The “American Idol” Top 13 finalists performed live last night, Feb. 26, for America’s votes. While a few of the contestants suffered from an obvious case of first round nerves, Emily Piriz and Caleb Johnson had shining moments that made big impressions on the judging panel and most likely, America.
This week’s theme was "This is Me," in which contenders had to choose a song to best showcase who they are as an artist.
Michigan natives Malaya Watson and Jena Irene delivered solid performances with “Runaway Baby” and “The Scientist,” respectively. Malaya was energetic and comfortable on stage and Jena’s unique sound and vocal power really resonated.
However, neither one of these song choices clearly spoke to the girls’ vocal sweet spots. That said, these two definitely deserve a spot in next week’s performances.
Two contenders seemed to burst to the front of the pack, leaving memorable impressions with the judges and the audience.
First, Emily Piriz tackled Pink’s huge song, “Glitter in the Air.” She was poised, confident and spot on with her pitch. The judges were all thrilled with her performance.
Jennifer Lopez said, “That’s a tough song to take on. But you did it so beautifully. You sang it with a lot of emotion. The pitch was beautiful. You know, dynamics, everything. I don’t know what to say. I’m gushing.”
Harry Connick Jr. added, “Jen’s right. That’s not an easy song to sing and I really thought you sang the melody well and conveyed the emotions well. You did exactly what you were supposed to do. I’m proud of you.”
Keith Urban said, “I agree with Jen. That was a beautiful vocal performance top to bottom; one of my favorites of the night.” Then he described Pink’s ability to find a Yin and Yang in her songs and encouraged Emily to look for the edge and find the Yang in her performance moving forward.
Rocker Caleb Johnson obviously knows his way around the genre. He closed out the night with a smoking rendition of Rival Sons “Pressure and Time” and there's no doubt he’s found his musical lane.
Caleb's passionate performance brought the night’s first standing ovation as Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez jumped to their feet with applause.
Keith Urban spoke first over thunderous applause saying, “You just have serious pipes man. That was such a great song. I love Rival Sons. They’re a Long Beach band. That’s a very cool song. That song told me all about who you are.” Then he encouraged him to find his own twist to put on retro rock.
J Lo said, “You’re so ready for the rock star life. I can see you on the bus with your band just wreaking havoc, girls everywhere, breaking hearts and the whole thing … The thing is, you have the goods to back it up.”
Harry Connick added that it’s great to hear rock and roll on “Idol” and said if Rival Sons ever needed a singer, “Man, you have that gig!”
While it’s way too early in the competition to pick a clear winner, Emily and Caleb definitely threw their gauntlets down.
Other notable performances included Majesty Rose’s spunky and spot on “Tightrope," and Alex Preston’s intimate rendition of “Beautiful Mess.”
Despite a pacing issue, Sam Woolf also deserves a nod for sincerity and overall magnetism with Matchbox Twenty’s smash hit “Unwell.”
We’ll see how America felt about the performances with tonight’s first elimination round.
“American Idol” airs in Flint on WSMH FOX66 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET.