Jonathan & Jonathan’s 13 Favorite Performances of American Idol Season 13

Cue the confetti canons: American Idol celebrates its landmark 500th episode tonight. Throughout these 500 episodes, we’ve experienced soaring highs and strident lows. As season 13 crowns its winner next week (please, oh please, be Jena Irene), my fellow faithful Idol viewer, Jonathan Yu, and I have come up with our 13 favorite performances of the season. We know you’re not watching anymore, so why not let me and my Idol partner-in-crime guide you through this year’s greatness.


IDOL Top 3: Caleb Johnson, Jena Irene, & Alex Preston

Jena Irene: “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley
Hands down, this is the performance of the season.

Jena is simply magic behind the piano. Pure and utter magic. Stripping the Elvis classic down to mere piano chords brought Jena’s passion to the forefront. She danced through the song with delicate intricacy, while the ache in her voice made her yearning all the more immediate. Striking. Haunting. Vulnerable. This is the performance that should crown Jena the winner of American Idol. Don’t let me down, America. – JA

Jena Irene: “Decode” by Paramore
Jena is, without a doubt, at her best behind the piano. While I have never been a huge fan of this Twilight-associated song, Jena totally annihilated it. My favorite parts of Jena’s voice are her dark undertones, and they were on full display here. It’s no wonder she names Hayley Williams of Paramore as a singer she’d like to collaborate withI can easily hear a duet version of “Decode” on the radio right now. – JY

Jena Irene: “My Body” by Young the Giant
I chose this performance based on Jena’s sheer joy alone. Sure, it wasn’t the most technically demanding vocal, but she infused “My Body” with such vibrant electricity that it was hard not to get swept up in it all. Jena owned that stage with her youthful energy and commanding presence. You see it in her physicality. You could feel it in the audience. She invited us to get caught up in the music with her and for two minutes, American Idol was truly a Jena Irene concert. – JA

Jena Irene/Caleb Johnson: “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones
While duets on Idol have been, for the most part, a hit or miss affair, when they hit, they really hit. Like Adam and Allison before them, Caleb and Jena just make sense together. On paper, the duet works; in practice, it WERKS. Jena effortless nails the Mary Clayton vocals, while Caleb holds his own as Mick. Not even the wacky sound mixing could detract from the chemistry between these two, who sounded like they’ve been singing together for years. – JY

Caleb Johnson: “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin
No one owns the stage like Caleb does. The stage is his playground. It’s where he comes alive. It’s where he demands our attention. He craves it. He fights for it. And he fights for it so effortlessly. Given a classic rock song, he exudes a cool confidence that can’t be shaken. His swagger matches his soaring high notes. It’s a pleasure to watch his rock persona take over. – JA

Caleb Johnson: “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney
Vocally, Caleb is always on point. This is typically a good thing, but given the wrong song choice, he can easily veer into “really good cover band” territory (see: “You Give Love a Bad Name”). With “Maybe I’m Amazed,” he really came alive, especially in the latter half when he let go and just dialed his wail-mode up to 11. Rocking, soulful, amazing. – JY

Alex Preston: “Say Something” by A Great Big World
This is Alex in his element: a nuanced, stripped-down performance. Sometimes he filters songs through his acoustic lens, like “Every Breath You Take,” while Alex delivers others straight-forward, like “Say Something.” Alex played with simple, yet effective, deviations from the melody, while tapped into the emotional root of the song. His earnestness resonated throughout the piece, performing a delicate balancing act with his silhouetted singing partner. Kudos to her for making Alex shine. – JA

Alex Preston: “Yellow” by Coldplay
I may be a bit biased by my immense love for this song, but this was one of the few times I felt an actual connection to Alex. Despite all the faces he makes in his performances, I always feel a general disinterest in his delivery. Not here. Props to Alex for following up Jena’s showstopper with what would have easily been a top performance contender on any other night. – JY

Jessica Meuse: “Human” by Christina Perri
I’ve struggled to connect with Jessica’s performances, no thanks in part to her vacant (read: dead behind the eyes) glare. This performance, however, broke open both her stoicism and my hostilities towards her. Unsurprisingly, it took a song from with the lyrics “I’m only human / And I bleed when I fall down” to beautifully expose her vulnerabilities. Jessica’s emotional plea built in such an effectively dramatic fashion that I found my arm up in the air alongside hers. While some of Jessica’s high notes may have erred on the sharp side, it was her emotional connectivity that won me over. – JA

Jessica Meuse: “You & I” by Lady Gaga
My issue with Jessica “Dead Eyed Lie” Meuse has always been her struggle connect with songs. Her performances, while never a train wreck, rarely amounted to showstoppers. In this case, her blend of country/rock really elevated “You & I” to another level. She hadn’t sounded this at home since her performance of “Blue Eyed Lie,” her own composition. The guitar, her newfound presence, the soulful rasp – it all came together for her here. – JY

Malaya Watson: “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars
At every turn, Malaya threatened to go off the rails, with her big voice and even bigger personality. But unlike her frenetic rendition of “Runaway Baby,” this Bruno Mars song was grounded with heartfelt emotion. Her tone dripped with honey and pierced through the air like a rocket. Malaya delivered a performance that brought her raw, yet tightly controlled, sincerity front and center. – JA

Majesty Rose: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
Majesty burst onto the Idol stage with a wide-eyed and radiant enthusiasm. Her fresh and funky take on Pharrell’s ubiquitous song opened up the season’s live performances with rays of sunshine pulsating through her every guitar strum. While Majesty’s nerves contributed to her early elimination, her magnetic charisma easily made this a memorable performance. I dare you to watch “Happy” and not smile. – JA

MK Nobilette: “All of Me” by John Legend
This performance solidified her as one of my early favorites when she sang it in the semifinals. On a night filled with disappointing first appearances, MK shone bright. It may also have helped that “All of Me” was not yet an overplayed Billboard #1 hit, but just on the rise enough for the choice to sound fresh. Combined that with MK’s earnest approach and unique sound and look, it made this one of the early standout performances. – JY


One response

  1. Pingback: This Is Our Now: Our 30 Favorite American Idol Performances | jofumTV

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