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American Idol Review: Back To the Start

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Last week saw Majesty Rose's elimination, bringing the contestant count on American Idol to 8.

Tonight they'll reprise the songs that got them here in the first place, once again singing their audition songs. How havethe American Idol Top 8 grown as artists since we first met them all?

We're about to find out! 

We'll also get contestant duets! Whee! (Read that with your sarcasm goggles, okay?)

CJ Harris and Dexter Roberts

Jessica Meuse has added blonde to her hair alongside the pink, and she's rocking a red dress. She's singing her original song "Blue Eyed Lie" with the backing of Ricky Minor and the band, which has to be a pretty cool experience. Her song has some bite to it and it's actually my favorite performance of hers so far this season. This is who she is as an artist which might explain some of the disconnect she's experienced with the covers she's done so far.

Keith says that he loves her ferocity but wants her to keep working on having energy throughout the rest of her body so that it matches the attitude in her face. Jennifer felt that the original number was "really perfect." Harry disagreed with Keith about the intensity but thought there was a dead space in her song. 4/5

The song that started it all for C.J. Harris was " Soul Shine." During the intro his mother says that he's been singing since he could talk, but not in tune, which is the comment he's gotten from Harry all season. This is better than his audition, but that probably has something to do with the band backing him. He still has a bad habit of closing his eyes when he sings, but it's clear that he's advanced as a performer during his time on Idol.

Jennifer said we all felt that this was better than the first time he sang it and that his performance touched her heart. Harry says he and his voice are special enough to be there and that C.J. has been working on his intonation. Keith gave him a quick "good job tonight" before Ryan took over. 3.5/5

Jena Irene and Alex Preston sing "Learn To Love Again." It's great, but they're great, so it's sort of expected.

Sam Woolf is singing "Lego House" again. In his audition, he sped the tempo of the number up, which earned him positive comments from the judges. He does the same in his performance tonight. The stage directors have set up lamps all around him which is a slightly odd choice, I think, but vocally, Sam is as good as he always is. He's really come a long way since we first met him.

Harry thinks that "confidence" isn't the right word for what Sam's lacking. What he's missing is connection. Otherwise, Harry called it the best performance of the night so far. Keith says he's getting better and better every week and he can tell Sam's been working hard on things. Jennifer said we saw a "glimpse of the magic that is Sam Woolf." 5/5

Jessica Meuse and Caleb Johnson team up for "Stop Draggin My Heart Around." It's a good choice for the two since she's got that Stevie Nicks vibe and he's got a little country edge to his rock and roll.

The youngest contestant in the competition, Malaya Watson learned to love music because of her father. Tonight she'll sing "Ain't No Way" by Aretha Franklin once again. This girl and her pipes! I have goosies! Is a song like this current? Not at all. This would never get regular radio play. But when it comes to Malaya, that's almost secondary to the fact that this girl is mega talented for 16 years old. She's such an old musical soul! 

Keith called her performance tonight "with it" and loved her control. Jennifer has loved watching her blossom into a star. Harry says she's doing everything right but wants her to continue working on how she hears music. 5/5

A bus tour auditioner, Dexter Roberts barely made it to Salt Lake City. Tonight he's singing "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi" by Brett Eldridge. I'm unfamiliar with the original, so to me this is a Dexter Roberts original performance, and it's really nice, but it might not be to the judges. I really love Dexter and his personality and I think he's a genuinely nice guy, but I question whether there's room for another guy like him in Nashville. Maybe there is. Maybe.

Jennifer says she heard so many nuances in his voice she hadn't heard yet and called this a beautiful thing he did. (Alison Iraheta sang backup for him.) Harry complimented Dexter on complimenting the musicians who helped him. He "sang the crap" out of the song, according to HCJ. Keith called it "really good, man" but Dexter needs to communicate the lyric and stop thinking about his voice. 4/5

Malaya Watson and Sam Woolf tackle "Lucky" and Malaya taps into her inner stage diva to try and convey the emotion in the song. That, coupled with Sam's crazy shyness, makes this an awkward moment.

