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Starkville’s Jennifer Jeffries advances to ‘American Idol’ top 20

Starkville native Jennifer Jeffries advance to the top 20 of "American Idol" on Sunday night (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jeffries/Facebook)

Starkville teenager Jennifer Jeffries advanced to the top 20 of American Idol on Sunday night, but will her latest performance be enough to launch her into the top 14? That will be up to fans of the hit TV show to decide.

After finding out she had advanced in the competition, Jeffries took the stage with a rendition of Matt Maeson’s “Grave Digger.” Even though we’ve reached the point in the competition where the judges don’t vote on who goes to the next round, they still review each performance in real time, and it was clear they weren’t pleased with Jeffries’ latest.

Lionel Richie, first to provide his feedback, asked Jeffries to stay true to herself and stage confidence would come naturally.

“If I could give you a big bucket of confidence and just pour it all over you, I would,” Richie said. “You have a crack in your voice, you have a growl in your voice, and I’m here to hear your style. So, embrace it.”

Luke Bryan, who previously said Jeffries has “an amazingly unique voice” never before seen on Idol, echoed Richie’s sentiments and asked Jeffries to bring back the Indie “gravel and texture” that brought her this far in the competition.

RELATED: ‘It’s so Mississippi’: Judges love Jennifer Jeffries performance from Hawaii

Katy Perry, typically the harshest of the three judges but not as harsh as Simon Cowell used to be, joined her counterparts in harping on confidence. Perry partially blamed inexperience and environment for what she believed to be a poor performance by the 18-year-old Jeffries.

“You’re starting to get in your head a little bit. I could see it in your eyes,” Perry said. “I know that you’re from Mississippi and you may not have been on this big of a stage with this many lights and it could be a lot at once. That’s when you’ve got to calm yourself into the word, ‘confidence.’ I hope you go back to the Jennifer Jeffries stripped downness of it all – why we kind of fell in love with you.”

After her audition last fall, Jeffries informed the judges that she had never performed in front of a big audience before. She had tried to start playing some of the local bars in Starkville, but apparently, there was an age limit.

In response to the judges’ feedback on Sunday night, Jeffries showed appreciation for the guidance from three people who have made serious waves in their respective genres.

“I wish I would have done better, but I’m learning,” Jeffries said. “I appreciate [the guidance].”

Nevertheless, Jeffries is still in the top 20 and has a chance to advance. The fan vote will open immediately following Sunday’s episode at 10 p.m. CT before closing Monday at 8 a.m. CT.

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