The top 7 pick songs for each other to sing as the Alabama trio embarrass their home state.

By Jake Perlman
Updated April 17, 2014 at 04:36 AM EDT

American Idol

S13 E27
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After time traveling to the ’80s last week, the competition was put in the contestants’ hands for this week’s “Competitor’s Pick” theme. Each finalist picked one song for each other and then picked the song they wanted to perform from their personalized list of six. I thought it was a pretty interesting idea for a theme, though I would have liked a little more sabotage just for fun. The show began to feel more like a competition this week as the frontrunners grew their lead with powerful and personal performances, while others continued to struggle with the same problems that have been holding them back.

The judges were in pretty good spirits all night, J. (yel)Lo(w) was especially bright which was a good contrast to Harry, who sounded a little under the weather. The best performances of the night came at the beginning and the end with Caleb and Jena respectively, who are quickly running away to prom together and with this competition.

Caleb Johnson, “Family Tree” by Kings of Leon (Alex’s pick): I loved everything about this performance, from A-Z! Caleb rocked into the amazing groove of the song, the first Kings of Leon song to be performed on the Idol stage, and started the show off with more than one fluffy hair bang! J. Lo obviously loved it and was smirking at Caleb the entire time and proudly proclaimed her love for him and his “amazing performance”. Harry and Keith both complimented the great song choice and great way to top off the show. Caleb is so consistent and dynamic, like Keith also said, but it always looks like he’s still having the time of his life on stage and that he really belongs there. His comfort in front of an audience makes it enjoyable to watch, unlike some of his more unseasoned competitors who sometimes make me nervous. Caleb also said he was a big tennis fan so expect a doubles match soon Mr. Johnson, as long as I can have Harry as my partner!

Jessica Meuse, “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert (Sam’s pick): Again, Jessica needs to just let loose! She is one of the singers that I feel uncomfortable watching sometimes because she looks so uncomfortable on stage. At least her hair looked really good in that wind machine. J. Lo was booed for thinking Jessica was off vocally during the verses, but I disagree. I think she was vocally off the whole time. Jessica was trying a little too hard to be the bad ass the song required. Harry said Jessica lacks rhythmic delivery and needs to be able to match the pyrotechnics and musicians behind her on stage and once suggested she spend a little time in her hotel dancing to some James Brown in the mirror. Jessica needs to get on up because she is barely a July 4th sparkler right now and is not bringing any fireworks. A song with this much spunk and attitude should not have been so boring. If Jessica makes it next week, she needs to tone done the effects a bit and focus back on her vocals and performance technique cause she looked a little amateurish out there tonight.

Also – Jessica believes in aliens and thinks she may have been abducted once but only the aliens know the truth. If she can get the extraterrestrial vote, Jessica might still have a chance.

Ryan has a surprise for us backstage? Oh, it’s just Demi Lovato, nevermind. Demi was there I guess cause both her U.S. tour and Fox singing competition show are over, and she has nothing better to do but hang out with Randy Jackson and critique the duets and one trio. However, her idea of critique was pretty much just repeating whatever Harry said, which was fine by him. (“If Demi Lovato says it’s true, it’s true.”)

NEXT PAGE: You guys should sit on coaches together more often

Sam & Alex, “Let Her Go” by Passenger: The judges and I agree that it’s pretty hard to say anything about these duets, and it’s a solo competition, so why do they keep doing them? The duo came up with the arrangement on the couch together, so of course, they also had to perform on one too. There definitely was a miscommunication somewhere between wardrobe and production because I’m pretty sure Sam’s shirt was made out of the same fabric of the couch. Good thing he was sitting on the back or else he would have blended in. The song was cute but was nothing special.

C.J. Harris, “Gravity” by John Mayer (Caleb’s pick): C.J. has been struggling a lot lately with simply singing on tune even though he already has a special way of connecting with the audience. Caleb thought the song would take the crowd down a river to C.J.’s soul and to church! Though I was not feeling anything particularly holy about it, C.J.’s performance was a vast improvement from last week and it seems that seeing his son for the first time in two months was the needed energy boost. I disagree with J. Lo, and I still don’t think C.J. can win this competition at all, but I do agree that he does need to make his performances more exciting. C.J. was smart to pick a popular song from his favorite artist and though I could have done with a lot less fog on stage, I thought he was able to make it personal enough to him without isolating the original. And just in case any one was ever confused, if J. Lo gives you the stank face, don’t worry cause it’s a good thing. “Stank face is amazing.”

