There have always been stand-outs on "American Idol," not matter the season. Like Adam Lambert in Season 8, Daughtry in Season 5, Phillip Phillips in Season 11. In Season 13, there are several. Jessica Meuse and Caleb Johnson are a couple. But Jena Irene seems to stand out strongest of all. And when she sang Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" for her Top 8 performance, she stood out just a little more from the pack of finalists.
The Christian Science Monitor's David Clark Scott wrote April 3 that Jena Irene stole the show...
Maybe it all started with everybody seeming to not know how to pronounce the girl's name. No, that was more of a distraction, because it was definitely her voice that got her saved and chosen as a Wild Card to make the Top 13. And it is that voice that has launched her on a relentless roll toward the Season 13 finale.
(By the way, her name is pronounced "Jee-nah." And nobody -- repeat: noboby -- is mispronouncing her name now.)
Still, when Jena Irene began her current march to the top, she did so through the judges picking her to continue, not because of the popular vote (which had produced the Top 10). She also started the live final round at 12/1 odds, according to professional oddsmaker Bovada, three places from having the worst odds of winning (a distinction that went to M. K. Nobilette, who left the competition at No. 10). It certainly makes you wonder at how close the competition came to being without that stellar voice...
She's now on top of the list of finalists, racking up 5/2 odds to win.
She got there last week after she crushed Evanescence's dark rocker "Bring Me To Life," owning the stage and the song, capping the night's Top 9 performances. She seemed to feed off of Caleb Johnson's mesmerizing performance leading into her own. He wailed on Led Zeppelin's "Dazed And Confused" like a pro, setting her up. And did she deliver...
No such luck this week for her Top 8 performance. Her cover of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep," was prefaced by a low-key (but well-sung) performance of "Lucky" (Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz) from Malaya Watson and Sam Woolf. But it didn't seem to matter. She picked up where she left off from last week's powerful tune.
The song itself was nearly a different song altogether. Jena had transformed the rhythm, giving the song a rather different sound. But it worked.
Said "American Idol" judge Keith Urban: “What I loved so much about that performance is that you took that song and made it your own and you never let that go. Anybody else would have started off like that and then gone straight into the version that we know. I thought that was incredibly bold and I loved every second of it.”
The theme for the night was "Back To The Start," a way to showcase how far the Top 8 finalists have come since their auditions. To compare, they performed the same songs with which they auditioned. And although her acapella audition was an ear-catcher, the band-backed "Rolling In The Deep" was so well arranged and rendered, it signalled what could only be called "star potential" from the girl from Detroit.
The girl is definitely on a roll. Can she sustain it to the finale and win it all? Time will tell. The finale is less than two months away.
"American Idol" airs on Fox Television on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 p.m. (all times EST).