American Idol Top 8 Performance Recap: We Can Learn to Love (This Show) Again [Updated]

american-idol-top-8-performance-recap-jessica-meuseNot to go all “Amazing Grace” on this recap, but if you thought Season 13 of American Idol was lost — in terms of talent, ratings and general fizzy excitment — tonight was the night it found itself.

RELATED | American Idol‘s Majesty Rose Talks Early Front-Runner Status, Frozen Fumble, Coldplay Covers

We had not one, but two contestants delivering radio-ready, self-penned songs that I fully intend to download on iTunes. (Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I shelled out $1.29 for Jess Meuse’s ditty a couple hours before the telecast began.) We had two other singers deliver such brazenly original arrangements of Big Diva Classics that I wondered if I’d accidentally stepped into the TARDIS and traveled back to the heady days of Season 8. (Don’t call me crazy — Allison Iraheta and her shocking pink hair did get showcased in a lovely duet this evening.) And even the wobbly legged impalas of Season 13 gained speed and steadiness and kept themselves within striking distance of the front-runners.

PHOTOS | American Idol: Advice and Dream Set Lists for the Season 13 Top 8 Contestants

In other words, if the “Judges’ Save” is going to get used this season — and Keith Urban did promise me that it would — then it’s not a bad bet that it’ll happen Thursday night.

OK, OK, a couple of the evening’s duets proved to be the cowpies in the beautifully oil-painted landscape, but it’s not like there’s a mentor on set to help these kids. (Srsly, did anyone notice an almost total absence of Randy Jackson, save for that end-of-episode shout-out?) Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Better to navigate one’s own ship through stormy seas than to have some random dude in a brightly colored blazer steering you toward an iceberg!

But before I get stuck in “cantankerous recapper” mode, let’s jump to letter grades for tonight’s performances:

Tonight’s Set List + Grades
Jessica Meuse: “Blue Eyed Lie” (Original Song) — Grade: A | I could grumble about the infuriating nature of Keith’s “you never move your legs!” complaint and Harry’s “there was a small dead space at the end of the song” critique — especially given their copious praise of lesser performances later in the episode. But I’m going to hang on to the belief that the Idoloonie Nation was too busy downloading “Blue Eyed Lie” on iTunes to pay attention to such silliness. There was so much grit and oomph in Jessica’s delivery tonight — like J.Lo noted, the vocal was “perfect” — and those qualities underscored the stinging lyrics and country-rock slap of Jess’ fantastic original track. “They say a man who’s worth your tears will never make you cry” could easily be the “No! More! Drama!” of this decade, no? Or, if not that, at least a future soundtrack cut on ABC’s Nashville.

C.J. Harris: The Allman Bros. Band’s “Soulshine” — Grade: B- | Before we get to the vocal, a quick announcement: C.J.’s girlfriend, whose palpable pride and adoration for her beau brings her to the brink of tears every week, has built an insurmountable lead as TVLine’s Favorite Season 13 Family Member. (Jena’s giddily enthusiastic brother is a distant second, for the record.) And tonight, I was stoked that, for a change, said girlfriend’s delight was warranted. C.J. ironed out some — though certainly not all — of his pitch problems and seemed really connected to the lyrics, too. He’s not the most nuanced interpreter in the bunch — there was a lack of dynamics and intimacy to the performance — but it was servicable, bordering on solid. Can we all agree that this might be the best possible note on which C.J. could end his Idol run?

Jena Irene & Alex Preston: Pink & Nate Ruess’ “Just Give Me a Reason” — Grade: B | Jena’s upper register on the verse was a fluttery revelation, and while Alex seemed a little more tenuous in his approach — averting his gaze to the floor, then back to Jena, then back to the floor again — the harmonies were pleasing enough that they shifted my focus away from Alex’s hideous pink-and-green floral shirt/blue scarf combo. (Side note: Alex, whatever blood feud you’ve got going with the wardrobe department, bring them a dozen donuts tommorow and tell them you’re sorry. It’s in your best interest, buddy.)

Sam Woolf: Ed Sheeran’s “Lego House” — Grade: B- | I wonder how much better the shy teenager’s performance would’ve been tonight it hadn’t been preceded by a lengthy grilling from the judges about his ladies’ man status? (Dial 1-800-SMDH-4-RL if you feel me!) Surrounded this week by LAMPS! instead of LIGHTBULBS!, Sam served up a slowed-down cover of “Lego House” that somehow felt less intense than his “auction-style” audition. The kid’s got a beautiful voice, but there wasn’t a single word or phrase or section of “Lego House” that he delivered with any more intensity or emphasis than any other one. The end result left me feeling like Sam had stared directly into the eyes of one too many audience SwayBots — and that they were stealing his emotions and using them to fuel their high-pitched screams. (Pro tip for next week: Never stare directly into the eyes of a SwayBot.)

Jessica Meuse & Caleb Johnson: Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty’s “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” — Grade: B+ | I’m not 100% certain Jessica and Caleb’s flirtatious/confrontational “choreography” felt entirely authentic, but who cares? The duo’s potent rock voices blended as magically as sweet potatoes and brown sugar (yes, that was tonight’s side veg at Casa Slezak), and Jessica’s soaring harmonies were especially delicious.

