'American Idol' XIII Top 9: Caleb Johnson, Jessica Meuse and Malaya Watson bring it

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american-idol-xiii-top-9.jpgThe band is on stage this week for "American Idol." Do you suppose it's because so many singers have had some trouble with the band? Hmm.

Anyway, we have to sit through a group performance that is on par with every other group performance this show has ever done, complete with many of them looking like they are lip syncing.

The theme tonight is "rock royalty," so that'll be interesting.

1. Alex Preston, "Don't Speak," No Doubt

Awesome choice. Preston is maybe the best song-chooser of the group because he hasn't made a misstep yet. Now, as far as this one goes, we're not in love with the reggae feel of the song, but we do like his tiny scat sections (though the last note is messy). It doesn't have us jumping up and down with excitement, but he's solid and knows who he is as an artist. Some week, though, Alex really needs to come out and blow the roof off. He's gotten a little predictable and even a little boring.

2. Majesty Rose, "Shake It Out," Florence + The Machine

Can we acknowledge for a minute that Majesty has on a mullet outfit -- business on top, safari on the bottom -- and she's shaking a tambourine? It's kind of distracting. Anyway, she's giving her all, but the song is really repetitive so it just feels like she says "shake it out" for 90 seconds. There are a couple big notes that voters love and she's got a great voice, but this song ... we just didn't feel it. It's hard to articulate why, it just felt like there was not a lot of there there.

Still, she's a great singer and should stick around.

3. Dexter Roberts, "Boondocks," Little Big Town

OK, so, we're not sure Florence + The Machine is "rock royalty," but we're definitely sure Little Big Town is not. We love us some LBT, but they're not rock royalty. Anyway. This is immensely boring. Dexter is a solid country singer, but he does the same country bar karaoke every week. It doesn't say much when the best part is Keith Urban adorably rocking out.

Harry Connick Jr. has a point that Dexter doesn't make songs his own yet. He doesn't. He's not an "artist" yet, he's just a singer. But Urban also has a point when he says that Dexter could sing that on country radio and have a hit. For sure. He just needs to have a few more dimensions than just the one.

4. Malaya Watson, "The Long and Winding Road," The Beatles

Really, really nice -- though there's a weird pitch problem on one line right in the middle. However, Malaya is controlled, has gorgeous tone and really reins in the belting, which is nice. She's a very talented young lady and it's like the night finally started.

5. Sam Woolf, "Hey There Deliah," Plain White T's

OK, seriously, why even have a theme? These choices are all over the darn map. Whatevs. So, I kind of hate this. Sorry, Woolfies, but it's too slow, there are pitch issues and there's no emotion. The original goes at a slightly faster clip and that makes the song infinitely more fun.
Secondly, on the "ohhh, it's WHAT you do to me" part, he is not hitting the high note on "what." Not even close on the first one, a little closer on the second, but that's not the only bum note. Finally, I do not believe for one second that this guy would walk thousands of miles to be with Delilah. Next.

6. Jessica Meuse, "Rhiannon," Fleetwood Mac

Yes! Yes, this is what I have been waiting for with Jessica. The Stevie Nicks of it all, so excited. So, first, love the staging. Very dramatic. Secondly, she sounds amazing. I want to download this. For the finale, it would be a darn shame if they couldn't make this duet happen. It's also the best emotional connection Jessica has had so far. She can definitely work on that still, but big improvement in that arena.

The only shame on this song is it doesn't have a great ending, it just kind of stops, you know? It peters out. So the performance lacks some intensity at the end. But that's OK, loved it anyway.

7. C.J. Harris, "If It Hadn't Been For Love," The SteelDrivers

I go back and forth on C.J., he has been so hit or miss. This was a hit. It's bluesy and gravely and C.J. seems really into it. Sometimes he's lacking a bit in the stage presence department, but he didn't need any improvement in that regard tonight. He really sucked you right in on this song. There were a few pitch problems, but the feeling behind it kind of made up for that.

8. Caleb Johnson, "Dazed and Confused," Led Zeppelin


Excellent choice, it's surprising he's not the final spot of the night. I'm actually running out of things to say about Caleb because he's very good and he brings it every week. You know what I'd like to hear him sing? "Heartache Tonight" by the Eagles and "Separate Ways" by Journey. Those would be interesting slight departures from the straight rock lane.

9. Jena Irene, "Bring Me to Life," Evanescence

Awesome choice. Awesome. She has an Amy Lee quality to her voice but more rock-y. The problem is she's flat throughout almost the entire song. It's a hard song to sing, for sure, but she is way under the notes at times. Bummer, I was extremely hopeful for this performance. There are good parts, though, and she should stick around.

Interestingly, Harry Connick Jr. does not call her out on the pitch issues. Hmm. Maybe it sounded different in person, but it sounded flat at home. I did notice that the band seemed to be drowning her out at times, so maybe it really is the sound on TV versus the sound in person.

Who's in the bottom? For me, it's Dexter Roberts and Sam Woolf, with Woolf easily the one who should go home.

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