The final four perform three love songs by some big name artists while J. Lo starts to give the competition away.

By Jake Perlman
May 08, 2014 at 04:11 AM EDT
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For those who don’t know, the past couple of weeks, the show’s song lists have been “leaked” on American Idol‘s Instagram account before each performance night. When I checked this week, I saw that the contestants literally picked some of my favorite songs OF ALL TIME to sing on the show’s “love” themed night, including stuff from Bon Jovi, a Beatle, a former Idol winner, TWO Lady Gaga songs and the King himself, Elvis Presley. Before the night even begun, I had some very high expectations.

Of course, it was all about song choice. I’m not going to complain (like I usually do) about the lack of real themes this season, because I just loved the song choices so much. J. Lo looked pretty in pink as Ryan sported a little scruff, or his “8:30 shadow,” as he liked to call it. Even though the show began before 8:30 on the east coast and way before 8:30 in Hollywood. Has the scruff taken away your sense of time, Ryan? Could that explain why sometimes, you have the judges wait to give comments after a commercial break? Probably not.

Caleb Johnson, “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi: I mean, anyone could have predicted that Caleb would have picked this song. Once again, the performance didn’t show anything new or different from the show’s frontrunner. Keith and J. Lo loved it — but Harry finally gave Caleb the food for thought he needs by telling him to be careful about doing the same musical ad libs in every performance. If he keeps doing that, once he goes on tour, every song will sound the same. Duh! Caleb proves once again that he’s the contestant who’s most comfortable out on stage or even in the audience rocking out. He doesn’t miss a chance to make an epic pit stop at the judges’ table, belting in Keith’s face about what a bad lover he is. Somewhere, Nicole Kidman is either concerned or turned on. A great start to the show, but I didn’t love it.

Jessica Meuse, “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson: There’s always a little more pressure when singing a song by a famous Idol alum, especially a winner — and especially Ms. Kelly Clarkson. Kelly performed like a winner. Jessica does not. Jessica doesn’t even perform like she should be in the top 4 right now. What a boring, bland cover for a song with great potential. When J. Lo starts her comments by saying “that’s not an easy song to sing,” you know she didn’t like it. There were more than just off moments; nothing was “on” about it. Harry was glad Jessica would have two more songs to perform, and told her that she has to get out of her head. If Jessica doesn’t have the confidence at this point, she’s never going to have the guts to win this thing. Jessica will be gone soon enough.

Keith realized that it must be awkward to perform for the judges as they stare blankly back at you — so he thought if he moved around more, so would Jessica. Nice try, but that’s not really how that’s supposed to work. J. Lo then told a story about performing in London, which made Harry want to touch her ear while she was sharing. Why? “Cause you’re Jennifer Lopez!” I swear, J. Lo may want to get a restraining order against Harry before next season. You know, assuming they’re all back. Ryan announced the audition dates and cities for season 14, which includes all three of the judges’ hometowns: New York, New Orleans and Nashville. Seems like a weird way to pressure them into negotiating their contracts.

NEXT: Keith is a heartbreaker

Alex Preston, “Too Close” by Alex Clare: Alex has gotten much better at putting his own spin on songs without completely butchering the original. Harry really likes that he’s able to bring his own style each week; it shows he’s a thinker. I agree more with Keith, though, when he says the performance needed a little more weight to it. Like, just a foot stomp, or a fist pump, or something, for God’s sake. Please, just do something! Alex is a great musician, but that was clear from his first audition. He hasn’t been able to prove himself as a performer yet. Alex shouldn’t get too in his head about this Idol experience, because no matter what happens, it’s ending soon, buddy.

Jena Irena, “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar: Keith must have hit his head when he fell down that invisible trapdoor, because he didn’t feel an energetic release from Jena’s performance. You, Mr. Urban, are a heartbreaker! I thought Jena was killer, and agree with J. Lo that the performance actually showed what great control and command she has of the stage. Not to mention the bridge, when the band dropped out and Jena’s voice synched beautifully with the backup singers. That shows she really knows a lot for her age. Remember, she’s only 17. Harry gave Jena a 10/10 for vocals, but suggested she take her shoes off and jump around a bit more. But Harry — how can someone wear heels and command a stage at the same time? Just get J. Lo to give you a little runway walk — ’cause you KNOW you can’t just give J. Lo a beat and not expect anything.

