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'American Idol' recap: Malaya Watson leads wobbly Top 12

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Contestant Malaya Watson

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Contestant Malaya Watson Credit: Fox / Michael Becker

“Home Week” gave the “American Idol” producers the chance to shape the debate around its favorite contestants.

Dexter Roberts’ dog just had puppies! Emily Piriz is dating a Marine! MK has four moms and step-moms! Sam Woolf lives with his grandparents!

However, the debate between the judges quickly became about how they should talk about the contestants, especially when they weren’t doing so well.

“I feel like we’re being hard on everybody right now,” Jennifer Lopez said.

“It’s about being completely honest,” replied Harry Connick Jr.

But let’s be completely honest, this wasn’t a very good show musically, with none of the Top 12 offering anything surprising. And Connick doesn’t necessarily help matters by pointing out every shortcoming, even when he had to criticize what they didn’t do, instead of what they did.

Here’s how the contestants stacked up:

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Malaya Watson, “Take Me to the King”: She gets a standing ovation from Keith Urban for her version of the Tamela Mann gospel song, giving Lopez “goosies.” “I had goosies from head to toe and tears in my eyes,” Lopez said. “I’m proud of you.” Connick said he was proud of her for her focus. Watson still seemed nervous, but once she let loose it’s hard not to get caught up in her emotion – something that few contestants can really match at this point.

Caleb Johnson, “Working Man”: Johnson ended up in a heap on the floor after performing the Rush song, which kind of summarizes his go-for-broke approach. He’s so consistently good that Connick challenged him with “How can you not be predictable?” However “You’re what I’ve been waiting for all night,” Lopez said. “Great job tonight.”

Sam Woolf, “Just One”: Woolf continues playing to the #WoolfPack well, offering a sweet take on the Blind Pilot song. However, Connick called him on his lack of emotional dynamics, which seems like a lot to ask from a 17-year-old. “You need to try something else,” Connick said. Urban offered another guarantee that he will be safe this week.

Dexter Roberts, “Lucky Man”: The Montgomery Gentry song worked well for Roberts, playing the country-guy role to the hilt, in his backwards trucker cap. He tackles a very specific, low-risk challenge, but handles it exceedingly well. “That was the perfect song,” Urban said, adding that he flubbed a line. “You showed your vulnerable side.”

Emily Piriz, “Let’s Get Loud”: “Representing for all the Latinas out there watching!” Lopez screamed, after Piriz did her song “Let’s Get Loud.” “I loved it. I’m biased!” Connick said she was just a passenger on the big locomotive train that is the song and needed to perform it better, but Urban guaranteed that she would be safe this week and he’s right.

C.J. Harris, “Waiting on the World to Change”: Connick actually nailed the problem with the John Mayer song, albeit semi-jokingly. “You’re not changing the world,” he said. “You’re waiting for the world to change.” In any case, Harris nailed the song, though its limited range isn’t that hard to master. Urban said Harris needs to figure out a way to advance beyond simply covering the song, which is true.

Ben Briley, “Turning Home”: His big voice worked well, even if it went off-target a bit, on the David Nail song. “I did not connect with it and it felt shouted to me,” Connick said. “It was OK. It wasn’t great.” Urban said he was so worried about the technicality that he lost touch with the story. At least Briley got some deviled eggs!

Majesty Rose, “Fix You”: She kind of messed up by going for the powerful finish on the Coldplay song, especially after doing so well with the tender beginning. Pressed for time, the judges told her that the song ended up being disjointed. “I know one thing,” Urban said. “We’re going to see you next week.”

MK Nobillette, “Drops of Jupiter”: Her version of the Train song recalled Tracy Chapman at the beginning, where she played her acoustic guitar. Her control, though, translates into aloofness at times, which is deadly when you’re trying to win votes. “I get the feeling that you don’t really want to be here,” Connick said. “Work on the things that are hard and make you uncomfortable and you will improve.”

Jena Irene, “Suddenly, I See”: Her version of the KT Tunstall was OK – a jumble of styles, a little too fast to show off her voice, though it did allow her to show off her personality. “You can make every single song your own,” Lopez said. “I love that about you.” Connick said he wanted her to show even more energy.

Alex Preston, “I Don’t Wanna Be”: His version of the Gavin DeGraw song fell a little flat and lacked his usual emotional connection. “I felt that the arrangement that you did didn’t quite suit the song,” Lopez said. “I admire the fact that you tried to do something different this time,” Connick said.

Jessica Meuse, “White Flag”: Her countrified version of the Dido song was tentative and messy, losing control of her notes and nearly limping to the finish. Connick said she seemed a bit “blasé,” adding that she was so off on her big note that people noticed. “It just didn’t happen today,” Lopez said.

BOTTOM THREE: Jessica, MK, Alex




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