American Idol’s top nine took on rock songs for the “I’m With the Band” theme reserved for this week. In preparation for the latest round of the competition, the contestants met with Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, who gave them tips on touring with one another and compiling a set list.

In keeping with the theme, the nine finalists performed a group rock medley, which included hits from Fall Out Boy, Coldplay and the Rolling Stones.

Alex Preston sang No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak,” remaking the hit ska band song into a jazzier version of itself. While Preston kept the chorus pretty much the same as when Gwen Stefani sang it, he dramatically changed up the melody on the verses. Preston’s artistry was both apparent and impressive, but the judges concluded that he may have lost some of the raw emotion of the song. They’re also growing tired of his static stage presence.

Once again choosing to go bold, Majesty Rose sang Florence and The Machine hit “Shake It Out.” Playing the tambourine, Rose started off the song well, with the purity of her voice shining through. When it came to belting out Florence Welch style, however, her vocals became slightly erratic. Jennifer Lopez thought she gave a solid performance overall, but Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban felt she had some work to do in terms of stage presence and connecting with the audience.

Country contestant Dexter Roberts played it safe again, singing “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. While it was one of Roberts’ best performances vocally, his lack of originality continues to be a sore point for the judges. If he wants to stay in the competition – according to Connick, Lopez and Urban – he needs to put his own artistry on display.

Malaya Watson took on Beatles number “The Long and Winding Road,” giving an understated but affecting performance. All around, the judges applauded the 16-year-old power vocalist for keeping the song simple, and showcasing a strong vibrato. If Watson can continue to improve her control, she’ll keep coming back week after week.

Singing Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” was crooner Sam Woolf. Surrounded by strands of light bulbs, Woolf strummed his guitar for the romantic number, which was clearly aimed to get the tween girls voting for him this week. Also adding to Woolf’s performance was the contestant’s lack of nerves – though he still could bring more emotion to the stage.

Finally choosing a Fleetwood Mac song was Stevie Nicks sound-alike Jess Meuse, who sang “Rhiannon.” In a zebra print ensemble and pink scarf to match her hair, Meuse delivered one of the night’s best performances – and her personal best to date. With her growing confidence, the judges feel like she’s finally become a real contender.

CJ Harris, who struggled mightily on stage last week, tried to rein in his vocals this week with The Steel Drives' “If It Hadn’t Been For Love!” While it was certainly an improvement and Harris always appears more comfortable with a guitar in his hands, his pitch still needs some work. The judges told Harris he needed to be more consistent throughout the duration of a song.

Classic rocker Caleb Johnson picked “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin for this week’s performance. By far the most consistent of the bunch, Johnson delivered a theatrical and vocally on-point performance. Once again, Urban and Lopez gave the singer a standing ovation, while Connick admitted that he’d be “tough to follow.”

Jena Irene, who's found her comfort zone vocally, sang Evanescence “Bring Me To Life” – a perfect song choice for her voice. Irene may have started off slowly in the Idol live rounds, but she’s emerged as one of this season’s best and has grown more and more comfortable performing for the audience when not grounded by the piano. The judges had nothing but praise for the singer.

American Idol returns with its results show Thursday on Fox at 8/7c.

– Chelsea Regan

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