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Author Information

Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 28 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

American Idol XIII: Top 3 Performance Show, Three’s a Crowd, Two’s a Finale…

It’s hard to believe that we’re already just a few days away from the big Idol finale. Season 13 has been a wild ride filled with inconsistent, but generally good performances and inconsistent, but general good judging and, well… inconsistent, but generally good results and all of those things held true during our Top 3 show as the contestants battled it out with three songs for a spot on the (much bigger) Nokia stage come Tuesday night. The three rounds of singing were chosen by Randy, the judges and a reprise chosen by the contestant’s hometowns, respectively so let’s see what each of them chose for our contestants and how they did.

Round 1: Randy’s Picks

Caleb awaits the judge’s feedback after his INXS cover, Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

1. Caleb Johnson – “Never Tear Us Apart” (INXS) – After getting over the initial shock of Randy declaring he would pick something current for Caleb and then choosing a song from 1987, I tried to focus on how Caleb was actually handling the song. There was no doubt that his voice truly was shot (though I’m still not sure it was necessary for a doctor in scrubs to come out and tell us that, especially given the fact that Alex was also suffering from vocal limitations, but I digress). I think it was cool to hear Caleb do a downtempo song again and he definitely had the swagger and feeling of this song, like the judges said, I just wish we could have heard him do it with his full voice because, as it was, it wasn’t a great start to the night for him by any means.

Rating: C

Alex rocks out on the drums during Pompeii, Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

2. Alex Preston – “Pompeii” (Bastille) – I was a little nervous when Randy chose this song for Alex because it’s definitely one that requires a lot of sound and Alex has never really been about big sound, but our resident “troubadour” brought out the drums and despite a little awkwardness during the mic exchange, he really took it to another level with those drums. I sympathize with him because it truly is hard to sing and play drums at the same time. It requires keeping two different melodies and I was impressed with how well he pulled it off, but the judges gave him very muted praise for, what I thought, was a fairly decent performance.

Rating: B

Jena’s bedazzled for Titanium, Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

3. Jena Irene – “Titanium” (David Guetta feat. Sia) – Like I said previously, I think Randy’s choice were far for each contestant. I didn’t think like any of them were being bussed and I felt like all of them had the potential to make something have decent out of the song he gave them. Giving Jena a David Guetta song with Sia’s vocals seemed perfect for her EDM Rocker vibe, but I do agree with the judges that the song seemed to be pitched just a tad to low for her and she never really felt comfortable inside it like I had expected her to, especially after she tackled “Clarity”, which is quite similar, so handedly. 

Rating: C+

Round 2: Judge’s Choice

1. Caleb Johnson – “Demons” (Imagine Dragons) – Like Randy, I thought the judges chose some pretty decent songs but all of Caleb’s vocal limitations were highlighted in the most banal way during this performance. Despite what JLo said, I never felt like Caleb found his centre. Half the time he seemed sharp and the other half he seemed flat. I think had Caleb rearranged the song a bit, he might have avoided all of that, but it’s such a well-known song right now and he may not have known how his voice would be in time to do that. Still, this was definitely a misstep for our old school rocker.

Rating: D

Alex gets high praise for his Rihanna remix, Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

2. Alex Preston – “Stay” (Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko) – If Caleb’s performance of Demons was an overdressed, soggy caesar salad, Alex’s was the filet mignon that redeemed the meal. The urban vibe that his arrangement had breathed new life into a song that’s been done to death on reality shows and Alex’s voice, despite being sick, sounded as crisp and clear as ever. Earlier in the night, Harry asked Caleb what kind of songs he’d put on his album. I think that was a great question to ask, but I think if he had asked Alex, Alex might have said something exactly like this performance. And if that were the case, I’d be buying his album.

Rating: A

Jena rocks the Demi track given to her by the judges, Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

3. Jena Irene – “Heart Attack” (Demi Lovato) – Again, I understood what the judges were trying to do with this song. Demi has a bit of a edgy pop vibe to her and I felt like Jena did as well as she could with this song. It took a while to get into the groove and get going, but the choruses felt really comfortable and spot on in her range. I think the judges were trying to show that she’s marketable and comparable to some of the popular female singers out there today, but I almost wish they had given her “Skyscraper” instead, despite the fact that she’d be busting out her piano a second time for “Creep” later in the night.

Rating: B

Round 3: Reprise’s Chosen by the Contestant’s Hometowns

Caleb gets gritty for his Led Zeppelin reprise, Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

1. Caleb Johnson – “Dazed and Confused” (Led Zeppelin) – I think despite JLo’s body grinding and Keith’s head-banging, this was not Caleb’s best performance by any means. Behind all that microphone slamming, were some not-so-pleasant vocals. I was hoping Harry would call Caleb out on this one and tell him that his reprisal was subpar compared to his original rendition of this song. Hopefully, if there are reprisals in the finale, Caleb’s voice is healed and he really does strive for the high quality performances that he usually delivers.

Rating: C+

2. Alex Preston – “Story of My Life” (One Direction) – Alex’s reprisal was sandwiched somewhere in between Jena and Caleb’s, both chronologically and quality-wise. Alex, like Caleb, didn’t improve on his original rendition of the song, but I think that’s almost the expectation with reprisals. Part of the magic of the original is that you never know how it’s going to play out, so when it’s done well, you’re happily surprised. In the reprise, your expectations are higher and while Alex brought some different, interesting vocal tricks to the song, I still felt like it was good but not great.

