Wednesday night on American Idol, the top 13 performed for the viewers and for judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. For the first time, fans were able to vote immediately after the performances.
The theme of the night was "This Is Me." Contestants were asked to perform songs that best defined them.
Dexter Roberts kicked things off by playing "Aw Naw," by country artist Chris Young, on his guitar. Keith and Jennifer both thought it was a fine cover, but wished Dexter had put his own spin on it. Harry suggested that Dexter show off more of his personality.
The bespectacled Malaya Watson took on Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby." J-Lo graded Malaya's performance skills as an "A-plus," though she added it wasn't the teen's best vocals. Harry invoked his favorite word, "intonation," and sensed she was a little nervous.
Kristen O'Connor performed "Beautiful Disaster," a track off former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson's debut album, Thankful. Harry called her a strong pop singer, but he questioned whether she properly conveyed the meaning of the lyrics, about a woman accepting a man despite his faults. Kristen replied that she intended for the song to correspond with her battle on the show as a wild card entry. J-Lo advised her to stop over-thinking things on stage.
Backed by a bluegrass group, Ben Briley played Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Keith observed that it was a "brisk" version of the song; J-Lo and Harry enjoyed the pace. Keith warned Ben to find a proper balance between entertaining the crowd and maintaining his sense of artistry.
Wild card contestant C.J. Harris covered Darius Rucker's "Radio." Harry would have liked to have heard a song that could bring out the "cry" in C.J.'s voice. Keith disagreed, saying it was a good choice, one that showed a different side of C.J.
MK Nobilette wore a pink ensemble with makeup and sneakers for her performance of Allen Stone's "Satisfaction." Harry and Keith both thought she looked great. Harry also marveled at how much she's grown as a contestant from the time she auditioned. J-Lo said she was unfamiliar with the song but loved it.
Majesty Rose York picked Janelle Monáe's "Tightrope." Keith called it a "killer song choice" because it brought out her personality. Harry said there are many different types of music she can sing.
Jena Irene, the third wild card entry, belted out "The Scientist," by Coldplay. Harry said she makes interesting choices, which is cool. He also stated that unlike last week, he felt the meaning of a song from her. Keith advised Jena to not hesitate while performing.
Alex Preston played "A Beautiful Mess," by Jason Mraz, on his acoustic guitar. Harry felt it was too introspective, but Keith and J-Lo were caught up in the emotion of it.
Jessica Meuse chose Shinedown's "The Crow & the Butterfly." Keith said Jessica has an edge to her voice that is appealing. J-Lo added that Jessica's performance was her favorite of the night up to that point.
Emily Piriz went with the Pink song "Glitter in the Air." Jennifer said it's not an easy song to perform, but Emily pulled it off. Keith liked it, but he wondered whether it had balance.
Sam Woolf tackled "Unwell," by Matchbox 20. Harry wished the vocals more closely matched the sentiment behind the song. He said it was a "nice" performance, but not great. Keith and J-Lo told Sam he could stand to be more lively on stage.
Caleb Johnson closed the night by rocking out to "Pressure And Time," by Rival Sons. Season-five champ Taylor Hicks was shown in the audience, listening intently. Keith said Caleb has "serious pipes." He also urged Caleb to find a "twist" to his retro style. J-Lo said she can already envision Caleb living the rock star life.
On Thursday night's results show, one of these contestants will be sent home. There will also be performances by last year's winner, Candice Glover, and British singer-songwriter Jake Bugg. The show airs at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Fox.
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