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In an interesting twist, the remaining seven American Idol singers were given the task of choosing songs for their competition Wednesday.
The “Competitors Pick” theme certainly opened up the evening for sabotage, but this bunch seems uninterested in drama, and did a nice job matching up songs for their peers.
Mentor Randy Jackson said the theme was more to test the ideas of the Top 7, and some of the suggestions were really interesting.
Former X Factor judge Demi Lovato stopped by to talk about her Neon Lights tour and to have a seat next to Jackson to check out the action and serve as a fourth judge of sorts, praising Jena Irene and suggesting the two pair for their own duet. Terry Bradshaw stopped by to read cue cards and audition for the hosting position vacated by Brian Dunkleman. Also in the crowd, Martin Garrix (“Animals”) and UFC Champion Ronda Rousey.
The contestants also revealed top five things the public doesn’t know about them, Harry Connick Jr. struggled with a hoarse voice, and the Idols once again teamed up for duets. Sam Woolf and Alex Preston strapped on their acoustic guitars to jam on “Let Her Go” by Passenger, while Caleb Johnson and Irene teamed up for an alternative take on “Gimme Shelter“ by The Rolling Stones. In a nice change of pace, all three Alabama kids — Jess Meuse, CJ Harris and Dexter Roberts — took on Lady Antebellum’s “Compass.” The best duet, however, was between Johnson and host Ryan Seacrest on Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.”
Caleb Johnson kicked off the evening with a song selected by Preston, “Family Tree” by Kings of Leon. Johnson picked the song for the groove and the chorus, and the song’s low growly vocals and bluesy refrain fit Caleb like a glove. Johnson even found a way to amp up his vocals in places the song doesn’t reach on the record. Keith Urban loved how he took it up, and called Johnson consistent and “dynamic.” Jennifer Lopez said Johnson raised the bar for the remaining six singers, and keeps forgetting that he is “only 22”. Connick loved how he changed the medley.
Jessica Meuse donned a pair of leather pants and a “badass” selection of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” chosen by Woolf. Meuse started the song bathed in blue light, slowing down the opening and showing far more attitude than she had in previous weeks. Maybe it was the wind machine or how she crouched down beside the guitarist, but this worked, despite some vocal blips. Lopez said she was “off” in the vocals and said it wasn’t natural. Connick said she had a lack of “rhythmic delivery,” and suggested she dance to hip hop in the mirror. Urban suggested she get serious and commit to the lyric. Side note: why did the producers remind the public of Meuse’s issues during Group Week? It was bad enough that she was advised to loosen up on stage last week at the expense of perfect singing, and then called out for going off key when she was trying to give them the release they were looking for, but bringing up the Stephanie Hanvey drama isn’t going to help.
CJ Harris selected Johnson’s choice of “Gravity” by John Mayer. Caleb believed that Harris would take the viewers to “church” with the song, which Harris brought in a way bluesier direction. Urban said it was a “good call” but felt it was missing a “crescendo moment.” Lopez felt he was getting more comfortable, but still needs him to find ways to create excitement in his performances. Connick said Harris connects with audiences, and said it was his “best performance to date.”
Dexter Roberts was thrilled that Harris chose “Muckalee Creek Water” by Luke Bryan, which Harris said would play to the bluesier side of Dexter. Harris put his baseball hat back on for the occasion for the “bro country” rocker, which Roberts embraced with a grittiness he hasn’t shown yet in the competition. Urban said “don’t let the adrenaline pull you out of the key,” but Lopez loved the “dark edge” of the song, but advised him, and the remaining singers, to challenge themselves vocally. Connick praised the arrangement of the song, but wished he had made the song more of his own and not just like the record.
Alex Preston’s online audition of “A Team” by Ed Sheeran made an impression on Roberts, who suggested he do the song for the live audience. Preston’s crystalline vocals were a fit for the song, and the guitarist changed the key slightly to the delight of the girls in the audience. “That was a perfect song for you,” said Lopez, who allowed the crowd their moments to scream. Connick said it was his “favorite performance of the night,” and Urban enjoyed his artistic choices.
Sam Woolf took on “Sail Away” by David Gray, which Meuse thought would showcase his vocals. Woolf adorned himself in a skull cap, and his vocals never sounded more assured than on this track. Connick said he’s “progressing” but said that familiarity is his “friend” and should have done a song everybody could sing along with. Urban loved the way Woolf looked, and thought the 17-year old appeared more comfortable. Lopez didn’t feel it live, but thought he was delivering it better to the camera.
Jena Irene had a phenomenal moment courtesy of Johnson’s golden ears, picking “Creep” by Radiohead for the show’s resident dark and twisty contestant. Irene did several things right-she stayed at the piano, she rocked her look with banging bangs, and had an emo moment that would make Thom Yorke proud. Can we say, contender for the title? She earned a standing ovation and accolades. Urban said she was the “one to beat,” Connick said she said she was “extraordinarily talented” and did “major damage.” Lopez said she was in it for the “long haul.”
So who is in the bottom three tonight? Do you think Meuse was thrown under the bus? Hit us up in the comments.
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