The pre-credits recap of last night's show goes on so long that I start to think that it still is last night. Which would save me a lot of time, to be sure, but it's only four minutes in when Ryan calls out, "This is AmERican Idol!" Somehow he never gets tired of saying that, does he?
Tonight the judges get to enter through the giant sliding doors upstage rather than having to wade through the great unwashed like they did last night. Ryan reminds us that the guys are singing tonight -- or rather, ten of the fifteen of them are. Keith says the selection was "down to the wire in Jennifer's dressing room," an ill-chosen turn of phrase which naturally derails the proceedings for several minutes. Jennifer and Harry also share some thoughts, Harry's consisting mainly of advising the guys not to get thrown off by all the distractions they'll be facing. Those distractions start right away with a montage of the top 15 guys. They all have faces and first names, believe it or not.
Ryan points out Randy Jackson looking smug in the audience and reminds us of how he, Adam Lambert, and Chris Daughtry (though we know it's mostly Adam and Daughtry) have been mentoring the top 30. And then it's time for Keith to call up the first guy who will sing tonight. He talks about the big impression this big performer makes, so it's no surprise when it turns out to be shouter Caleb Johnson. In the clip of his workshop, Randy asks him what he needs to work on, and then tells him to work on it, which is always a sign that you're in the hands of a master. Daughtry works with him on his performance style, particularly his habit of closing his eyes when he sings. Caleb is singing "Stay with Me" by the Faces, and the old Rod Stewart vocal turns out to be a nice match for Caleb's voice and singing style. And he mostly keeps his eyes open. He clearly came to play, as always, and everyone else seemed to have a good time too. Keith says he's a natural who was born with it, and Jennifer agrees with him that it was a great way to start the show and that it's Caleb's time. Harry also agrees, adding that the other guys will have trouble following him. Ryan ironically suggests Caleb bring some energy next time, and sends him over to the big blue couches to wait out the rest of the show and just chill. I kind of envy him.
Jennifer and Harry kind of draw out an introduction of someone who could be anyone, until it turns out to be C.J. Harris. That's the guy from Tuscaloosa who survived his face-off in the judgment room with Casey Thrasher (though, to be fair, Casey survived it too). He talked to Randy about going "country-soul" for his performance, and turned down a few hats in the styling session with Adam. Then Daughtry and the movement coach talked him into ditching the guitar for this week. Randy approves of his song choice, "Shelter" by Ray LaMontagne, which should be a red flag. And then, after all that, he ends up onstage with not only his guitar but some kind of Australian bush hat on his head. In other words, every distraction he could think of. Once I get done being annoyed about that, though, I have to admit that his singing isn't bad. Jennifer Paula Abduls about the effect his singing has on her, and Harry says that while he's a great talent, he needs to look out for going sharp pitch-wise. Keith says he can get away with it, and compares C.J. to Dobie Gray and Jonny Lang, which seems obscure at first but then after a moment's thought I realize it's dead on. Then Ryan comes up and happens to mention that C.J. had a root canal the day before. Clearly the Novocain has worn off.