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'American Idol' 13 recap: The Top 12 finalists sing themselves back 'Home'

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The "American Idol" Top 12 round was loaded with another let-them-pick-the-song-they-want-because-they-know-what-they-want-to-sing themed week. Each finalist got to perform a song of their own choosing in the theme of "Home," or whatever song reminded them most of home. With the judges handing down probably the most honest critiques on the show to date, several of the contestants most likely wished they were at home instead of in the lounge. But being home means they would have lost the chance to win "Idol," so… they took their lumps like professionals. Still, for one of the remaining dozen, unless a judges Save is in the works, their Top 12 performance will be their last.

Michael Slezak at TVLine reported (via Yahoo TV) that credit had to be given judges Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez for their honest feedback to the contestants. And he's correct, but Keith Urban should not be left out simply because his excitable boy delivery makes his criticisms seem a bit duller edged (which would put him on a par with Lopez's "gentle brand of truth," as Slezak puts it). There something totally likable about someone who can give constructive criticism without feeling the need to duck, dodge, or parry. And Harry's constant honesty, though very refreshing (and at times more than a little humorous), may be getting him close to being the most booed judge ever -- and that's saying something when there were nine seasons of Simon Cowell at the panel. He's running the risk of becoming "Hated Harry" instead of "Harsh Harry," the nickname he developed prior to "American Idol" going to air.

But enough about the judges. The Top 12 performed for America's votes on Wednesday night. Here's how they did:

The Good

Jessica Meuse: Third out of the box, the girl form Slapout, Ala. (who doesn't love the name of that town?), performed Dido's "White Flag." Although the judges seemed a bit tough on her, it was truly one of the better performances of the night simply because of the sharps and the subdued way it was rendered (precisely why the judges seemed to have a problem with it).

Dexter Roberts (4th): The country boy decided to tone it down a bit and show his vulnerable side, singing Montgomery Gentry's "Lucky Man." Slower than his usual fair, it was well done, his usual twang not as pronounced. The judges loved it.

Caleb Johnson (6th): If you guessed the powerhouse rocker was a diehard Rush fan, you may have been the only person outside of his fan base that did so. But the North Carolinian belted out Rush's "Working Man" like a pro, giving it a solid feel, his voice nowhere hear as high as Geddy Lee's. It worked. The judges enjoyed it but Judge Harry challenged him not to be predictable but complimenting him on being consistent. One thing the boy from Asheville should not ever do again, a deadfall on stage. Too theatrical; too awkward.

C. J. Harris (8th): The third representative from the state of Alabama called out the state's seeming inability to catch up with most of the world with regard to race relations, the performed John Mayer's "Waiting For The World To Change." C. J. did a nice job on the song but seemed to miss the point of the song, which Judge Harry quickly pointed out (the song has a tone of complacency, not one urging revolutionary or society-altering thinking).

Sam Woolf (9th): As Harry pointed out, young Sam seems to have only one musical setting. He performed a virtually unknown song, Blind Pilot's "Just One." The actual performance wasn't as bad as the fact that Sam seemed lost in the crowd of swaying young girls and couldn't find a way to emote the song (which had great lyrics). He'll need to get past his inability to be unidimensional if he wants to win, because, let's face it, he's up against a several other WGWGs.

Malaya Watson (10th): Her disastrous performance of Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby" notwithstanding, the talented teen went back to her strength and performed a big-voiced church tune: Tamela Mann's "Take Me To The King" for the Top 12. She had a few moments where she seemed a bit off, but it was far superior to her Top 13 train wreck. The judges noted same.

Majesty Rose: Already a frontrunner, Majesty pulled the pimp spot to close the show. She squared off with Coldplay's "Fix You." (Aside: Does everybody do this song better than Coldplay? It is starting to look that way.) And she did not disappoint. One of the better performances of the night (along with Caleb, Jessica, and Dexter), the North Carolina girl undoubtedly kept her frontrunner status.

The Bad

First up for the night, Jena Irene not only got the death spot, but she also picked an upbeat tune that was not in her wheelhouse. She sang it okay, but her big voice was crammed into a mediocre song, "Suddenly I See" by K T Tunstall. It was as if Pink had decided to perform the theme from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Yeah, it would be okay (because Pink has a tremendous voice) but the song wouldn't be the right vehicle for such a great vocalist.

Alex Preston (2nd): The judges got this one right: All of them said the music overpowered the singing. Yeah, Alex was wailing on the guitar and also seemed a bit out of breath, something Judge Keith commented on. He performed Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want To Be." Overall, it just looked as if he was trying way too hard for a song that should have been a phone-in for him.

Emily Piriz (5th): Following Jessica, Emily went to her Floridian roots (she's Cuban) and took the risk of performing Jennifer Lopez's hit "Let's Get Loud." She performed well but she didn't control the song. Judge Harry Connick Jr. called her out on it, telling her the song was a locomotive and she needed to get control of it, not simply be a passenger. As well he should, considering she's belted out a few big voice tunes earlier in the competition, her rendition of "Let's Get Loud" just didn't get loud enough (even though Judge Jenny from the Block gave her kudos).

Ben Briley (11th): The Georgia boy performed David Nail's "Turning Home." It got a bit shout-y. His nasal twang took over in a few places. However, it was passionate, perhaps the song's one saving grace. Okay, the performance's only saving grace. The judges disagreed on whether it was a good thing or a bad thing (but trust Harry on this one: passion is one thing but yelling lyrics plays well only rarely). But one thing was certain, "Turning Home" was Ben Briley's worst offering to date.

The Worst

M. K. Nobilette: Although she appeared in the middle of the pack, not only was her performance completely forgettable, she chose a song, Train's "Drops of Jupiter," that is a signature song for the band and idiosyncratic to Pat Monihan's voice. If M. K. wanted to do a song from a San Francisco band, she should have chosen something a bit more mainstream. Her vocals didn't quite match up. And she still had that deer-in-the-headlights look about her. She was in the bottom three last week. She's certain to be there again. And without redeeming herself (despite not one really harsh comment from the judges -- how can that be, on a night of never-ending tough pointers?) on the stage, America will probably elect to not support her.

Predictions: Who Sits the Silver Stools of Uncertainty

The bottom three on Thursday night's results show, based on performance, should be M. K. Nobilette, Ben Briley, Emily Piriz. Who should go home: M. K. Nobilette.

However, should and will are two very different outcomes. Those receiving the least votes will most likely be all girls: M. K. Nobilette, Jena Irene, Emily Piriz. Who will go home: M. K. Nobilette (because she has yet to connect with the audience or perform well in the last two shows).

And no matter who gets the least votes, don't look for the judges to use the season's only Save...

One thing of note in the Season 13 Top 12 performance show: In what might be the worst of the surprise twists and innovations for "American Idol" Season 13, host Ryan Seacrest delivered vote totals in real time (before all finalists performed, before anyone knew the order or the numbers by which they could vote). There is little doubt this twist will be controversial...

"American Idol" returns on Thursday night for the Top 12 results show and the Top 11 reveal. The show begins at 8 p.m. (EST). In keeping with the week's theme, Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips, singer of the quadruple-million-selling single, "Home," returns to perform the first single from his upcoming album. European chart-stormer Kodaline will also perform.

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