'American Idol' XIII Top 11: Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson lead a strong night

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american-idol-xiii-top-11-FOX.jpgIt's movie week on "American Idol" Season 13, so fingers crossed we don't have to hear any "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." Let's get right to it, shall we?

1. Sam Woolf, "Come Together," "Across the Universe"

Nice how the Beatles' catalog was made into a movie, right? Handy for moments like this. Anyway, we love this choice by Sam. He's a good singer, but he's been so blah on the show thus far. This is actually letting him show a little grit and growl. It's still a sliding scale -- he's not Caleb Johnson -- but for Sam, this is positively edgy. He could've gone much, much further with it and not been quite so Broadway at moments, but we'll take what we can get. Baby steps.

2. Jessica Meuse, "The Sound of Silence," "The Graduate"


Love the choice. I barely typed a word for the first half of the song because I was so engrossed. This is the moment she's been needing. It wasn't perfect -- she was sharp a few times and there was a a weird moment where she and the band weren't in sync with each other. In fact, that sounded like the band was off, to be honest. And if that's the case, then kudos to her for keeping her professionalism and not letting it get to her. Overall, good stuff.

3. C.J. Harris, "Can't You See," "Blow"

This is C.J.'s best performance to date, we think. He's bluesy and showing some personality, plus he's on pitch. The ending breakdown is particularly nice, it's no wonder Keith Urban jumps up to applaud. This is miles better than last week, for sure.

At this point in the night, we finally feel like the Season 13 contestants have come to compete. So far, the season has been so underwhelming, but the first three singers tonight have all stepped up their respective games.

4. Dexter Roberts, "Sweet Home Alabama," "Forrest Gump"


So, it's fun that Dexter can play that iconic opening lick from this song on the guitar. We don't know how hard it is (it's probably not that hard), but that's still fun. Vocally, this is not Dexter's strongest performance, but that's more due to the fact that this song isn't a singer's song at all. It has about three notes and is very repetitive. However, he's been so good in the competition up to now that this won't hurt him, plus there's the fact that this song is a boot-stompin' anthem that people love. He's completely safe, even if this was kind of a boring performance.

Harry Connick Jr. calls this performance "smart," which is the correct adjective. It was a very smart choice. But yes, Dexter needed to turn up the heat on that performance.

5. Ben Briley, "Bennie and the Jets," "27 Dresses"

Oooh, the piano. This guy is a real jack of all trades. Vocally, this is an interesting choice. It's a hard song -- it jumps around a lot, there are some weird minor things happening at moments. However, it's one of those middle-of-the-road songs that isn't really uptempo but isn't slow, so it just kind of plods along. Ben is giving 1000 percent in trying to make this exciting, but it's a little boring as a performance number. Vocally, though, as we said, this is terrific. Nice falsetto, handles the weird pitch jumps with aplomb. Solid job.

The judges' criticism that he's not authentic and a little affected is fair. This performance was different for Ben, but that doesn't bother me. I like to hear different stuff and he pulled off the vocals, at least.

Then Harry Connick Jr. runs up to the piano to show off "pounding" the piano, but instead he plays what at first sounds like "Nadia's Theme," the "Young and the Restless" theme song. Hee.

6. Majesty Rose, "Let It Go," "Frozen"


Bold choice, wow. And ... yikes. This song is too big for Majesty. The verses are hard to hear and the second chorus is way off pitch. The problem is that she had to lower the song in order to "belt" the chorus, so that made the verse hard to hear because it was too low for her. But then when it got to the second chorus, it was still too high for her. She does not have the big, belting Idina Menzel voice to pull that off. She was horribly flat and shouty on the second chorus. Did you hear how she kept changing into her head voice? That indicates it's too high for her to belt.

Interestingly, Harry Connick Jr. doesn't call her out on how off pitch she was. I thought for sure he would. The judges are actually kind of suspiciously nice to her, in that way where you suspect that the crowd got so into it that they were afraid of being too critical on her. Or maybe it just sounded better live. But on TV? That was kind of a mess.

7. Caleb Johnson, "Skyfall," "Skyfall"


Gorgeous choice. Best so far tonight. I didn't type a word the entire time he was singing because it was so good. Caleb needed a more serious moment where he could show off his pipes in a different way from the usual rock and this was it. Awesome.

8. MK Nobilette, "To Make You Feel My Love," "Hope Floats"

Nice choice for her voice, though she sounds nervous at the start -- there are a couple tiny spots that are a little rocky. She also looks kind of uncomfortable just sitting there on the stool and singing. However, once she gets going and finds her groove, it's nice. Her stage presence doesn't get any better, that's something she can certainly work on. But vocally, this is very pretty. A lovely moment. Love her "I'd go crawling down the avenue," nice change to the melody line. And she was more emotionally invested in the song than she usually comes across.

9. Alex Preston, "Falling Slowly," "Once"

I was actually hoping MK would do this song, but I just knew Alex would do it. Anyway, it's a beautiful song and he does a nice job with it. It's unfortunate he couldn't sing it as a duet with MK -- now that would have been amazing. But Alex is a good singer and this was very pretty. You know what movie song we would love to hear him sing? "Shattered" by Remy Zero from "Suicide Kings." Listen here, it's a terrific song and would suit Alex really well. Anyway.

10. Jena Irene, "Decode," "Twilight"

Terrific song choice for her, it's appealing to a certain voting demographic but also just suits her voice really well. It's also nice to hear her at the piano a little. Her soaring, belting vocals are really strong on this. If they do classic rock, she would nail some Heart. Can't you just hear her on "Magic Man" or "Crazy On You"? Beautiful job tonight, sweetie.

11. Malaya Watson, "I Am Changing," "Dreamgirls"

OK, so, I was sure she was singing "And I'm Telling You" and I was already rolling my eyes, just because that song is everywhere since that movie came out. However, this is a refreshing change of pace if someone has to do a "Dreamgirls" song. Malaya does ... pretty well with it. Things go off the rails a bit at the key change, which is unfortunate because she was killing it up until that moment. She does pull it off a terrific ending, though, and that's all the audience will remember.

So, who should go home? Yikes. This was a really strong night. Honestly, my Bottom 3 are Sam Woolf, Majesty Rose and MK Nobilette/Jessica Meuse (toss up). And I think Majesty was vocally the weakest one. She was all over the map.

But it probably won't be her who goes home. Unfortunately, it will probably be MK, even after she turned in one of her strongest weeks.

What say you, "Idol" fans?
Photo/Video credit: FOX