‘American Idol XIII’ top 8 review: Jessica Meuse, Caleb Johnson, and Alex Preston visit the 80s

American Idol -For the second time, “American Idol XIII” aired an all-new episode featuring the top 8 contestants performing. The difference this time is that they were songs of the eighties, and not nearly as good as they were the were the first time around.

Were there still a few standouts? Sure, but this episode had more terrible duets, a little too much self-promotion from the judges, and typical production nonsense … but it did at least have David Cook! He makes everything better, right? As always, we’re raking these acts in order from worst to first. (Sadly, there were more “worsts” than “firsts.”)

8. Malaya Watson, “Through the Fire” – This was … not good. Remember all that advice about control and focus that she had brought the past few weeks? Well, there was almost none of that here. This was pretty horrible, oversung, and all over the place. This is why Malays needs to be coached down on big ballads, and while David Cook is a good mentor, he couldn’t save her from the fire that awaited here.

7. CJ Harris, “Free Fallin'” – This can also be used to describe CJ’s status in the competition thanks to his pitch. We really hate ragging on the guy for it every week, but at this point, this is who he is. A guy who sings with a ton of feeling, but can’t keep in tune to save his life. He’ll probably be much better at some fun, intimate concert where his stories can be told more than a show that relies so heavily on your singing voice.

6. Jena Irene, “I Love Rock N’ Roll” – We cannot say that we loved the song choice, or even the arrangement. Jena hit nice notes, but it was like she took three different songs and created a FrankenSong that tried to come to life and destroy the stage. She’ll still be safe, but it marks a step back.

5. Sam Woolf, “Time After Time” – Ignore everything that went on around Sam, then this was one of the best performances that Sam has done. It’s still a song choice as inspiring as a bottle of name-brand water, but the guy has a very sweet tone. He could go places, but he would have been better suited to wait a couple of years before appearing on the show.

4. Jessica Meuse, “Call Me” – This would be an amazing performance for a blind audition on “The Voice.” Jessica’s an awesome singer, but her staging just still feels like she doesn’t know what to do with herself on a big stage. She’s probably used to playing smaller venues, where this isn’t so much of an issue.

3.  Alex Preston, “Every Breath You Take” – Look at Alex and his #HumbleBrag after the performance! Apparently, he’s been getting some pointers on everything via Jason Mraz. Very impressive! To Alex’s credit, this performance was something that Jason would be happy with. He actually proved us wrong that there was a way to make this kinda-creepy song somewhat interesting.

2. Dexter Roberts, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” – You know it’s a weird night when we feel like Dexter did a better job than most of the other contestants, but he had some originality and personality in here. We’re not saying that it was actually worth the time to watch the show, but he’s one of the few who didn’t actually disappoint us on some level.

1. Caleb Johnson, “Faithfully” – A great vocal, and the best of the show by a wide margin. With that being said, though, we’re still not convinced that Caleb has worked enough at being a guy capable of being a real-life rock god. He seems more suited for almost a “Rock of Ages” leading role or being in a Tenacious D style rock band.

Tonight’s episode was bad on what mattered the most: The singing. The judges were mostly okay, Cook was a great mentor (even though the artists he helped didn’t really get enough from him), and while the theme wasn’t great, there were still chances for good vocals. Save for just a select few, though, nobody came through in the clutch and brought us one of the worst performance shows ever at this stage. Grade: D+.

You can still share your favorite performance in the comments below, and click here to take a look at where we ranked some of the contestants going into this. Also, sign up for more updates worth singing about via our CarterMatt Newsletter.

Photo: Fox

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