"American Idol" moved into its final four showdown Wednesday night, the episode where the performances determine the Top 3, influencing the cut for the homecoming episode. It's often called the toughest cut of the season due to the eliminated artist missing out on going home to a hero's welcome (but, really, wouldn't the toughest cut really be the eleventh spot -- where the eliminated artist misses out on recording more songs, making more money, getting more exposure, and going on tour over the summer?). By the second round of songs of the night (there were three: Break-up, Dedication, and Make-up), the hierarchy of placement seemed set. Who was going to miss out on the homecoming seemed obvious.
But after two hours, it was clear who will most likely win the title this season. Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo TV noted May 8 that all the "contestants all had their breakout moments" but emphasized that Jena Irene's nothing-like-Elvis rendition of "'Can't Help Falling In Love' was [her] finest performance of the night, and one of the finest performances of the entire season." Besides, she made Judge Jennifer Lopez cry, drop the f-bomb, and run up on stage and kiss her.
Here's the thing: J-Lo was right. Jena's never-to-be-confused-with-the-Elvis-version of "Can't Help Falling In Love" was one of the best, most astoundingly reinvented covers ever. It brought out compliments from by Harry Connick Jr and Keith Urban. In fact, Judge Keith went a bit further: "You're a species unto yourself. You're like a platypus, baby!" (Yes, he really said that...)
Jena Irene's other songs: Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," a nice rocker, and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," which was better than the original.
The obvious runner-up was Caleb Johnson. Although his first performance, Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name," was unfortunately a bit karaoke, he rocked Credence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band," returning to the attention-grabbing performer that belted out The Black Crowes' "Sting Me" and Whitesnake's "Still Of The Night." He then went a bit softer to sing Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," which the judges loved due to it showing off Caleb's vocal range. He definitely won over Judge Keith, who admitted that it was one of his and wife Nicole Kidman's favorite songs.
Acoustic troubadour Alex Preston did relatively well, also knocking down two good performances. His first, a cover of Alex Clare's "Too Close," was done in the usual Alex rearrangement -- which was excellent. But he stumbled a bit in the second round, singing his real-life idol Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours." Judge Harry Connick Jr. noted that it was alright but it wasn't as original as he was used to from Alex. But the New Hampshire singer slipped right back into awesome rearranger mode for his third number, Coldplay's "Yellow." He ended the night with the song, got great critiques from the judges, but, sadly for Alex, it was a bit anticlimactic after Jena Irene's stealing all the thunder from the room with her Elvis cover.
That left Jessica Meuse. Although obviously a talented singer and songwriter, Jessica seems to have had trouble transitioning from the coffeehouse solo act to the big stage recording artist. The judges gave her weak reviews on her first two songs, Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and Pink's "So What." However, on her third attempt, Jessic nailed Lady Gaga's "You and I" (also a better version than the original).
And with that, it appears that Jessica Meuse will need a miracle to get into the Top 3.
But strange things do happen on "American Idol." Remember: Chris Daughtry went home in the fourth spot in Season 5. And there have been no real "shocker" episodes this season. Could Thursday's be the one?
The "American Idol" Top 4 results show airs Thursday at 9 p.m. (EST).