'American Idol' Recap: Caleb Johnson & Sam Woolf Stand Out On 80s Night
American Idol’s top eight returned again this week after judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban used the season’s one and only save on Sam Woolf. This week, the finalists were required to pick a song from the 80s.
Jena Irene made a bold choice in reimagining Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N Roll.” Irene started off the classic song sitting down at the piano, allowing the song to build up as she belted out the second half. The judges reactions were mixed, with Connick critiquing the arrangement and Lopez praising the young singer for another original performance.
Country boy Dexter Roberts chose to sing Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” Mentor David Cook was on Roberts to enunciate better – and not to let the other guitarist on the stage steal the spotlight from him. Overall, the judges felt like Roberts' performance was passable, but that he needs to be more dynamic if he wants to stick around.
Malaya Roberts took on Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire” Wednesday night. Unfortunately for the soulful singer, this week she seemed to go backwards. After a smooth beginning, she let the song get away from her. In her enthusiasm, Watson didn’t get around all of the song’s bigger notes. Urban advised her to “chill” a bit more up on stage.
Singing Blondie’s "Call Me" was country rocker Jess Meuse. There’s no doubt Meuse has the vocal chops, as she sang the 80s hit impeccably. However, her stage presence could use some work. Despite Cook’s mentoring, the judges still felt like she could give the audience a bit more on stage.
After a string of high-tempo performances, Sam Woolf slowed it down with an acoustic version of Cydi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Giving it the feel of a smaller venue, Woolf was surrounded by a swarm of girls as he performed his take on the iconic number.
Alex Preston, still with his acoustic guitar in hand, sang The Police hit “Every Breath You Take.” With his arrangement, the song was almost entirely unique, but had just enough of the original melody to be recognizable. Although Connick appreciated the lullaby-like reinterpretation, he suggested that Preston push himself a bit more as an entertainer.
Taking on Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s “Free Fallin” was C.J. Harris. Again, Harris struggled right from the start to find the tune’s pitch, although he did settle into the song as it went on. The judges agree that he has a beautiful tone and an uncanny ability to connect to the live audience and those at home.
Last up on 80s night was Caleb Johnson, who selected Journey’s “Faithfully” to impress the voters. Johnson sounded almost exactly like Journey frontman Steve Perry, committing to the tender start of the song and delivering the powerful ending. All the judges agreed that Johnson didn’t disappoint this week.
In the duets this week, Sam Woolf and Alex Preston sang “The Girl Is Mine” by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. Jena Irena and Caleb Johnson sang Bryan Adams and Tina Turner’s “It’s Only.” Malaya Watson and CJ Harris took on Aretha Franklin and George Michael’s “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me.” Lastly, Jess Meuse and Dexter Roberts sang Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream.”
American Idol returns to Fox Thursday at 9/8c to narrow down the field to seven.
– Chelsea Regan
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