"American Idol's" Top 6 played it a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll on Wednesday, with every contestant singing one song from each genre.
At this point in the competition, a clear picture is starting to emerge of how this season will shake out, and Wednesday's show reinforced those standings. Put plainly: This is now Caleb Johnson's to lose, and everyone else is fighting for scraps.
Here's how Wednesday's show unfolded.
Caleb Goes To Town On Black Crowes
Caleb Johnson has been a rock week in and week out in the competition, a clear frontrunner from the jump off, and on Wednesday he turned in his best performance yet when he belted out the Black Crowes' "Sting Me" in a way that would make Chris Robinson himself throw his hands up in praise. Johnson got so caught up in the performance that at one point he dropped his microphone, but as it rolled off he scooped it up without missing a note, and his reaction in the moment only made the performance stronger.
His second song — a rockin' take on Carrie Underwood's "Undo It" — made Keith Urban quip, "I can't wait to hear what country song you do later," but the first was so strong the night was undoubtedly his.
"When you take the perfect song choice and couple that with an incredible performance, it's virtually impossible to beat," Harry Connick Jr. told him.
Jena Takes On Heart, Alex Lets Out His 'Animal'
If things continue on their current trajectory, Jena Irene and Alex Preston will finish second and third, respectively, in the competition. Johnson is going to be tough to beat, but at least Jena and Alex will get hometown visits out of the deal.
Jena opened the show Wednesday with Heart's (and later Fergie's) "Barracuda," which suited her well and let her fill the room. She followed it up with Carrie Underwood's "So Small," earning strong remarks from two of the three judges, with only Connick coming down on her for losing the melody and "interpreting (Underwood's) interpretation," in his words.
Alex Preston mixed things up with his rock song, going uptempo for the first time in the competition with Neon Trees' 2010 hit "Animal." It was a bit awkward and Preston wasn't wholly comfortable, but he redeemed himself later in the show with a quiet, slowed-down version of Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind" that was much more in his wheelhouse. "It's a beautiful song and you sang it beautifully," Connick said.
Jessica And Sam Hold Steady, C.J. Prepares To Go
Things don't look too good in "Idol's" crystal ball for Jessica Meuse, Sam Woolf and C.J. Harris. Barring a huge slip from the frontrunners, they're next in line to go — and Caleb proved on Wednesday that even when he slips he's able to turn that into gold.
Jessica's takes on Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" and Dolly Parton's "Jolene" were typical Jessica: Vocally competent if emotionally vacant. Connick used her performances to clarify his statements a week ago about him wanting her to dance in her hotel room to get more in tune with her rhythm, and Meuse commented she followed his advice and got her Jason Derulo on.
Sam Woolf dialed up Imagine Dragons and Shania Twain, and while he continues to get more comfortable on stage every week, he's still timid and behind where he should be at this stage of the competition. C.J. Harris, meanwhile, may have punched his ticket home with his meager take on the Guess Who's (and later Lenny Kravitz's) "American Woman" and Zac Brown Band's "Whatever It Is." "For me it just didn't hit the mark," Jennifer Lopez told him after the latter performance, which if the voters fall in line, will likely be the country gentleman's last in the competition.