Malaya Watson: Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” — Grade: B | I can’t say with 100 percent confidence that I wasn’t in any way influenced by Malaya’s pre-performance tale of how she almost skipped her Season 13 audition because she was convinced the judges would tell her she was too young, that she needed more time to grow. But as she stank-faced and pleaded her way through Aretha’s classic soul ballad, I occasionally got the sense that Malaya was “playing” the emotion rather than “feeling” it, if that makes any sense. The good news is that Malaya continued to show improvement in the restraint department — except for a few overwrought phrases on the chorus — and if she heeds Harry’s advice to better match her runs to the chords being played by the band (I love that I’m learning more about music thanks to his specificity), she could wind up with plenty more weeks to disprove my doubts.

Dexter Roberts: Brett Eldredge’s “One Mississippi” — Grade: B+ | “I guess you showed us!” giggled J.Lo, after Dexter shifted out of the bro-country lane in which he’s been driving all season and delivered a heartfelt rendition of a serious heartbreaker ballad. With a minimalist piano arrangement — and glorious harmonies from Season 8’s third-place finisher (don’t you dare try to correct me and say she finished fourth) Allison Iraheta — the Alabama native reminded voters that he’s got real vocal ability, a smart piece of strategy as the field narrows and vote-splitting could become an issue for himself and his fellow country-leaning contestant C.J. Oddly, Keith’s critique about Dexter needing to work harder to “communicate the lyric” seemed like it would’ve been more appropriate last week, or the week prior.

Malaya Watson & Sam Woolf: Colbie Caillat & Jason Mraz’s “Lucky” — Grade: D | Have you ever seen a middle-school dance where all the boys stand on one side of the room and all the girls stand on the other side of the room and it’s just really awkward for everybody? Now imagine if a reality TV producer dragged two of those kids from the room, put them on a nationally televised singing competition and made them sing a love ballad. And then the girl botched like every bit of harmony they threw at her, and the boy crawled under a guitar amp and turned to dust. Yep, that’s pretty much what happened.

Jena Irene: Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” — Grade: A- | I’m not gonna lie to you: I was more impressed/intrigued by Jena’s performance tonight than I was moved by it. But in a competitive situation, being impressive and intriguing counts for a lot, y’know. Starting nearly a cappella (with just an intermittent tinkling of a piano in the background), Jena reimagined the beginning of Adele’s global smash in sensuous, torch-y fashion. And that’s where things got interesting. As Keith sagely pointed out, most contestants would’ve decided the unique intro was enough — and retreated back to the safety of a karaoke arrangement. But not Jena, who stripped away the hand-clapping propulsion and girl-group backing vocals in favor of a slower, Tedder-y vibe. It was as though Jena completely deconstructed “Rolling in the Deep,” then rebuilt it with a new tempo, an augmented (and dare I say more challenging?) melody and a slightly more aloof mood. In a head-to-head matchup, Adele’s original is still my favorite, but if Jena had just coughed up a carbon copy, then there’d have been no use for it outside the Idoldome. Instead, this 17-year-old kid’s willingness to gamble on her own creative vision — and to risk potential elimination if voters’ ears found said vision too jarring — tabs her as a potential heir to prior Idol trailblazers like David Cook, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Candice Glover, not a bad quartet to follow, competitively speaking.

C.J. Harris & Dexter Roberts: Darius Rucker’s “Alright” — Grade: C- | Somebody was singing seriously out of tune here. And that somebody was C.J.

Caleb Johnson: Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” — Grade: B+ | Is it just me, or does Caleb always seems to get superior backdrops, lighting and camera angles? (That stained-glass kaleidoscope behind him tonight was especially nifty!) But while I appreciated that, like Jena, Caleb took a major diva classic and dressed it up in different clothing (pure blues-rock duds, in this case), there were portions of the performance where his vocal sounded just a wee bit ragged, just a tad less on-point than usual. Harry’s suggestion that Caleb choose something next time that “isn’t so loud” came across a little less technically astute than we’ve come to expect from the panel’s esteemed professor — oh snap, I went there! — but it nevertheless rang true. Caleb’s a hoot to watch, but a little vulnerability — a little glimpse into who he is when he’s not being the life of the party — has to be the next step on his Idol journey if he wants to stay on target for confetti-shower consideration. I mean, the way Caleb delivered “Chain of Fools,” it almost felt as though he was the one in charge, not the desperate lover trying to break free, didn’t it?

