Tuesday night, the top 12 American Idol finalists performed on the Hollywood stage and gave it their all in the hopes that their hard work will pay off on Thursday’s results show. With this season’s strong emphasis on contestants and Hometown, U.S.A., it was no surprise that the theme for the evening is “home.” It’s also a pretty obvious tie-in for season 11′s winner, Phillip Phillips, who is scheduled to perform his new single “Raging Fire” on tonight’s episode. And with that, let the singing begin!
Jena Irene is from Farmington Hills, Michigan from a tight-knit family. The song that best represents home for her is is “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall. I’m loving her teenage-casual look with the spinning background and that she seem to be having a good time singing. Judge Keith Urban thinks it was good and says he enjoyed this bubbly side of her, but wishes she would have even more fun next time. With her big hair, Jennifer Lopez feels Jena is right on the verge of exploding into a star. Harry Connick Jr., per usual, gets technical, saying he enjoyed her melodic choices. This sets the tone for the rest of the evening.
Alex Preston from Mount Vernon, New Hampshire does his own take on Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be.” In his blue suit and wearing his white electric guitar, he seems more comfortable than he’s been all season. Jennifer, for once, is critical and tells Alex that he didn’t deliver his best vocal this performance. Harry, too, is not super complimentary, fearing that the arrangement got the better of the otherwise talented musician. Keith also felt that Alex needed to get a better handle on the song.
Jessica Meuse, from the teeny, tiny town of Slapout, Alabama, sings Dido‘s “White Flag.” It’s an out-of-character choice for the Southern rock chick. That said, they really are doing a great job with her hair and makeup. She sounds okay, but she really needs to blast those smoky pipes of hers. Harry basically agrees with me, calling it “ blasé.” On the technical side, he points out that she was sharp. It’s not totally clear how Keith felt about her tonight, but in general, he likes how she sings. JLo worries that Jessica’s still not yet comfortable on stage.
Alabama boy from Fayette, Dexter Roberts, sings Montgomery Gentry‘s “Lucky Man” for “somebody back home, who’s not here with us anymore. He tells us this from his vantage point on a stool with his guitar on his lap. Keith is entranced through the whole performance. He calls it “the perfect song.” JLo agrees with Keith. Harry calls it the best performance so far of the evening. It’s hard not to agree, given how the other contestants have sort of been all over the place.
Next up is baby JLo, Emily Piriz, from Orlando, who chose Jennifer’s dance anthem, “Let’s Get Loud.” While I applaud the energy of the song, let’s see if it allows her to showcase Emily’s range, which is far broader than what the tune allows. All in all, I don’t think it was the best choice to allow Emily to really show off her voice, although I did love Keith’s interpretation of Latin dancing. Jennifer is too flattered to see that Emily didn’t quite nail it. Harry, on the other hand, basically says the song was too big for her and I can’t help but agree. She didn’t really own the stage. Keith, however, agrees with Jennifer, who demonstrates a hair whip just to show Emily how she could have kicked it up a notch. I have to say, what Jennifer may lack in vocals, she more than makes up in presence. Oh yeah — and physical perfection.
Asheville, North Carolina native, Caleb Johnson picked Rush song “Working Man” for his hometown tune. The 22-year-old rocks out with a decidedly more modern look this time. Good work, stylists. As he has every night, Caleb sounds great and the song is perfectly appropriate for him. Harry calls him “the most consistent of any performer on the show,” but cautions him to think about how to keep it fresh. Keith calls him one of the best vocalists, calling it “an amazing gift.” Jennifer sums it up with “great job tonight.”
MK’s choice for the evening is “Drops Of Jupiter.” While she does really well with these low-key tunes, she was a little too low energy. Unfortunately, it seems our sweet MK got lost in the song. Keith enjoyed the election, but wished she would have delivered more emotion. Jennifer thought she could have pushed herself more and Harry says simply, “I still get the feeling you don’t want to be here.”
CJ Harris, from Jasper, Alabama, looks so different without his trademark hat as he takes to the stage for his version of John Mayer‘s “Waiting On The World To Change.” Jennifer compliments his look, which, I agree, is quite nice. Harry felt the emotion, even though CJ sang sharp. Keith urges him to make each song more his own.
Sam Woolf lives with his grandparents in Bradenton, Florida, the city he now calls home. Wearing a grey fedora, the freckled teen sings “Just One” with a gaggle of tween female fans surrounding him as he looks like a teen idol in the making. Harry calls it “pleasant” but needs Sam to express more “emotional dynamics.” Keith agrees, but loves Sam’s tone. Jennifer agrees with them both.
Hometown hero Malaya had a rough last week and is has chosen a gospel song, “Take Me To The King.” Debuting her straight hair, she sits at the piano, much more contained this time around as she blows her beautiful pipes and shows off her musical skill on the piano. Keith applauds her song choice and he and Jennifer both got goosebumps at the very end. Jennifer said it brought tears to her eyes. Harry called it “focused” and was overall complimentary.
Ben Briley is next and his choice is “Turning Home” from David Nail. It’s decidedly low key for Ben. Jennifer loved the “feeling.” Harry didn’t “connect with it” and says “it felt shouted.” Keith cautions him not to worry about the technicality and to tone down his movements.
Last, but not least, is Majesty Rose singing Coldplay‘s “Fix You.”She is so impossibly adorable and looks very pretty tonight. It starts off very sweet but gets super loud and somewhat overwhelming, which is odd for her, since she’s usually so solid. Harry believes that she started off strong, but that it got unwieldy. Jennifer tells her, “You don’t always have to go for the big thing.” Keith agrees, but also thinks Majesty’s coming back next week.
So there you have it, the talented 12 still left in the running. If you care about your favorites in the very least, then log in, dial your phone, text or send a carrier pigeon to American Idol to secure their place in the top 11 in time for the Thursday night results show.
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.
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