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'American Idol' Season 13 recap: Top 9 show growth during rock-themed week as Caleb Johnson nails Led Zeppelin

by Carolyn Menyes   Mar 26, 2014 22:18 PM EDT

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"I'm with the band!" is something each of the American Idol season 13 contestants have had to say before they were plucked from obscurity, thus, it is the theme of the top 9 week this year. A month into the Hollywood rounds, none of these performers are unseasoned anymore, and the rock week on Wednesday night (March 26) proved that.

While some people absolutely killed the music this week (in a good way!), even the so-called bad performances weren't really all that awful. For instance, Jessica Meuse and Dexter Roberts were just a little dull, but they still managed to hit their notes.

So, who really dominated? Who blew their chance? And who is just running in the middle of the pack? Check out the Music Times recap below, and feel free to dish it out in the comments.

The Good:

Caleb Johnson: Of course Caleb Johnson was going to dominate the rock-themed night. He tackled the rockingist of all rock bands, singing Led Zeppelin's "Dazed And Confused." He put the cock in rock 'n' roll, leading the backing band like a true rock god. While he stayed very much true to the original version of this song, Caleb's vocals are so distinctly his own that this felt less like a cover and more like a true original spin. 10/10, would rock again.

Jena Irene: "Bring Me To Life," indeed. For rock week, little Jena Irene took on the epic 2003 Evanescence jam and absolutely nailed it. She immediately followed the big ol' rock force that is Caleb Johnson, so she had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, the pure raw power of her voice helped her to carry through, as she nailed the volume and raw emotions of this track. Of course, you need to belt "Bring Me To Life" out, and this is something Jena (and Jena alone this year) is really capable of. Luckily, she was able to keep her voice in control in the meanwhile, making this her best showing of the season thus far.

Malaya Watson: After her first shaky week or two on Idol, Malaya Watson has proved that she's meant to be in this competition. This week, she took on the Beatles' "The Long And Winding Road," a slow moving ballad with plenty of chances to nail high notes and pull of some sweet, sweet vibrato. These are both things that Malaya did, and she did them well. Performance-wise, this whole shebang was a little so-so for me; this song just doesn't necessarily lend itself to being something over-the-top. But, it was totally solid! Yay.

The Bad:

Dexter Roberts: Oh, Dexter... Week after week, Dexter Roberts more or less nails the notes on the country songs he sings (with one or two exceptions...), but I still feel like we have no idea who he is. Yes, he's a farmer, and a good ol' boy and he's clearly a big modern country music fan. But, when he sings on American Idol, it just feels like he's the star of his local honkytonk's karaoke night. This week, he took on Little Big Town's "Boondocks," a country anthem that was a great song choice. But, Dexter added nothing to it. Keith Urban noted that if this song had been written for him, it would've been a hit, and he was right about that. But, Dexter is not getting songs written for him yet, and he's just singing country music straightforward with very little of his own personality. I also feel like the advices of the judges -- which is much needed for him -- just goes in one ear and out the other. If Dexter doesn't even know who he is, how can audiences?

Jessica Meuse: This week should have been made for Jessica Meuse, who sang Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon." Jessica was more or less born to cover songs originally done by Stevie Nicks, so why was this week's performance so flat? Maybe it was the song choice itself, which was so mid-tempo that it bordered on boring. Vocally, Jessica has thankfully run away from the constant land of sharpness, and she nailed all the notes. It's just that everything else about this performance was only a 5/10, when she should have just slayed this week.

Majesty Rose: At the beginning of the competition, Majesty Rose was far and away one of my favorite contestants. Now, with each passing week, I'm not so sure anymore. This week, the twice in the bottom three contestant took on Florence + The Machine's "Shake It Off." From a performance standpoint, Majesty was on one. She eased her way into the song at the beginning, building with the first verse with a burst of unbridled positivity. However, "Shake It Off" is originally sung by Florence Welch, which means it has some insane notes in the choruses. The first time around, Majesty more or less pulled them off, but for the second chorus, she was literally all over the place, wavering and straining while trying to maintain some form of dignity. The audience loved her vibes in the concert hall, and it did translate well to TV. But, is it going to be enough? I'm not so sure... Simply put, she can be too ambitious.

The Mediocre:

Alex Preston: Love him or hate him, each and every week, Alex Preston comes out on the American Idol stage and does his own thing. For the rock-centric week, he did no different. For No Doubt's "Don't Speak," Alex put his own jazzy little vibe on the track, pulling it into mid-tempo territory, drumming on his guitar and singing out little scat improvisations. The judges weren't quite so hot on the performance, since Alex stuck into middle stage and did his little foot stompin' thing, but I liked the original take on this Gwen Stefani-led standard. "Don't Speak" is a song so engrained in the popular culture, that if you don't mix it up, you're going to just rip off the original, which is essentially unmatchable. Alex, of course, killed the vocal, so it's safe to say he's probably good for the top 8.

Sam Woolf: UGH. I did not miss "Hey There Delilah" and the Plain White Ts, so THANKS SAM WOOLF. For his rendition on this 2008 hit, Sam Woolf picked up the tempo a bit and Mumford-ized it, making it his own (which is very important at this stage of Idol). However, his performance was devoid of any real emotion, as judge Jennifer Lopez pointed out. He wasn't really singing to any Delilah, no matter how much he made eye love to the camera.

C.J. Harris: C.J. Harris sure has a soulful side to him, and he showed it off during his performance of The Steel Drivers' "If It Hadn't Been For Love." Leaning into his microphone, C.J. added just the perfect amount of rasp to his performance, giving the song a new spin and cool, laidback vibe. As Lopez pointed out (she was actually being critical tonight!), the song got a little bit lost toward the middle and he veered toward being sharp. However, he was solidly middle of the pack this week, which is an improvement for him.

Who Should Go Home? Either Dexter or Majesty.
Who Will Go Home? I'm thinking Majesty... her performances lately have only been so-so at best (that "Let It Go" hit viewers hard), and I'm not so sure the fanbase for her is there right now. However, I can see the judges using their save for her.

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