Zooey Deschanel stopped by and kicked off “American Idol” tonight, April 30, shouting Ryan Seacrest’s opening line of, “This is American Idol!” This week, the contestants worked with Jason Mraz to prepare songs chosen for them by America.
Alex Preston started the show with The Neighborhood’s “Sweater Weather.” Keith told him he did a great job, but he wouldn’t have minded a bit more soaring with the vocal. Jennifer thought he pulled it off nicely and agreed with Keith. Harry gave Alex an A+ for remembering all the lyrics. He could hear him doing a song like that on his record and thought it was a strong opening to the show.
Caleb Johnson was up next, with Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” Jennifer said Caleb sang the song beautifully, but she could tell it was a challenge for him. She liked that he still made it Caleb and didn’t try to copy Steven Tyler. Harry told Caleb to try looking at others in the room instead of right into the camera – he thought it was a strong performance, but it could have been stronger if he did that. Keith wanted Caleb to let his feelings drive the song instead of his skills in order to get to the next level.
Jena Irene, Alex, and Sam sang American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life.” Keith was on his feet and said it was good. Ryan asked the trio what they thought, and they said they had fun.
Jessica Meuse sang Christina Perri’s “Human.” Harry said even though Jessica was thinking about all the criticisms she had, his favorite part of the performance was that she listened and really wanted to get better. It wasn’t his favorite performance, but he was proud of her for taking their comments seriously and improving every week. Keith said it was a good song for her and liked the fragility in her voice. Jennifer liked that Jessica got lost in what she was singing and what she felt.
Sam Woolf performed Ed Sheeran’s “Sing.” Keith said it was a tough song, but he did as good a job as he could. Jennifer liked seeing Sam relaxed and that he got funkier. Harry said rhythm is paramount if he was going to “funk it up.” He thought he was diffusing some of the funk from the band by laying back too much, but it was cool to see him do something different.
Jena Irene wrapped up the first half of the show with Young the Giant’s “My Body.” Jennifer told her she sounded good, and she liked that her signature styles were coming together. Harry said Jena might be surprised at how much the little things help her in the long run. He also said it was huge that she moves to the beat and uses the stage more than anyone else does. Keith thinks it is so cool that Jena is a lean-in performer, but she can also play piano and write music.
Caleb and Jessica were up next, with The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.” Keith nodded along and smiled while bobbing around at the judges’ table. Ryan asked if any of them had ever sung that song, and Keith said he had. He also thought Caleb and Jessica killed it.
For his second solo song of the night, Alex Preston sang Great Big World’s “Say Something.” Harry liked to see Alex struggling with the emotion and not give into it and said it was a beautiful performance before saying it was the performance of the night. Keith thanked America for picking that song and said it was beautiful. Jennifer agreed.
Jena took on Amy Winehouse’’s “Valerie.” Keith loves the song, but he loves the version that is more up-tempo. Jennifer didn’t think that was Jena’s best song because of the tempo. Harry thought it wasn’t her best or her worst – it was right in the middle.
Sam sang The Fray’s “How to Save a Life.” Jennifer thought it was a little shaky in the beginning, but it got better as he went along. Harry said it was the perfect song choice for Sam, but there were some pitch issues. He added that it all seemed like it was one volume and wished he had sung with the break in his voice like he did at the end for the entire song. Keith felt like Sam started to own the song, and by the end, he had him.
Jessica Meuse was up next, with Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness.” Harry thought it was the perfect song for her and said the performance was a perfect marriage of voice and song. Keith wanted her to dig in more emotionally, and Jennifer agreed. She felt it was all going to go somewhere, and it was just a bit more about finding the song in her body and going with it.
Caleb closed the show with “Still of the Night,” by Whitesnake. Keith said it was absolutely awesome and sarcastically remarked he loves when Caleb does those tender ballads. Jennifer loves how the band performs with him, and it was crazy. Harry said you just can’t sing any song better than that.