When Keith Urban told Jessica Meuse Wednesday that “a song that doesn’t suit you has no reflection on your talent,” the words must have really stung.
Meuse, the 23-year-old, magenta-haired singer from Slapout, Ala., had just sung P!nk’s So What on American Idol, but the song hadn’t been her first choice.
Meuse had planned to sing an original song on Wednesday’s episode but says the decision was taken out of her hands. Instead, she wound up singing So What instead, choosing it from a limited number of options.
“At the last minute, I had to learn that song, and it was the only one I could really relate to, as far as lyrics go,” says Meuse, who finished this season’s competition in fourth place after being eliminated Thursday night.
Meuse performed two other songs Wednesday: a version of Kelly Clarkson’s hit Since U Been Gone based on a cover version by rock band A Day to Remember, and a country-rock rendition of Lady Gaga’s You and I that received accolades from the judges.
“I wanted to change the instrumentation a little bit,” says of the Gaga cover, “to make it more my genre, which is, like, Southern rock. I’m trying to bring that back. I could hear the soul in that song, so I wanted it really badly.”
After the show Thursday, Urban came up to Meuse with encouragement she found very heartening. “Keith was telling me how there were some songwriters and people who were talking about me back in Nashville, which really made me feel good,” she says. “My songs are very personal, so it’s really cool when somebody actually likes it.
“Harry Connick Jr. was telling me the only reason he was so harsh on me was because he thinks I have it. I told him, ‘I’m going to go write a CD now,’ and then I just went to the press tent.”
Along with Caleb Johnson, who remains in the top three, Meuse probably had more professional experience than any of the season’s other finalists. That background may have helped her get as far as she did in the competition. It…