The Top 12 take on 'Songs from the Cinema'; Harsh Harry mellows out

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March 13, 2014 at 05:37 AM EDT

This week’s theme: Songs from the Cinema, or Sing Anything You Want Because Everything Has Been in a Movie. Sounds good to me! A mellowed-out, less-Harsh Harry Connick Jr. wants to “raise this talent up as high as it can go.” Or at least as high as the Hollywood sign, which is pretty freaking high. Here we go.

OH NO. Harry’s also on a raging “in it to win it” kick, likely because he recognizes how stupid Randy Jackson’s former catchphrase is and wants to make fun of it. But nooooo, just stop saying it, ever.

Sam Woolf, The Beatles’ “Come Together” from Across the Universe: “I wanted to show a different side of me, so I chose an upbeat song,” said the robot. (I loved the other singers being utterly confused when asked to mimic or even comment on any defining characteristic about Sam.) He finally moved around on the stage this time, while wearing the strangest shiny olive green blazer I’ve ever seen. It’s possible I have only ever seen one. It looked like the underside of a portable picnic blanket I keep in my car. Or some sort of snazzy tent. And that’s really all I remember from this first mediocre, or “pretty average” according to Harry, performance.

Harry definitely toned down his “harsh” (honest!) commentary this week. The Harry of last week would have asked Sam, “What do you think that means — ‘he shoot Coca-Cola?'” and then maybe, “You’re boring.” But this week? “You have to make up for a simple melody with vibe” and an encouraging followup, “You’re on the way.”

Jessica Meuse, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” from The Graduate: The band messed up, but Jessica never seemed to recover, and I think she could have done a lot better. I want to like her so much, and I have a feeling I would LOVE hearing her regular set list in a smoky bar. But the Idol stage — where Coca-Cola isn’t a drug, it’s the sponsor — is no smoky bar. Totally different scene. Jess struggles with that. How could you not? If you’re not a teenager, a cute boy, or consistently smiling your face off, you look weird up there. That’s the reality of the show.

Jessica had some pretty good moments during her performance, though. Sometimes when she holds a strong note for awhile (and she’s good at picking songs that let her do that) there’s a potentially Stevie Nicks-esque richness to her vibrato that I find both soothing and haunting — one of my favorite musical combo platters. I know, I know, it’s sacrilegious to compare these kids to full-blown icons — but sometimes it’s just what comes out. (See below: J. Lo and M.K/k.d. lang. So many letters.) I’m not saying she’s as good, or close to as good. I’m just wishfully thinking that a specific quality of her tone brings a famous person to mind. It happens.

C.J. Harris, The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” from Blow: C.J. saved up to buy a new guitar. Really? They can’t just give him one? Budget. I thought this was his best performance yet, and it seemed Jennifer Lopez agreed as she shook her massive swirl of million-dollar horse hair while squinting to the beat. In fact, C.J.’s storyline is being rewritten right this second. “You completely nailed it right then. Like, I know exactly who you are,” raved Keith. “You can shock the world, change the world with your music. You have that ability. YOU’RE A FRONTRUNNER, BABY!” said Harry Connick Jr. Ha ha ha, just kidding, it was My Little Lo-ny.

I wouldn’t call C.J.’s song tide-shifting or anything, but he had a few clever little eyebrow raises to the camera on mentions of “that woman” and spiced the original up with “It’s the only way to Georgia, hey hey heyyyyyy.” I also found it thrilling that thanks to the drive-in movie and urban-sprawl-at-night backdrop, C.J. appeared to be singing on the edge of a cliff. In a way, wasn’t he? Aren’t they all? One more step in the wrong direction and it’s back to your hometown, kiddos.

Note: C.J. was super funny in the contestants’ “Audition for the role of…” segments about each other. I liked how he put “bananas and fruit” in separate categories while characterizing Dexter. Someone likes bananas! Me too. Love ’em. So overall: a solid week for C.J. Harris.

Oh God, it’s Randy Jackson puppeteered (?!) by Ryan Seacrest’s arms. Dexter Roberts has ZERO time for this gross display of inadequate Dawg-training. What is Randy even doing there? Get back to the show.

NEXT PAGE: Life is like a box of newborn puppies; you always know what you’re gonna get

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