Rating: B-

3. Jena Irene – “Creep” (Radiohead) – In contrast to her competitors, Jena’s reprise went somewhere new. In her original rendition of Creep, she stumbled a bit and I felt like she was still getting comfortable with the song, but this time around, she was so much more comfortable with it that she was able to tap into the emotion of the song. There were hints of insecurity, hints of pride in who she was and, given her journey from dark horse to frontrunner, it all felt very appropriate. I have to say, I’m glad Jena was able to close the night with this as a reminder of why she deserved to be in the finale, otherwise I would have been worried for her as well, given how inconsistent all three performers were tonight.

Rating: A

In the end, the results were kind of anti-climactic. The production had given Caleb the “poor, unfortunate soul” edit, while Alex, who claimed to be equally sick on twitter, got nothing of the sort. That edit may have punched Caleb’s ticket to the finale, it’s hard to say. All three performers boast a very consistent body of work and I don’t think we would have been remiss with any combination of the three in the finale, but I still was hoping we’d have Alex versus Jena.

As for the hometown visits, Jena’s grandparents left me a little teary-eyed, while Alex’s bandmates showed that he’s still the same, humble guy he was before the show. Caleb’s desire for the rockstar life shone through in his package too, but it will be interesting to see how that plays with the voters come next week.

(Sidenote: How awesome was it when the Season 13 contestants gave the cameras the Hunger Games salute? Is Idol finally became self-aware of it’s own cruelty? Wishful thinking?)

So now, before I leave you, it’s time to do something that I did back during Season 12. It’s Jena versus Caleb. Modern Rock Girl vs. Classic Rock Guy. Who will take the title? Let’s look at the stats:

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

Why Caleb Might Win…

1. As we saw on Thursday, Caleb calls Asheville, NC home, while Jena calls Farmington Hills, MI home. Other than Lee DeWyze, who is from Illinois, none of the winners have been from the Northern part of the United States. The Southern voting block rules on Idol: Kelly from Texas, Ruben from Alabama, Fantasia from North Carolina, Carrie from Oklahoma, Taylor from Alabama, Jordin from Arizona, David Cook from Missouri, Kris from Arkansas, Scotty from North Carolina, Phil from Georgia and Candice from South Carolina. Based on these stats, Caleb definitely has the upper hand in this category, but will Season 13’s introduction of limited voting mean that Jena will be able to overcoming the all-powerful southern vote?

2. There’s a website called What Not To Sing that compiles what various websites thought about the performances after each show and calculates the states on them to give them ratings out of 100. It also calculates the “Standard Deviation” meaning how often did viewers disagree on a performance. For example, if Caleb gave a performance that half the audience loved and half the audience hated, it would have a higher standard deviation that if everyone loved it or everyone hated it. This rating generally only matters when it comes to the finale, where viewers can actually vote “against” a contestant, since there are only two options and, as of right now, Caleb has a lower standard deviation, meaning more people agree on his performances. Could that bode well for him when it comes time for viewers to pick between him and the more polarizing Jena?

3. And last, but certainly not least, we have to address the real elephant in the room. Sure, Candice and Kree bucked the trend of male winners last season, but none of the guys from last season got anywhere close to the finale. The last time a girl topped a guy in the finale was back in Season 6 when Jordin Sparks beat out Blake Lewis (who’s new album “Portrait of a Chameleon” comes out in 2 days and I reviewed here). Will the limited voting allow Jena to do the same? Or will Caleb reclaim the crown for the men?

Credit: Fox + 19 Entertainment

Why Jena might win…

1. Spoiler alert: Jena won the all-important coin toss after the results show on Thursday and she chose to go… second! Being the last thing voters see can be a real asset if you can blow them away right before the lines open. In seasons past, only 4 of our 12 winners (Scotty McCreery, Lee DeWyze, David Cook and Ruben Studdard) have won after performing first. Fortunately for Caleb, all of them were men and two of them were battling women. Can Caleb buck the trend or will Jena use the pimp spot and put up a show stopper to snatch up the undecided voters?

2. Both Caleb and Jena released their singles on iTunes after Thursday’s results. Jena’s (entitled “We Are One“) harnesses the Kelly Clarkson aspects of Jena’s voice with a catchy pop vibe while Caleb’s (entitled “As Long As You Love Me“) is a bit more a slow rock jam. I’ve always said that the person who really rocks their winners single tends to take it all (as evidenced by Fantasia Barrino’s grand slam on “I Believe” or Phillip Phillip’s profound first crack at “Home“). While we’ve yet to see them live, I’d give Jena the upper hand in terms of song quality on this one, but check back after the finale performance show and I’ll let you know if hearing them live changed my mind.

3. In contrast to Caleb, who peaked early in the competition, Jena just started peaking now with Creep and then Can’t Help Falling In Love. Peaking at the right time is key in the competition and given that Caleb has kind of been on the downswing, Jena might have enough momentum in the finale to keep that going with another one of her great piano covers. Add in the fact that Alex’s fans might resent Caleb a little more for the “sick” edit he got and she might just snatch up a few of them come next week.

In the end, it’s pretty hard to tell who will win before we see the performances but, in years past, the actually quality of performances and the feedback the judges give hasn’t really mattered. Most people seem to have the mind made up before the contestants even sing a single note. Whether the same will hold true this season remains to be seen, but come back on Tuesday night and I’ll give you the lowdown on who I think will be standing centre stage when that confetti drops on Wednesday night. 

Until then, vote in the polls and tell me your favourite performances of the Top 3 show, plus whether you’ve decided on who should win…


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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. American Idol Top 2: The Sleeper Vs The Rock Viking | The Hudsucker - May 20, 2014

    […] case you haven’t checked the polls from my previous article, it turns out that literally everyone who voted had already decided which team they were: Caleb or […]

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