but I wish he’d work with someone on building to a crescendo instead of starting and staying there.

    • Fojo says:

      I’m beginning to like Jena less and less. I feel as though she’s trying to be something she’s not ie Caleb. Jessica had the two great performances especially “Jolene”. Alex first performance was yikes but “Always On My Mind” was the most beautiful performance if the night. I preferred Caleb’s country sing to the rock performance the judges raved about mainly because singing a rock song like a rock song is kinda boring for me

  25. karen says:

    C’mon people, Jena’s Barracuda was not that great. In fact, Jessica was much better than Jena tonight with Somebody to Love. Jena’s body language and eye contact were quite disconnected. Very overrated performance. Sam’s rock song was awesome. The dude delivered on Imagine Dragons.

    • Syb says:

      I was with you until Sam. I don’t get his appeal. He’s so bland to me. I did think Jess was better in all aspects on Somebody to Love than was Jena on Barracuda, although I much prefer Jena’s style and vocals normally.

    • Jacob says:

      “Jena’s Barracuda was not that great. In fact, Jessica was much better than Jena tonight with Somebody to Love.” = 100 percent agree.

      “Jena’s body language and eye contact were quite disconnected. Very overrated performance.” = 100 percent agree.

    • jga94 says:

      I agree…this week Jena was weak….Barracuda…I couldn’t understand her…and I think the band drowned her….the reason why Alison did not do the “duet” part was probably because Alison would only emphasize Jena’s weaknesses….her voice isn’t that strong for an all-out rock song…she’s got guts though….

      Sam’s my favorite…the Imagine Dragons song was good but it lacked some certain ooomph…but I did feel him in the last line….

  26. Adam Fachry says:

    I can’t seem to get behind Jena 100%. She’s inconsistent. But instead of being good-then-bad, she’s more like amazing-then-bad. It shows this week how jarring the respective qualities of Barracuda and So Small are. The former is so good, it’s the second best performance of the night, the latter is so bad, it gives two of CJ’s performances a run for their money. The mumble, the flatness of several high notes, the substandard belt throughout the latter were just unfortunate.

  27. GuitarBlue says:

    If you don’t watch but just listen to the studio cuts, Sam and Jessica have very good voices………………………………… Alex has a good range, creative and original…………….. Jena and Caleb are the best on-stage performers.

  28. osborn1116 says:

    Still no A for Alex…..honestly Always on My Mind easily beat out Barracuda.

  29. Shel says:

    The “performance poll” is interesting – no one even near 20% of votes (as of 3:00 a.m. Eastern). It echoes my own conflicts in trying to pick the top 3 faves of the night. “Always on My Mind” was my #1 of the night, but then I really was pretty well split among the performances that everyone else seems mostly split between.

  30. rwfblog says:

    As of 3am Eastern, CJ’s songs were the bottom two on this TVLine poll — 0.54% for “American Woman” and 0.0% for “Whatever It Is”. I’m not surprised he’s on the bottom, but, ouch!, those are the lowest numbers I remember seeing. Apparently, no one put the latter song in their top 3. Even if we’d known from the beginning it was a dedication, I’m not sure that would have helped.

  31. karen says:

    Truth be told, Alex was just meh for me tonight. I particularly disliked Always on My Mind. His interpretation was too lightweight and whitewashed for me. I’ve been critical of Jessica’s song choices all season, but tonight she really nailed it, especially on Jolene. She brought a real edge to that performance and it was the PERFECT song for her. She also did well on Somebody To Love. She’s got a voice very similar to Grace Slick, so it was good to hear her take on a Jefferson Airplane classic, although it was basically an exact cover of Grace’s phrasing. Sam gets picked on here at TVLine, but I am a fan of his voice and I think he did super well on Imagine Dragons, but I will admit, Sam’s “Still The One” was stiff and lacking. I did not care for Jena’s Barracuda, at all. I thought it was uneven and disconnected. Ann Wilson wailed and Jena failed. But Jena’s Carrie Underwood song totally drew me in. I was mesmerized by it and thought it was among the best performances of the night. Caleb is a solid and entertaining performer, but he is SO derivative of the typical classic rock lead singer. He lacks a contemporary twist to his phrasing. It’s all just a solid wall of loudness without varying the dynamics. He would be a good addition to a Foreigner tribute band. (I’d like to hear him sing Slow Ride).. but he needs to inject a little more originality in his interpretations. CJ…. poor guy… he just can’t sing in tune. His Zac Brown song was excruciating. It was even worse than American Woman.

    • jga94 says:

      Agree with you on Sam and Alex and Jess (except i did not like the arrangement of Jolene)…I agree with your assessment of Barracuda (altho what I hated was the band drowned her so all the more I could not understand her)….and I disagree with So Small….I think for a song like that to work….one has to actually hear and understand the words….and most of the time, I can’t understand Jena’s words…like she has a speech impediment or something….it’s driving me nuts…

  32. Louise says:

    I just need to say that ‘American Woman’ is not about a woman. It’s about America. “I don’t need your war machines, I don’t need your ghetto scenes. Coloured lights can hypnotize, sparkle someone else’s eyes.”

  33. Kojin says:

    I still don’t agree with the grades given by Michael. No way is “Jolene” an A, and Sams” grade for both song is a bit mixed up. “It’s Time” is far from a perfect vocal (“I don’t want to ever leave this town” part didn’t exactly hit the right note) but it is still the BETTER performance of the night for Sam. He showed a little bit of angst, specially the end part on “I’m never changing who I am”. Should at least get a B and is way better than Alex take on “Animal” which is a complete disappointment.

    Having said that, I hope for all the love, justice, fairness, equality and all the good things in the world that CJ goes home tomorrow. He robbed us of at least 3 Majesty Rose performances. :(

  34. Jill Moya says:

    CJ was horrendous! I still don’t like anything about Jessica; same ol’ person and singer to me with her fake smile. Sam can’t smile period; he’s a scared kid who shakes at the mention of girls. Caleb was the best overall. Jena was pretty good as well. I still feel this is the worst talent ever on AI!

  35. Mary says:

    I agree with you Michael about Jolene. Great performance. I missed you and Melinda on reality check this Monday. Do we get a double episode next week?

  36. Jill Moya says:

    Kojin, you are so right about Majesty. Too bad The last few weeks she sang Randy didn’t have the sense to advise her to do better songs. And she wore clothes straight out of a trash can! She deserved better and was a top 3 contender; entertaining performance on RUSH WEEK. She had a little showmanship too! The show needed her.

  37. Jill Moya says:

    Kojin, you are so right about Majesty. Too bad The last few weeks she sang Randy didn’t have the sense to advise her to do better songs. And she wore clothes straight out of a trash can! She deserved better and was a top 3 contender; entertaining performance on RUSH WEEK. She had a little showmanship too!

    • Kojin says:

      I honestly wished she stayed even for a couple more weeks. Honestly, I want her to stay until Top 4. That “Let it Go” performance killed her chances. :( Her studio and live version of “Wake Me Up” is till my favorite this season. Ugh at CJ outlasting her. Ugh at CJ outlasting everyone!

      • Jill Moya says:

        Kojin, you’re right. I actually felt Majesty could have won! I think what did her in was dressing like Dorothy in Wizard Of Oz and dressing other weeks from the 50’s. people thought she wasn’t all there. What bugs me is Jessica should have been axed at group week and CJ earlier. It’s funny, Briana Oakley had great auditions. Her last audition she looked slightly nervous and for that reason isn’t around today. Jess looks terrible every week and moves on. Everyone complains that the judges are hard on her! Well, she keeps moving on so it doesn’t matter. I personally can’t stand her attitude, looks or singing. I really hope that the show is canceled before the finals as non of the contestants deserve to win this thing….they just aren’t that good…period!

