American Idol Top 9 Performance Recap: The Band That Rocks the Idols [Updated]

MB1_4935Nobody (who’s not an employee of Fox or Fremantle Entertainment) is going to pretend the current incarnation of American Idol is the best! season! ever! But for those of us with memories long enough to remember Kara Dioguardi’s “package artist” war cries/crimes, Simon Cowell’s predictable fake-outs and that time Ellen DeGeneres tried her hand at unfiltered critique (it’s OK… she lived to host the Oscars), perhaps we should stop insisting it’s the worst?

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Sure, the nine remaining contenders are a little rough around the edges. There’s not a single contestant with a full page of IMDb credits or multiple failed major-label deals or experience as the musical director for Celine Dion (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But without going all One Direction on you, that’s what makes them beautiful. Or in other words, it’s the growth-under-extreme-pressure arc that’s always made The House That Kelly Clarkson Built (With a Second Wing Furnished by Carrie Underwood) a home of wide-eyed, fun-for-the-whole-family thrills.

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The good news is that tonight, buoyed by an “I’m With the Band!” theme that released Rickey Minor and his motley crew of players from their sidestage cage and allowed them to integrate more fully with the performers, most of the remaining hopefuls showed dramatic (or at least incremental) improvement. Rome wasn’t built in a day — nor was Jennifer Hudson’s path to the EGOT, for that matter.

In other words, with seven weeks of live performances left to go, I’m starting to get more optimistic about the Season 13 extravaganza. I’d be even happier if executive producer Per Blankens took a cue from this week’s successes and moved the Idol house band to a more central location — the better for the contestants to interact with/feed off of/learn from/jam out with more experienced players. It certainly can’t hurt — especially if it increases the number of Allison Iraheta sightings per hour.

So with that in mind, let’s jump to letter grades for tonight’s performances:

Alex Preston: No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” — Grade: A- | Look, I can’t disagree with Harry about wanting to see Alex move away from the mic, start thinking about his season as a full set, and recognize that he needs to shake things up in terms of tone and tempo and movement. That said, his Mraz-y rhythmic choices and jazzy vocal flourishes (loved that “d-d-d-don’t speak”) transported the song to a space far, far away from Gwen Stefani’s vocal approach — without rendering the melody or the emotions unrecognizable. Without any discernably serious mentoring from Randy Jackson (man, the Dawg’s rehearsal comments are meaningless!), Alex continues to champion originality as aggressively as he rolls his pant legs. And isn’t that supposed to be one of the main points of this exercise?

Majesty Rose: Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Out” — Grade: A- | I had serious reservations about Majesty trying to climb a peak as steep and treacherous as Mt. Florence — especially since none of her prior performances hinted at a voice with the range and brute power of Ms. Welch’s. Yet while Majesty’s intonation was by no means perfect, she brought a breeziness to the tune that felt more like making a Snow Angel at the base of the mountain — as opposed to strapping on her climbing gear and scaling the scary heights. Perhaps it was the ’60s waitress/stewardess jumper she was rocking, or the way she shimmyed with her tambourine, but I found myself agreeing with J.Lo that the technical imperfections were trumped by the good vibrations of the performance. Through her phrasing and physical energy, Majesty reminded us that, yes, it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back — but even the scariest of demons can be shaken out of one’s system. I believed it, therefore I dug it.

Dexter Roberts: Little Big Town’s “Boondocks” — Grade: C+ | This was another reasonably OK cover of the kind of soaring, propulsive country anthem Dexter’s been clinging to like a beetle to a windshield for five out of the last six weeks (and that you can hear in just about any saloon with live music in 50 states and parts of Canada). There was nothing especially wrong the Alabama fella’s “Boondocks” — but come on, I’ve had glasses of tap water that were more unpredictable and complex in flavor. And frankly, if Dexter isn’t interested and/or capable of expanding his musical offerings beyond “sparkling,” “still” or “tap,” (OK, “sparkling” is too out-there… who am I kidding?) then how does he really deserve to finish in the upper half of the Season 13 race?

Malaya Watson: The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road” — Grade: B- | How do you solve a conundrum like Malaya? On one hand, it’s hard to not respect the kid for making one of the riskiest song choices of the night — landing on an introspective Beatles classic to follow up her forays into R&B, Broadway and Gospel over the last three weeks. Plus, she continues to show great improvement in terms of restraint (no small task in such a short period of time). But while Keith was dropping platitudes like “you really showed me your spirit,” all I wanted to hear was a maturity in tone, an attempt to quash some of the nasally-ness that causes Malaya’s belted notes to come out on the barely tolerable side of shrieky. The good news for Ms. Watson is that the music biz really is a long and winding road — so she’s got time to perfect her craft, get a little better at conveying the depth of emotion in a song, too. The bad news? I’m not sure that even replacing Randy with a rotating roster of past Idol standouts would be enough to get her ready for a confetti shower by the end of May. (C’mon kid, prove me wrong!)

Sam Woolf: Plain White Ts’ “Hey There Delilah” — Grade: B- | Fun “fact”: The Idol wardrobe department fully intended to dress Sam in a plain white t-shirt this week. The garment in question, however, suffered a traumatic dryer accident and was recast as a dishrag for MasterChef Junior. And that’s how the show’s lone teen heartthrob wound up rocking a throw-pillow cover from the Kathy Ireland for Raymour & Flanigan patio furniture collection. But wait, shouldn’t we be talking about “Hey There Delilah”? (And no, I don’t mean Junot Joyner’s criminally underrated Season 8 rendition.) OK, so here are my thoughts on Sam. He’s got a lovely gruffness to his voice. He almost always sings in tune. He knows the strengths and limitations of his voice. But put aside his guitar, and he’s less Phillip Phillips or Kris Allen than he is Thia Megia or Aaron Kelly — a teenager whose knives aren’t yet sharp enough to cut all the way throught the meat of an emotional lyric. When J.Lo asked if Sam had someone in mind as he sang his song — and the SwayBots began to coo (ugh) — Sam seemed a little flummoxed, as if it hadn’t occurred to him to figure out what the lyric meant to him, specifically. Making matters worse, said emotions never seem to travel onto Sam’s face, adding another layer of disconnect to the proceedings. It could just come down to song choice, but I’m beginning to think Sam’s shortcomings are part of a larger problem. And that problem was he needed a few more years to ripen artistically before getting picked for the Idol Top 30.

