American Idol Top 5: We all saw Jessica’s thigh tattoo, right? Just making sure

This was the highlight of the night. Not. Even. Close.

This was the highlight of the night. Not. Even. Close.

I wanted there to be more.

I wanted bigger songs and bigger performances. I wanted to cry – something that’s not so hard to make me do when I have a couple cocktails. I wanted to jump out of my seat after performances and embarrassingly take part in an at-home standing O.

None of that happened, but it wasn’t a bad night.

It just didn’t help me straighten out who’s winning this show.

For the last several weeks it’s been Alex Preston and Caleb Johnson, with Geena Gina Jena Irene on the outside looking in, Jessica Meuse getting crushed by the judges and losing her place and Sam Woolf getting a huge push by the judges/producers. After tonight things may have changed.

I don’t know if Alex is as much of a slam dunk as I previously thought. He’s clearly a one-trick pony, but that pony never fucking loses. I mean ever.

Caleb is my new favorite to win. He showed a ton of balance tonight, getting us into bed with a ballad, then impregnating us with his second performance.

Jessica was good, but there is no way anyone associated with the show is going to let her get past this week. If you don’t think the SamSpiracy is legit, you’re not paying attention.

I don’t know what it was about this week. There were some great performances, but I’m so concerned about the fix being in that I don’t think they’re going to matter.

What I’m more worried about is we haven’t had Motown Week yet. That’s traditionally the week we see the best of the best, so I’m praying we get it next week. I feel like Motown would not be good for Sam or Alex and since they’re driving ratings, we’re not getting it.

And with no Motown, this whole season gets an asterisk.

Onto the performances.


Alex Preston
“Sweater Weather,” by The Neighborhood
Hated the song. Hated it, but it had nothing to do with Alex. I’m just a father of two who listens to the same stuff he did when I was in my mid-20s and children’s songs. Boom, fatherhood. Hipster music doesn’t resonate with me because I’m not a music snob.

So from my virgin ears, Alex did a better job with that fast-paced song considering how brutal he was performing Neon Trees’ “Animals” last week. I wasn’t blown away and it didn’t make me change my opinion on hipsters – STOP PEGGING YOUR PANTS AND TAKE OFF THOSE SILLY GLASSES – and I’m definitely not going out to buy the song on iTunes, but it was good enough that I didn’t want to change the station.

The downside was it may have been forgettable, but that could be a good thing coming out of the No. 1 slot. He wasn’t great enough to remember, but he wasn’t so bad that people won’t vote either.

Caleb Johnson
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
This song is perfect as is for American Idol. It’s got terrific tempo and plenty of chances to show off strong vocals even if its original singer wasn’t really good at that (Steven Tyler’s singing ability is too much shrieking cats for me). Copying a song doesn’t usually go over well at this point because you need to make an impression if you want to prove you’re a legit final contender.

When David Cook did it in Season 7 in the Final 3 and made it his own, increasing the pace in his arrangement and adding violins to the mix. It was perfect; similar enough not to turn people off, different enough to make you not think karaoke.

Caleb was the same tonight. His slow start was haunting and brilliant, similar to when Jena started Radiohead’s “Creep;” unlike Jena, he didn’t change the tempo and turned it from a rock ballad to a beautifully done love song.

It was a different Caleb. He didn’t rock our faces off. He showed he’s the complete package and hell, after the way Alex started, maybe made a case that he’s the Idol everyone should be worried about.

Jessica Meuse
“Human” by Christina Perri
This contest is more rigged than the NBA Playoffs.

The producers/judges have zero intent on letting Jessica stay ahead of Sam or beat Jena or find a way to sneak into the Top 2. She’s so anti-American Idol; she’s got the smokey voice, the bad-ass attitude, the pink punk hair (as opposed to the “doing it because I don’t fit in with the cool kids” pink hair) and to let her do well on this show would be a travesty because she’s as marketable as Brian Dunkelman. Boom, roasted.

Tonight was Jessica at her best. She took a very poppy song – which I found out from YouTubing it – and made it sound a hell of a lot less like a pop song and more like something people would want to hear from a rock goddess.

There was no doubt it was the best performance through the first three performers – but the fun didn’t start until after she finished.

Instead of praising her for the arrangement, how she sang it or what it would do for her chances, they talked about her emotions on stage. That was it. No praise. Now compare that to the praise lavished on Sam’s performance last week – where he sounded like a drunk frat bro singing “Still the One” – and it’s hard not to believe in the SamSpiracy (copyright pending).

Sam Woolf
“Sing” by Ed Sheeran
He was wearing a dashiki and that wasn’t even the worst part of Sam’s first performance.

It’s not fair to be too harsh on Sam. Seconds before he was going to perform live on national TV, his celebrity crush – the smoking hot Ariana Grande – came out to surprise him and Sam was noticeably flustered. Remember being that age and a hot chick you didn’t expect to talk to you would? Now multiply that by a million. I don’t think I would have been able to talk if Britney Spears walked up to me when I was in high school.

The performance was flat. There was no excitement and no passion. In other words, it was a typical Sam performance.

Jena Irena
“My Body,” by Young the Giant
Is anyone picking better songs right now than Jena?

It seems like every song is in her wheelhouse (I realized how poor this observation is after her second performance; apparently I jinxed the shit out of her) and she, more than anyone – included hipster Alex and rock god Caleb – knows who they are as an artist.

She came out dressed like Waldo – and I’m not gonna comment on her looks because I know how to use Wikipedia to find out how old someone is – and sounded glorious. These songs are hers. I didn’t know “My Body” (except the Levert, Sweat, Gill right HERE) but I listened to hers and then listened to the original and Jena Irene > Young the Giant.

After that performance I’m starting to think Jena could sneak her way into the Top 2. I think.

Round 1 ranks: 1, Jessica Meuse; 2, Caleb Johnson; 3, Jena Irene; 4, Alex Preston; 5, Sam Woolf


Alex Preston
“Say Something” by Great Big World
Sitting on a stool with his acoustic guitar singing a song that involves a tender voice and emotion dripping off his face is where Alex is at his best. He was stellar with his second performance and only makes the decision to sing that first selection more puzzling.

My issue with Alex’s performance had nothing to do with Alex and more to do with the judges. All season we’ve heard them berate contestants for sounding “exactly like the original” or “like any guy at any honky tonk in Nashville.”

So my question is, why not use that same critique on Alex (because god knows they wouldn’t on Sam)?

Alex’s version was the exact same as you’d hear on the radio. This should have been pointed out. I hate the inconsistency in the judging. It’s maddening that they don’t notice it, but it’s clear they aren’t equipped to handle this contest because at this point they’re taking their cues from someone else. They know who the producers want to get through and who they don’t.

Now I still loved Alex’s performance. He gets a save from me because I don’t know this song and really appreciated how he performed it. He should be safe, but with the way Caleb and Jena have been performing, Top 2 doesn’t look like a lock anymore.

Jena Irene
“Valerie” by Amy Winehouse Mark Ronson The Zutons
Problem 1: Jim Gosz is a loser. The bowling shirt was a dead giveaway, unless that’s a huge piece in Indiana.

The song Jim Gosz wanted to hear wasn’t Valerie by Amy Winehouse, it was the Amy Winehouse version of the Zutons’ song “Valerie.” If you don’t think this is a big deal, you must be pretty cool with theft at your workplace. Let me know where that is so I can steal your product/ideas and say they’re all mine.

Problem 3: Jena tried to not copy the Amy Winehouse version exactly and it just wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad either, but this was the first time where I think she picked a song (and don’t give me the BS about “the fan picked it;” Jena picked Jim Gosz’ recommendation out of problem 7-10 choices) that seemed tailored for her that just wasn’t.

She doesn’t deserve to be sent home for it. It just wasn’t her best. It wasn’t her worst, but instead of her sneaking her way in as a favorite to be in the Top 2, I think she’s still on the outside looking in (and that was only something I decided after the night’s final performance).

Sam Woolf
“How To Save a Life” by The Fray
So this started poorly and, despite what J-Lo said, didn’t really get better and this time he doesn’t have a smoking hot celebrity to blame,

As much as I hate the judges for not pointing out Alex for doing a dead-cover version, not calling out Sam is even more perplexing.

Remember when Keith Urban made the point that Dexter Roberts sounded like any guy at any honky tonk in Nashville? Well the same could be said about Sam because he sounds like any guy on any college campus with an acoustic guitar on the quad. He’s going to have a solid career singing in upscale bars and bringing home tail I could never imagine. But his voice isn’t unique. If he wasn’t the hunky teen, he wouldn’t be in the Top 5. If he wasn’t what an “American Idol” is supposed to look like, he wouldn’t be in the Top 5. He’s very good.

The judges’ critiques are shameful. J-Lo gets goosies for just about everything nowadays, and for her to say that made goosies as relevant as her first album.

I’d say he’s Bottom 2 and will go home, but SamSpiracy, so fuck it, right?

Jessica Meuse
“Summertime Sadness,” Lana Del Rey
This was not a night for the old guy, because I didn’t know this song – one of the many I didn’t know tonight. Now I know how J-Lo feels every week.

And then it became the best night ever because THIGH TATTOO!!!

My brain temporarily stopped working after the thigh tattoo came out. That was the definition of a business tatt – she doesn’t want the public to see it, it’s just meant for private shows, much like Kevin Durant’s artwork – and it was awesome.

But so was her performance. It was so out of the ordinary for Jess. It wasn’t a rock. It wasn’t country. It wasn’t from the south. It was a pop song sung by someone with a terrible voice (look for LDR’s SNL embarrassing SNL performance) and she made it sound majestic.

What shocked me was the judges were able to say something nice about it because the SamSpiracy is in full force and they want her gone.

She might have been able to overcome it with that performance.

Caleb Johnson
“Still of the Night,” by Whitesnake
Caleb Johnson just banged everyone in American.

He lulled you in with his first performance and did you rotten by rocking your face off. It was awesome. Caleb is gonna rock and he doesn’t care how hard or how much it sounds like the original. If this was the 80s, Caleb would have already won the show and developed a horrible cocaine habit.

I want to say I don’t know if he can keep doing that, but the dirty little secret of the American Idol fanbase is most of the voting public is people who want to hear songs that fucking rock. Yes, I said fucking rock, because for them to just rock wouldn’t be enough.

The only thing that would have made the performance better would have been a strung out Tawney Kittaen wearing lingerie rolling around on Corvettes. Maybe next week.

Round 2 ranks: 1, Alex Preston; 2, Jessica Meuse; 3, Caleb Johnson; 4, Jena Irene; 5, Sam Woolf

So who’s Bottom 2? That’s tough.

Jessica wins the night because he had two really good performances. Caleb is right up there so he should be safe. Alex is Alex and Jena is Jena, so now I really don’t know.

I’m doing to do what I do and make a crazy but informed prediction. Sam will be in the Bottom 2 where he’ll be joined by … Jena. Why?

She was better than Alex, but Alex’s second performance was much better.

I’m putting faith in America to not vote in Jessica, who was No. 2 on my list tonight. Caleb would only be in because he never calls the night after effing America’s face off.

So there it is – Sam is out, Jena in the bottom two and I’m sticking with it.

See you tomorrow night.