We bade a fond farewell last week to MK Nobilette, bringing the total remaining American Idol finalists down to nine. As the contestants get that much closer to the final round of competition, tensions continue to rise. Wednesday (March 26) night saw nine live performances from the contestants on the Hollywood stage with a strong focus on the singers’ abilities to work with the band in keeping with this week’s theme, “with the band.”
The always cheerful host Ryan Seacrest introduces the panel of judges, Harry Connick Jr., Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez, all of whom look great, but per usual, JLo steals the focus with her wavy hair and bright red lipstick.
Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz and frontman Patrick Stump visit the contestants to give them advice about touring with a band. The top nine kick off the show’s performances with a medley of hits starting with Coldplay‘s “Clocks” that quickly segues into “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” from The Rolling Stones. The gang ends with FOB’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up).” The best part is Malaya Watson head-banging her awesome mane of hair.
Alex Preston is up first for the individual performances, taking on “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt. It’s a very jazzy, down-tempo version of the famous breakup song. Keith is the first judge to call out to Alex, telling him that while he enjoys his consistent style, he’s still hoping for a bit more “edge” from the young singer. Jennifer likes that he owned the song, but thinks the energy was missing. Harry encourages Alex to move a little more on stage to engage the audience more.
Next to perform is Majesty Rose, who sings Florence + The Machine‘s “Shake It Out.” It’s definitely not her finest singing, despite the fact that she does her best to give good energy. JLo says that her stage presence was great, even though “vocally, it was all over the place.” Harry says she’s “so close to breaking through,” saying he enjoyed the performance. Keith thought it was a great song choice but needs her to learn to control her energy on stage more.
Dexter Roberts sings “Boondocks” by Little Big Town, which quickly has Keith singing along and Jennifer happily bouncing in her seat. As he almost always does, Harry displays a poker face behind his glasses. Harry cautions Dexter to bring his own voice to the songs he’s choosing. After that critique, Keith gives Harry a giant gummy bear to eat, which he and Jennifer do. Keith thinks Dexter could be a hit country singer but wants to see another side of his talent. Jennifer praises him.
My favorite, Malaya Watson, chooses “The Long And Winding Road.” for her “with the band” performance. An old soul, Malaya manages to infuse plenty of emotion into the song. Jennifer is captivated, as is Keith. Keith says, “Gosh, that was beautiful, baby.” Jennifer praises her voice control, saying that she stands out above the rest, comparing her to a young Michael Jackson. Harry praises her for consistently improving, week to week, but cautions her to constantly improve her instrument. He ends it by saying, “Nice job, tonight.”
Now, it’s time for Sam Woolf to do his thing. He chooses “Hey There Delilah” from Plain White T’s. Jennifer asks him if he had someone in mind while he sang and Sam blushes. She tells him that’s the missing element, the emotion. Harry loved the “stripped-down arrangement” and thinks the presentation was great. Harry and Keith briefly toss some jabs at one another, but once the dust settles, Keith offers some musical advice to help Sam loosen up.
Musician and consummate hunter Jessica Meuse takes to the stage for her version of “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac. I dub it a perfect selection for Jessica, but I would have liked to see her wrapped in a few more scarves. Harry, as a Stevie Nicks fan, says it was his favorite performance of hers. He tells her, “I’m proud of you. Nice job.” Keith praises her outfit to start but encourages her to be more comfortable without her guitar. Jennifer praises her now connecting with the audience but wants more personality on stage.
C.J. Harris takes on “If It Hadn’t Been for Love” by The SteelDrivers and sounds better than he has in a while. Keith liked the song choice but cautions C.J. to remain authentic in the emotion of his voice. JLo praises the song selection as well, but says he lost her in the middle of the song. Harry basically concurs with the other two judges and emphasizes how much C.J. needs to work on his the pitch of his voice.
Classic rock and roller Caleb Johnson delivers Led Zeppelin‘s “Dazed & Confused” in his trademark over-the-top style. It’s classic Caleb and JLo’s loving every minute of it. At the end, he gets a standing ovation from Jennifer and Keith. JLo calls the performance “sexy,” which she says he was on stage for the first time. Harry thinks Caleb did a great job with an ambitious song. Keith felt that Caleb did a great job as a frontman.
After Caleb’s triumphant performance, it’s going to be tough for Jena Irene to wow the audience. She does her best with “Bring Me to Life” from Evanescence. It’s a good song choice for her and she delivered a solid version, but let’s see what the judges think. Harry gives her props for voice and stage work. Keith was also pleased with what Jena did on stage. Jennifer agrees with Keith, but says she wanted her to be “more messy.”
All in all, the contestants just seem relieved that they’re done singing for the evening and able to finally relax…until tonight’s results show.
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