"American Idol" top ten

This year's top 10 on "American Idol"

Michael Becker / FOX

From the beginning of the season, all eyes have been on Harry Connick Jr. as the judge to watch.

During last night's "Billboard Hits" themed episode of "American Idol," Jennifer Lopez took center stage as she seriously stepped up her judging game, dispensing invaluable show business advice to the hopefuls and nailing it with her critiques.

Her explanation that careers need hits and that singing them is what “an American Idol has to do to be an American Idol” was brutally honest, but at the same time she was  nurturing, prescient, sharp, and on the money so many times Wednesday night. It was, as Steven Tyler used to say, beautiful.

We also learned that Connick doesn’t attend rehearsals, because he cares more about what happens when “the red light is on.”

All this happened in the middle of silly Ryan Seacrest selfies, flying gummie bears, Keith Urban and Connick swapping chairs-and personas-at the table, and hits by Lady Gaga, Foster the People, and Avicii.

Here’s how it all played out:

MK Nobilette kicked things off with Pink’s “Perfect,” a song that peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 2011.

Dexter Roberts stayed in his proverbial country lane with a cover of “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line. “Cruise” led Billboard’s Hot Country Chart in 2012.

Jena Irene chose “Clarity” by Zedd (feat. Foxes), a song that peaked at No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2013.

Alex Preston took on One Direction’s “Story of My Life,” and re-imagined it as an Everly Brothers song. 1D’s song peaked at No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2013.

Malaya Watson chose “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars, a song that topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013.

NEXT PAGE: GAGA, FOSTER THE PEOPLE + MORE

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