“I’m With the Band” week kicked off with a bang, as the Top 9 ripped through a medley of rock songs that showed an energy level that has been lacking for much of this season of “American Idol.”
And it, more or less, kept that energy up throughout the show, with some notable exceptions. The show is getting weirder as the season goes on. Harry Connick Jr. stealing Ryan Seacrest’s shoe onstage live. Keith Urban hands out a giant gummy bear. And there are oddly recurring close-ups of Jennifer Lopez watching performances. Did focus groups declare they wanted to see more J.Lo?
In any case, here’s how the Top 9 stacked up:
1. Caleb Johnson, “Dazed and Confused”: This week was built for Caleb and he didn’t disappoint. He dominated the Led Zeppelin classic with both his vocals and his performance. He got a standing ovation from Urban, who called it an “air bag in slow motion,” and Lopez, who called his performance sexy. “I don’t think you could have sung that song any better,” Connick said.
2. Jena Irene, “Bring Me Back to Life”: She did a good job rearranging the Evanescence song into something that showcased her vocal power even more than the original would have. And the judges loved her version, though Lopez wanted her to be more messy. “You always deliver,” Urban said. “You’ve got your own lane.”
3. Alex Preston, “Don’t Speak”: His jazzy version of the No Doubt classic was a nice surprise, but the judges didn’t like it much. Urban wants him to have more edge. Connick wants him to move around more. J.Lo thought he “sucked the energy out of the song.” Never mind that he did the song exactly how he wanted and that it was uniquely his. They wanted something else.
4. Malaya Watson, “The Long and Winding Road”: Her version of The Beatles classic was one of her most controlled and traditionally strong performances so far this season. Lopez said it had “the sweetness of a young Michael Jackson,” while Urban said, “That performance really showed me your spirit.” Connick criticized her for wanting to be famous. “You really can become something great -- work on your craft,” he said.
5. Sam Woolf, “Hey There Delilah”: Sam slowed down the Plain White T’s smash and stripped away some of its layers to better suit his style. It worked well, though the judges wanted more from his performance and wanted him to sell the song to his Delilah, who, after much pressing, he named as his grandma. “That’s exactly the kind of music you should be doing,” Lopez said. “You sounded good doing it.”
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6. Jessica Meuse, “Rhiannon”: Her version of the Fleetwood Mac classic was OK, mistakenly breaking the vibe by trying to over-sing toward the end. Lopez said she needed to make people feel something when they listen to her.
7. Dexter Roberts, “Boondocks”: He did a good job with the Little Big Town song, but the judges were mixed on it. Connick said it sounded “generic” and wanted him to sing “Wichita Lineman.” Urban, once again, wanted him to do something other than he did. J.Lo said she loved it -- much more than the gummy bear Urban gave Connick to eat. (Yes, the judges bring props now!)
8. Majesty Rose, “Shake It Out”: Oh Majesty, no. She’s one of the most likable singers left in the competition, but she just doesn’t have Florence Welch-like chops and this song was too much for her. She was out of breath and off-key at times, but oddly, the judges loved it. But Urban, after the judges just told Alex not to stay center stage, told her not to move around so much. It’s crazy.
9. C.J. Harris, “If It Hadn’t Been for Love”: He seemed like he was on his way to a breakout performance with The SteelDrivers song, but lost his way in the middle. At this point, it’s hard to tell what his issue is -- maybe he just loses focus when he gets carried away in the performance. In any case, he once again drifted off key and the judges pointed it out.
BOTTOM THREE: C.J., Majesty, Dexter (Actually C.J., Majesty, Sam)
SHOULD BE CUT: C.J.
WILL BE CUT: Majesty
ACTUALLY CUT: Majesty