Alex Preston: “Fairy Tale” (Original Song) — Grade: A- | Remember when we got excited because Idol allowed us to hear a snippet of Crystal Bowersox’s “Holy Toledo” during her hometown visit in Season 9? We’ve come a long way, Idoloonies — and Alex will definitely enter the Idol history books (right next to Jessica) regarding contestant’s original tunes getting the green light inside the House That Kelly Clarkson Built. Better still, three listens in to Alex’s complex, self-penned gem, and I’m still finding new things to like about it: The little lilt in his voice on “damsel in distress,” the slight shift in tempo going into the chorus, even the sensation — were this performed in a concert venue — that he and the band could jam out to it for 10 minutes. My one small complaint about Alex’s performance tonight was that — especially when he’s doing original tracks the audience doesn’t know — he needs to be careful about diction, to ensure we can understand and feel every word he’s singing. The good news, though, if Per Blankens is sitting on a “No Boundaries”-style turkey for the Season 13 victory anthem, maybe Alex and Jessica (and even Jena — whose “Unbreakable Me” scored her the Wild Card) can combine forces to create something less airplay-averse.

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

OK, your turn!

What did you think of the Top 8? 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. Simon says:

    They always pick the theme more than a week in advance. So I bet they decided on this one with the hope that Majesty would make a comeback with “Violet Hill.” Call me bitter, but I think that would have been better than anything we saw tonight. It just makes her elimination sting that much more…

  2. Kojin says:

    I don’t get the Sam hate/whaterver-you-it. He got the best tone out of EVERYONE else remaining in the competition and seems to know where his craft is. I don’t get that he gets criticized for staying on his lane when the likes of Jess and Alex does the same without much criticism. The connection thing can be developed and the stiffness in the performance can be outgrown, as what happened to the likes of Carrie Underwood. For people to wish that the likes Dexter, CJ and to some extent Jess go further in the competition than him is borderline criminal.

    • karen says:

      Totally agree. He is someone who is getting unfairly bashed on this forum.

    • Timmah says:

      Sam doesn’t have a lane. He’s wandering around in the middle of traffic.

    • Mary says:

      Ironic, a few posters back were complaining that Jessica was being unfairly criticized. I guess it depends on your special snowflake. Constructive criticism is not be cruel, it is being honest. If Sam wants to get in this business he needs to learn that you need more than a beautiful voice, you have to connect with your audience. Sam deer in the headlight look is not helping him gain fans, it it uncomfortable to watch for me.

  3. karen says:

    Sam has an excellent voice. I think he has amazing potential.

  4. Viajero says:

    For the first time, I agree with the voters on the exact ranking of the performances from top to bottom. That’s never happened before. So I guess I’m not the only one who thought that Jessica, Jena and Alex were the best of the night. I just hope that CJ or Dexter goes home.

  5. darcy the slutty twin says:

    This was the culmination of Jena’s fake tone/faux-British accent. It sounded painful to my ears.

    Dexter is getting cuter by the minute.

  6. darcy the slutty twin says:

    Michael, admit it: That + in Dexter’s grade is because of Allison’s participation!

  7. Laura Mipsome says:

    I’m having a hard time casting my votes this week. The three folks who I have been wanting/expecting to be going home all stepped up their games tonight, and I want to throw them a few extra bones for that and even see them stick around another week. But my mid-range scores are getting muddy.
    I thought Sam, CJ and Dexter all overperformed (as in, did better than expected)
    Caleb underperformed
    Alex, Jess and Jena are top of my list
    And then there’s Malaya, who I’m not sure how I feel about

    I guess I gotta go with:

    It is really tough when everybody does well!
    Really wish we could’ve gotten to see Majesty tonight. I really enjoyed her, in spite of the bad performances. I think she could’ve eventually pushed through all the soul-erasing “mentoring” and “coaching” and found her charm and ease again. Just not enough time. So sad.

    • Name This Tune says:

      Of course, you can take the short term view. Or you can start thinking about who should be in the top 4. Then do above the line – below the line. I know where my line is drawn and I am voting above the line only. There’s enough separation between these guys to make it pretty easy to vote.

  8. winston says:

    First of all, seriously Malaya just a B? I think she deserves at least a B+ or a A-, anyway tonight I want C.J. to go home. He did a song that has been performed better earlier this season, Dexter bought himself a extra week sure he is every other Country singer but this weeks he had the best vocal performance in weeks. Caleb, I don’t know what it is with him but I can’t really care about him. This weeks best male performance goes to Alex, Best female and overall performance Jessica.

    My top 3 are just like last week is:
    1. Jessica
    2. Jena
    3. Malaya

    Bottom 3

  9. Shawny says:

    Hate to say it, but I think Malaya will win this whole thing or at least get to top 3. Have you seen the comments on the American Idol facebook page week after week? Her name jist pops up more and more over there. People are REALLY into her for some reason.

    • Nedsdag says:

      If she continues to improve, it would not shock me if your prediction came true.

    • Meme says:

      Not me! She has a lovely voice sometimes and then she has pitch problems. I would not buy her record or go to see her in concert. These 2 things are kind of important to think about for the winner. I would buy Jessica’s record and go to see her in concert. I might go to see Jena or Alex too, but probably not buy their record. I might occasionally WATCH Caleb if I just caught him performing while surfing the channels on TV. And Dexter might get my attention if he recorded an album with Allison Iraheta from Season 8. Her backup vocals helped make his performance more special than it would have been otherwise.

  10. Laura Mipsome says:

    Also wanted to say that I too found Jessica’s legs distracting. Something about the length of the dress, the height and darkness of the boots (shoes?), and the freaking pedestal she was standing on just made those stark legs front and center, and I found myself wondering about them repeatedly. I’m not sure whether moving those legs would’ve helped any, or just resulted in an even more distracting fall.
    My read is… Some unfortunate decisions were made (wardrobe, staging), which Jess may or may not have played much role in.
    In general, though, I do think it would help for her to show a little rhythm in her body. Loosen up a bit and really relax into the music. She’s currently peeking through her emotional wall… she needs to bust that thing down like the Kool-ade Man!

  11. Colleen says:

    I have been watching Idol since the Chris Daughtry season (worst elimination ever!), and to me this is the worst bunch of finalists by far, which is saying something since I saw the Lee Dewyze season. Jessica and CJ are my favorites. I was excited about Sam at the beginning but he does the same performance every week, like Dexter. I will probably never listen to any of the others after their time on Idol is over. I cannot stand Jena.

    • Mary says:

      Hmmmm, really? I find it hard to believe you about the worst bunch of finalist if you have CJ who hasn’t sung in tune all season, as one of your favorites.

      • Name This Tune says:

        Two names. Lozano and Sanjaya. CJ isn’t even near their wheelhouse.

        • ara says:

          You mean Lazaro. Sanjaya did not reah that level of awful but I don’t anyone has been as consistently off-pitch as CJ (good thing he’s a lot more likeable).
          I think Jessica’s dress was all wrong for her.
          I think people wouldn’t mind how boring Dexter is if only he was as good looking as other previous country artists.

          Was he the only one who didn’t get to stand beside the judges’ table?

  12. marie says:

    First time I voted for Jessica; she just came alive in a way she never had before with her exceptional original song (I zeroed in on the same lyric MS did: simply breathtaking). I’ll definitely be buying it, as well as Alex’s terrific number: he has the potential to become a really significant singer-songwriter. Yes indeed. Terrific performances, both.
    Now, showcasing these contestants in a way that allows them to run with their natural strengths and lets the audience see the kind of performers they want to be: really, isn’t that a whole lot better than forcing them to learn The Greatest Hits of Barry Manilow from twenty years before they were even born? The new producers certainly have this much right; I for one never want to see those ridiculous, tired old theme weeks again. Sure, once in a great while a contestant could use an uncomfortable theme as an opportunity to change it up successfully – Adam on country night, along with others – but usually, what we saw were kids with no clue what to do, giving painful/awful performances. Nope, I hope Idol NEVER brings back the former concept of theme weeks.
    And anyway, the singers still have an opportunity to bend genres if they want, as Caleb did with the Aretha Franklin number, which I thought worked beautifully. Personally, I thought Jena’s taking the Adele song into cocktail-lounge territory was less successful, although I thought she sang it well, but in general I’m just not bewitched by Jena so I prefer not to say much about her.
    Don’t hate me, but Dexter showed sparks of real potential there, and no way could one say the guy doesn’t have a solid, strong country voice. I genuinely enjoyed his performance, and it wasn’t just because of Allison’s lovely backing vocal (so happy she got some screen time and the acknowledgment from JLo).
    Good show!

    • darcy the slutty twin says:

      I love that they gave Allison some screen time. When they showed Jennifer listening intently to Dexter, her eyes darted to Allison when she started singing the harmonies. I can’t stand Caleb, but I sat through his performance just to see Allison.

      P.S. I’m waiting for Dexter to sing in a wife beater next week.

    • Mark says:

      I agree 100% regarding the themes. Not only were they tired and overdone, but they also gave certain contestants an unfair advantage and handicapped others. They were useful when the show was new and the themes were fairly fresh. The very first Lennon and McCartney night was special, but the fourth time it was “oh well, here we go again.” Same with Motown, and others. Sure, there are some great classic old songs that could stand to be reworked, but who’s s doing that today, and who is their audience? It’s mainly older performers who have run out of material selling to an older audience that is not interested in today’s music. How does this help us find a new, current artist? I don’t miss the old themes at all. I much prefer these more open-ended themes that allow the contestants to show us what kind of artist they want to be, rather than who they would have been if they were born 25 years earlier.

  13. gustyj says:

    She finished fourth.

  14. metitometin says:

    I think tonight’s show is the reason why Idol is on its last legs. First of all, Idol is supposed to challenge the singers, not get them in their comfort zone. I don’t want them to sing songs they know by heart and can sing in their sleep. I want them to sing songs that challenge them. How about singing some songs that some people might know?? Has that ever occurred to anyone? Half the songs last night I never heard before?

    And the other issue is the judges. I really miss Simon Cowell and his snarky comments. He told it like it was and didn’t mince words. If someone was terrible, he wasn’t afraid to say it. According to JLo and Keith and Harry, everyone gets an A+ just for showing up. Why even bother having judges if they’re not going to give constructive criticism? They told the same thing to everyone last night: you were great, you were wonderful. It reminded me of Steven Tyler. Do they think the kids can’t take some criticism? God forbid kids hear that they’re not perfect once in awhile.