Dexter Roberts, “Muckalee Creek Water” by Luke Bryan (C.J.’s pick): Dexter and I both like strawberries and our similarities end about there. I’m not a country music fan, but I do know who Luke Bryan is and thought Dexter’s vocals were perfectly fine but nothing special — at least what I could understand. Besides the title, which Ryan had to repeat a couple of times, Dexter had some enunciating problems again that really bug me. J. Lo liked the darker quality that the performance brought from Dexter but used him as an example for the rest of the contestants as a moment to tell them to all go out of their comfort zones more and push each performance to the next level. She’s totally right at this point in the competition with only seven people left — things can’t be good, they need to be spectacular. Dexter does the same thing every week, in my opinion, and doesn’t have the personality to back that up. He’s a good performer and a good entertainer but hasn’t excelled at being great in either.

After the performance, something was going on behind the camera that according to J. Lo, we didn’t want to know about, but according to Ryan, what was going on behind J. Lo’s dress was definitely something we wanted to see. “That dress is distracting from the back.” There are so many jokes I could write at this point but let’s keep this a family show…for now. Harry, who was both hoarse in the throat and harsh in his comments tonight, was able to get a pic of J. Lo’s backside once she stood up for the cameras and our viewing pleasure. Then Ryan started singing with Caleb and though he apologized to America for the impromptu performance, Harry called it “one of the most special vocal performances of the century.”

NEXT PAGE: “I’m going to let you have your moment”

Jena and Caleb, “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones: There aren’t many negative things you can say about this pair who rocked out together for the second week in a row. I mean, they are prom dates, after all. The song was pretty fantastic and their performance was even better. Their stage experience clearly shows, and they were able to build off each other’s dynamic energy to really create a moment, according to J. Lo.

Alex Preston, “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran (Dexter’s pick): I’m not saying that he totally took my advice and it worked, but Alex totally took my advice and it worked! Always one to really try and make a song his own, Alex stayed true enough to the original that it was familiar, but was able to make it unique in a way that really showed his musical skills and wasn’t distracting like it has been in the past. The performance made J. Lo giggle and the girls in the audience scream…and scream….and scream. Ok J. Lo, it’s nice to let Alex have his moment and all, but those girls need limits. Harry seemed to go back on a comment that he said last week about Alex’s coffeehouse-style of performing not being big enough to win a show like this, saying tonight he saw a great beauty and strong conviction in the smaller performance. Keith added that Alex already has signature things that he is adding to his performances and it’s beginning to sound more natural. Alex needs to be careful not to overdo those things and change too many things about a song, but tonight’s performance was definitely on the right track.

Sam Woolf, “Sail Away” by David Gray (Jessica’s pick): Sam (and everyone) knew that he needed to be able to connect with the audience more, especially his female fan base no matter how much his shy persona makes him uncomfortable. Harry called Sam a work-in-progress and did not like the song choice and said because most people didn’t know the song, it already made it harder for him to connect. Against the distracting backdrop, however, Sam’s vocals were still consistent, and you can definitely tell his is trying to make improvements, but I think time may run out for him. Keith said Sam was doing a good job considering the fact that he’s only 17 and is being asked to convey a lifetime’s worth of emotion and experience every week. J. Lo said she liked the performance better by watching it on the monitor because she could see the close up of Sam’s face and the emotion he was trying to convey. I really wanted one of the judges to ask who his “honey” was that he was singing to and see if he was able to come up with a better Delilah response from a couple of weeks ago. I think Sam will still be safe another week with the save giving him a little momentum with the fan base, but needs to do something different soon — take a bigger risk and lose the guitar, look straight out the entire time he sings, and let loose a little. Or else he might sail away out of this competition.

NEXT PAGE: Alabama may not want to hear this one

Jessica, Dexter, and C.J., “Compass” by Lady Antebellum: The Alabama trio were excited to create their own Idol Antebellum moment, but it turned into an Idol embarrassment. Harry said the performance was out of tune and flat, had no real spark, and simply wasn’t good. The judges kept on making comments that they sounded good as individuals but their harmonies were off and their voices didn’t blend well together. Unlike Harry, I’m not gonna forget this performance. I think it will end up hurting Jessica the most as the odd girl out in the situation after a rocky solo and even rockier trio.

Jena Irene, “Creep” by Radiohead (Caleb’s pick): Tonight, the best thing came to those who waited. Jena completely changed the tone of the rest of the competition with a freaking fierce performance on piano, looking stunning with her J. Lo approved bangs, and owning the stage and the song. Keith and J. Lo gave the song a standing ovation, and Harry called it the best performance of the night. I think it was the best performance of the season so far and proves that Jena is the frontrunner in the competition because she takes it seriously and has the creative intellect to create exciting performances each week. Like Alex, Jena did a fantastic job giving the song her own unique spin without disappointing or confusing fans. I think Jena will win the competition because as great of a singer as she is, she is even more likable.

So, what did you think of tonight’s picks and performances, and who do you think is heading home? Discuss in the comments!

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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