American Idol has officially entered the homestretch. With less than a month to go in Season 13, we're at the point where each contestant will have to tackle not one, but two songs per show. Tonight's theme? "A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll."
With 12 performances to squeeze in, the show doesn't waste any time in getting to the performances, and we won't either. But first, an observation: After tonight's show, it seems as though the Final 6 can easily be divided into a Top 3 (Jessica, Caleb and Jena) and a Bottom 3 (Sam, Alex and C.J.), as far as who's a real contender to win this thing. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments!
Rock song: "Barracuda" by Heart
The performance: Ryan Seacrest introduces the first song of the night by reminding viewers that Jena is this season's wild card. Which is crazy, right? She definitely seems like a frontrunner at this point. It's a great song for her tone, though she looks a little unnatural while walking around the stage. But that last note is a real showstopper.
What the judges say: Keith says it was a perfect song for Jena, but wishes she would cut loose more physically. Jennifer agrees, and she and Harry both say that if Jena can incorporate a few more "moments" into her performances, she could win the whole shebang.
Country song: "So Small" by Carrie Underwood
The performance: Jena's no Carrie Underwood, but honestly that's kind of the beauty of this performance, who's really spanned the musical spectrum from aggressive rock to sensitive ballad tonight. It's a little snoozy, especially compared to her Heart choice, and she admits that she messed up at the end. But it's a great showcase of her range, and her tone is gorgeous as always.
What the judges say: Keith is awestruck and overjoyed to be watching Jena's "journey." Jen says that Jena's vocal was so powerful that she forgot the band was even there. Harry is the dissenter, though, and says Jena failed to find a melody in the song. "It didn't really work for me, but I don't think it's going to matter tonight," he says.
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Rock song: "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons
The performance: Poor Sam, trying to rock out. His stage presence has gotten a bit better since the early weeks, but he's just too low-energy for this song (or really anything that would be dubbed "rock," for that matter). His vocals are fine, but have as much life in them as roadkill. Even when he tries to do a little fist-pump action and get the crowd involved, it just falls flat.
What the judges say: J.Lo says she got goosebumps and says she "believed" the performance. Harry says it was a perfect song choice and applauds Sam for adding "layers" to himself as an entertainer. Keith loves the song's "gravitas" and "weight."
Country song: "You're Still the One" by Shania Twain
The performance: What a horrible song choice. We're grateful for the opportunity to take a quick nap halfway through the show, but this is doing nothing for Sam's "lack of charisma" problem. And his awkward bow-down to the girls standing near the stage, coupled with what is I guess supposed to be an intense stare at the end of the song, is just painful.
What the judges say: Keith is nice and tells Sam it was a good song for him lyrically (ha!), but he needs to relax more. Jennifer says Sam is "so cute" and compliments him "going over to the girls." Is this for real? Harry tells Sam to sing less perfectly and more dynamically.
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Rock song: "American Woman" (Lenny Kravitz version)
The performance: This feels phoned-in. Is C.J.'s guitar even plugged in? He doesn't look like he's having fun up there at all, and there are none of those breakout "moments" that the judges are harping about tonight.
What the judges say: Harry asks C.J. how he felt about the performance (never a good sign). C.J. mumbles that it was "better than rehearsal" and that it's something he's been working on. Sigh. Harry reiterates that C.J. needs to sing in tune. Is this episode a rerun? Keith says the performance needed more attitude. Jen liked C.J.'s look but admits that rock 'n' roll is "not C.J.'s thing."
Country song: "Whatever It Is" by Zac Brown Band
The performance: C.J. starts out off-key and improves only slightly as the song progresses. The judges are right that he's an expert at infusing passion into his songs, but this consistency in singing out of tune is really getting a little old.
What the judges say: Jennifer expected a little more from C.J. and says the performance "didn't hit the mark." Harry says C.J. needs to pick better songs if he's "lucky enough" to stick around another week. Ouch. Keith takes a note from Harry's playbook and says C.J. was sharp and didn't live up to his potential.
Rock song: "Animal" by Neon Trees
The performance: Some of the higher notes on this song strangely feel a little out of Alex's range. He's just not used to putting so much oomph behind his vocals, and it shows. The "I won't sleep tonight" line was particularly rough. His spastic leg movements don't help matters.
What the judges say: Keith says the band felt "on top" of Alex and he needed to release a bit more. (The audience boos.) J.Lo agrees that the performance was too contained, save for Alex's leg. Harry liked that Alex chose an up-tempo song, but says it wasn't his best performance.
Country song: "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson
The performance: Alex is back to his coffee shop comfort zone with this song, though he does add a couple of inventive runs. It's also jarring that he stops playing guitar halfway through. It's a soft and sweet performance, but it feels like Alex could have done a little more with the song.
What the judges say: Harry is touched, but Keith says he would've liked to feel a little more heartbreak. Jennifer says it was beautiful, but reiterates that contestants should be striving to "hit the bullseye" every time. Hm.
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Rock song: "Sting Me" by The Black Crowes
The performance: Rock Week was obviously tailor-made for Caleb, and he doesn't disappoint. Love his sassy attitude when he's singing to the backup singers, and he is truly the only finalist who even remotely knows how to work the stage. This is one performance that feels like watching an established artist, rather than just an amateur contender. He also knows how to improvise, working his way through a microphone mishap and collapsing near the backup singers at the end of the song.
What the judges say: Everyone — the audience, the judges, and especially J.Lo — is blown away by this performance. "That was some real rock 'n' roll," she says, giggling. Harry (for once!) has nothing bad to say, and loves the "perfect" song choice. Keith is in awe of how Caleb "spackled over" dropping the microphone.
Country song: "Undo It" by Carrie Underwood
The performance: Happy 23rd birthday, Caleb! Even though this is Caleb's country song, he still brings a rock energy to it, and puts his own unique stamp on the tune with those '80s hair metal vocals. It's clear he's not as comfortable with this one as he was with the Crowes, but it's still a top-notch effort. And how adorable was it to see Caleb plant a small kiss on Grumpy Cat's head right before taking the stage?
What the judges say: Jen says it was great, but nothing could top the "magic" of Caleb's rock song. Harry agrees, and even adds that this one felt a little "forced." And Keith offers the backhanded compliment that, "It was great. I can't wait to hear what country song you do later."
Rock song: "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane
The performance: Two great performances in a row! That must be an Idol Season 13 record, no? Like a neon-haired Grace Slick, Jess growls her way through this song and doesn't miss a note. Her facial expression is intense, if a little blank — but that could perhaps be intentional.
What the judges say: Harry says the song was really strong vocally, and compliments Jessica for finally feeling the rhythm. Keith repeats what's becoming his mantra for the night and says she needs to "release" more. Jennifer agrees that Jess just needs to feel the song.
Country song: "Jolene" by Dolly Parton
The performance: It's clear that this is a song that's long been in Jessica's repertoire, because she just owns it vocally. Her dead eyes finally light up a little bit, and she's definitely "feeling the rhythm" (to borrow a phrase from Harry) a little less than she did in her rock number. Out of our "Top 3" (see above), she's definitely bringing up the rear and needs to have a real breakout performance to push past Caleb and Jena.
What the judges say: Harry says she "delivered it in a strong and convincing way." Keith unequivocally says he "hated" the darker, half-tempo arrangement, but thought it was solid vocally. Jen says she infused it with more emotion than on her first number.
What did you think? Which was your favorite performance of the night? Did you love Grumpy Cat's cameo? And who's heading home tomorrow night? Sound off below! And check out the Top 6's finalist diaries here.
American Idol airs Wednesdays at 8/7c and Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox.