'American Idol' Recap: Top 6 Take on Country and Rock
'American Idol' Recap: Top 6 Take on Country and Rock
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
It's time to double up on American Idol season 13. The Top 6 singers will each perform two individual songs tonight. Taking a cue from Donny and Marie Osmond, the theme is a Little Bit Country and a Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll.

Will these singers be able to deliver two good and unique performances? Who will fumble with Country and Rock? And will 12 songs mean less of the judges' increasingly distracting nonsense?

THIS...is American Idol!


Jena Irene: "Barracuda" by Heart

We're starting the night with Rock and a song from one of my favorite bands ever. This song just rocks so hard and is a perfect fit for Jena. She sings the crap out of it and does it justice. It's not very surprising, but it's still damn good. The judges give her some simple, tiny pieces of advice like loosening up to help put her over the top.

Sam Woolf: "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons

This song is comfortable on him and he does a great job with it. It gets even better as it goes and it's the most confident I've ever seen him. I still think the show's fondness for extreme close-ups during the performances isn't really helping him, but he nails the vocals. He actually gave Jennifer Lopez goosies. Keith Urban encourages him to use his inner pain and anguish. Being Saved was the best thing to ever happen to him, because he's been so much better since that happened. To help make Sam even more adorable, he turned 18 this week and celebrated in the hotel with cupcakes.

C.J. Harris: "American Woman" by The Guess Who

The very first note he sings makes me cringe. And it's a hot mess the whole time. The song just doesn't fit him at all. Harry Connick, Jr. starts by asking how C.J. thought he did and J. Lo compliments his outfit. Those two comments are surefire signs that they didn't like it. Yet they're still disturbingly polite even though he deserves much harsher criticism.

Alex Preston: "Animal" by Neon Trees

I'd like to point out that three of the first four songs tonight were covered on Glee, and two of those were sung by Blaine. This is probably the most I can hope for in terms of difference from him. He doesn't do his lilting, dreamlike artistic twist with it, he just sings it. Ironically, this is much more of an "I'm With the Band" performance than when he actually had that theme, and I can see him as a lead singer of a band. However, the way he stomps his left foot the whole time like a Clydesdale is becoming very distracting. The judges don't really like it because he didn't completely commit to this style and he was kind of washed out by the band. But Harry does him credit for at least trying an up-tempo song for once.

Caleb Johnson: "Sting Me" by The Black Crowes

A Rock theme for the resident rocker is a bit of a gimme. He does everything you'd expect, rocking out, carrying the mic stand and nailing it with his vocals and stage presence. At one point he drops the mic stand and it rolls away, but he slides back and picks it up without getting flustered or stopping. The dude is a freaking rock star and the only real criticism is that he makes it look so easy. J. Lo gives him a standing ovation and the audience goes nuts for about 10 minutes.

Jessica Meuse: "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane

After being in the Bottom 2, she's finally getting the Pimp Spot. This is a nice, dirty, gritty song for her. She gives a powerful vocal performance. Harry backtracks a bit on the harsh critique last week and praises her for getting some rhythm. But Keith and J. Lo are still riding Jessica hard for not being in the moment and feeling it during the performance. They want her body and face to match her bad-ass vocals.

Halftime Report

After the Rock half of the performances, I think Caleb, Jena and Sam are the winners, with C.J. in the most danger. Jessica and Alex could both use a boost in the second half. Ryan Seacrest gives us the live vote tallies from Facebook. Jena is on top followed by Caleb and Sam. Alex is at the bottom.

Sam Woolf: "You're Still the One" by Shania Twain

Why are they changing the performance order for the Country half? For me, this is a big step backwards from "It's Time," He's not good with these emotional songs about love. The vocals tremor a bit and seem stiff. And it feels awkward when he takes a moment to walk down and reach out to the fan girls in the audience. It's not terrible, but it could've been a lot better and wasn't as good as his first performance. Harry calls him out for being monotone and not having enough dynamics in his voice.

Caleb Johnson: "Undo It" by Carrie Underwood

I really don't like how they're completely shuffling the performance order. In the past they always kept the order the same for both sets of performances when the contestants did two songs. This song somehow works perfectly for him. He adds some nice levels and sass that really make it stand out. The rocker parts are definitely a bit similar to his first performance, but I love him the most when he takes these different, unexpected songs and rocks out with them. The judges compare his two performances and seem to hate on this because it wasn't as good as the first one. That's hardly fair, because Caleb's second-best is still better than most. Also, it's Caleb's birthday today. Wow, two Idol birthdays in one week.

Alex Preston: "Always on My Mind" by Willie Nelson

This is a return to what Alex normally does, a quiet, acoustic performance that deconstructs an already-simple song. It's beautiful, but in a lighter-than-air kind of way. For me, it's a bit like putting caviar foam on a dinner plate. It's inventive, clever and playful, but not particularly filling. Harry and J. Lo love it, but Keith wanted more emotional pain. Either way, it's definitely better than his first performance.

Jena Irene: "So Small" by Carrie Underwood

A second Carrie Underwood song? I suppose if you're on American Idol and you don't know much about country music, she's the most obvious choice. This is a great pick for her and it lets her show off vulnerability and the power of her range. I wish she was sitting at the piano, but it was still compelling and beautiful. Jena says she messed up a bit, but it gave J. Lo goosies. Harry, however, didn't really feel it.

C.J. Harris: "Whatever It Is" by Zac Brown Band

I'm not familiar with this song, nor will I be five minutes after writing this. It's instantly forgettable, so light and inoffensive. His voice isn't that good and I really have no reaction to this. Obviously it's better than his first time, but that's a low bar. The judges are equally lukewarm and call out his mid-tempo song choice for being terrible. C.J. then dedicates the song to a girl from his hometown who died two days ago.

Jessica Meuse: "Jolene" by Dolly Parton

I love this song a whole lot, so I'm quite biased with this performance. I think it's good and it suits Jessica nicely. It's on par with her first performance ans is rather similar to it, in fact. Keith hated the arrangement, but J. Lo loved the fire in her eyes.


In the end, Ryan gives us the real-time results from Tennessee (because of the Country theme). Caleb and Jena are in the lead, followed by Jessica. Alex is at the bottom, again.

As far as I'm concerned, anything other than C.J. going home this week is unacceptable. But I wouldn't be shocked if it's Sam or maybe even Jessica, nor would I be stunned if Alex made a surprising appearance in the Bottom 2. But Caleb and Jena continue to cruise into the finale.


(Image courtesy of FOX)

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