Jessica Meuse: Fleetwood Mac’s “Rihannon” — Grade: B+ | I’m with J.Lo in that I could listen to Jessica sing all day — her voice is just so clear and cutting and full of sneaky little twists. (I’m also gonna take this opportunity and admit to hooting and hollering when she got to the “dreams unwind, love’s a state of mine” refrain, because I wasn’t sure if it was gonna fit into her abbreviated Idol rendition.) But “Rihannon” was almost too tailored for Jessica’s voice — a slight case of Dexter Roberts Syndrome, if you will. I mean, given all her performing experience, it’s hard not to wonder why Jessica isn’t bolder in the song selection department, why she doesn’t attempt radical reimagingings of songs you’d never expect her to perform, why she gave us “The Crow and the Butterfly” in Top 13 week and has deliberately refused to rock our faces off or get out of the midtempo lane ever since. In other words, on its own, “Rihannon” was lovely. But as part of her larger body of Season 13 work, it was just a tad underwhelming.

C.J. Harris: The Steel Drivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” — Grade: C- | Let me take a page from my pal Melinda Doolittle’s Twitter page and say three nice things: 1. C.J.’s pre-performance package reiterated what a nice fella he seems to be. 2. I love watching how emotional his girlfriend gets while he performs. 3. I’m pretty sure he introduced me to a cool new song in “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” — if you subtract out the dozens and dozens of bunk notes C.J. hit while he delivered it. Meanwhile, as Harry Connick Jr. delivers his third straight week of “Work on your pitch!” pep talks to C.J., Malcolm Allen, Spencer Lloyd, Casey Thrasher, Maurice Townsend and George Lovett look skyward and shout, “That Wild Card shoulda been mine!”

Caleb Johnson: Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” — Grade: A- | How come Caleb gets an A- for a straightforward cover of a song directly in his wheelhouse, while Dexter does the same and gets a C+? Simply put, because Caleb’s cover was explosive — making full use of the band to catapult his sound forward, working the stage with icy cold confidence, nailing every note square on the nose in the process. Plus, it’s not like Caleb’s been content to rest on his laurels, and it’s not like “Dazed and Confused” — with its wide swaths of wordless jamming — wasn’t a teensy bit audacious for a reality singing competition. This one was Rated R…for Rock on With Your Bad Self.

Jena Irene: Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” — Grade: A | She might be just a kid, but I feel like Jena already has her Ph.D. in dynamics — and “Bring Me to Life” might as well have been her thesis. Like water, her voice just slips into the crevices and nooks of whatever song (and whatever genre) she chooses to tackle: There was the haunting beauty of the opening verse, the jolt of aggression on the chorus, the haunted crumbling of the “wake me up inside” repetition on the bridge. And above all else, Jena’s very specific tone and flawless sense of pitch and timing allow her to take ownership rather than to merely borrow the tunes she covers. And if her trajectory of growth continues in this direction, she might wind up taking ownership of Season 13 in its entirety.

Should Be Bottom 3: Dexter, C.J., Sam (C.J. going home)
Will Be Bottom 3: Dexter, C.J., Malaya (C.J. going home)

What did you think of the Top 9? Who were your faves? Who’s in trouble? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments! And for all my reality TV-related news, interviews and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. nicole says:

    Malaya, Alex and Jena are totally the front runners of American Idol 13. These three would make up an outstanding Top 3 homecoming. They are the most consistent so far!

    • Mae Ann says:

      yeah, Malaya, Jena and Alex are my top three as well. This site is already consistently in favor with Majesty Rose even though she had some bad weeks, the writer (—-) on this site still have something to say good to her (every time!) This site wants Majesty to win. =(

      • LeahKittyS says:

        And we are entitled to play favorites. This is not a trial, we are allowed our biases. The writer is human, as are the commenters. We sit on the couch, watch Idol, and give our opinions in this community. The only difference is Michael has to edit his thoughts before sharing and gets paid for it.

    • Timmah says:

      I would substitute Caleb for Malaya. Malaya seems to be improving, but I wouldn’t call her consistent.

  2. Joe says:

    CJ is nailing down his place in my top 5 worst Idol contestants ever. I think if he sang an entire song in tune J. Lo would birth a polar bear on stage.
    If you had to choose between watching Sam Woolf sing or watch him shop for hats, which would choose? Be honest with yourself. I think the mere idea of a Sam shopping montage beats the snot out of him sucking the life out of another song. He’s the Giovanni Ribisi of American Idol. Competent, talented “artists” who just somehow pull the life out of everything they do.
    Jessica dressed like Steven Tyler and sang like Stevie Nicks. Yet I wonder why she got a pass for doing a carbon copy of the original while Dexter gets his hand slapped for the same thing? Really wish Jessica came out in flowy gypsy robe with a wind machine.
    As for Dexter, did anyone else catch Dexter’s friends giving stink eye when the judges were raving about Caleb?
    Anyone else think Uncle Nigel snuck into Malaya’s sessions this week and convinced her it was Beatles week and to do a tortured 60’s arrangement of a played out Idol song? Just me?
    Loved Majesty this week but realized she can’t win this. She still might be the biggest star to come out of the season.
    If Alex takes another rock song and turns it into reggae I’m going to demand Naima Adedapo to come out and wrap him up in a Jamaican flag, smoke him up and abduct him.
    This is the bizarro season we’ve all been waiting for. Everyone can play guitar, lots of them white guys, but Meat Loaf and the rocker chick who in season’s past would settle for 8th place finishes are going to win. Somewhere Elise Testone and the guy with tourettes weep.

    • Temperance says:

      I think Majesty will be the most successful of the lot afterward. Also, Elise just released a single! Check it out.

      • Joe says:

        Temp – I clicked Slezak’s link to it when he posted it and I honestly didn’t like it. I wanted to like it, but it was not a great song and that video she shot for it with her and the guy in the canoe was pretty awful. Iraheta’s video and song with her band were stellar in my opinion. Didi Benami’s song was meh for me too.

    • leftcoastl says:

      So enjoy your astute, entertainingly-communicated observations Joe! Glad you continue to watch & comment.

  3. Jess says:

    An A- for the pitchy, nervous Majesty?!?!

