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Sometimes life is one big audition, and on American Idol’s Wednesday night performance show the top eight remaining vocalists were reminded that they aren’t done currying favor with viewers.
Each Idol was assigned the task of repeating their audition song — which was good news for Jess Meuse and Alex Preston, who made history by performing original music in the finals.
Viewers were also treated to adorable baby pictures, flashbacks of original auditions, the beauty of Keith Urban‘s former hairdo, and a series of duets, including Pink and Nate Reuss‘ “Just Give Me a Reason” performed by Preston and Jena Irene.
Meanwhile Caleb Johnson and Meuse channeled their inner Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks with “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Sam Woolf and Malaya Watson teamed up for a quirky, cool pairing on “Lucky” by Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz.
Jess Meuse — who recalled getting a ticket for eating an ice cream cone while driving to her audition — kicked things off with an encore of her original, “Blue-Eyed Lie.” Meuse is a cool rock “muse,” and Urban rightly compared her vocals to Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, but advised her to move more on stage. Jennifer Lopez said she could hear Meuse’s album, and Harry Connick Jr. compared her to Cher and Nancy Sinatra.
C.J. Harris revisited his original audition song, The Allman Brothers’ “Soulshine.” Backed by a band, Harris showed much improvement from last week, but still had some pitch problems, which Connick addressed with a warning to get it under control before a producer autotunes the “soul” out of his vocals. Lopez said Harris sounded more “soulful and heartful,” while Urban agreed the song that got Harris into the competition sounded better than the first time.
Sam Woolf is this season’s designated Teen Wolf, judging by the screams in the audience. For the umpteenth time, Woolf performed Ed Sheeran‘s “Lego House,” only this time he slowed down the arrangement — an improvement over his audition. Connick advised the teen to acknowledge the screaming and connect more, Urban said he was getting “looser,” and Lopez said, “We’ve seen a glimpse of the magic of Sam Woolf.”
Malaya Watson — whose decision to audition was last-minute — went in a more mature direction, reprising her audition of “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha Franklin. The teen needs more seasoning for a song like that, but she pulled it off with an emotionally strong delivery that had the audience cheering. Lopez said that Watson is blossoming and is going to be a “huge star” while Connick said she was doing “everything right but still needs to work on the runs,” and advised her on scales. “You were in such good control,” said Urban.
Dexter Roberts — who joked about all the cute outfits his mom dressed him in as a baby — pulled a switch, skipping his aired audition of Casey James’ “Drive” in favor of Brett Eldredge‘s “One Mississippi.” As a result, he fulfilled Connick’s wish for the Alabama farm boy to skip country anthems and try something different. Seated in a chair, Roberts did just that. “I guess you showed us,” quipped Lopez. Connick was “touched” and Urban advised him to start “communicating the lyrics,” which was exceptional advice.
Jena Irene is evolving into one of the most unique performers of season 13. While her initial audition of Adele‘s “Rolling in the Deep” was standard, her version on Wednesday was a slowed-down arrangement that showed off the range and drama in her vocals. Irene is an interesting artist with a voice that is ready to record hits, and Urban applauded her “bold” decision not to go karaoke on the song. “I loved every second of it,” he said. Lopez advised her to destroy the competition (“That’s genius,” Urban deadpanned), and Connick thought she did a great job, but noted how tough the competition is getting.
Caleb Johnson missed an opportunity to perform his original song for America, but made up for it with a bluesy, reworked version of Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” “You are a blues warrior,” said Urban. “You are a soul conqueror. Caleb, you are a rock ‘n’ roll viking.” Lopez loved how he kills the audience every week. Connick acknowledged that Johnson knows his way around a blues scale, but still wants something softer.
Alex Preston had the honor of doing his original song, “Fairytales,” inspired not by Taylor Swift, but an old girlfriend. Preston sounded perfect (almost like Daryl Hall in some spots) as the Idol band fleshed out his ballad, and it was a nice moment. His future songs for new girlfriend Jillian Jensen will probably be awesome. Lopez nearly forgot to comment, while Urban noticed the other contestants were singing along. Connick dug Preston’s “vibrato.”
Ryan Seacrest revealed that Meuse led the evening’s super-votes for voters over the age of 21, while Woolf owned the younger category. In the second half, both Roberts and Irene dominated the top two slots in voting.
So who is going home tomorrow, Idol Worshippers? And which were the best duets? Hit us up in the comments!
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