Apparently, it’s OK to show up late to the American Idol finale taping, ’cause then a helicopter will just film you outside and suddenly you’ll be on national TV! Of course, the real party was inside the Nokia Theatre as Caleb and Jena began their rock battle to the finish line. Ryan looked dapper in a white jacket and embraced the much larger set and audience with some extra gusto in the top of the show that resulted in a mic-pack drop. But Ryan’s obviously a pro, and after the judges were introduced (seriously, Keith, no tie?), the two young singers were rightfully given the biggest introductions of the night.
With only an hour show and three rounds, there was a lot to get in, which resulted in few critiques by the end. I guess it really is up to you, America! The first round would be songs picked by Idol mastermind and creator Simon Fuller, followed by the contestants’ own favorite performance before they each sang their potential debut single live for the first time.
The show started with a clever video package, reminding us of the moment back in April when Jena asked Caleb out to her prom and he said yes (obviously), so the two of them got to have a little fun dancing together in a fun prom set — for about a second until they were reminded by Ryan’s God-like voice that they were actually competing against each other. That was followed by some video highlights of the season that further proved that everyone expected this final match-up. Jena won the coin toss and made the bold choice to sing first.
Jena Irene, “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine: You can’t blame Jena for being a little nervous starting the show in front of the giant, electric audience of the Nokia Theatre. The adrenaline of the moment got to her a little bit and her lack of breath control, something that Keith noted, caused her to go offbeat with her band of black-skirted male drummers. No doubt, it was an awesome song choice for Jena, but it took her a couple more shakes to get fully loose and own the much larger stage than she is used to. But she definitely got there halfway through the song and took over like the jockey at the Kentucky Derby that she is! Wait — is that another weird bet Keith made or is that actually a metaphor for something? Oddly, I think it could go either way. Harry liked that Jena showed her internal tempo by walking on the beat across the stage, only to get frustrated by her lack of progress and move faster. Harry also said that Jena should put that song on her record when it comes out, but shouldn’t that be full of original songs — like the one she’ll get to do later tonight? Well right, that’s later.
Caleb Johnson, “Dream On” by Aerosmith: Another classic Aerosmith rock ballad, another solid performance from Caleb. That was what I was going to write at the beginning of my critique until Caleb blew the roof off the Nokia (and probably his poor tonsils) with the performance. Like Jena, Caleb seemed a little shaky in the beginning due to nerves, and I agree with Harry that he could have had a little more focus and energy in the beginning. But then as the performance went on, it got stronger and stronger until the moment of “will he/won’t he?” crept into my mind about the very quick and high (and iconic) octave change that would be happening soon. Caleb said his voice still wasn’t 100 percent, so could he handle it? Judging by J.Lo’s jaw hitting the floor, it most certainly was handled with care. I realized my mouth was actually in the same position and quickly picked it up and joined Keith and J.Lo in my own standing ovation. For his first performance, it was exactly what Caleb had to do, but I wouldn’t go as far as J.Lo to say “That may have did it right there” so early on, because Caleb can get a little ahead of himself sometimes, so let’s see if he can keep his dream on track for the next two performances.