  4. darcy's evil twin says:

    I was out tonight and haven’t watched my DVR yet but I thought I’d check in here and see what happened on the program. Wow, Caleb sang “Dazed and Confused”?????? that is just awesome. I can hardly wait.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I just read what I wrote and realized how old I sounded. :-)
      Watching the Idol recording now. Wow, the stylists went all Diana Ross on Majesty’s hair. And Jess can obviously rock out a little as witnessed on “Satisfaction”.

  5. Shaniam says:

    Sam is the man! Or teenager anyway. He reminds me of a young Ricky Nelson (Google him!). Plus, unlike the others, he’s a talented songwriter. Don’t hate him because he’s a sensitive, sweet non-dancer, non-mover-arounder! Stop trying to change their personalities! Let’s see HCJ or KU dance around the stage first. While I admire Caleb, I thought he did a cover tonight. The judges are SO inconsistent on this topic. “Don’t do covers/be original. Not enough like the original. Blah, blah.”

    • tealeaves says:

      Others are also talented songwriters.

      • Stormy says:

        Not to mention that Keith is all over the stage when he performs. Watch some of his videos on youtube especially the ones directed by Wayne Isham who has also done videos for Bon Jovi.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Someone else mentioned Ricky Nelson and yes, Sam does remind me a bit of Ricky Nelson.
      I also like Caleb – I’m not sure what else you can do with “Dazed and Confused”, though.

  6. Terry says:

    I think all of those grades are way too high. And I think this is the worst season talent wise.

  7. Karrah says:

    Caleb and Majesty get the same grade? While Majesty was better than she has been, she still hit quite a few wonky notes. Caleb was in an entirely different league tonight.

  8. Sara evans says:

    I have yet to see anyone i would waste my time calling to vote for….the judges keep saying this is the most talented group ever!!!!!! Really????? This must be their first competition to judge and we know that ain’t so…..i don’t know what the problem is, some could be that I don’t know many of the songs they thing for sure is their range sucks, none of them can compare to most of the past season contestants..I can see why the audience viewing is down…the show is boring, not entertaining like shows in the past….and it is not the judges, its the talent,its lacking so much compared to years past….too bad…..i much prefer Jimmie as the mentor..randy just isn’t cutting it…..

    • Honey Barlett says:


  9. Nice dig against The Voice. It always comes off as an easy defense, too, that just because they are amateurs people shouldn’t expect too much. Idol (like its now-defunct sister, Xfactor) has had pretenses before, putting in people that have had records already and making them look like real newbies. At least, The Voice is honest, puts the money on professionals and newbies alike (because young amateurs are allowed there too!), and and and delivers real solid performances. So, really, if Idol didn’t deliver as expected this season, don’t rehash old digs at The Voice.

    I have been an Idol fan, and I still am actually. But you have to admit, the drastic change in priorities (focusing on singer-songwriters and non-belting niche artists ) and Harry Connick, Jr haven’t really given Idol the show it wished for. Because to be honest, the people they got or the people they selected to be in the final 12, unique and talented as they are, aren’t really the best vocalists we’ve seen on Idol. And Idol has really been a show for vocalists since it started. And the show is still half-geared for the kind of show it was. I mean, look at what they are doing now, they got or they want to get rid of their signature theme nights without really preparing what to replace it with. And old dog Randy is even still there! The transition guys don’t know what to do really.

    So Michael, Sir, I know where you are coming from. I’ve been a hard-core fan too. Follow Adele Dezeem; let it go. Go admit that Idol did not really live up to the expectations for the change that was promised for this season. Maybe finally, for the spirits of Kelly and Fantasia and Melinda (GOD MELINDA I LOVE YOU) and Adam and Jennifer and every great Idol, it is time for American Idol to get some rest. The better format really is The Voice, right now. (It truly is more music-oriented and it is more open to different genres and the people there really deliver ). So stop shading it just because you’re frustrated with Idol.

    P.S. Also, if you’re not going to allot fair time to it in Reality Check, go focus on Idol already.

    • In terms of individuality, Jena and Majesty are my top two contenders. Of the two, however, it seems Jena is the one you can depend on to deliver vocally to back up her uniqueness. Love the tone and style that’re persistent through every song. Malaya wanted to be Sly-once at first, which I loved. But her lack of experience (and thus, control), to go with that desired stylistic path, has been exposed. But she is still very very talented. She’s got vocal chops so the producers have reined her in to delegate her as this season’s belter. I hope they train her to be the bloody funky soul sister she wants to be, though, she seems to have become comfortable with just being the tamed belter that she is now.

      CJ and Dexter, well, are the usual country guys that Idol Top 12 has. Same for Jessica, she is there because Top 12’s got to have a rock chic always (and with the usual pink/red streaks too! Ok!). (Mr. Slezak’s been consistently grading her higher than she deserves prolly because she reminds him so much of his old Idol.) Alex, as much as he proclaims himself to be the unique one, isn’t really new in the music world perspective. Alex’s been trying so hard all season. The successes that some of his covers yielded are primarily caused by the real great songs he’s been picking. The man’s got taste; Idol hasn’t really been playing these songs, and so, yes- great combo!

      That clip where everybody impersonated Sam, Alex blurted out something (both in jest and in lamentation, perhaps) about Sam being loved by the girls. Because that is what he lacks. Sam’s charisma. Sam is the real deal in terms of individuality with the boys. He’s just so inexperienced to nail songs that aren’t in his wheelhouse (refer to his Come together performance where discomfort showed so much that it was unbearable to watch). And his wheelhouse, I am afraid, is very limited to the songs he’s already covered in his YouTube channel/playlist. That I am afraid of. Otherwise, his tone and vocal delivery is very natural, unlike Alex’s. That David Gray song that Sam did was his most genius selection. Until he went back to being boring John Mayer.

      Caleb, well, do not wonder why he’s getting good grades from Mr. Slezak like Jessica does (ho-hum). Caleb is very old Idol. The Idol that venerated vocalists. The Idol whose theme nights rocked because they’ve got heavyweight vocalists to depend on. Big bang boom! Caleb deserves the good grades! He’s a great singer. The problem is he sounds and looks dated.

      P.S. JENA IS MY (tentative) WINNER because out of everybody, she’s got the balance of individual style and range. Plus, she’s a true-blue songwriter (the original song she sang on the show is worth the risk selling). She reminds me a bit of Amy Winehouse. She looks a bit like the late Amy, in fact. I would really love if the pp at Idol make her sing BACK TO BLACK or something. (NOT VALERIE CAUSE IT HAS BEEN DONE SO MANY TIMES IN SINGIN SHOWS)

    • Name That Tune says:

      Amen to this. If Melinda and Michael want to do Idology or Idoloonies or whatever they want to call it, then just change the name. But stop pretending that your agenda isn’t PROMOTE IDOL no matter how bored the audience is with it.

  10. Honey Barlett says:

    Get real!!!! Alex looks like he needs to go to the bathroom, especially last week, with his feet moving up and down. I hate Jessica’s voice! It is terrible and what is everyone hearing? Jena was on a par with Caleb. The rest, the worst! If Jessica or that weirdo Alex wins this thing, I will stop watching the show forever. There was a harsh commenter I have read before and he said this group is so ugly, they should model horse blankets. I laughed so hard my ribs hurt! He is too harsh but he is close in his commentary! I hope he comments this week.He should have a TV show! I agree with him that this year has the worst talent EVER on any singing show. Anyway Caleb and Jena were both great as I mentioned earlier. Hope they are the final too instead of the two weird looking singers, Jessica and Alex ( Wow, I am sounding like that harsh guy)!

    • Syb says:

      Are you watching on mute? Because you seem to be obsessed with physical appearance. I’ll listen to Elvis Costellos and Tom Pettys and Neil Youngs and other weird looking people if they have musical ability. But you go ahead and watch Top Singing Models, or Bachelors Rock the Oldies. and enjoy yourself.

      • Honey Barlett says:

        No, talent is talent, BUT, that Alex is so creepy and ugly I just can’t like him. Besides, he stinks anyway! Jessica sounds like Nicks? You listeners must be smoking funny cigs in Mexico! She sounds like a cat whose tail is smashed by a rocking chair, in total agony. She is creepy all around! The driving force for me watching this joke of a season is to see Jessica eliminated.She thinks she is so great! I cannot wait till that creepy singer is history.

        • Miscellaneopolan says:

          Jessica sounds like a cat having its tail smashed, Stevie Nicks sounds like a goat being run down by a tractor. They both sound like distressed farm animals, so yeah, I think there’s a similarity.
          FYI, I enjoy them both Jessica and Stevie, but there’s always been an airy bleat to Stevie’s voice that makes me think of a goat.

          • Honey Barlett says:

            Look for Jim Welker’s comments…He thinks like you. He is hilarious! You are great as well! Jessica is terrible and your descriptions are right on. Jim says Jessica sounds like a tortured castrated cat.I’m gonna now look for his comments. They make my day.

        • deedee says:

          You know, there’s an art to biting, scathing, devastating critique. You have to be witty and insightful. Simply hurling insults just isn’t interesting. You’ve got some work to do, Honey Barlett.

      • The Other Leah says:

        Truth! I listen to music, I don’t give a rip about what the singer LOOKS like. That’s the problem with music today (I sound so old saying that) people (producers) put more emphasis on looks than talent.

        • deedee says:

          Well, unfortunately, this is not a 1950s radio show. “Good looks” aren’t really necessary – even on TV, but charisma is. In my humble opinion, Alex completely lacks it, and that is a big reason why I can’t get into his schtick. Casey Abrams wasn’t pretty and neither was Elliott Yamin, but they both had something, and whatever that something is – that’s what I’m missing in Alex (imo). Is that fair? Probably not, but that’s what it is.

    • marie says:

      Please DO stop watching, and thus stop commenting. (I know, “don’t feed the trolls,” but the above comment SERIOUSLY ticked me off, so congratulations, you accomplished what you wanted to.)

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        I agree, marie. It’s fine to give decent critical commentary and occasionally people here have sharp wit and humor, but those folks are just annoying.

  11. Syb says:

    I read a lot of negative to meh reviews of Alex’s Don’t Speak but I liked it. Epic, not hardly. Was Jennifer right that he sucked the energy out of it? That’s fair. For not a great song though it was both interesting and pleasant which doesn’t usually happen at the same time for me. Other than that, Jena was excellent. I love Evanescence and Amy but while i never thought it possible in an Idol format, Jena managed to be edgier. That was great. Caleb sang flawlessly but so derivative, it was a great tribute band performance. Majesty? A-? Seriously Michael? That was a mess and I’ve been a Majesty advocate.
    Majesty is going home or I’ll eat my fictional hat.
    I enjoyed tonight, even though I didn’t enjoy most of the performances. It was a lot more fun than anything I’ve seen on any competing talent contest. They’re raw indeed. But very interesting this group.

    • deedee says:

      Dexter should go home over Majesty tonight. He was far less interesting than Maj, even if her performance was a bit … unpolished? I don’t have the right word for it.

  12. The Orginal Lemon says:

    I just bought Caleb’s Dazed and Confused. I have no words…. He hits an insanely high note, and holds it….seriously it’s like Steven Tyler in his heyday. Unreal. Jena was amazing. Between Jena and Caleb I felt like I was at a concert.

    My ears enjoyed listing to Alex, but my heart and soul was like…what? He sang a song about desperate heartbreak and humiliation like it was a McDonalds jingle. This is where being so young really shows up…I guess…I mean Jordan was able to communicate that feeling at, what was it, 17?, when she did I Who Have Nothing. CJ….when he is good, he is very, very good…..I don’t know if having an ear can be learned, though….his recording sounds great, and this is a guy who can make me feel something, so I’m still a fan.

    • Tom22 says:

      You know, credit goes all around in a great performance and Caleb’s rock steady groove with the groove let it shine … but holy mary xxxx . I bought that recording and between Ricky Minor on bass, the drummer an that Guitar player (who is he?) I’m still feeling the waves of energy from the song 10 minutes later even having listened to another song in between… just a memorizing slow unstoppable tidal surge of a tsunami pushing relentlessly forward with a sense of unstoppable glory of nature (that colorful enough for you? ). I love led Zepplin but that instrumental take on the song was just a whole level of its own….different enough that I don’t really need to go better/worse but the pondering power of last nights was just a flavor of power I really get blown away with…a groove that s so persistent I feel like it kept going and the song only ended because it was still moving along its path to destiny and I stayed still and couldn’t hear it anymore.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        I agree, Tom22. I watched it, then my husband came into the room, and I said, “Wanna see a blast from the past?” He hasn’t listened to rock or contemporary music since Lynyrd Skynyrd died in the plane crash but he was impressed.

      • The Other Leah says:


  13. Karen says:

    Alex was hit and miss with his interpretation on Dont Speak. They way he sang the chorus lacked grit and edge. It was too “happy” and light. I don’t get the Sam hate. He was one of the best of the night. He reminds me of Ricky Nelson. Caleb stole the entire group number. He is the one contestant who is consistently solid. But he is way too derivative – he would be a good cover artist for a tribute band, but I don’t see where he fits into today’s music scene. I can’t help but root for Malaya. She has such determination and personality. Jessica continues to disappoint me with her song choices. I want to see more edge and alternative vibe from her, like when she sang Crow and Butterfly. She keeps regressing to dated songs commonly sung by cover artists in restaurants and bars across America,

  14. darcy the slutty twin says:

    As someone who actually liked Thia Megia, I disagree with Michael’s comparison with Sam. Watching Thia wasn’t the most exciting experience, but she had a quiet confidence about her whilst Sam looks awkward/uncomfortable on stage.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I have to disagree with you, sister. I don’t think he looks uncomfortable at all.

      • darcy the slutty twin says:

        There were times when he was performing that he looked like (to me) he couldn’t wait to get the heck out of there. I just think he is very young and not ready for this. Obviously, the young girls like him.

  15. Daniel D. says:

    I certainly have my own opinions on this season/episode of AI, some of which I agree with, some not. Without explainswhy, will just say my ffavorites are Jessica, CJ, Jena, and Alex. I just want to make one comment/observation: just like Haley Reinhart and Elise Testone from seasons 10 and 11,respectively, Jessica is getting little to zero love, even though she, just like the past two, we’re among the most (if not singularly the most) capable and musically mature musicians/singers in their respective seasons. And as much as it just bewilders me to no end how/why Jessica continues to be misunderstood and dealt with harshly, it is because of the constant beating by the judges. – more so than actual unfavorability on the part of the voting viewers – that will likely result in her untimely exit. It is interesting to note, too, that a commonality among the 3 ladies is Stevie Nicks: Haley and Jessica sang Rhiannon, and Elise had Stevie as a guest mentor, who, if anyone recalls, gave Elise very high praise and all but invited Elise to tour with her. Another commonality? Though I generally like JLo as a judge on AI, especially this season, she was present as a judge in all 3 ladies’ respective seasons. Many of us will never forget the almost blatant and not so subtle vitriol that JLo had for Hales.

    • Daniel D. says:

      … and many think Haley (and perhaps to a lesser extent Elise) should have been the rightful winners of their respective seasons.

  16. Mikko says:

    Hmmm…The show’s framework is great, but somehow this year, they did not manage to find exciting contestants out of the 70 000 or something.

    The only singer that excited me this night (could be worse, if none would have) was Malaya. She can be irritating also, but I see great promise in her and she could have been better having waited a couple of years. When she delivered “Hard Times” by Ray Charles in the first live show, I was quite sold because her soulfulness, although the performance was a bit grazy even.
    After that she has been good or even great every now and then, depending on, I guess, how well she has been instructed and luck. But she is promising. I was surprised how well she delivered this McCartney song.

    Jena I liked and respected already in the auditions, and she is promising, too. But I somehow feel her performances are slightly boring, although she has potentially unique and great voice. To my ears, she does not know yet, how to use her voice totally ear-friendly and I also feel her expression is not totally natural, although it could be. I so much wish to hear fabulous and awesome performance from her, which I believe, she is capable of doing in the future.

  17. Simon says:

    The WTF comment of the day came from Jessica: something along the lines of “When I’m not at home hanging out with my animals, I’m probably out hunting.” And you see a video of her playing with a rat. Am I the only one who finds that really bizarre?

    Anyway, Majesty has been my favorite since the top 13, and I think Harry’s right that Majesty is so close to having her breakout moment. I really hope she makes through instead of Dexter, a.k.a. time for my bathroom break. There hasn’t been a country singer this generic and karaoke since Michael Sarver. Say what you will about Simon Cowell, but he never would have let Dexter get away with it for this long.

    Great comment about Sam btw, Michael. I was actually also thinking of Aaron Kelly while watching him. A few weeks ago I thought he was a lock for the win, but he’s really nowhere near the level of the other 5 WGWG winners.

    My prediction for bottom 3 is Majesty, Dexter, and Malaya.

    • marie says:

      Naah, you’re not the only one who caught the paradox there: did not compute for me either. I realize that plenty of people enjoy hunting and that it’s perfectly acceptable in some regions, but being an animal lover from NYC, I did find that a jarring juxtaposition. Different strokes, I guess.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Not unusual at all! You folks need to get out of the city, LOL. Farmers love their livestock but then have to turn around and send them to the sale barn. We are huge animal lovers – we love our pets and feed the songbirds but my husband also hunts and fishes. In many states revenue from hunting and fishing licenses and tags are what support wildlife management programs. In Africa they solved their ivory poaching problem in some locations by allowing the local residents to take a percentage of the herd for ivory. It’s normal wildlife management. Okay, that’s enough political commentary for this message board!

      • marie says:

        I know. And I eat meat, but I personally could not hunt or fish – I know that about myself; perhaps if I’d been born outside of an urban area, I’d feel differently. Here, just about the only “hunting” we do is to tramp on cockroaches in the corner! It truly doesn’t bother me if people hunt and fish, as long as they eat / sell / donate (or whatever) they capture, and don’t just do it for the thrill of it, as it were. I guess it’s just that as a city dweller born and raised, the juxtaposition struck me as jarring for a moment. No criticism intended.

        • Stormy says:

          You have cockroaches?????? Yikes. I thought the spring battle with Japanese beetles [thank you Monsanto *^%#*^%^] was bad enough.

