On Wednesday night, the final five American Idol contestants were prepared to sing songs requested by viewers but even before anyone had a chance to sing, the show was a success, thanks to Harry Connick Jr. and his white shirt and blue jeans. See? Jennifer Lopez is not the only one allowed to captivate viewers with her wardrobe choices and Harry didn't even have to show any leg!
The audience was then in for yet another treat when Jason Mraz took on the role of mentor to the Fabulous Five. OK, well "fabulous" may be hyperbole – how about the Fair Five. The Fine Five. The ... oh never mind, you get the idea.
Alex Preston: America chose the song, "Sweater Weather," by The Neighbourhood and seemingly after just a little input from Jason Mraz and his suggestion to raise the microphone a bit, Alex was able to emerge from the shell he's been hiding in for the duration of the season. He actually looked at the audience and moved more fluidly throughout. The judges liked his performance but Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban wished that Alex would have given a little more pizazz to kick the show off. B
Caleb Johnson: Caleb sang, "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing," by Aerosmith and delivered what was quite possibly his worst performance of the season. Caleb didn't manage to overcome the disconnect from the audience and his emotions that Jason worried about in the rehearsal and he also really struggled vocally. After an entire song that sounded flat and raspy, it was bizarre to hear the judges say he sounded good. Keith complained that Caleb has no emotion in his performances beyond the in your face – listen-to-me-scream type, and Harry chastised him for staring into the camera rather than connecting with the audience but Jennifer claimed that Caleb gave her goosies. Obviously JLo's goosie mechanism is on the fritz – either that or my TV's audio needs to be checked. D
Jena Irene, Alex Preston and Sam Wolff: Jena, Alex and Sam's Trio of "Best Day of my Life," by American Authors was a delightful, feel good group performance. Sam and Alex, always vocally competent, really seemed to benefit from Jena's energy and appeared more comfortable and engaged than ever before. It was hard to focus on typing whilst singing and couch dancing along to the catchy little diddy. A-
Jessica Meuse: America selected, "Human," by Christina Perri for Jessica, which Jessica explained really resonated with her because she's, well, human. Jessica tried to tap into the emotion of the song and apply all the advice that she's been given regarding how to perform. She had some mini breakthroughs in the song as far as emotion goes but it came at the expense of her pitch. The judges all gave her kudos for working hard to improve week after week, even though the vocals may not have been her best. C
Sam Woolf: Before his performance of "Sing" by Ed Sheeran, Sam was surprised on stage by his "celebrity crush" Ariana Grande, causing his cheeks to flush brighter than the red background. After such a shock, it was doubtful whether he would be able to pull off the funk he was going for in the song. The judges gave tepid praise: Keith found Sam's blushing endearing, his critique was the harshest with him merely stating that it was a tough song to sing. B-
Jena Irene: After watching some cute moments between Jena and Jason Mraz in her rehearsals, Jena performed "My Body," by Young the Giant and she dominated the stage. In addition to great vocals, Jena's movements and emotion were perfectly synched with the feeling of the song. Keith was so clearly proud of her, he danced and smiled throughout the entire performance and was on his feet giving enthusiastic praise when she finished. Jena just keeps getting better and better and all the judges agreed. A-
Caleb Johnson and Jessica Meuse: Caleb and Jessica gave a good performance of "Beast of Burden" by The Rolling Stones, both of them delivering better vocals in their duet than they did in their solos, despite having to look into one another's eyes and sing suggestive lyrics. B
Alex Preston: For his second performance, Alex was given the song, "Say Something," by Great Big World and the song choice was a gift of epic proportions. As Keith pointed out, a song and an artist couldn't have been better matched. But it wasn't just his incredible vocals. Alex's performance was so genuine, moving, and intimate that watching him feel each verse of the song, made this viewer feel as though she was intruding on a very private moment. Alex has always shown that he feels the music but Wednesday night he demonstrated that he felt the emotion of the song and it was a breakthrough performance for him. The judges were taken with the beauty of his voice and the pain he revealed in his performance. Also, kudos to the female backup singer who, though she went unnamed and unseen, greatly enhanced the experience with her amazing voice. A+
Jena Irene: Although Jena's rendition of "Valerie," by Amy Winehouse, was not as exceptional as her first set, she looked and sounded like she belonged on the stage. While JLo appreciated Jena's great color block dress, she didn't feel like the version of the song suited her. But Keith thought her vocals were "killer." Harry used his moment of judging to clarify how Jena would like to be known after American Idol. Just in case you were wondering she'll be known as JENA. In all caps. B-
Sam Wolff: While Alex was given a gift for his second song, poor Sam was cursed with The Fray's,"How to Save a Life," for his. Sure, there may be people out there who like the song or the group but that just proves there are people with bad taste. With that being said, Sam handled the song relatively well. JLo called "goosies" again, although she lost all credibility wither her earlier goosies.. Harry and Keith encouraged Sam to explore the dynamics of his voice. B
Jessica Meuse: "Summertime Sadness," by Lana Del Rey is a remarkable song with a great haunting quality that Jessica just did not do justice. The judges liked her vocals but she took a step back in the emoting department. Jessica should have been able to have a moment with this song but it never seemed to get off the ground – despite her dramatic red dress and horrific leg tattoo. C
Caleb Johnson: Perhaps because everyone knows the one thing Caleb does well, he was given the song, "In the Still of the Night," by Whitesnake allowing him to give another great but woefully predictable performance. This song, following the failure of his first, only further illustrates that Caleb is a one-trick-pony. He's splendid at what he does and perhaps he can make a career of it, but it seems that a Caleb Johnson concert would start out loud and exciting and go nowhere. B+
Despite his limitations, it seems that much of America is drinking Caleb's Kool-Aid, so it doesn't seem likely that he'll find himself in the bottom Thursday night, especially since he was able to close the show doing what he does best. Jena is only getting better and Alex Preston had a real American Idol Moment Wednesday night. That leaves me with the sense that the bottom two will be Sam Wolff and Jessica Meuse. After Sam's attempt at funk, which probably did not resonate with his fan base demographic, he may just find himself reunited with his dog very soon.