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'American Idol 13': '13 Finalists Perform' recap

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Tonight, Feb. 26, the top 13 contestants took to the “American Idol” stage to perform songs that truly define them as an artist under their first new theme: “This Is Me.”

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Dexter Roberts was up first, with Chris Young’s “Aw Naw.” Keith said he is such a likable guy, and he needs to figure out how to make it into a Dexter Roberts performance. Jennifer agreed and asked how they take it to the next level. Harry said not to use their monitors and thought there was a pitch issue, but he agreed with Jennifer and Keith.

Malaya Watson chose to sing Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby.” Jennifer loved her energy and how she commands the stage, but she didn’t think it was Malaya’s best vocal performance. Harry added that intonation is huge, and she seemed a bit nervous. Keith said the show is about what she can do from here forward and that she needed to figure out how to put her energy into a performance so that she is on top of the song.

Kristen O’Connor sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Beautiful Disaster.” Harry thought she is a really strong pop singer, but he didn’t think she sang in tune. Keith thought it was a good song choice because it showed her range. Jennifer told all the contestants to stop thinking and start thinking about what they know.

Ben Briley went with a song he sings to start every gig he’s ever done – Johnny Cash’s “Fulsom Prison Blues.” Keith loved that he did a Cash song, but the tempo was a little quick. He wanted him to be careful and not sacrifice his artistry for entertaining. Jennifer liked that he picked up the tempo and made it his own. Harry also liked the tempo and said it was the best performance of the night.

C.J. Harris sang Darius Rucker’s “Radio.” Jennifer said it was a lot of fun and liked the up-tempo feel. Harry loved the cry in his voice and wished he could have heard him sing something to show that. Keith really liked the song and felt there was a side to C.J. they hadn’t seen until tonight.

MK Nobilette sang “Satisfaction.” Harry enjoyed watching MK grow every week and suggested she try and smile or give someone a high five as she waited for the next line of the song to come. Keith loved the growth he had seen in MK and felt her ability to stay confident throughout the performance. Jennifer wasn’t familiar with the song, but she liked it, and the performance worked for her.

Majesty Rose sang Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope.” Keith said that was a killer song choice, and it really tapped into her vocal range. Jennifer felt singing that song was so perfect for Majesty, and everyone doesn’t have the natural performance ability that she does. Harry liked the mystery about her and wanted to see how that would unravel and said it was terrific.

Jena Irene went with Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” which was the first song she ever learned on the piano. Jennifer commented on all the little nuances in Jena’s voice and said she is also a powerhouse singer – she picked a tough song, but she pulled it out. Harry felt the meaning of the song come through in Jena’s performance. Keith also worried at the beginning, because it was pitchy, but when she leaned into it, it worked.

Alex Preston was up next, with Jason Mraz’s “A Beautiful Mess.” Harry thought it was brave, but he would caution him to sing in tune and said it was so introspective, he didn’t know if it did him the best service. Keith felt the opposite and thought it pulled him in and was interested. Jennifer agreed with Keith and said she was caught up in the mood and emotion.

Jessica Meuse sang “The Crow and the Butterfly.” Keith said it was a very bold song choice and loved it. Jennifer got “goosies” from the sound and power of her voice, and it was her favorite vocal performance of the night, but she wanted her to relax her body a little bit. Harry thought it was really cool to hear Jessica sing slightly differently. It was strong, and he heard a different sound to her voice.

Emily Piriz chose Pink’s “Glitter in the Air.” Jennifer said it was a tough song to take on, but she did it so beautifully and sang it with a lot of emotion. Harry thought it was really great and agreed with Jennifer. Keith also agreed and said it was one of his favorites of the night, but he wanted to see the edge and the balance. (The yang to the yin, he said).

Sam Woolf sang “Unwell,” by Matchbox 20. Harry wished Sam’s vocals would have mirrored the song lyrics, and he thought it was good, but not great. Keith thought the tempo was a little slow, but he was captivating. Jennifer said Sam is the perfect storm – he’s adorable and sings perfectly, but he needs to get loose up there.

Last up for the night was Caleb Johnson, who sang “Pressure and Time.” Keith shouted, “Killer!” He said the song told him all about who Caleb is, but he needs to figure out how to make it retro with a twist. Jennifer could see Caleb on a bus wreaking havoc. Harry thought it was great to hear rock and roll in “Idol,” and if Rival Sons ever needed a singer, he could do it.

What do you think of the top 13 this season? Did you have a favorite performance tonight? Leave a comment below!

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