  38. Winston says:

    hmm I watched the good performances not the CJ and Sam show. Caleb slips into my top 3 this week for the very first time, mainly because Alex is doing something weird again and not in a good way, CJ is still the one who needs to go but will he go, lol no now that Alabama has 1 Alabamian down the votes will be distributed between CJ and Jessica and CJ probably getting more votes than Jena slips to second place this week cause it wasn’t her best week, don’t get me wrong she still rocked it this week but Jessica got first place this week since the top 13 because this was her week. my ranking this week:

    1. Jessica Muess
    2. Jena Irene
    3. Caleb Johnson

    4. Alex Preston
    5. Sam Woolf
    6. CJ. Harris

    Ranking overall:

    1. Jena Irene
    2. Jessica Muess
    3. Alex Preston

    4. Caleb Johnson
    5. Sam Woolf
    13. CJ. Harris

    Who should be in the bottom 2:
    CJ and Sam (CJ going)

    Who will be in teh bottom 2:
    Alex and Sam (it’s hard to say but for a shocker Alex going)

    • Jill Moya says:

      Are you a comedian? Jess is terrible. What are you all listening to? A fluttering ugly high irritating voice is what I hear! If she wins, America needs its heads examined (the voters). Go on line and check out World karaoke Champ Cassandra Mae Jopp…Superior vocals and what showmanship! That’s a singer!

      • Fojo says:

        Trust and believe Jessica and Alex WILL have success after the show. The rat of they maybe, maybe not. Jessica is in. That Stevie Nicks vibe, she could be solo or in a band. I don’t understand why someone would dislike her…. Oh yeah you’re buying into American Idol’s anti-Jessica crusade. Which makes you an idiot and you probably want Sam or Jena to win…

  39. darcy's evil twin says:

    I think last night’s show was one of the best of the season.
    Jessica was my favorite. I really like her voice and loved both performances. “Somebody to Love” was outstanding. My husband walked through the room and said, “Okay, she’s a lot better looking than Grace Slick”.
    I’m not sure why Keith had such heartburn with her arrangement of “Jolene”. I get that he liked Dolly’s version, which comes across as a girl terrified she’s going to lose her man, but Jess’ version comes across as a strong woman that’s going to whip Jolene’s butt if she takes her man.
    I love Caleb but I would have loved him more if he’d actually performed a country song (Keith’s comment was priceless). Just because a country artist sings a song that doesn’t make it “country”. That said, “Sting Me” was fabulous.
    My third favorite was Alex’s “Always On My Mind”. Just beautiful.
    I’m going to have to disagree with Mr. Slezak here – I think Sam deserves a much higher grade for Imagine Dragons’ “It’s Time”. I thought that was one of his best performances and I saw traces of emotion there. I’m giving it a solid B and I liked it better than the Shania Twain song. Like Caleb, I wish Sam had performed an actual country song.
    Jena was excellent on Barracuda. I wish she’d sung an actual country song rather than “So Small”, which was just okay for me because I was never fond of the song. For some reason I just can’t warm up to Jena. It’s not something I can explain. She is talented and I’m not going to post crap here like “She sounds like a dying cat” and “I’m never watching this program if she wins”. She’s a lovely girl. But I can’t explain why I’m not enjoying her, because I should be.
    CJ needs to pack his bags. That Zac Brown number was simply painful to sit through. And I just love the Guess Who version of “American Woman” so he at least could have done a good job with the Lenny Kravitz version even though I don’t like it!

    • Adam Fachry says:

      I think as some people have pointed out, there’s something about Jena’s tone that sounds affected. I personally didn’t see that, and her tone is actually very arresting yo my ears. Her problem to me, was underdeveloped diction. It doesn’t appear everytime she sings, but several performances of hers (e.g. Gravity, I Love Rock’n’Roll, Suddenly I See, So Small, and even small parts of Bring Me to Life) found her mumbling, to the point where her lower-register became slightly nonexistent or the words she sang hard to digest.

    • karyn says:

      They should have required the songs to be from “country music before it was taken over by pop music” b/c only Alex chose a song that came through as true country. [CJ may have as well but it was too painful to listen through so I fast-forwarded.]