Jena Irene is tackling Adele's "Rolling In the Deep" again, and she starts by slowing the arrangement down and beginning with the chorus instead of a verse. She's changed the entire arrangement, actually, and the piano behind this version doesn't work. Vocally she's spot on and I love her, but I do not love this arrangement at all. 

Harry loves the quirk in Jena's voice and says she did a great job. Keith loved that she made the song her own throughout the entire song. Jennifer's advice is for Jena to blow everyone away week after week and try to win. 3.5/5

C.J. Harris and Dexter Roberts team up for a Darius Rucker number, which might be the best duet of the night since the song is equally suited to both of their styles.

Returning contestant Caleb Johnson first auditioned for season 10. This season, he auditioned with "Chain of Fools" by Aretha Franklin, but a rocked-up, a cappella version. Tonight he's added the band backing and a lot more hairography. It's sort of sleepy and not his best performance.

Keith called it "killer" and said that Caleb is a "rock and roll Viking." Jennifer says it's like he's been waiting his whole life for these moments. Harry says that his stakes are so "firmly planted" in this competition that he wants to see a different side of Caleb, something softer. The audience boos, but that's a reasonable request. 3/5

Caleb Johnson
Well done, Caleb Johnson! He's advanced to the final 13 on American Idol.

Alex Preston is closing the night with an original called "Fairytales." It's a song about a girl who is "just a friend" now. There's nothing about this guy I don't love. He knows that he's talented but he doesn't seem cocky about it in interviews. And he IS talented. This is another moment where we're seeing him step into his own as a legitimate musician with the band behind his song making him and Jessica excellent bookends on the night. 

Jennifer loves that he's stayed true to himself since the very beginning. Harry enjoyed it and loves that it was an original number. Keith noticed that half the contestants were singing along with Alex and called that a "good sign." 5/5

Let's just get right to it. In terms of musicality in this year's Idol competition, C.J. Harris is our weakest link. It's not for lack of heart and soul, but he's just not up to the level of the other contestants. Dexter Roberts, while a likeable guy, is the one contestant in this year's competition who seems to be wading into chock full waters. Is there even any room for him?

Those two get my vote for bottom 2 this week with C.J. making the exit. Dexter is clearly getting the votes as revealed by Ryan's handy Facebook voting poll magic at the end of the episode.

Jena Irene could find herself in the Bottom 3 not because of lack of talent but because a vast majority of people who love "Rolling In the Deep" will not love her rendition. She'll be safe, however, because there's no way the judges would let her leave this early.

Alex won the night for me, as he's done almost every week so far. Jessica Meuse' original number was another highlight. As it turns out, I like her much better when she does her own songs as opposed to covering other artists. 

Caleb Johnson, Malaya Watson, and Sam Woolf were right there in the middle of the pack.

We only have two weeks left for the judges to use the save and tomorrow night could be the night! I guess we'll see, won't we?

What did you think of tonight's American Idol performances? Which of the Top 8 contestants had the best performance tonight?

 

Looking to download these songs? Do so here:

  Song Artist
Dexter-roberts-one-mississippi One Mississippi Dexter Roberts iTunes
Cj-harris-soul-shine Soul Shine C.J. Harris iTunes
Jena-irene-rolling-in-the-deep Rolling in the Deep Jena Irene iTunes
Sam-woolf-lego-house Lego House Sam Woolf iTunes
Alex-preston-fairytales Fairytales Alex Preston iTunes
Caleb-johnson-chain-of-fools Chain of Fools Caleb Johnson iTunes
Malaya-watson-aint-no-way Ain't No Way Malaya Watson iTunes

Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Finally these kids are stepping it up. I was just thinking last week that Jonny Lang, at their age, would have WIPED THE FLOOR with them (the Lie To Me album was recorded when he was 16). Much better this week. Hope they keep it up!

Miranda-wicker
@ Idol+viewer

I agree with you, completely. This is the point where it gets really difficult to judge because the talent pulls so close together in terms of ability, likeability, musicianship, all of it. We're at the point where every week someone will leave not because they don't deserve to be here and aren't good enough but because that's how the game is played.

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