  18. Onxyrose34 says:

    I just wasted one hour and thirty minutes of my life watching Idol. The only way this is going to end is to cancel the recording and wait for next year…

    • Timmah says:

      Just for fun, I timed out some of the performances. They came out to about two minutes each, minus the judges’ comments. That means that out of a two hour show, less than 20 minutes is spent on the most important part. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to sit through.

  19. Debbie M. says:

    I thought the group opening rock number was a hot mess! And what the heck was with Malaya’s mom jeans??

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I saw a report someplace that “mom jeans” were coming back! They were citing some of the stars that had been spotted wearing them. As God is my witness I am not making this up.

      • Elizabeth says:

        As a mom of three, I wear my mom jeans proudly. But Malaya is a baby! She should be rocking out in something more flattering. I totally agree that her outfit was awful, but the medley was so awful that the wardrobes provided some comic relief. That was a really unfortunate introduction to the show because most of the individual performances were strong.

      • darcy the slutty twin says:

        Sister, you should try wearing them again! I never stopped rocking them since 1985.

  20. Viajero says:

    My ranking for the night:
    1. Caleb
    2. Jena
    3. Jessica
    4. Alex
    5. Majesty
    6. Sam
    7. Malaya
    8. Dexter
    9. CJ

  21. rwfblog says:

    Was Dexter singing the word “boondock” or “boondocks”? I only ever heard the former, and it was quite distracting that he couldn’t even say the name of the song right. Maybe it’s an Alabama thing, but s’s are important.

    • Honey Barlett says:

      This is nothing new about Dexter. Personally half the time you can’t understand a word he’s singing! Some performances I can’t understand any words coming out of his mouth. This is top talent? Unbelievable he is still hangin’ around.

  22. Mamatyrone says:

    Slezak I’m with you, one more week of CJ ‘Sharpie” Harris is going to kill me. I had hopes that it was just a glitch and/or that his personality could override it. But despite his endearing sweetness, his intonation is simply not good and won’t be better in the few week the show still has.

  23. Mamatyrone says:

    Only Caleb ‘got’ the theme, only he took advantage of the energy of such close proximity to the instruments and energy of the band. Everyone else could have been standing there with the band in the wings (or even playback) and delivered the same thing. It’s a sad commentary that aspiring singers today only sing to themselves (or into the air–ergo off-target intonation, self-regulated and unchecked timing.) Any musician or [real] vocalist worth his/her salt will tell you that music is about playing TOGETHER, and COMMUNICATION. Sing WITH the band, the music, the orchestra, whatever. Embed your vocal into the music, not simply over it. Otherwise you’re one hand clapping.

  24. leftcoastl says:

    Popular opinion may favor prior/other talent/production, ratings may be down, & I may be more moved to critique than emotional investment. However, I’m nonetheless grateful for this iteration of AI…the personnel that make it possible, the conditions that support & sustain it, the independent observers who comment (MS, MD, JA, & all y’all above included), & the gift of music past, present, & future that’s celebrated (special props to Alex & Majesty (&/or their handlers), respectively, for nudging this viewer back to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” & Corinne Bailey Rae’s debut album). Good stuff, IMO.

  25. Mamatyrone says:

    Just went and listened to CJ Harris on iTunes. He is totally in tune, ‘Invisible’ is beautiful, gorgeous arrangement (better than the original IMHO), certainly not an intonation wreck like on last week’s show. I think that when he gets on that big stage the adrenaline kicks in and he simply pushes too hard.Too much air causes the vocal to go sharp, like lack of breath results in going flat. Maybe it’s less of a technical problem as it is a question of settling down and not pushing too hard.

  26. xx says:

    It’s Rhiannon, dude. Rihanna is a pop star. Rhiannon is a Fleetwood Mac song.

  27. marie says:

    Among all the doubts expressed here about whether Caleb’s classic rock style is “relevant” today, just pause for a moment to realize that here is a 20-something who lives and breathes it and clearly thinks it is.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Great point, marie! In the beginning I was one of the viewers that said I really liked Caleb but is this the type of music we hear on contemporary radio? Oh well, who cares – I am enjoying the heck out of him.

    • Mark says:

      I’ve been thinking the same thing. If Caleb wins, is this the record he’s going to make? If it is, then he’s going to be the worst selling Idol winner in 13 seasons. And if he isn’t, then when is he going to show us what he plans to do? I hate to say this because I do enjoy his performances, but he’s about as relevant as Terry McDermott.

    • The Orginal Lemon says:

      Queen + Adam Lambert sold out Madison Square Garden, among other tour stops, and they’ve added more shows. There’s definitely strong demand for music from the past. So much contemporary music is disposable garbage.

      • Mark says:

        Yes, legacy acts with catalogs stretching back to the 1960s and 70s are among the biggest draws in live music. But can you name a single straight up rock act who debuted less than 10 years ago that is headlining arena-sized venues? I can’t think of any. Adam Lambert is uniquely qualified to be the new front man for Queen, but is that really the aspiration of this show? If so, then please bring back Rockstar: INXS or whatever. I liked that show much better anyway.

      • The Other Leah says:

        I love throwback! I was so disappointed when I expected James Durbin to follow through with the Dio/Black Sabbath-esque album he PROMISED us on Idol, only to put out bland post-grunge. I hope Caleb stays true to the classic rock vibe. I think that producers are so out-of-touch, but I think the American music lover would be totally into some new Classic Rock!

  28. winston says:

    the performances were okay in my opinion, bottom 3 for me, Sam, C.J. and Dexter and than the one who needs to go is C.J. or Dexter I hope Dexter though can’t stand that guy. Also if C.J. is not in the bottom this week America really need to throw a hot frying pan at the people who vote him cause really WHY? Also personally I think Jena has the most potential to make it as a huge “superstar” outside this competition, If a female competitor is gonna win this season (but let’s face it there is probably not gonna be one) I think it’s ether Jena or Jessica. Also just saying what the serious f**k was that group performance?

  29. Honey Barlett says:

    These 9 are laughable. Doesn’t anyone know great singers…Doolittle, Reinhart, Clarkson, Hudson, and others? Can you imagine the faces Alex will make if he wins? Jessica will be the STUCK UP SINGER if she wins. She is the creepiest singer ever. She needs a three stooge slap and needs to go home, that homely, obnoxious excuse for a singer! None of these screwball are going anywhere after AI. Possibly Caleb! The rest need to stop dreaming and get jobs.

