It was back to the start as the Top 8 contestants took on their original audition songs live in front of America. We got a first hand look at how far all these talented performers have grown this season.

The contestants also got an additional chance to impress the judges and America as they teamed up to perform the first duets of the season this week.

Before Jessica got to perform we got a look at her childhood. Apparently Ms. Meuse was a particularly "evil baby" that screamed all the time. Jessica credits her early vocal efforts as the reason why she has such a powerful voice. She took the top spot of the evening performing her original song "Blue Eyed Lie." Jessica debuted the song during her initial audition and before her performance we flashed back to that moment. Harry remembered that Jessica was "staring holes" into them during her audition and Keith remembered her impressive shoulder pop!

Jessica was excited to perform her original song, written about an ex, again and this time with a huge band behind her. Jessica really got the shoulder going again during her performance. "That was a great way to start the show," said Keith. "I love the ferocity that you sing with." Jennifer thought the performance was "really perfect," and Harry said "It was a really cool presentation."

C.J. Harris' mother knew he'd be a singer because he sang all the time when he was a kid. Although he wasn't always in tune, C.J. kept with his love of music. He had a lot of support from his grandparents and really started to grow musically when he picked up his grandpa's discarded guitar. Looking back at this first audition, the judges were impressed with his "voice" and emotional delivery, but noticed that he could use a little work.

C.J.'s soulful performance of the Allman Brothers' "Soul Shine" moved the judges just like it did in his inital audition, but his delivery was much improved. "You know it was better than the first time you did it," said Jennifer Lopez. "There's something that comes from you that touches my heart." Harry praised C.J. for really working on his pitch and said that he was "really coming close" to completely fixing those issues. Keith gave C.J. a simple critique saying, "Good job tonight."

Jena Irene and Alex Preston took the stage next performing the first duet of the evening. Before they got started they took the time to answere a fan question. When asked if it is hard to be friends with someone you're trying to beat in the competition, both Alex and Jena said that it wasn't that hard, especially considering that they're all going on the road together for the upcoming IDOL tour.

Jena and Alex gave an understated performance of "Give Me A Reason" by P!nk and Nate Ruess. The duo really seemed to connect to the emotionality of the song as they sang while seated and staring into each others eyes.

Sam Woolf was a "beautiful baby" with a "huge head" according to his grandparents. Their neighbors always knew when Sam was visiting because they'd hear him singing up and down the canals in Florida. Looking back at Sam's original audition of "Lego House" by Ed Sheeran the judges really responded to his amazing pitch. Sam sang the hit really quickly during his initial audition, but Wednesday he chose to slow the performance down. It was perhaps the most confident Sam Woolf has looked in the whole competition.

While Harry nothed that Sam's rendition of "Lego House" was the "best performance" he's done so far, he also gave Sam some practical advice. "When you hear all these young people scream acknowledge them. Pick someone and smile at them," he said.

Jessica Meuse and Caleb Johnson then teamed up to sing a rockin' rendition of "Stop Dragging My Heart Around."

The pairing of Jessica and Caleb was perfect. They really played off each other during their duet and seemed to have a real connection on stage. When asked how he'd rate the performance, Caleb responded, "An 11!"

Malaya Watson was the next performer to take the stage. Before the music began we learned, from Malaya's father, that she was hesitant to audition for IDOL™ at first because she was only 15 years old. Malaya started singing with her Dad at an early age and has been performing ever since. Harry noted that when he first saw Malaya audition he thought she was "gold mine" of talent.

Malaya's reprisal of Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" blew the crowd and the judges away. Keith responded to her performance first saying, "Malaya on fire!" He went on to say, "You were in such good control." Jennifer noted how Malaya was "blossoming into a star right before our eyes." Harry praised Malaya as well, but also gave her the practical advice of working on her runs to make them all in tune.

Dexter Roberts' mom remembers that Dexter was a really happy baby, but all Dexter remembers is the funny outfits his Mom used to put him in. The judges were impressed with Dexter's rendition of "One Mississippi" during his initial audition and he earned three easy yeses to the next round. What would his performance be like this time with a full band backing him?

Dexter gave a soulful and restrained performance of "One Mississippi" backed vocally by Season 8's Allison Iraheta. Dexter had been performing a lot of anthems, but this performance was different territory for the Country crooner. "Well I guess you showed us," said Jennifer Lopez after his performance. "You sat on that stool and sang the crap out of that song. I was touched by it," said Harry Connick, Jr. Keith praised Dexter's performance, but urged him to work on his understanding of the lyric.

Malaya and Sam teamed up to perform "Lucky" by Colbie Callait and Jason Mraz.

The duo's voices blended really well and the crowd really got into the performance! Malaya and Sam connected well during their performance and really played off each other.

Jena Irene's mom always knew Jena would do something big with her life. The young singer remembers being shy and timid during her first audition, but she still managed to impress the judges with her voice. Jena took Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" and made the song her own. What would her rendition be like this time?

Jena definitely put her own spin on Adele's "Rolling In The Deep." Harry was impressed with the performance saying that Jena did a "great job," but also noted that the competition has really gotten tough. Keith thought Jena's performance was "incredibly bold," while Jennifer urged the young singer to try and "destroy" the competition each week. "Come out here every week and blow everyone away and really try to win," said the international star.

Dexter and C.J. teamed up to perform "Alright" by Darius Rucker.

What a perfect song choice for two country boys from Alabama. They melded their voices well and sang side by side on stage in nearly matching outfits. Talk about country cuteness!

Caleb Johnson was as loud child. "I'm addicted to noise," said the confident rocker. His parents repeatedly had to tell Caleb to be quiet. Caleb first auditioned in Season 10, but this time around Jennifer immediately thought he'd "make it to the Top 10" after his audition of "Chain Of Fools" by Aretha Franklin. Caleb said his audition was just "a taste" and that his Top 8 performance would let it all loose.

Caleb shook the roof with his powerful performance of "Chain Of Fools." The performance had everything we have come to expect from the talented artist. The judges were blown away. Keith said the performance was "killer" and went on to add that Caleb is a "Rock and Roll Viking." "You kill the audience every single time," said Jennifer Lopez. While Harry thought Caleb's performance was good, he urged the singer to reign it back next week and choose a softer song to perform. Caleb promised to do a "soft, tender" ballad next week.

Alex Preston's musical ability comes from his father who used to sing. Alex and his family listened to a lot of classical music. Alex's abilities really took off after he convinced his parents to get him violin lessons. Alex performed "Fairytales," an original song that he wrote about a girl. When Alex first wrote the song he was just a heartbroken teenager in his basement and now he's performing an original song for America!

Alex really showed off his musicality during his performance of "Fairytales." The judges were impressed with his authenticity. "You've stayed true to yourself. You've grown and gotten so comfortable," said Jennifer Lopez. Harry was all praise for Alex as well saying that he really "enjoyed the arrangement" and the vibrato. Keith thought Alex did a "great job" and noted that a lot of people in the audience were singing along to the original song! A "Fairytale" indeed.

With strong performances from everyone, some will be safe, but others will be singing for the save! Chris Daughtry also returns for a special performance. It all starts THU 8/7c on FOX!

It was back to the start as the Top 8 contestants took on their original audition songs live in front of America. We got a first hand look at how far all these talented performers have grown this season.

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