  15. D says:

    Let me start off by saying a Jena/Alex finale would be awesome. However, based on the performances tonight, I didn’t like Jena, at all. To each their own, but I think there is something about “Rolling in the Deep” that needs the oomph and power behind it, that I wasn’t getting from Jena’s interpretation. However, she certainly sang the daylights out of it.

  16. Mary says:

    Jena, Jena, Jena – Jess Jess Jess those are my top two. Everyone improved this week but those two girls are it for me. Caleb is good but I am so glad Harry said something, he is starting to sound repetitive good performance but the same. Alex is creative but I just do not like his voice. Malaya has improved but to be honest still needs some work. Dexter and Sam nice voices but dull to watch. C.J. needs to go, yes better this week but really how can someone keep voting for him when he is never in tune. This is a SINGING competition. Bottom three C.J., Sam, Dexter C.J. going home. I DO NOT want the save used on any of these three guys. None of the girls better be in the bottom. I am a little nervous about Jena because like Keith said either you liked it or not. I am just hoping the majority liked it. I loved it.

  17. Gale says:

    Jena is the clear frontrunner.
    Harry was right about Caleb needing to show a quiet, vulnerable side. I think he’ll be runner-up.
    Jessica is improving. She needs to work on her performance skills. Keith was right -move those legs, even a little!
    Dexter stepped out of Karaokeville and into contention.
    “Hmmm…what other lighting devices can we use for Sam…lightning bugs in a jar maybe?”
    Malaya lost my attention halfway through her song.
    When I watch Alex, I am reminded of Simon’s comment, “I don’t think I am looking at an American Idol”.
    CJ’s sense of pitch is lacking.

  18. C says:

    Jessica – My favorite of the evening. She definitely has a better connection when she’s singing her own material. And the song was terrific. My daughter (coming off a VERY messy break-up of her own) immediately gave it the majority of her votes and plans to download it when the studio tracks are available.
    CJ – Best pitch-wise of the competition so far–for him that is. Good song choice.
    Jena/Alex – Nice harmony. Alex seemed very weak and choppy in his solo parts, though.
    Sam – I understood his words, which is hard to do with this song. He has the best enunciation of the whole group. Seemed to have a lot more confidence with this song.
    Jessica/Caleb – Great pairing of voices. I loved the “slide” at the end of the first chorus and the very end of the song.
    Malaya – Sang very well, but I didn’t care for the song.
    Dexter – Swallowed the end of his words.
    Malaya/Sam – Who picked this song? It sounded like something written for children. They were probably embarrassed to be doing it.
    Jena – EXCELLENT! I think this was the best performance of the season for her.
    Dexter/CJ – Back to back singing proved that Dexter’s voice is far superior to C.J.’s
    Caleb – For once, only the third best of the night, after Jessica and Jena.
    Alex – Song seemed choppy because he kept cutting his phrases short.

    Please, please, please send CJ home!!!!!

  19. Adam Fachry says:

    I LOVE Jena’s arrangement for Rolling in the Deep up until the mid-part. It was very reminiscent of the druggy atmospheric production today’s R&B acts such as The Weeknd, Miguel, How to Dress Well, and Frank Ocean have demonstrated in their work. Too bad she’s still a minor, because if it were up to me, I would love her to sing The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games”. I wish the band didn’t go full throttle halfway through, though. But it was still a very remarkable performance.

  20. jaxguy says:

    For me it was a tie. Caleb/Jena

  21. Word Money G says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how few people give Country music or country musicians any credit in these competitions. Have you people completely forgotten about Scotty McCreery? He won this show. Dexter is not going away. He did a very good job on “One Mississippi” last night (not as good as the original, which is PHENOMENAL), and as soon as CJ goes away, he will pick up whatever straggling country votes are left. Mass audenices have a hard time differentiating – “it’s that country guy, it’s that Pop-alt guy, it’s the young black girl…” You have to have a lane, and big Dex has a lane. He’s not the best singer in the bunch, but you know what you’re getting, that sound is on the radio, and there is a large group of people who will support it.

    Last night was the first night where all the contestants sang well, and seemed like they all belonged. In those situations, sometimes Song wins. Which bodes poorly for Songs like CJ’s, Caleb’s and Malaya’s, all of which are pretty old and not relatable to the younger part of the audience. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the bottom 3 were CJ, Caleb and Malaya. Not that any of them were bad at all.

    I did very much like Jess’s original, which could be on the radio now (on country), and think she kind of gets screwed by the producers, who are really pushing Jena, Caleb and Alex on us.

    • Lynn says:

      @Word Money G — agree with all your points. I don’t foresee Dexter in the bottom 3 tonight, maybe not even next week, as long as he sticks to what he’s been doing. That said, I don’t see Caleb sinking that far, although I believe the facebook votes in the top half of the were quite telling with under-21 viewers clearly favoring Malaya and Sam over Jessica and CJ. I’m not a Jessica fan and I think she easily outperformed Malaya and Sam. Unfortunately, I think the producers favor the young singers, so I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see Jessica in the bottom 3. What they’re competing for right now is 4/5th place, and looks and personality aside, Dexter has the fan support to make that spot.

    • Mary says:

      I think Dexter is good but do you really think he has a shot at Country being generic??? What makes him different than those other thousand country artist trying to get radio play????

    • Lola says:

      I believe that if Dexter sang that song as well has he did last night on The Voice, Blake Shelton would push the button. I would not say that about any other performance he has done, and I do not expect him to last much longer, but he earned his keep last night! Good for him!

    • syb says:

      Dexter is good at what he does. I don’t personally like what he does, so I wouldn’t even comment much on it except to say I thought he had a good night last night. Not quite so mindnumbingly boring for a non-country fan. When you say he isn’t the best singer of the bunch, I think he’s up there actually from the technical standpoint. Definitely the top half of them. Unfortunately, leaves me cold stylistically.

  22. The Professor says:

    *Two* somebodys were singing out of tune on the CJ-Dexter duet. It is very, very hard to harmonize with someone with intonation problems as bad as CJ’s.

  23. I hate to say this, but Malaya reminds me of the Vanessa Bayer SNL character… “Spotlightz Acting Camp,” where she’s an annoyingly precocious child overdelivering every line.

  24. ME says:

    I have no idea how CJ stayed in over Majesty. It is a crime. I thought Jessica and Caleb had the best duet. They definitely deserved higher than a B+! At least an A-.
    I am all for a Jena and Alex finale. I don’t know who I like more out of the two. Jessica and Caleb are great singers but I feel they are not original enough.

  25. Mark says:

    So, when exactly did this become the JLO and Friends show? Seriously, is it necessary cutting to her intense face for 3-7 seconds at a time every 30 seconds? Is she supposed to be the face of the show now? Give me a break.

    OK, on to the performances. Am I being too cynical in viewing this rehash theme as the producers’ final desperate attempt to provoke decent performances out of this cast? Let them sing something they’ve already done and done fairly well in order to avoid another major debacle? That’s how I read it. I hate the fact that 1/3 of the finale is taken up with retread songs, and now they are extending to a full episode a the season’s midpoint. Not encouraging at all.

    In any event, I give Jessica her first win for the season. Still not the performance I was looking for, but I’m starting to come to grips with the fact that she’s just not the performer I want her to be. This was solid. She finally connected with a song and delivered some passion.

    Caleb and Alex were good but not great. They both held their own, however. Neither surprised, but neither disappointed.

    Jena was highly overrated, in my opinion. I give her credit for producing a unique and original arrangement. Unfortunately, that arrangement lacked all of the emotion of the original. The anger that resentment that fueled Adele’s version was all diffused, and all that remained was a latent whine. It was like no alcohol beer–flavorless, punchless, and memorable for all the wrong reasons.

  26. Name This Tune says:

    Here’s the bad news for Jessica, Sam, Malaya and CJ. They performed during the first hour of Idol. Which had 1 million fewer viewers than the second hour. And the last 30 minutes had the most viewers. Good for Caleb and Alex. Kind of tells you who TPTB at Idol want in the finale.

    • GuitarBlue says:

      Yes, I have heard that the rotation is done by drawing, but I don’t think they would do that – as someone could haphazardly draw 1st or last several times. So it’s probably the producers making the decisions on rotation.

      ………..Since the top 13 started, the eliminations went like this:

      Top 13 = 3rd singer eliminated
      …..Tp12 = 5th singer eliminated……Top 11= 5th singer eliminated….. Top 10 – 1st singer eliminated………Top 9 = 2nd singer eliminated…………………… and this year they have quit doing the little review capsules of the performances at the end.

      • Name This Tune says:

        No one should be surprised to see Dexter, Alex, Jena, and Caleb sail through. But Jessica and CJ sang when only 7 million people were watching. 8 million wer watching when Sam and Malaya sang. Over 9 million for the other 4.

  27. BobL says:

    I agree with the general consensus that this was a very good show. I still think C.J. should go home. His song this week was merely “not horrible;” it certainly wasn’t good. Dexter was OK, but aren’t there hundreds of Dexters out there in the country music universe? Jena and Alex stand out to me. They have unique sounds and original interpretations and deliveries. Sam is a mystery, to be sure. Let me just throw something out regarding him: It’s entirely possible he is on the autism spectrum. The judges are always talking about his lack of connection, and even while they are doing so, he just stands up on stage expressionless and seemingly clueless. I’m not sure he is genetically programmed for connection. I have a 19-year-old son with Asperger’s, so what I’m saying–while still speculation from afar–isn’t entirely random or gratuitous. Sam is clearly an exceptional singer, always spot-on with pitch and phrasing. I enjoy his renditions and I wish him the best.

  28. GuitarBlue says:

    Whoever goes first between Dexter and CJ will make the other one stronger toward making top 5. Similar genres of music and from the same state – so when one leaves, the other gets stronger in the competition.

  29. Dot says:

    Sorry Slezak but Caleb will NOT be in the bottom 3!! But I do agree with your “Should Be” list, including CJ going home.

