'American Idol' XIII Top 8: The duets are shaky; Sam Woolf's time has come

american-idol-xiii-top-8-FOX.jpgThe theme for "American Idol" this week is going back to the start, which means performing the song they used for their initial audition for the judges. They will also be paired up for duets, which should be interesting.

1. Jessica Meuse, 'Blue Eyed Lie,' original song

This might be the most emotion we've seen from Jessica since her audition; you can tell she wrote this. She sounds great, really rocking the Stevie Nicks moments on some notes, but also showing off a great growly rocker voice. The only big criticism is that when the camera pulls back, she's standing there knock-kneed. When she doesn't have pants on, she needs a better stance behind the mic. Heh.

2. C.J. Harris, 'Soul Shine,' The Allman Brothers

This was ... OK. Definitely let him show off some personality, even if he wasn't exactly on key in spots. However, I was kind of bored. It sounded nice but there wasn't any kapow there, you know? Did anybody else feel that way? It just felt a little snoozy.

3. Jena Irene & Alex Preston, 'Gimme a Reason,' Pink and Nate Reuss

Interesting. This is not the pairing we would have picked for either of them and it's ... hit and miss. This is not an easy song and there are some bum notes all over the place. Their voices also don't blend very well. It maybe would've been better to put Jena with Malaya and Alex with Sam. Hmm.

4. Sam Woolf, 'Lego House,' Ed Sheeran

The 50 million lamps on stage surrounding him are really distracting. What is that about? Anyway, this is the best he's done on the show so far. We personally think Sam is the case of the cute guy who overstays his welcome on "Idol," but this was actually a decent performance, so he's definitely not going anywhere.

5. Jessica Meuse & Caleb Johnson, 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around,' Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty

Excellent choice -- this is terrific. During the performance, I barely typed anything because I was too busy just really enjoying this. Also enjoying Keith Urban rocking out some more because he's the cutest. Anyway, well done, Jessica and Caleb. Really good.

6. Malaya Watson, 'Ain't No Way,' Aretha Franklin


We didn't think it was possible for Malaya to improve every week (because she was starting from such a high bar) but just week after week after week she comes out and does better and better. She's such a gifted vocalist, her control on this was outstanding and her emotional connection is so much beyond her years.

7. Dexter Roberts, 'One Mississippi,' Brett Eldredge


This is very good. He's got a nice emotional connection going and the ending is really pretty. A terrific departure from the "Sweet Home Alabama" blah he's done the past few weeks. Nice job overall, even though it wasn't perfect. Plus -- Allison Iraheta!

8. Malaya Watson & Sam Woolf, 'Lucky,' Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz

Hmm. Another pairing I'm not crazy about. They really should have had Malaya/Jena and Sam/Alex. Hmm. Also, this song is all, all, all wrong for these two. Who chose this? It's too ... delicate and intricate. They are both absolutely drowning. You can tell by the fixed smile/grimace (smimace?) on J-Lo's face. Please stop ruining my first dance song from my wedding, thanks. I'm fast-forwarding through this, I can't take it anymore. Next!

9. Jena Irene, 'Rolling in the Deep,' Adele

Love the song choice. Loved it in her audition, love it here. Don't care how overplayed it is, Jena can handle Adele, plus this arrangement is awesome. It's so great when someone goes totally different from the original but then it works. Futzing with an arrangement can be a risky business, but this is great.

10. C.J. Harris & Dexter Roberts, 'Alright,' Darius Rucker

I got so excited when they said "Darius Rucker" and then was so sad that it wasn't "Wagon Wheel." Harris really needs to do "Wagon Wheel," y'all. Really really. Anyway, this is ... OK. They're not bad, but it's just kind of a clap-your-hands bar song, no panache. Plus, while they both have nice voices individually, they don't sound great together. I get the pairing, but they just don't gel.

Still, this was better than both Malaya/Sam and Jena/Alex. Though Jessica/Alex mopped the floor with everyone and it isn't even close.

11. Caleb Johnson, 'Chain of Fools,' Aretha Franklin

Caleb continues to be awesome. There's really nothing else to it. This isn't my favorite of his performances, but he's still great. I'm running out of things to say about him, honestly, though Keith's "rock 'n roll viking" phrase is nice.

12.  Alex Preston, 'Fairytales,' original song

Just like Jessica doing an original song, this is so obviously something he wrote. He's so connected to it and just feels ... more at home than on anything else he's done. I could really hear this on the radio right now. Great choice for the final spot of the night.

So, who's going home? For me, it's become very obvious that C.J. Harris and Sam Woolf should be this week and next week's eliminees, in either order. Tonight, Sam did better than C.J. on the solo, while C.J. did better on his duet. But as long as one of them goes, it's the right choice. They just aren't as good as the other vocalists. If I had to pick, I'd send Sam home. That duet was atrocious.

What do you think, "Idol" fans?

Photo/Video credit: FOX