    • marie says:

      I’m glad someone else appreciated Sam’s performance of the Imagine Dragons song! I remarked to my wife that that was his best performance yet; I thought it had a lot of energy and I was certainly entertained. Sam is guilty of nothing but being young and inexperienced onstage; you can’t fault his singing or his voice.
      I agree about Jena; I thought her performance of “Barracuda” was great, but I can’t imagine being interested in her music post-Idol. She simply doesn’t appeal to me, and you can’t force yourself to like something you just don’t go for naturally.
      Caleb was terrific as always. That guy is just a natural rock singer. But I always thought Idol’s themes meant, Take something from (X) genre and interpret it YOUR way, whether it’s true to the genre of not: a la Adam’s “Ring of Fire” (which I’m sure has been mentioned here already, but I haven’t read all 400-something comments). I know not everyone liked that, but I thought at the time it was pure genius, as Adam Lambert could never convincingly sing a country song in a country style. Caleb, I guess, either feels he couldn’t, either, or he just doesn’t want to, and I’m fine with that.
      I agree that it would be ridiculous for anyone but CJ to leave this week, but I have a funny feeling we might be in for a shock elimination (and anyone but CJ leaving WOULD be a shock). Not even sure why I think so…we’ll see tonight.
      As for Jessica – LOVED “Jolene,” thought “Somebody to Love” was OK but nothing I’d need to hear again. Funny how people can look at the same person or thing and see differently: for my eyes, Grace Slick in the 60s and 70s was one of the most incredibly beautiful women I’ve ever seen (I was a little jealous at the time; I did my hair like hers – pretty much everyone did back then – but I sure didn’t look as smashing as she did). Even now, at nearly 75, Grace is still a striking woman.

  40. Mary says:

    Not a bad night overall. Loved Jena, Caleb and Jess. Michael I understand what the judges are saying regarding Jess. She showed emotion with her eyes which I thought was great, but how can you stand so still when the beat just makes you move. It looks like she has wooden legs darn at least tap a foot move a shoulder something. I however judged the voice and she got my votes. Bottom three is CJ, Sam, and Alex. CJ Should go home but who knows with America today.

  41. jga94 says:

    Michael Slezak is so biased….this week I think was one of Jena’s weaker performances…In Barracuda…the band drowned her….I couldn’t understand anything…sometimes a syllable or two would surface (when Jena would do her quirky vocal things/tricks)….in So Small…again, I could not understand a word….not one word….even the words “So Small” were like warbled or something…

    The best were Caleb followed by Jess (altho i did hate that arrangement of Jolene)…..
    Alex was terrible in the Neon Trees song but gave a nice rendition of the country song…..

    My favorite is Sam…he did look uncomfortable in both songs but in the It’s Time song, I did feel like he let go at the last part–like Keith had said…I think Keith nailed it with his advice on tapping into his pain because I doubt that Sam has had a serious romantic relationship yet (his life was probably effed up quite early). In the second song, he sounded lovely but looked more uncomfortable…I wish he’d sang keith urban’s You’ll Think of Me…that there’s pain…

    So I rank them overall:

  42. Elisabeth says:

    I disagree with your high praise for Jena’s So Small and Sam’s You’re Still The One. I thought both were not good. I couldn’t understand what Jena was singing plus a melody was almost nonexistant. Sam sounded like average karaoke. Jessica and Caleb were the best of the night as they put in two solid performances. CJ needs to go. C

  43. Guest2212 says:

    Are you kidding me? Sam’s performance on Shaina’s song was HORRIRD. Yes I said it. The look on his face, let me know that he knew it was horrible. Yet everyone wanted to scream and cheer him on. Did I mention that it was horrible…. sad that is the only performance that I remember from last night. Horrible!!

  44. scarpe says:

    Quick comment to Slezak: Thank god for your write ups. I agreed with everything that you wrote — it’s such a relief to know that the crap the judges say does not stand as the final word. And your rich, nuanced readings of successes and failures for each singer will wonderful. (I don’t always agree with that part of your write ups, but I always appreciate the care you take when responding to the performances.)

  45. katbed says:

    Caleb’s voice doesn’t sound modern to me. I enjoy watching him perform, but I can’t imagine a new 2014 song by him not making me think of 80’s rockers. I more see him as a cover band lead singer.

    I would like to see what new material Jessica, Jena or Alex would create.

    CJ was not good. I’m a fan of his story and the sadness in his voice, but that was hard to listen to.

  46. Word Money G says:

    Slezak is the best Idol recap guy on the planet, but he sometimes has blinders on. The unabashed Haley Reinhart love, and now his attachment to Jena. She was NOT good last night. Her “Barracuda” had no feeling on the lyrics – which is what Keith keeps referring to. (The whole group has trouble feeling the lyrics in favor of either their “style” or their big voice.)

    Jena totally butchered “So Small,” rarely approaching the melody at any point. But she has certainly put enough good performances together to have her survive that slip up. It really is a shame that Dexter didn’t survive to get to this round, as he probably would’ve done quite well.

    I now think Caleb will win this thing, but he’ll be another Taylor Hicks, with no place to take his music on the radio. I think Sam, Alex or Jessica can find a spot on a radio playlist somewhere, but the others will struggle. And without airplay, these kids careers will be short.

  47. RCo says:

    Thank you Michael for pointing out how distracting the cameras on the judges are while the contestants are performing. Those shots are taking away from creating “idol” moments this season. Can you imagine if they’d cut away to Paula during Fantasia’s “Summertime”?

    I think Alex’s performance actually stunned the judges, much more than they were able to vocalize. That was the best performance of the season IMO. I truly heard that song in a new way, heard every lyric as if for the first time, and found myself completely depressed once it was over. The subtlety of Alex’s performance tapped into very personal experiences and I would not be surprised if JLo went home and YouTube-d the original and listened to it 5x like I did.

    • karyn says:

      I agree. It doesn’t really surprise me that it got a relatively lukewarm reception (except from HCJ) b/c JLo can’t recognize a “moment” that doesn’t come crashing loudly down on her head. But I thought it was one of the best of the season if not all of AI. It really felt like the audience was completely rapt during the performance as well.

    • JM says:

      I agree completely about Alex’ ‘AOMM’ performance. I thought I saw some girls near tears in the audience. I know I was.

  48. Gale says:

    Jena for the win.

  49. C says:

    Rock songs:
    Jena – LOVE “Barracuda”. Her rendition was excellent, but a bit shouty.
    Sam – Best of the season for him. His words are always well enunciated and his voice has always been wonderful, but he seemed a little more lively tonight.
    CJ – Pitch, pitch, PITCH!!!! The melody was often unrecognizable, though I did like his ending. Keith’s criticism, however, was ridiculous. This song was NOT about a guy and a girl. It was a 70’s protest song.
    Alex – Seemed to be straining in his upper range.
    Caleb – EXTRAORDINARY!!! Made every other so-called “rock” performance seem totally tame.
    Jessica – Vocally perfect. Still needs a little more facial expression, though.
    Country songs:
    Sam – A little dip in his voice DID give me “goosies” at one point.
    Caleb – Terrific song choice, although he did sound very similar in style to his first song. No weaknesses.
    Alex – Message to Alex: The word “mind” has a “D” at the end. Use it! The run at the end was flat, and this is such a classic song that you cannot play with the melody. His worst of the season.
    Jena – I couldn’t figure out the melody of this song at all; and, as always, the upper notes seemed strained and shallow.
    CJ – Won’t someone please have mercy on us?
    Jessica – Really nice high notes at the end. I like her voice SO much better than Jena’s.

  50. LeahKittyS says:

    All right, if YouTube popularity is an indicator of anything, then C.J.’s time is finally up. He was the only one with a video that got more dislikes than likes. Hopefully that is indeed a reflection of the votes. I love my Top 4, and my grandmother’s going to be disappointed if Sam goes.