American Idol Top 3: Remember when I said Jena was going to win Season 13? I meant Caleb. I think.

Too close to call.

Too close to call.

The show started strong and ended just as well, sandwiching a bunch of strong performances in between. (This, of course, means ignoring the “Selfie Song,” which sounds like a robot having an abortion and a root canal at the same time).

I can’t remember the last Top 3 week that was so strong from top to bottom. At worst we saw some mediocre performances. Nobody was bad. It was mediocre, good and HOLY CRAP good and with how close Caleb Johnson, Alex Preston and Geena Gina Jena Irene are in talent, the more HOLY CRAP the better.

The Top 3 is awesome because you can really win the season with a terrific performance and I think Caleb did that tonight. His last performance might have been his worst and it was still really good, but it might be costly considering Alex and Jena followed with performances that were received on a much different level of popularity than Caleb.

This was my favorite night of the season because it was a competition. It was a sport. Caleb set the tone and after knocking Alex and Jena down, he kicked them in the face with his second performance, only to have them both get up and throw haymakers in the final – and for the voters, the most memorable – round of the night.

I’m looking forward to Thursday because while I can talk all sorts of shit about how I know who’s going to be in the final, there really isn’t one contestant who I know know will make it (pretend I never said this).

So with all that said, here’s how the night broke down.

ROUND 1 – RANDY JACKSON’S PICKS

Caleb Johnson
“Never Tear Us Apart,” INXS
The only way Wednesday’s show could have started off better would have been if Caleb took J-Lo in his arms, carried her on stage and made sweet passionate love to her while Randy Jackson screamed “CALEB IS IN IT TO WIN IT!!!”

I love 80s music on Idol (my third favorite genre on the show behind Motown and the never-been-done-before-but-I’m-still-hopeful “New Jack Swing) because most of the good songs are easy to rearrange and turn into whatever sound you’re looking for. The only issue is finding the song and the arrangement and in the shock of Season 14, Randy Jackson – who looked like Grimace in his purple coat – found that song and Caleb took it from there.

It was clear his voice wasn’t 100 percent. The bullshit “he can only answer yes or no questions” aside, you could tell because he was afraid to chase some of those notes. I’d hate to have seen what would have happened with Caleb at full strength because it’s likely 40 percent of Idol’s teenage crowd would have lost their virginity without even knowing it.

I’ve said all along – you can win the season in the Top 3 show. You need a memorable performance and Caleb provided one. It might have come a little early for him, but sweet lord it was good.

Alex Preston
“Pompeii,” Bastille
What a bad spot for the guy who just a few weeks ago was the easy favorite to win the show.

Following Caleb wasn’t the best thing for Alex. The song choice was awesome – and saying this about Randy Jackson twice in a row made me worry about Randy’s health.

But as Harry Connick said, it’s a young, hip song, but that’s been where Alex has had his problems – being young and hip. I would have loved to see him do the “singer/songwriter” thing Randy was talking about. That doesn’t mean slowing the pace of the song; maybe it would have sounded better if he just played the guitar and did his thing.

It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It didn’t have that “moment” that propels you ahead of the pack. My concern with Alex is that while his performances have digressed, Caleb and Jena have been gaining momentum and Alex might not have enough to hold them both off with performances like that.

Jena Irene
“Titanium,” David Guetta feat. Sia
I’m just going to ignore the stage performance. The harness was awkward and it looked like Jena had an enormous, giant-sized gown on. The better look would have been right out of “Pitch Perfect” – sing it in the shower wearing a bath towel while Brittany Snow showed everyone her boobs.

Another great song choice by Randy – so weird saying nice things about the Dawgfather – and it was performed well by Jena. It was a good performance; nothing more, nothing less.

What it needed to be great was it needed to be more Jena and less the hit that it is. Why not put her in front of the piano and have her play it that way instead of the massive stage production? Jena doesn’t need theatrics to enhance her performances; she’s not a no-singing clown like Britney or Ke$ha.

Her performance as a whole was better than Alex but it wasn’t comparable to Caleb because he was the only one who did something different. However, Jena was better as her karaoke song than Alex was at it, so that helps in her attempt to sneak into the final.

ROUND 1 RANKS: 1, Caleb (duh); 2, Jena; 3, Alex.

ROUND 2 – JUDGES’ PICKS

Caleb Johnson
“Demons,” Imagine Dragons
This wasn’t quite Jordan battling through the flu/hangover during Game 5 of the ’97 NBA Finals, but it was a pretty ballsy performance from Caleb considering his voice.

I think a lot of the times singers say they’re sick and act the part to get sympathy votes. That conspiracy was thrown out the window during this performance the first time Caleb went to hit a big note and his voice wasn’t there. He knew it. So he improvised.

It sounded fine. You could tell where he needed big notes and his substitutions filled those holes – and there was definitely some other improvisation in the performance – and it was frustrating, only because had he been healthy and nailed this performance, the title would be his.

