It's 80s night on American Idol, as the Top 8 take on the big ballads from the decade that brought us MTV.
After the save was used on Sam Woolf last week, the stakes are higher for every contestant now. There's no coming back if they don't lay it all out there on the stage tonight.
Bonus for the week: David Cook is mentoring the contestants!
Let's get started!
Since it's 80s night, Keith Urban is wearing a faux-mullet. I almost said "rocking" the faux-mullet but then realized no, no he's not rocking that at all. He didn't rock it when he was 16 and it's a terrible look for him now.
Whew. Thank god those are gone.
Jena Irene is kicking off the night with Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll." She's starting with a stripped down piano arrangement which is interesting because she doesn't spend enough time behind the piano for it to really matter. She could've had someone else playing while she stood at the mic and sang. Either the sound mixing is terrible tonight or this song is in too low a key for her. Her lower register is barely audible. This isn't at all her best performance. AT ALL.
Keith called it a great way to start and found himself drawn to her arrangement. Jennifer thought it "languished" in the middle. Harry didn't love the arrangement but loves Jena's originality. 2.5/5
Up next, Dexter Roberts is tackling "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." David tells him to enunciate and not allow himself to be shown up by the rhythm guitarist on stage with him. He only sort of enunciates, but there's definitely energy in the performance, even if it isn't necessarily coming from Dexter. It's not his best but it's not his worst.
Jennifer says he always sings "perfect," and feels like this is the performance where he showed his own voice. Harry thought he bought himself the opportunity to rock out tonight with last week's performance. Keith wants him to feel free to "do something completely unexpected." 3.5/5
Sam and Alex grab acoustic guitars and sing "The Doggone Girl Is Mine." They are both clearly solo artists.
Malaya Watson picked a Chaka Khan number. She starts sitting down, which is good because when she stands up the whole time, she loses control of her performance. She hits a few big notes and the audience cheers, but something tells me Harry won't approve. Overall, she has a really great tone and chose the right song for herself.
Keith kicks off the commentary by telling her to lay back into the performance a bit because her voice isn't limiting. Jennifer echoes Keith and tells her to relax a little bit more, particularly as she's hitting the bigger notes. Harry was impressed with the notes she was able to hit given her age, but felt like the whole number built up to that big note. 4/5
Caleb and Jena get the chance to rock it out together in a duet. They're having a blast singing together and that makes the entire thing fun and bearable.
|Through The Fire||Malaya Watson||iTunes|
|Every Breath You Take||Alex Preston||iTunes|
|I Love Rock N Roll||Jena Irene||iTunes|
|Call Me||Jessica Meuse||iTunes|
|Free Fallin'||C.J. Harris||iTunes|
|Keep Your Hands To Yourself||Dexter Roberts||iTunes|
Jessica Meuse chose "Call Me" by Blondie, and David called it "lofty." David says he doesn't get that she's enjoying anything, which is a common issue with Jessica week to week. She ditches the guitar and I don't hate it. Maybe that's the key, she needs to ditch the guitar more. That was pretty decent, though she was still a little stiff.
Harry says she has a great voice but she didn't sing in the groove. Keith says he's still waiting for the rest of the release. Jennifer says she didn't exude the sex appeal necessary for the song. 3.5/5
Fresh off last week's save, Sam Woolf chose "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper. That's an excellent song choice because there's a wealth of covers from which he can draw inspiration. They stage him in a pit of girls and I have to imagine that's pretty awkward for the boy who blushes at the implication that there's a special girl in his life. There are a few odd choices in the arrangement but this song has been so thoroughly covered those don't feel out of place. It was a solid performance.
Keith loved that he did it with an acoustic guitar and still wants him to loosen up just a little bit. Jennifer thought he did a great job as she watched him intently. Harry says he's getting better every week but wants him not to forget his audience and focus solely on the cameras. 4/5
C.J. and Malaya sing "I Knew You Were Waiting." Malaya is grooving! Totally feeling this and loving it. C.J. is out of his comfort zone and settled into the song nicely.
Alex Preston is switching up "Every Breath You Take" by the Police. He manages to make what is an otherwise stalker-ish song sound like a love song, or like a song being sung by a guardian angel looking over loved ones. It's uncanny how this arrangement completely changes the song in such an amazing way. Wow. That was just really fantastic.
Harry really liked that it sounded like a completely new song, but what he doesn't like week to week is that Alex is a performer and not an entertainer. Keith commented that Alex's voices grabs his attention immediately but tells him to take liberty with the tempos. Jennifer disagrees with the guys in the sense that she missed the melody of the song as it was originally. 5/5
Dexter and Jessica sing "Islands In The Stream" and this might be the best Jessica has ever sounded.
C.J. Harris chose "Free Fallin." It's so hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this song is from the 80s, first of all, and second of all, C.J. gives it a slightly different vibe courtesy of John Mayer. C.J. always looks like he's in pain when he sings, which makes watching him difficult. If I close my eyes, I actually really like this performance. I love him and his spirit.
Jennifer says it started a little shaky but came together by the end. She loves the way he touches people's hearts. Harry hammers home again the fact that C.J. doesn't sing in tune. Keith calls it a great rendition of the song and loves the survivor tone in C.J.'s voice. 4/5
Closing out the night, Caleb Johnson is singing Journey. "Faithfully," to be exact. Harry told him to slow it down and sing a ballad and that's what he's doing tonight. This is tough to listen to because all I can think about is Finn and Rachel on Glee at their first Sectionals. And I don't like a few of the notes Caleb changed in his arrangement. I don't hate this at all, but I don't love it like the audience does.
Harry said he's been waiting for more subtlety since day one and he got it and he's proud. Keith called it "killer." Like a fanny pack. Jennifer could tell he was out of his comfort zone with the slower tempo. 4/5
First thing's first, what do we have to do to get David Cook to mentor these contestants on a regular basis? Or to become a judge? His commentary and criticisms were spot-on every single time.
Alex Preston won the night with "Every Breath You Take." THAT is how you make a song your own, ladies and gentlemen. I do agree with Keith and Harry's notes that he needs to find a way to entertain while performing, but that was one of my favorite performances in Idol history.
Jena Irene could find herself in the bottom of the pack this week, as might Malaya Watson. Dexter Roberts had one of the weaker performances of the night because he never really settled in.
What did you think of tonight's performances? Which of the contestants won 80s night?
Miranda Wicker was a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in 2017. Follow her on Twitter.