After last week's sad elimination of MK Nobilette, the competition is heating up for the remaining American Idol Top 9.
Tonight the theme is #ImWithTheBand and contestants will sing songs...with the band. Maybe we should go back to traditional theme weeks?
Anyway. Let's get started...
Alex Preston kick--nope. There comes Sam Woolf and Majesty Rose. We're getting a Big Group Number with the band, or at least a trio. There comes Dexter Roberts with "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, joined by Jessica Meuse and CJ Harris.
And there comes Malaya Watson looking like she might be having a seizure next to Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene.
We've reached the point of the competition where the producers have to fill the extra time in the episode with previews for the Idol summer tour. Of these trios, the first was my best. Those three are clearly the most talented in this competition. Add in Jena Irene and we're looking at my personal choice for Top 4.
Okay, NOW Alex Preston is really kicking off the night. He's chosen No Doubt's "Don't Speak" to perform with the band. He adds a Maroon 5, Jason Mraz spin to it that makes it excellent. It's definitely a fresh twist on an old song, which is exactly what he needed to do going first tonight: make it memorable.
Keith loves that Alex has his own sound and style but wants him to put a little bit of edge to his songs. Jennifer says she can't not think of Gwen Stefani and said that Alex's version "sucked the energy" out of the song. Harry wants to see Alex move around on the stage to keep the energy in his performances. 5/5
Having been in the Bottom 3 two weeks in a row now, Majesty Rose has something to prove tonight. "Shake It Out" by Florence + the Machine is an excellent song choice for her, but I'm hypercritical because this is one of my personal favorite songs. I really like this.
She bobbles a couple notes, but Majesty is a great performer and knows how to command the stage even from the center. The arrangement of this number was excellent in terms of shortening the performance to fit. I liked it.
Jennifer says this is the Majesty she loves and says that vocally it was all over the place but performance-wise a 10. Harry says he's been waiting for her to connect and says she's "so close to breaking through." Her stylistic diversity might be hindering the audience from connecting with her. Keith loved the song choice but thinks the adrenaline and excitement sometimes gets the best of her. 4.5/5
Dexter Roberts takes on Little Big Town's "Boondocks." It definitely feels more like a concert tonight with the band on the stage with him, but I can't decide if he's connecting with the song and bringing Dexter to the performance the way he's been advised. It's not terrible at all, but it's not exactly exceptional. It's a very vanilla performance.
Harry didn't think he brought himself to the song. Once again, he sang karaoke. Keith might have made up a new word, "anthemic," but said that if that song hadn't been a Little Big Town number first, it could've been a Dexter Roberts hit. (Hey, Keith, that's not really helpful.) Keith wants to see what they haven't seen yet. Jennifer calls him the resident modern country guy and wants to see him change things up a little. 3.5/5
High school junior Malaya Watson thinks we might be shocked to learn that she's energetic in the mornings. (No, Malaya, we're not shocked.) She's singing "The Long and Winding Road" tonight. First of all, props to the stylist who helped dress her for this because she looks fantastic, right down to the John Lennon-esque glasses. While I'm not usually a fan of the ballad, Malaya knows how to sing them and nothing showcases her incredible vocal talents quite like ballads. That was effortless.
Keith said "gosh, that was beautiful, baby." Jennifer loves that we've now seen two sides of Malaya tonight in the group number and in her solo performance. There are hints of a young Michael Jackson in Malaya's voice. Harry gives her the award for "most consistently improving" and then goes on to talk about gummy bears again but comes back to give her some amazing advice: forget about stardom, work on your craft. 5/5
Once again going after the teenage girl vote, Sam Woolf chose "Hey There Delilah." It's a smart move for him showing he knows his audience. He's still not very good at connecting with the camera with his eyes, but he's not closing them while he sings anymore. He starts to smize a little and that looks more comfortable. It's almost not even worth it trying to critique Sam's singing because he's not really going to screw that up. He's good and he knows that. What plagues him is confidence.
Jennifer calls the song perfectly suited for him but asks if he had anybody in mind while singing. He blushes. He's still blushing. Harry calls his arrangement smart and says this is the most comfortable we've seen him but didn't feel connection with the lyrics. Keith loves the tone of Sam's voice and called the song choice "interesting." 4/5
Jessica Meuse is taking on Stevie Nicks' "Rhiannon." She puts down the guitar which opens her up just a little. Something about her voice gets lost in the music, like it fades into the sounds around her. I'm underwhelmed.
Harry thought she did a nice job and said this might have been his favorite performance of hers because he saw a slight and subtle change in her. Keith didn't think she did enough to pull the audience in with that performance. Jennifer thinks her confidence is growing and said she seemed more relaxed, but the performance didn't make her feel anything. 3/5
Guitar teacher C.J. Harris is singing "If It Hadn't Been for Love" by The SteelDrivers. I really want to like this performance. This is my first time hearing this song and it's really a neat song which seems to suit C.J.'s style, but there are some strange things he does with some of the phrasing which pull me out of the performance a little bit.
Keith kicks off the critique saying this was a clever song choice because it allowed him to tap into the soul in his voice but advises that he not confuse the sound of feeling with actual feeling. Jennifer says she never gets tired of hearing his voice but thought he got way off in the middle of the song. Harry talks about juggling and then says he has to get control of his pitch. 2.5/5
Resident rocker Caleb Johnson is singing one of his favorite songs, Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused." He's got a bluesy sound and this set is trippy and awesome. But I can't help but feel like I'm watching the "Hairography" episode of Glee when he sings. vocally he's solid and I'm okay admitting that he can sing even if his style isn't my style.
Jennifer called the performance sexy. Harry says he couldn't have sung the song any better if he'd tried. Keith said he led the band and called the performance "an airbag coming at me in slow motion." 5/5
Jena Irene closes out the night with Evanescence, which is perfect considering she could be the lead singer of the band. This is an excellent way to end the broadcast. The performance is energetic and perfect and the song showcases Jena's considerable vocal talents. She's able to go from rocking out to soft moment instantly. Fantastic!
Harry told Caleb that it'll be hard to follow his performance. Then he told Jena "you just followed that." Keith loves that she delivers every time she performs. Jennifer says she sounds phenomenal but she wanted more hairography. 5/5
Tonight was a pretty strong night for the American Idol Top 9. A clear 6 emerged as excelling above the rest: Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson, Sam Woolf, Malaya Watson, Majesty Rose, and Alex Preston.
That leaves Dexter Roberts, Jessica Meuse, and C.J. Harris in the Bottom 3. While I think C.J. Harris is the weakest of the three, I can see this being the end of the road for Dexter Roberts.
But for whatever reason, that's probably not the way it will shake out tomorrow night.
While I thought Majesty's performance was great, I can see America not connecting with it and sending her back to the stools. On the opposite side, America seems to love Jessica Meuse, keeping her safe week to week.
It'll be interesting to see how things go from week to week because we're soon reaching the point where every week, someone good will be leaving. All we can hope is that we've adequately stacked the deck so that we're happy no matter who wins because the talent is just that good.
Who do you think had the best performance of the American Idol Top 9?
Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.