Caleb Johnson “Travelin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival: The judges didn’t really have much to say about Caleb’s performance because they think, once again, that he “killed it.” J. Lo is becoming more and more obvious about her love for Caleb, and the fact that she pretty much thinks he’s already won this competition. In fact, she makes several comments throughout the night comparing all the other contestants to him specifically — clearly, she thinks he’s the one to beat. Well, in an ho-hum season like this, he is. Caleb’s consistency is the best thing he has going for him. He usually makes terrific song choices, and as long as he keeps doing things in his wheelhouse, he’ll always be able to rock out.

NEXT: Guess what? You’re not a rock star

Jessica Meuse, “So What” by Pink: Let’s see…how should I put this. Was Jessica’s second performance any good? “Na na na na na na na na na na na na NO!” Sorry to be one of the haters Jessica was addressing, but again, she chose a bad song. None of the judges liked it; Harry was distracted by the fire in the background. Either that, or he was really hungry for some Benihana. The audience gave the judges lots of boos, but there really isn’t much more to say. Well, except that Jessica really should hope her third performance is better received, or guess what? She won’t be a rock star, because she’ll be going home.

Jena Irene, “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga: Jena was fixing to rage with this Gaga hit, but it ended up looking more like a weird techno rave. Seriously, what was with those crazy neon lights? Totally distracting and unnecessary. The judges had mixed feelings on whether they like Jena’s unique interpretation and arrangement, but overall they found it to be another strong performance. J. Lo even said that Jena gives Caleb a run for his money…when it comes to big performances. There was a long enough pause there that it’s just as clear to the judges who the finalists will be. Jena can do an okay, slightly off performance like this, and it will still be on a different level than Jessica.

Alex Preston, “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz: Last week, Jason Mraz mentored the contestants and mentioned that this song was constantly overdone, both at auditions and on the show. He took it as an honor, but I think that ended up working against Alex. After a really strong and unique performance, this was good but nothing special. Earlier in the competition, the judges complained that Alex had gone too far with some of his deconstructions and interpretations. But now they seem like they really look forward to what he will do with a song. Harry was particularly disappointed that Alex didn’t really reinvent the song in any way. I think the random floating multicolored Chinese lanterns were a nice touch, though. J. Lo again said she was worried that Alex doesn’t have the ability to surprise us. Sorry, J. Lo — it’s two weeks ’til the finale, and you’re just figuring out Alex is boring. Does that really surprise you?

NEXT: Caleb does something amazing

Caleb Johnson, “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney: Maybe I’m amazed? MAYBE? Holy cow, I’m absofrickinglutely amazed by Caleb’s toned down, subdued performance. One a night with three solos, this is exactly the type of performance Caleb needed to end with. It showed a different attitude, a softer quality to his voice, and, again, his incredible range, topped off by a refreshingly sweet falsetto. The performance literally got Keith out of his seat partway through — not so he could try to make the singer move (ahem, Jessica), but because he was so moved by what was happening onstage. Caleb knows what he’s doing. He’s more than the one to beat — he’s the one to learn from.

Jessica Meuse“You and I” by Lady Gaga: It could be because I just love this song — it’s very personal to me — but Jessica finally had a decent performance after her first two misfires. I still don’t think it will be strong enough to save her this week, but it was good to at least end on a high note. Jessica seems to be very aware that her time may be up soon; she mentioned a few times that it didn’t matter what the judges were saying, because she was just having a good time. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t tell Ryan who she was imagining having a good time with while singing that song. Still, all three judges agreed that vocally, it was a perfect choice. I don’t know about perfect, but it was pretty good. Then again, pretty good isn’t good enough at this point.

Jena Irene, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley: I couldn’t help but fall in love with Jena during her first audition, and it’s really amazing to see what an amazing artist and performer she has become. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this performance. It took absolute control and power and, most importantly, courage. I mean, J. Lo literally got out of her seat to give Jena a kiss after the song, something she has never done before. Though a J. Lo kiss should be worth more than any vote, it’s not. Keith called Jena a musical platypus because of her ability to make everything her own. Not sure I understood that reference, but I definitely got the point. I also love when Jena starts a song at the piano, mostly because a piano is not a guitar. Though it’s becoming more and more obvious that Jena and Caleb will be the final two, it’s actually becoming less clear who will actually win.

Alex Preston, “Yellow” by Coldplay: Like Jessica, Alex ended with his best performance of the night. Harry called it “incredible” and said he’s happy that as a judge, he doesn’t have to vote. But you know you still can vote, right? Wait — can they? Keith pointed out that Alex’s advantage is his vulnerability, but I argue this has been working both for and against him so far. I would really love for one performance where Alex doesn’t look like he’s in an immense amount of pain, or has something caught in his eye. His voice is so naturally beautiful that it’s such a shame his performances can often be awkward.

Who did you love tonight, and who do you think needs to go? Discuss below!

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Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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