This week’s theme on American Idol: A Little Bit Country and a Little Bit Rock and Roll.
That means each of the singers will perform twice, once with a country song and once with a rock song.
Best of all, it means no more duets or trios — just solo performances.
Of course, the theme comes after two of the singers best equipped to pull it off — Dustin Roberts and Ben Briley — have been eliminated.
But it should be welcome news to someone like Jess Meuse, who found herself at the brink of elimination last week. And it should prove a challenge to others, like frontrunner Jena Irene (can she go country?) and Sam Woolf (can he rock?)
On with the rankings, with last week’s rank in parenthesis.
1. Jena Irene (1): Idol stuffed last week’s show with so much fluff, there wasn’t time to hear whatever it is Jennifer Lopez wanted to tell the show’s rising star. Here’s what I’d say: “If the show ended today, you should absolutely be crowned the Season 13 champ. And if the confetti falls on anyone else’s head on May 20, it would be a travesty of Adam-Lambert-didn’t-win proportions.” Unless …
2. Caleb Johnson (2): The confetti falls on the head of Caleb, who has been so consistently solid, we forget how good he’s been. I’ve been grading performances during the finals for eight weeks now, and Caleb has earned a B+ or better on every performance but one, Top 10 week’s ill-conceived recreation of “Edge of Glory.” Even then, Caleb took the stage with a presence that seems like a foreign concept to everyone who follows on this list.
3. Alex Preston (4): There’s a world of difference between a Caleb performance and an Alex performance. From an entertainment standpoint, I prefer Caleb. But guess what? Music buyers seem to prefer Alex’s laid-back style. In two of the past three weeks, his cover song has been Idol’s best-performing on iTunes. Last week, he finished second only to Jena’s brilliant version of “Creep.”
4. Jess Meuse (3): Did you see how pissed off Jess looked when she landed in the bottom two Thursday night? Perhaps she can channel some of that anger into a more animated performance. Look, I don’t think Jess gets enough credit from the judges for her great vocals. But any criticism of her failure to sell “Gunpowder and Lead” was well deserved. She smiled at her guitarist, for crying out loud. On that song, you scowl at every male in sight.
5. Sam Woolf (6): I’ve been a bit tough on Sam from time to time, partly because I don’t think he was save-worthy, partly because I think producers have given him an unfair edge. On the other hand, he seems like a great kid and has a fine voice. I just suspect that, like Malaya Watson, he hit the Idol stage a year or two before he was quite prepared for it. And this week’s theme could be tough for a guy who’s neither country nor rock.
6. C.J. Harris (7): Wow, wasn’t C.J. much improved last week? That version of “Gravity” was easily his best of the finals. Ah, but then came a group effort filled with C.J.’s persistent pitch problems. What’s the likelihood that he can perform twice Wednesday night and avoid those problems on both trips to the stage? Not great, based on his track record, though Idol has offered up a theme that falls in his wheelhouse.