  30. Honey Barlett says:

    Jessica lives in the perfect town, SHE NEEDS TO BE SLAPPED OUT REAL GOOD! I have heard Karaoke singers 10 times better. That is the truth! Can you imagine Malaya winning? She will be out of control. I just cannot imagine any of this bunch being in the top 9! Shame on these idiot judges, especially saying how wonderful that WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST, JESSICA IS. She should play that witch if there is a re-make of The Wizard Of Oz!

    • Miscellaneopolan says:

      …are you Jessica’s ex or something?

      • deedee says:

        ROFL! I was just about to post the same question.

        • Jaszy says:

          And you know what’s funny is that Jim Welker and Honey Barlett – if they are the same person,who knows – never comment back. They just say what they want to say as if to get a rise out of people who completely disagree with them/him/her. If this is their goal, then they are surely achieving it.
          Congratulations Jessica haters. You win.

  31. Mary says:

    Michael you were to generous on a couple of your grades. Top of the night JENA, Jessica
    and Caleb. I wish none of the contestants used there instruments. Sorry, Alex was not good this week. I know I don’t like his voice so maybe I am not objective but for me he sounds the same every week. He put no intensity into that song what so ever. CJ really needs to leave, he hasn’t sung in tune all season. I know most of the radio artist are the same way but my God how many times does Harry have to say sing in pitch. I loved Jessica voice on that song. I did wish she moved away from the mic a little but I am with JLo I would purchase her album today. Majesty improved this week, but to be honest I don’t know if she did enough to garnish the votes. CJ should go home but I have a feeling it will be Majesty. If so I hope they don’t use the save. In the bottom three every week it is obvious that America is not getting her.

  32. Kimbo says:

    An even great conundrum than Malaya:
    “Malaya’s belted notes to come out on the barely tolerable side of shrieky”
    Slezaks ability to listen to Jacquie Lee and not hear the same thing if not worse.
    If Malaya is shrieky, then what the hell was Jacquie Lee’s upper register? Tolerable?

  33. John says:

    I’m surprised with a few of the ratings this week, with Majesty getting an A- the most bizarre aberration off of what I would have given. Yes, performance was there, but the vocal was a bit wonky in spots, and that ending was jarring. On the other side, I thought Malaya gave another terrific performance and I totally agree with Harry on her learning curve.

  34. jaxguy says:

    One name: CALEB!
    He’s my favorite to win.

    • Emma says:

      I couldn’t enjoy his performance at all because the stupid camera peeps kept cutting to Jho having a seizure.

  35. jaxguy says:

    JENA: Very close 2nd.

  36. darcy's evil twin says:

    I’ve been watching my DVR – Honestly, I never cared for Gwen Stefani or No Doubt, and once up on a time I swore if I had to hear my young niece belt out that “Hollaback Girl” song one more time I would slit my wrists. That said, I enjoyed Alex’s version of “Don’t Speak”. I think the guy is extremely talented. Yes, he’s awkward-looking but what a voice. He reminds me a little bit of Elvis Costello, although I can’t explain that.
    Majesty was okay but honestly, I have never cared for Florence and the Machine and their collection of non-melodic tunes. Malaya was okay but did a lot of wailing at the end of a song that doesn’t really ask for a lot of wailing.
    Dexter gave a decent cover of “Boondocks”. The judges were right on the money with their comments to Sam to loosen up and try and connect with a song. For all of those that are writing here that Sam reminds them of Ricky Nelson, yes he does! CJ wasn’t bad but he wasn’t great either and I suspect he’s going home

  37. Woodmeister says:

    It seems that most people liked Caleb and Jena the most tonight and I agree. For me (for you?) part of the reason, aside from the vocals, is that these were the only two that moved around at all. I think Majesty did a twirl at one point but other than that no one moved. I realize that some songs, Long and Winding Road, may not lend themselves to a lot of movement but jeez…… I listened to the first seven singers, but I watched and listened to Caleb and Jena because the commanded my attention visually.

  38. C says:

    Alex – Nothing special about his performance except for one nice last note. I know just about no one will agree with me on this, but he is BLAND.
    Majesty – Went out of tune on sustained notes.
    Dexter – Like several of the contestants this year, all of his songs are beginning to sound alike.
    Malaya – Really missed the lush orchestration of the original, and a little too much melisma near the end. Vocal was good, and props to the John Lennon glasses.
    Sam – LOVE his voice, but this was too slow and lacked energy.
    Jessica – Good, but not memorable.
    C.J. – A good song choice for his voice and style, but he went out of tune again.
    Caleb – FABULOUS. That’s all I have to say.
    Jena – Seemed to be straining her voice all the way through. It was more manic than musical, and her clothing was hideous from head to toe.

    Was it “Rhiannon” that Haley Reinhart did such a wonderful job on several years ago, wearing a gray dress, with a wind machine going? (I always have to check on my memory!) If so, thank you, Mr. Slezak, for your restraint in not bringing it up. I am shocked, but pleased.

  39. I actually enjoyed all of the Top 9’s individual performances tonight. Even when a singer made a mistake, it wasn’t serious enough to detract from my general enjoyment so I consider that a win. The reason I’m posting, however, is to comment on the medley performance at the top of the show, specifically the performance of Fall Out Boy’s “My Song Knows What You Did in the Dark”. This is the second time I’ve seen the song attempted on a reality singing competition (Michelle Chamuel accompanied FOB during a performance on Voice), and both times I can only ask, “Why?” The verses of that song are soooooo choppy/abbreviated that it provides little opportunity for a vocalist actually sing. I thought Caleb did the best out of the three last night singing it last night, but honestly, the performance was just painful for me to watch/listen to.

  40. CK from DC says:

    CJ introduced me to a song I didnt know. I found it interesting, catchy, and I wanted to hear more. I can’t say the same about Malaya’s, Majesty’s or Sam’s song.

    I expect to see Caleb and Jena at the end, not CJ. But not long ago, David Ccok played a local club here. Based on last night, if CJ came around here, I might go see him.

  41. The Other Leah says:

    Everybody in my house, including my musician husband, my friend who’s a student at the UI School of Music and me thought that Jena’s performance was terrible.

    • C says:

      Agreed. I like that song, but I couldn’t find the tune, couldn’t understand a single word, and she doesn’t know how to support her voice.

  42. DAG says:

    Why won’t the producers show more of Allison Iraheta? I feel like I’m watching Dirty Dancing – “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” Right, Fall Out Boy?

  43. Allison says:

    When Dexter did a Little Big Town song, I thought “Tornado” would have been excellent for Jessica – good vocals w/ an edge. I am waiting for her to rock a song out again too.

  44. Jon says:

    Did JLo say the f word?

  45. Gale says:

    Thank you Michael for mentioning Ju’Not Joyner’s memorable take on Hey There Delilah. Sam’s take on that song paled in comparison to that soulful version. Yes, he should have waited a few years to audition, and Malaya should have as well, at least until her braces come off. They interfere with her diction. I disagree with your A- for Majesty. She looks attractive and energetic when she sings, but I don’t think she has the vocal chops to match.
    I think Jena proved last night that she is the one to beat.

  46. Emma says:

    If things don’t work out for Jessica she has a brilliant future ahead of her as a third rate Stevie Nicks impersonator. Having said that I’d rank her as the best of the night which just goes to show how dismal this season of idol is.

  47. thedeviledadvocate says:

    Michael, did you get a package from Colorado containing some tasty legal brownies? Did you consume the entire batch of brownies prior to grading last nights performances? If you did eat all the legal brownies from Colorado, then I understand your very generous grading.

    Since you like food and drink metaphors so much:
    Back in the day, we would take a garbage can, fill it with 100 lbs of ice, then everyone would dump whatever alcohol they could pilfer from their parents, had leftover from last weeks prom, or actually purchased with the assistance of the local wino for a cheap bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, then add an equal amount of Hawaiian Punch, this would result in a drink we called Purple Jesus. This would be Caleb’s performance, a whole lotta fun, but can’t remember much of it.

    A boiler maker describes Jessica’s performance, not too bad, with a nice little kick at the end.

    A warm tap beer is about as exciting as Dexter’s performance.

    A Jagerbomber (Jagermeister and Red Bull) compares well to Malaya, although it isn’t wise to go down a Long and Winding Road with a jagerbomberesque style of performing.

    Sam gave us a grape Koolaid performance, even though he was trying to upgrade to tropical punch.

    You know the complimentary bottle of champagne they give you in the Honeymoon Suite at Howard Johnson’s? Sure you do, pop the cork and its nice and bubbly, unfortunately, just like Majesty’s performance the bubbly dissipated way to soon and we were left with very little fizz.

    Have you ever had a Grasshopper? A sweet drink that sounds like such a good idea until you realize it has a somewhat funky aftertaste to it, which is how I felt about the performance given by Alex.

    If CJ was from Texas instead of Alabama, I would say his performance was about as good as a Lone Star beer, starts out okay, but at the end of the bottle not so great.

    The Long Island Iced Tea performance that belonged to Jena was interesting. Lots of different flavors, but ended up tasting like plain old iced tea. Of course, if you have too many Long Island Iced Teas, and you tried to follow Caleb, you might be so dizzy you end up crapping your pants.

    Seriously though Michael, your grades were far too generous, and unless your grades were somehow chemically enhanced either via happy brownies or too much wine, I think you should rewatch and then regrade the performances from last night.

    • Kaba says:

      If a Jagerbomb is what describes Malaya’s performance then I’ve clearly been having some botched jagerbombs because that is the last drink that comes to mind when I think of her performance on that.
      And why is grape kool-aid used to describe sams performance?
      These drink analogies are not working.

      • thedeviledadvocate says:

        I didn’t say a jagerbomb described her performance, I said she has a jagerbombesqe style and it wasn’t wise of her to sing Long and Winding Road.
        As for grape Kool-Aid and Sam, well, grape is the most boring flavor of Kool-Aid that I know, and Sam’s performance was the most boring of the night, and perhaps if he had at least managed a tropical punch flavor it wouldn’t have been quite as bland of a performance.

  48. Ashley says:

    I think that Malya needs to go home. She isn’t ready. She cannot sing, there are literally times when I cringe when she sings and most of the time I can’t even finish watching her performance. JLo has a soft spot for her, which I don’t understand. Majesty is star quality and material. She blew me away from the very start at her audition. Dexter is just a good ole’ boy cut him so slack. C.J just sings too high for my preference. Sam Woolfe has yet to break out of his shell and impress me. I’m so glad that M.K is gone. Jessica has a beautiful captivating voice and I don’t see her or Majesty going home anytime soon. At first I didn’t like Alex, but he is starting to rub off on me. I think he consistently gets better and the same for Jena. She is a powerhouse and at first I didn’t like her, but she has consistently proved me wrong.

  49. jga94 says:

    I don’t get all the Jena love…esp. tonight…i think the raves for her were because she was only one of two who were “different” from the rest, mostly “languid” performances—so A for effort and degree of difficulty…Jena’s vocals were all over the place….her voice was so uneven and she was trying soooo hard to reach the notes…without much success….ditto with Majesty….

    Caleb was the only one who brought it tonight….

    For my personal taste, i always like the song picks of Sam,,,,love his tone, love that he stays on pitch , love the clarity in his voice…..aside from Sam, I like Majesty (altho she really needs to work on her pitch) and Jessica (who also needs to work on her stage presence—I don;t get that people don’t take her to task for performance skills when she’s supposed to have done hundreds of gigs….while greenhorn Sam gets all the flak for being “timid” on stage….for me, Jessica has that awestruck look to her face when she looks at the camera like she’s overwhelmed at being in AI).

    Malaya’s greatly improved but I think her voice is too thin and lacks any sort of character….she tries to make it that up with her personality….

    I think Slezak’s judgement mostly is clouded by personal biases….but I think this is why there is no clear frontrunner this year…because everyone is almost on the same footing in terms of talent…

    • M says:

      Agreed on the Jena love.
      Though I don’t hear a thinness to Malaya’s voice….rather, I hear a thick quality to it. And nobody really sounds like her either, if I heard her singing in a room full of 100 I’d know when she was up even if I couldn’t see her.

  50. J says:

    I am so impressed with Jena. Every week now she sings a great song and performs like she was born to do it. I have to change my loyalty to her now (from Majesty – sorry Majesty.) Jena is wonderful and I really see her in the mainstream.