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'American Idol' Top 9 Performances: Caleb Johnson Blends With the Band, Jena Irene Is 'Phenomenal'

March 27, 2014 (4:12 am) GMT
Jessica Meuse also nails a cover of Fleetwood Macs' 'Rhiannon', and Malaya Watson shows off her chops with The Beatles' 'The Long and Winding Road'.

"" season 13 returned Wednesday, March 26 with the remaining 9 finalists and "I'm With the Band" theme. The episode opened with a group performance where they sang a medley of rock hits by such bands as , and .

Alex Preston kicked off the competition, delivering a jazzy version of 's "Don't Speak". Despite his effort to make the song his own, he was criticized by for being "so consistent." The country music crooner also wanted Alex to "give a little more edge," while thought Alex's low-key version "sucked the energy out of the song." , meanwhile, would like to see Alex to move around on the stage and move the audience.

Majesty Rose's performance of "Shake it Out" by was given a "10" by J.Lo, although she said, "Vocally, it was a little all over the place." Harry loved the arrangement, but suggested her to learn how to own the stage. Keith praised the song choice but advised her to control her energy.

Staying true to his country root, Dexter Roberts went with 's "Boondocks". Harry said it's generic, while Keith predicted Dexter would have had a hit with the song if Little Big Town had not recorded it. All three judges, however, agreed that Dexter needed to try something different.

Malaya Watson showed off her vocal chops with "The Long and Winding Road" by . "That was beautiful baby," Keith gushed. J.Lo praised her control and Harry said she was "consistently improving."

Sam Woolf picked a romantic song, "Hey There Delilah" by , but J.Lo and Harry thought that he failed to connect with the lyrics. Keith advised Sam to stop thinking about every note he sings.

Jessica Meuse covered 's "Rhiannon", which suited her voice that is often compared to '. Harry said it was his favorite performance of hers so far. J.Lo said Jess' confidence was "growing," and although she could listen to her sing all day, "now I have to feel something." Keith, meanwhile, told her to be as comfortable without an instrument as she is with one.

CJ Harris performed an upbeat and soulful rendition of The Steel Drivers' "If it Hadn't Been for Love". Keith commended CJ for the song choice, but told him to express emotion by feeling it, not making his voice sound like the emotion. J.Lo found the performance inconsistent, and the harsh Harry told CJ to work on his pitch.

Caleb Johnson earned rave reviews for his performance of "Dazed and Confused" by , being able to blend perfectly with the band. J.Lo could see him fronting a band, and Harry gushed, "I don't know how you could have sung the song any better." Keith also sang praise for Caleb, "Your whole performance came at me like an airbag in slow motion."

Jena Irene capped the night with a dark and dramatic "Bring Me to Life" by . Harry said Jena did a good job following Johnson and her voice was "really, really strong." Keith said she was in "her own lane," and J.Lo called the performance "phenomenal."

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