After a season of watching contestants fall one by one, it came down to just three. But the rules dictate that only two can go on to the "American Idol" finale. So, Wednesday night's show was all about the Top 3 finalists performing to get enough of America's votes to get into the last two slots. Well, almost. It just so happened to be the 500th episode of the hit singing competition. So there was a lot of self-congratulatory stuff going on while each of the finalists -- Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson, and Alex Preston -- took the stage three times each. Who put on the best performance? Who didn't? And which duo most likely will move forward to the Season 13 finale?
Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo Music noted in her May 15 recap of the performance show that the contestants all seemed a bit tired and that none seemed to capture a bit of the old "American Idol" magic.
"What was up with tonight?" Parker wrote. "The kids seemed… tired. Two of them were sick. One of them was sick enough for the judges to mention it about, well, 500 times. None of them seemed… wait for it… in it to win it."
That's correct. Alex Preston was sick. However, Caleb Johnson had a bruised vocal chord, something Ryan Seacrest kept bringing up -- until Judge Harry Connick Jr. made the comment that it didn't matter because he had been okayed to sing by the show's in-house doctor. But as mentor Randy Jackson, never at a loss for a cliche, said, "The show must go on."
And so it did. But not before the producers took a stab at pop music and pop culture relevance and brought The Chainsmokers out to perform "#Selfie," probably the worst "live" lip-synch techno-crap performance ever (except for the Black Eyed Peas' ridiculously bad Super Bowl Halftime show). Parker wrote that she almost took a selfie of herself changing the channel. No doubt millions across America agreed with the sentiment as they likely came close to setting a world record for collective eye-rolling.
Anyway... Each finalist was charged with singing three tunes -- a song chosen by Randy Jackson, a song chosen by the judges, and a song chosen by the contestants' hometowns (to be a reprise of a song they had performed earlier in the competition).
Overall, the night went to Alex Preston. Period. He nailed all of his songs. Randy Jackson's choice, Bastille's "Pompeii," showcased Alex's artful creativity. And it should be noted that the drums in the song were excellent, including Alex's bit (which he admitted was his first ever attempt at playing drums while singing). The judges chose Rihanna and Mikky Ekko's "Stay," a song that the New Hampshire native simply rearranged to perfection (you would never have known it wasn't a song he wrote, so different it was from the original). And his hometown chose "Story Of My Life" (One Direction), probably his most popular rendering of the season. Sick or not, Alex Preston was on top of his game (and, contrary to Lyndsey Parker's review, he did seem to be in it to win it).
Jena Irene performed David Guetta and Sia's "Titanium" (Randy's choice), doing a great job once she muscled through a slow start. However, the judges did her no favors with the Demi Lovato tune, "Heart Attack." The vocals were alright but she didn't seem to be invested in the song like she should have been. But she bounced back with the last song of the night, a reprise of Radiohead's "Creep," her hometown's selection. Judge Harry told her that it was better than the first time she performed it, if that were a possibility.
The big guy with the big voice was a little off his game Wednesday, what with having to perform knowing that he had a damaged vocal chord. And it showed. There were catches in Caleb Johnson's voice, a few weak notes, something the audience hasn't heard from the North Carolina rocker. Still, he did pretty well, given the circumstances. He did a soulsy rendition of INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart" (Randy's choice -- and it must be admitted: Randy Jackson's choices were actually pretty good, complimentary to each singer's style). He followed that with the judges' choice: "Demons" by Imagine Dragons. Again, the judges dropped the ball, although Caleb (like Jena Irene) sang the song well. The song just didn't do anything for the rocker. Good thing his hometown had his back, choosing Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" for the power singer's last cover. Throwing in some mike-stand slamming to punctuate the music (and perhaps get out some frustration at having to hold back on his vocals), Caleb's performance with the band was one of the best of the night.
Who Deserves To Make The Finale?
If those voting had just started watching the competition with the Top 3 performance episode, they might be hard-pressed to make a selection as to which two of the finalists should go on to the season finale. Alex Preston would be a no-brainer. Caleb Johnson would undoubtedly get the sympathy vote, not to mention the trooper vote. Jena Irene's talent and powerful vocals would capture a considerable number of votes as well.
But most of those voting will have viewed many of the episodes prior to the Top 3 show. The finalists have by now acquired something of a fan base. Contestants Jena and Caleb seem to have been dueling each week to out-rock the other and have built up momentum coming into the show, something that is reflected in the professional oddsmakers posting them as the likely contenders for the Season 13 "Idol" title.
Lyndsey Parker predicted Alex would join Jena for the finale -- but she wrote that she wouldn't want to bet on it given Caleb's ability to simply be entertaining (and he might get a few sympathy votes).
In short, all three actually deserve to go to the final. But this isn't "The Voice" and only two will be chosen.
So Who Will Compete In The Finale?
In the end, the oddsmakers will likely be correct. The show has been a bit predictable this season as well, the only shocker of the season being that Jena Irene was originally brought back into the show as a Wild Card choice by the judges and wasn't among the original ten finalists chosen by popular vote. So look for the girl from Michigan to take on the guy from North Carolina, Caleb Johnson. His showmanship and powerful vocals will see him through.
"American Idol" returns on Thursday night at 9 p.m. (EST) for the naming of the two. The results show will also feature Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, who will perform his latest single, "Feelin' It," from his third bestselling album.