Tonight’s American Idol is all about home.
The remaining 12 just hope they don’t find themselves heading home anytime soon.
Instead “home” is tonight’s theme, meaning the singers can perform songs they consider tributes to their home or favorite songs from their childhood.
Hey, I’m not complaining. It’s a much better theme than “songs from the year of their birth,” which sometimes ended up with singers performing songs they’d never heard before.
1. Jena Irene Asciutto: She’ll sing “Suddenly I See” by K.T. Tunstall. She says her family used to sing the song during car rides and it brought them closer together. Jena has shed her guitar for this one. Not a particularly strong start for Jena. She seems to find her groove on the chorus. But it seemed to go off the rails a little again on the second verse. Jena says this is a “happy song” and maybe that’s the problem. Most of her performances have had more of an edge, and there isn’t much edge to this. The vocal was fine, just not “wow.” Keith says he likes her stage presence, but says he wasn’t “mad” about the song choice. Neither was I. Harry wanted more energy. Grade: B–
2. Alex Preston: He lives in a small town in Massachusetts, near Boston, but a world away in terms of atmosphere. He’s going to sing Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want To Be.” He says he met Gavin after a concert at one point and received encouragement from him. OK, I immediately like Alex more this week. He’s more out front, and he’s giving a unique take on the song. Heck, he’s even showing some personality on stage. Hey, like the changes he made to the song. Decent job from Preston, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the vocal and it wasn’t a song that provided lots of opportunity for vocal fireworks. Jennifer didn’t think the vocal was his best. Jennifer thought the arrangement took over his vocal. Harry admires that he tried to do something different with the song. Keith sensed “instability” in the performance and says his pitch drifted a bit. Grade: B–
3. Jess Meuse: She’s from Slapout, Ala., and she’s singing “White Flag” by Dido. She says this is a song she enjoyed growing up. Jess scores an A for her hair and her style tonight. And she starts this performance very well. But, wow, somewhere about 30 seconds in, that vocal seemed to veer off course. And she didn’t seem particularly invested in what should have been an emotional performance. Harry says it felt understated and sort of blaise. Keith also suggests there just wasn’t enough emotion in her performance. And Jennifer also wasn’t a big fan of that performance. So, three songs in, we’re still waiting for a killer performance. Grade: C
4. Dexter Roberts: Jess is followed to stage by another singer from Alabama; Dexter is from Fayetteville. He says he misses his dogs, but that he’s surprised there are billboards around the town with his photo on them. He’s singing “Lucky Man” because he considers himself one. Dexter’s voice is ringing out loud and clear tonight. Last week, I could hardly hear him over the backing music. Problem is, this is a boring, boring performance. Dexter sounded pretty good, but I’m not sure I’d pick that to sing out of all the country songs out there. Keith, however, called that the perfect song and liked the way Dexter showed his vulnerable side. Jennifer seemed to like the performance, too. Harry called it his favorite performance of the night. Grade: C+
5. Emily Piriz: Emily is from Orlando, Fla. She’ll sing Jennifer Lopez’s “Lets Get Loud.” Can’t say Emily isn’t brave. She says she’s from a Cuban background and this song reminds her of home. She recalls singing to this song in her bedroom, using a hairbrush as a pretend microphone. Nice to get back to an upbeat song. Emily is showing off some dance moves on stage, gave us a little snippet of Spanish in the middle of that performance, tried a couple of glory notes toward the end that went a tad sharp, got drowned out by the background music a bit, but overall turned in a fun performance. Jennifer thought she did a really good job. Harry thought the production was too big for her performance. Keith loved the performance and guarantees Emily will be here next week. Grade: B
6. Caleb Johnson: He’s from Asheville, N.C., and likes the fact that there are so many music venues around town. He’s singing “Working Man” by Rush. He calls them his favorite band and says he wants to put his own touch on one of his favorite songs. The band isn’t about to overpower Caleb. And we won’t have to worry about him not pouring himself into the performance on stage. And then Caleb hits a couple of incredible big notes at the end of the song. And he winds up laying on the stage for emphasis. Not sure what that was about, but it was certainly a fun performance. Harry suggests that Caleb is a bit too predictable. Keith says Caleb is one of the best singers he’s heard in a long time. Jennifer calls it a “great job.” Grade: A–