  30. Tom22 says:

    Great show for me, second week following. Singers were great, Songs were almost all spot on perfect for them, arrangements and accompaniment showcased the singers voices while stilll keeping the songs alive and enjoyable to listen to the individual musicians in their understated but inspired way(generally).
    Judges were great. Harry is finding better words to encourage improvements rather than cast those areas as disapproval. Better words in other ways too about lyrics. The three of them while making great insights that I would have never thought of (of course ! they’re pros !).
    Better words for “connection” would be great, but they’re all taking steps and I appreciate the care demonstrated with “I was thinking of it during the week”. (not quite as good as if the contestants had them as mentors on a rolling basis). I might use words like “be sure you’re thinking of something you care bout in each phrase that you NEED to Tell Someone.. … (even if that someone is God… or mother nature or the ceiling tell them). The connection with the lyrics doesn’t need to be exact but they must have an emotional state tied to each phrase.. a thought in their minds that comes out through the words ….. we can tell if they’re thinking of the words or notes themselves. If they have a warm vision of their family together bringing a cake to their niece in a high chair at a first birthday party… it doesn’t matter what the lyrics are necessarily (although a word like celebration, or growth or life somewhere in the sentence helps us connect to where the emotion they’re singing is coming from).
    We can hear the warm glow of emotion when they think of the 1 year old and cake and mom over the shoulder instead of thinking of a lyric. We can taste the disgust if they were to think of a starving kid in a refugee camp while on a sentence where they were expressing disgust.
    Thats my stab at helping on that.
    Also, they came really really close to getting the stage connection with the audience……the “look at somebody” was key, but I think the kids might have been taking that a bit like it had to be that person in the audience rather than looking at A person or multiple people, and as if the imaginary ideal of a person in the song was behind the face of each. Make up a character (Sam might think of a girl he might want to meet hypothetically, and write down their traits on paper, ideas, humor , type of smile, warm eyes. hopes, dreams…scribble it out Sam) then sing to that dream of a person but keep making eye contact now and then with audience members as if that dream might just be behind the face (even if they’re married, they can think that special person their wife is could also be in similar ways behind that face in the audience… singing to that soul that might be playing hide and seek ?)
    Ok, that’s another shot at advice for audience connection.
    Criticisms. Production work still isn’t up to par. The Camera work had one or two decent parts but they really should just go through the camera work they did in season 9 and 10 and compare it to the zooms and fades and rotating camera angles of that season to this season. It still isn’t up to par. They could start by the camera shots of the judges, use of split screens at time etc. to see the differences.
    Sound.. there were still a few mixing issues that were very distracting… Jena’s Rolling in the Deep would have been far better for me if the sound mixer had her voice and the back up singers much louder relative to the piano/keyboard(keys were even too loud compared to guitars),… they keyboard player wasn’t playing wrong, the mix and /or the stage sound baffles or whatever was not what it could be.
    All in all though it was a great show.
    American Idol does have that story line of growth of generally far less experienced singers …at least on a commercial level or experience on big stages even if only as a lead act or background singer. I won’t go farther because I can’t do it justice exactly but they’ve been doing a strong job with that all along….hopefully the kids have been getting more input from former starts as well as technical coaches behind the scenes… Now that we can hear the singers and the singers can hear the band and the band has had time/resources/personnel changes be contributing in a strong positive way … the music piece (critical central piece) has got the show firing on all cylinders (hopefully the audience will come back if it’s not too late). Cheers to the successful efforts of righting the ship !

    • Name This Tune says:

      Interesting that you bring up former stars. Because Chris Daughter gave several of them a piece of advice and most of them chose to ignore it. Put down the guitar and focus on singing and performing.
      They may be getting the mentoring but it doesn’t mean they are listening.

      • Name This Tune says:

        Should read Daughtry.

        • Tom22 says:

          Oh, and to your point > yes, you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Of course, some fat other horse might have been distracting them from the message and/or the ones that did drink would be more refreshed horses to ride in the trips ahead while the others would be lost by the wayside of the trail .

      • Tom22 says:

        @Name This .. I was actually thinking of more veteran stars like they have had in past seasons but… ; ) I didn’t mean “former” but “long established” . Cheyrl Crow, or Beyonce etc… not expecting Beyonce on short notice but … The Voice finds lots of stars to help the host stars. Idol did too every year I watched up to this one.
        I suspect that stage headliners with 10 plus years at it really have a lot to give (and certainly the 3 on the panel would too, but it takes more than sound bites…even 10 or 15 minutes together could be huge. Vocal coaches are better at lots of things than the stars but I’d like to think the stars that found crowds demanding to hear them on stage might even have different mental approaches and certainly must have some insights in how to connect on top of having a superior control of their voice that they might share with the vocal coaches.

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Tom, for my money if fans came to this board and just looked for and read your comments only, it would be worthwhile. I not only appreciate your thoughts but enjoy how you always contextualize them. I hope your talent for understanding life in a balanced and thoughtful manner is spread around in your life.

      • Tom22 says:

        Thank you : ) I’m not sure my activity always meets my goals for myself.. Too many things like procrastinating by writing on TV fan forums ; ) and I can lose my temper with my frustrating teenagers.. but we can always try!

  31. Jim Welker says:

    I still feel these are terrible singers! Anothef person who comments…..Honey Barlett left many comments! She has copied comments I made since the beginning! I don’t like this! She tries to get a rise out of everyone where I never aimed for that! I guess I created a monstef! Ms. Barlett, KNOCK IT OFF! I do agree partially with all hetr comments, which I have said many times in the past so I’ m not gonna bother to say much….THIS CREEP HAS SAID IT ALL! I will say, my 2 left from my FAB 4 ARE SGILL IN IT! I pickdd them from their first auditions….CALEB and SAM! My last hope to win is Caleb az Sam now STINKS! Anyway I am not gonn post my usual remarks, Barlett said it all! My comments would be her copied comments of mine and I don’ t need people to complain…They have blasted her already!

  32. Jim Welker says:

    Sorry for typos…hope people can figure them out! THANK YOU!

  33. marie says:

    In a perfect world, people would not use this board as a place to disparage contestants’ clothing/appearance/attractiveness or perceived lack thereof.

  34. BroadwayBaby says:

    Can they PLEASE stop the 20 second cuts to Jennifer Lopez during the performances to we can see her loveliness? We’re missing so much of the contestants own performance and it’s driving me insane.

  35. syb says:

    It’s pretty amazing to me that two of the three most popular performances here and elsewhere are originals by contestants, and the third was indeed a deconstruction of an overworn Adele song. It really was a good night.
    One quibble Michael–I liked Caleb’s Chain of Fools just fine, but he certainly didn’t invent bluesing it up. Try on Joe Cockers version for size. It was pretty similar. I’m not knocking Caleb. That was his audition song, and he did a nice job, but I’ve seen a couple of recappers imply that nobody ever sang it but Aretha and a Gospel choir and that’s just not the case.

  36. darcy's evil twin says:

    I am late to the party here, but I got my Wednesday meeting moved to Tuesday. YAY! That said, I loved Jess’ original “Blue Eyed Lie”, I loved the duet between Jess and Caleb, loved Caleb’s “Chain of Fools”, loved Alex’ original song “Fairy Tale”.
    And I actually thought Sam was pretty decent on “Lego House”.
    I’m not sure what the judges are hearing with Malaya and CJ that I’m missing. Malaya has improved, that’s for sure. I am just not getting CJ other than his Marshall Tucker Band song from a few weeks ago.
    Jena was very good on the Adele rearrangement – like Angie from last year she’s very talented, just not my favorite.

  37. Keefer000 says:

    I really appreciate that this is a live show and all, but would it be possible not to squeeze the last person’s performance each week? Alex this week should have gotten a lot more attention from the judges but time was out. Really, all the producers would have to do would be to drop a half dozen or so of the Fox TV and Movie promotions that they run each week. There would still be dozens of those promos left in the show, plus the performers would get the feedback they need.

  38. Jim Welker says:

    To Barlett: I read all your comments and you beat me to the punch! I was goung to make comments very close to yours! Excellent job! BUT, I do not appreciate ylu using my PRIOR COMMENTS I’ve mentioned in previous posts and mentioning my name! I still hate Meuse and ug mug Alex, etc, etc.

  39. Harrion says:

    I am a fan of American Idol, in general,, actually an older one, and a musician/singer, who has learned a lot about singing from watching this show. Usually, by the time the contestants whittle down to the top 10, i can get absorbed and fully interested. Not this time, my friends. To me this season is the biggest zero by far. And I do mean zero. I have really tried, I tune into each episode, but nothing, not one singer who I consider the least bit interesting.Harry Connick’s comments about this being the most interesting group of contestant’s yet, are so self-serving, as to be laughable. He claims to traffic in the truth and he puts up with CJ, a guy who can’t sing on key to save his life, He claims CJ has come a long way in terms of getting pitch down, but, hey, this guy can’t sing, Straight-up, if you can’t hit the notes, you can’t be in a singing competition. And, the audience, gheesh! Do you have to be a girl under the age of 11 to get in. Maybe the judges were instructed to weed out anyone with talent for this season.

  40. Meme says:

    Jessica’s original song should get thousands of downloads after her performance this week. I haven’t checked to see, but I personally plan to download it. “They say a man who is worth your tears will never make you cry.” Oh my. Like Jennifer said … “it was perfect.” Thank you, Jessica!

  41. Jessica says:

    Late with my comment but I finally picked who I think should be in the top 3, Jena, Alex, and Caleb with Jessica placed 4th. Bad news is Dexter and Malaya don’t seem to be going anywhere. I absolutely agreed that Jessica should *move*-walk-anything and there was the pause that was a bit awkward but that said-great song. Jena is my favorite and Alex I think is getting a bit better every week.

  42. Nicole Dala says:

    I am going to correct you and tell you that Allison finished fourth on Idol because when she was eliminated Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey were still in the competition. Danny Gokey was then eliminated leaving Kris and Adam in the finals