Still, the performance was damn good. He proved he’s more than a classic-rock, power-ballad singer (and that bullshit from Harry Connick basically asking if he’d do an album of just cover songs. Wish he would have gone rock on him, bumped out a line on the judges table and said “Yeah Harry, that’s what I’m going to do. All cover songs, all the time. Dick.”).

But the best part of the performance? He really set the bar for the round. If you can do that out of the one spot you’re in good shape.

Alex Preston
“Stay,” Rhianna
Loved what the producers judges did with this selection – give Alex a pop song that’s not in his realm, but letting him do what he does to it.

This wasn’t Adam Lambert’s “Tracks of my Tears” or David Cook’s “Always Be My Baby” and it certainly wasn’t Kris Allen’s “Heartless,” but it was a strong effort. I could have done without the bass beat that boomed over the soft guitar and Alex’s gentle handling of the vocals because it totally took the Alexness out of the performance. And yes, I just said Alexness.

It was an improvement over his first performance, but it needed to be bigger. A lot bigger, because it put Alex in a spot where he’s totally relying on his fans to come through for him instead of him making people want to vote for him over the other two competitors.

Jena Irene
“Heart Attack,” Demi Lovato
It just didn’t sound right.

I wanted to like it. If there’s one thing that this guy loves, it’s stupid teeny-bopper pop songs (true story: highlight of my wedding reception was me and my friends, drunk, singing “Party in the USA” on the dance floor) and

I can get down with “Heart Attack.”

I couldn’t get down with that.

Despite what the judges said, it wasn’t a good performance. Her vocals were off from the start. She hit the big notes – she is Jena, after all – but there was no flow to the performance. The song selections was just fine but the performance wasn’t what it needed to be to give herself separation from Alex, which sucks for Jena because it was right there for the taking.

Again, would have been much better for Jena to sit at a piano and play. That’s where she can win the contest. She just needed someone telling her “Win Idol first, be an artist after.”

ROUND 2 RANKS: 1, Caleb; 2, Alex; 3, Jena.

ROUND 3 – HOMETOWN PICKS

Caleb Johnson
“Dazed and Confused,” Led Zeppelin
Caleb just sent himself to the final, provided America remembers this is still about who performs the best when it matters most, and in all likelihood will be the Season 13 champ.

His hometown vote kinda screwed him over because if he was healthy, this would have been the song that blew everyone away. The judges obviously lost their minds over Wednesday’s performance – because they’re robots with no emotion or logic – but it wasn’t where his first version of the Zeppelin classic was and it wasn’t even as good as his first two performances.

But it was Caleb. He rocked, but with bluesy sensibilities. He shows his balls (not literally) by putting his vocal chords on the line in his last run where he chased the big note. He didn’t get it, but the effort wasn’t lost on anyone and you have to love that – he went all out because if he didn’t, there’s a chance he’s not around to sing next week.

He’ll be back. Hopefully his voice will too.

Alex Preston
“Story of My Life,” One Direction
It almost wasn’t fair for one of the most popular teen-pop songs to be an option for Alex to sing, especially since he crushed that song in the Top 10. That song alone will garner him votes but, to be honest, he deserved them because his take on “Story of My Life” is so good. So good.

There’s really not a lot to say about it. The song is tailor-made for Alex and really shows off his abilities as an artist. The original performance gave us a glimpse at what kind of contestant he could be – and that’s really all that matters – but throughout the season, he seemed to lose track.

If that was his final performance, it’s a hell of a way to go out.

But it really might have been enough to save him.

Jena Irene
“Creep” Radiohead
If American Idol was a football game, it was the fourth quarter and Jena was on the 20, needing a touchdown to get the win.

She certainly sounded like she got in the end zone.

Her take on “Creep” was good the first time but better on Wednesday and that’s important because that’s when it mattered most. I wasn’t a big fan of the arrangement because Jena sounds so, so, so good on the piano with passion dripping from every note. In the first performance she lost a little of that passion when the rock part of the song hit (as you can tell, I’m a music aficionado).

Not Wednesday. She had control and it made the performance better than the previous go at it. Bow will it be enough?

That’s a tough question. She’s in the pimp spot, so that’ll add some votes to the total, but can one performance carry you to the final?

I think it can. We’ll see what America thinks tomorrow.

ROUND 3 RANKS: 1, Alex; 2, Jena; 3, Caleb.

So who’s getting through tomorrow night?

If you base it on the season as a whole, I don’t have a problem with any of the three making it to the final.

They’re all close and have all taken different paths – Caleb was solid from start to finish; Alex was amazing at the start of the season but tapered off at the end; Jena started slowly, improved, then dominated the show. Either of them can make a claim.

For me, I’m using the NCAA hoops philosophy – I want the hottest (not that way pervo) performers in the final and that makes my picks easy.

Give me Caleb in the final based on being the strongest tonight and I’ll take Jena because she’s been the best the last couple of weeks.

However, I don’t know if America will see it that way. I think voters put Caleb and Alex in the final, which is tough because I really, really want to see Jena there.

We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. And if I don’t have to work Friday, booze on.

-Dude

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