7. M.K. Nobilette: She’s from San Francisco, calling it “the coolest place in the world.” And she’s going to sing a song by Train, a group from San Francisco. The song: “Drops of Jupiter,” and M.K. says she’ll put her own spin on it. She’s trying to bounce back from a bottom three performance. M.K. looks petrified. The opening of the song is too slow. The vocal isn’t very good. And when the tempo picks up, she just can’t pull it off. I’m afraid it’s about time for M.K.’s time to be up on American Idol. Keith says he loves the song, but thinks she needs to do a better job of connecting with the song. Harry says he gets the impression M.K. doesn’t want to be on the Idol stage. Jennifer seemed to think it was a fine performance. Grade: D–
8. C.J. Harris: Another guy from Alabama; he’s from Jasper. His song choice is “Waiting On The World To Change” by John Mayer. His goal: to have fun and deliver a message. OK, I’m going to be interested to hear what the judges have to say. To me, that was just another middling performance by C.J. There was nothing particularly wrong with it. But there wasn’t anything really special about the vocal either. Keith suggests he needs to do something to make his performances more unique. Harry says he was sharp through the whole song but still pulled it off. Jennifer seemed to like it. C.J. needs a breakout performance soon to separate himself from the pack. Or at least from the pack of country singers. Grade: B–
9. Sam Woolf: He lives with his grandparents in Bradenton, Fla. He’s going to sing “Just One” from Blind Pilot and says it reminds him of his home state of Michigan, where he used to listen to the song with friends. Oh, look at this, Sam is going out and sitting among the girls to sing this song. You know what, Sam is delivering a really nice vocal. One of the better ones of the night. Again, not a lot of dynamics to the performance. But on a night when some of the vocals have been tortured, Sam pulled it off pretty well. That said, I’m subtracting a grade for the staging. Just ridiculous Idol. I know Sam is cute. You don’t have to give me closeups of young girls looking at him adoringly. Grade: B
10. Malaya Watson: Malaya is from Southfield, Mich. She’s determined to stay out of the bottom three stools this week because she says “they weren’t even comfortable.” She’s going back to the piano, where she might be able to control her energy. She’s going to sing “Take Me To The King,” which she says is the first gospel song she ever heard. She’s doing better than last week. But some of the lyrics are coming out sort of mumbled. And she certainly delivered an upbeat ending, though the big notes seemed more like screaming than singing at times. She gave Jennifer goosies. Keith thought it was a great performance. Harry said this was a much more focused performance and felt proud because she didn’t go off the rails. Grade: B–
11. Ben Briley: He’s from Gallatin, Tenn. And he’s singing “Turning Home” by David Nail. He says he comes from a huge family of about 120 members and jokes that he’s pretty sure he’s still on the show because they’re all voting for him. Love Ben’s sense of humor. Hey, I really like the tone of Ben’s voice. Now, that said, I liked the tone better on the soft opening than when the tempo picked up. But Ben seemed invested in the song. Jennifer liked the feeling Ben brought to the song. Harry felt like part of it was shouted at him. I agree a bit with that. Keith thought the performance was too technical and says he lost the feeling of the song in the process. Hey, I liked Ben better last week. But on a night short of great performances, Ben’s was far from the worst. Grade: B
12. Majesty Rose: She’s from Goldsboro, N.C., and says she misses the pre-school kids she used to teach. She’s going to sing “Fix You” by Coldplay, a song she says she listened to a lot as a teenager. Majesty shows up with her guitar, and looking great. Like the simple arrangement of this song. At least the opening. Not sure what happened at the end there when the chorus joined in, but everything seemed out of kilter. She hit a really nice high note, but I didn’t know whether I should be focusing on her or the background singers, who did their best to drown her out. Just really strange end to the song. Which is exactly what the judges said — that she should have kept the song in the quiet place where the performance started.. Grade: B–