american idol top 13 xiii kristen oconnor emily piriz 'American Idol' XIII Top 13: Emily Piriz, Caleb Johnson and Jessica Meuse kill it
The exciting shows are finally here, “American Idol” fans. It’s the Top 13 finalists, with a theme of “This Is Me.” Could you vague that up for us, “Idol”? That is akin to my all-time favorite theme, the Season 6 episode that was like “Songs Gwen Stefani Has Heard Of (Maybe).”

Just as an FYI, we’re not going to recap all the video package shenanigans. Let’s get down to business with the performances.

1. Dexter Roberts, “Aw Naw,” Chris Young

Terrible song choice. This is a song trying to so hard to be a dirt-kickin’ country rock number, but Dexter does not have the swagger to pull that off yet. He’s just standing there. His voice isn’t bad, but there are a few bum notes and the entire performance lacks energy. He’ll stick around, I’m fairly sure, but he’s going to have to step that up.

If this is what defines who he is, then he’s kind of boring and a mumble-mouth. Heh. Joking aside, that may be who Dexter is, but the performance pizzazz needs work.

2. Malaya Watson, “Runaway Baby,” Bruno Mars

Another terrible choice. Bruno Mars pulls this off because he’s A) in apparently awesome shape and B) a dynamic dancer. This is not showing off Malaya’s voice, but not only that, she can barely keep up with it. She sounds like she is trying to catch a runaway train. Really bad. Apparently Malaya wants us to know that she’s … kind of insane because that performance was all over the place.

3. Kristen O’Connor, “Beautiful Disaster,” Kelly Clarkson

Now, Kristen is not Kelly. But at least this song is the type of song she would record. It’s a solid choice. She has a beautiful voice, though parts of the song are way out of tune. Harry Connick Jr. always calls out the off-key people and it really must be about them getting used to the live band and the big arena because it’s a huge problem with this group and surely they didn’t pick so many people who can’t stay in tune.

4. Ben Briley, “Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash

OK, now the show can start. Terrific song choice and he does really well with it. He doesn’t take the easy way out and slow it way down, plus he doesn’t try too hard to be Cash. Briley doesn’t have Cash’s voice at all, but he’s not trying to, so that’s OK. He’s bringing some real rock feel to it and that’s a lot of fun. Nice job, Briley.

5. C.J. Harris, “Radio,” Darius Rucker

We can definitely see why C.J. chose Rucker, he’s a lot like him vocally. It’s a real shame he chose this song and not “Wagon Wheel.” That would’ve been a stronger choice. This one is … fine. It’s OK. It’s not knock-your-socks-off good, but it’s not bad. It’s cute and fun and he sounds alright. But will that be enough to keep him there? Middle-of-the-road performances are sometimes a bigger killer than bad ones.

6. MK Nobilette, “Satisfaction,” Allen Stone

Interesting choice. The thing about this song is that we really like it and we really like MK’s voice on it, but it’s definitely a weird song and more obscure than the other ones and that could hurt her. It’s also not a vocalist’s song, so it’s not showing off her beautiful voice as well as some of her other choices have. She also needs some serious work on her stage presence. Still, we want to hear more from her, so hopefully she sticks around.

7. Majesty Rose, “Tightrope,” Janelle Monae

Great choice in terms of what kind of artist she wants to be. She’s handling the fast tempo with aplomb and there are still a few moments where she can show off her voice. The ill-fitting, boxy outfit is a miss. But Majesty Rose is still the cutest and that was a lot of fun. My only criticism is her actual line of “tightrope” on the chorus got a little lost, I wish she could’ve been a little heavier on that one little part.

8. Jena Irene, “The Scientist,” Coldplay

This is a nice choice for her voice, but she’s horribly flat at the beginning — it does get better, though. However, the rocker chick vibe of this is actually losing the entire great message of this song. “Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard” is kind of a heartbreaking lyric and she wasn’t connecting with the song for us at all. The judges disagree, so maybe it’s just us. But we think she could’ve had more moments with this song.

Do you remember when Katelyn Epperly did this song in the Top 24 a few years ago? That was awesome. I’m still mad she got voted off before the Top 13. Her and Lilly Scott. Bah.

9. Alex Preston, “A Beautiful Mess,” Jason Mraz

Mraz is a great choice for him and it’s nice to hear him start so quietly and build, plus the emotional connection is good. The last note is a little rough, but overall, pretty solid. Love the stripped-down feel to it.

10. Jessica Meuse, “The Crow and the Butterfly,” Shinedown

Huh. I cannot figure this girl out. Is she rock? Is she country? It’s not that you can’t be lots of things but … it’s interesting how varied her voice sounds, if that makes sense. This was a cool choice. You know who I’d like to hear her sing? Stevie Nicks. “Edge of Seventeen,” “Rhiannon,” “Landslide,” they could all be great. Really liked it, despite the confusion about exactly what Meuse is. Ain’t no big thang, we don’t need to know.

11. Emily Piriz, “Glitter in the Air,” Pink

Very pretty choice. The quiet beginning is beautiful and well-supported, and Emily clearly knows how to work the camera, she’s magnetic on stage. Then she builds to the big crescendo, it’s really nice. Maybe our favorite on the night.

12. Sam Woolf, “Unwell,” Matchbox 20

This is a good pick for Sam’s voice, though he needs to angst it up a bit. Thomas sings this song like his guts are being ripped out and Sam is singing this like he’s at his junior high talent show. Give us some grit, kiddo. He’s also a little out of tune at moments. But he’s safe, because this isn’t a trainwreck and he’s cute. But yeah, show us your emotions, Sam. Dig in a little.

13. Caleb Johnson, “Pressure and Time,” Rival Sons

Awesome choice, even if we aren’t familiar with this song. He’s really showing off his chops while still getting to be rock ‘n roll. Those things don’t always go together. You know, if he ever had to do a ballad, Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love” would be good for him. Anyway, this is a lot of fun. Caleb’s great, can’t wait to hear more from him.

Other than Woolf needing to be a little dirtier, the second half of the show really trumped the first half. The final group of singers was really strong.

Who’s going home? Dexter and Malaya were the weakest for us, with Kristen and C.J. ending up being near the bottom too after everybody had performed. Hmm. We actually found Malaya to be the absolute bottom tonight. What do you think, fans?

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."