'American Idol' Recap: Caleb Johnson Owns Country And Rock & Roll Night
American Idol’s top six contestants had to pick one country and one rock anthem to perform for Wednesday’s live show.
Jena Irene was the first Idol-hopeful to hit the stage, taking on Heart’s “Barracuda.” Once again, the young singer brought her charisma and her unique vocals and wowed both the audience and the judges. Her performance convinced the judges that she could be the one to beat this year.
For her country song, Irene chose former Idol winner Carrie Underwood’s “So Small.” Instead of sticking to the song’s country melody, Irene reimagined it with her sometimes-haunting sound that completely blew resident country judge Keith Urban away.
Sam Woolf selected Imagine Dragon’s “It’s Time” for his rock song, which the judges agreed was a wise choice. Harry Connick Jr. believed Woolf’s performance, claiming he felt a “sense of commitment” from the young singer, who appears to be coming into his own following the judges’ save.
“You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain was Woolf’s choice for a country number, which gave him the opportunity to try to cash in on his tween heartthrob status, reaching out to touch fan girls’ hands in the audience. Jennifer Lopez was happy to see Woolf looking a bit more in command of the stage.
CJ Harris’ first song of the night was the Lenny Kravitz cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman.” While Harris did give the song the necessary soul vocally, his stage presence didn’t match up. Connick still found himself underwhelmed by Harris’ intonation.
Connick wasn’t alone in taking issue with Harris for his second song, “Whatever It Is” by Zac Brown Band. All three judges agreed that Harris’ pitch was all over the place and that he had so much trouble with the song that he probably should have picked one that was easier for him to sing.
Alex Preston decided to be a bit bolder than usual with his song selection of “Animal” by Neon Trees. Unfortunately, his bravery didn’t serve him well, as the judges struggled to find positive things to say about the performance. Preston struggled with hitting the lower notes and found himself out of breath by the end of the song.
Preston chose to sing Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” for his country tune, which proved to be a much better decision by the musician. He brought his musicality to the number and made it his own, which has emerged as a major strength for him throughout the season.
Resident rocker Caleb Johnson went big with “Sting Me” by the Black Crowes on Wednesday night, appearing completely in his element. Johnson rocked the entire stage with his mic stand, playing into the band and his backup singers. Delivering his last note, Johnson dropped to his knees and pounded the floor, while everyone, including J.Lo and Randy Jackson was on their feet.
Johnson sang the second Carrie Underwood song of the night, “Undo It.” Although Johnson’s biggest strength is rock music, he did a more than passable job with the pop country song, even with the softer sections of the track. Urban thought “Undo It” was a great song choice by Johnson.
Jess Meuse took on Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” for her rock song after she was told she sounded like them. Meuse also took Connick’s advice of practicing some dancing to get a better rhythm up on stage. Her vocals were nearly perfect and her stage presence is certainly catching up.
For her second song, Meuse tackled Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and added some purer vocals to her signature gravelly tone. While Urban took issue with the arrangement, both Connick and Lopez thought it was a strong performance from Meuse.
American Idol returns to Fox Thursday night at 9/8c to narrow it down to five finalists.
– Chelsea Regan
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