Ah, what these non-theme theme weeks bring to the competition! Sing Songs by YOUR Idol week is basically a free pass from the endless gauntlet of public humiliation. The kids actually know their songs, the judges just CAN’T BELIEVE how many standing ovations they’ve given, Randy is certain that every young soldier is more likely IN IT TO WIN IT than IN IT TO LOSE IT. Redemption, moments, tears, brand new fancy stage props. How is Ryan Seacrest supposed to control himself in the glow of so much delight? How am I supposed to write this recap after spending an overwhelming majority of the episode in a great mood? This feeling, Dawgs. I’m not familiar with it. I can’t quite put a finger on it. Could it be … contentment?
|It's HAPPY DANCE time!|
OMG! I’m turning into the judges!
But let’s get real. What, other than the super easy theme, do we have to thank for last night’s excellent quality control? Why, Stevie Nicks, of course. There she was, sitting next to Jimmy with the same hair she’s had since before every single contestant was born. A rock and roll fairy queen transported from the blissful heyday of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie mothered the contestants in a way no one else could mother them. And of all the amazing things she brought to life last night, the most miraculous was her ability to make Jimmy Iovine likable. I don’t know? It was like one minute I hated the baseball cap wearing gas bag, and the next, I wanted to be his friend because Stevie’s his friend? She worked some really strong white magic on that man, I tell you. If only she could stay on the show forever!
Ambitious song choices and emotional performances were the trends of the night. I liked all but one performance, LOVED over half of them, and only cursed at Randy Jackson once (or twice). Great strides were made! THIS … is American Idol!
Your Top 9!!!!!
Colton Dixon – “Everything” by Lifehouse
*Spoiler: This is the one performance I didn’t like!*
I’m assuming the show aired Colton’s dead weight first so the audience could forget about his stunning mediocrity when the two hours concluded. Was Stevie serious when she encouraged Colton to keep his ghastly hair? Am I seeing something completely different than she is? This must have been a tester segment or something. If a viewer could make it through Colton Dixon’s supersized ego, then he/she was entitled with rainbows and unicorns of awesomeness for the rest of the show. Colton’s performance wasn’t the worst I’ve heard on the show, but it wasn’t good. His voice strained and wobbled off pitch several times, and the band severely overpowered him. I appreciate that Colton was touched by the worship song, but even the most meaningful performance can sound like crap. Strangely – although not strangely at all because the judges have yet to criticize a performer in the First Spot of Death – Colton got heaps of praise for his self-indulgent (you know Simon would have called it that) mope fest. Then Randy created some ridiculous narrative about Colton “throwing down the gauntlet” with that performance because he was “in it to win it,” and CRAP. Randy Jackson, why must you make it so hard for me to love you?
Skylar Laine – “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert
Back to the good stuff! Stevie told Skylar to really tell the story of the song, a moderately pointless suggestion because any country singer worth their weight in gold knows that telling stories is Priority Numero Uno in most circumstances. This did give Skylar the opportunity to address Stevie as “ma’am” several times. Nuts of wonder, I love that Southern firecracker so much. I want to be Skylar’s friend even though I know we’ll never meet. In case you haven’t noticed, Skylar is the only contestant this season who can consistently nail up tempo performances. Her “Gunpowder and Lead” was hard-hitting and energetic. We had to wait until the end to hear Skylar’s signature wailing range, but building up to it was a good time. The judges only had good things to say about the performance, even if Randy failed miserably at noting that Skylar is just as IN IT TO WIN IT as that skunk who performed before her.
Heejun Han – “A Song for You” by Donnie Hathaway
Someone’s been eating some humble pie this week. Stevie Nicks: Mind Reader theorized that Heejun makes jokes because he’s afraid of failing and being hurt. Deep down inside, we’re all a bunch of scared softies. So this week, Heejun was like, “I know I kind of lost my mind last week and insulted the show and pretty much every person who believes in me, but today’s a new day. World, prepare for my emotional ballad!” So Heejun sang a ballad. It was nice, serious, and showed off his buttery tone. I’m not sure if it deserved the first standing ovation of the night. The judges likely wouldn’t have needed to stand four more times if they hadn’t lowered their standards so much. Regardless, they appreciated that Heejun was finally taking the competition seriously. Obviously, Uncle Steven thinks he made the transformation happen with his public shaming of Heejun last week. That’s … a definite possibility.
Hollie Cavanaugh – “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood
That Hollie Cavanaugh’s a crafty 4,000-year-old fairy queen, isn’t she? After Colton’s performance, Hollie’s choice of a song with “Jesus” in the title caught Allen’s attention. Oh, yes, Allen was in the house last night. He was wandering around the living room, making me pause the DVR every few seconds so he could spout all his Allen Sound-bites. Anyway, when Hollie started singing, Allen was like, “Wow, what is this? Church Idol?” Touché, dear husband. However, I like to call it “Wily Contestants Aware of Demographics Idol.” Stevie got all choked up during Hollie’s rehearsal because her mom died, and it was all very emotional. So Hollie performed, and she sounded lovely as usual. Perhaps the song could have been bigger, as Randy noted, but I don’t understand this notion that every performance has to take off into the stratosphere. J. Lo disagreed with him, thank the Idol gods, and noted that this was Hollie’s most emotionally honest performance to date.
DeAndre Brackensick – “Sometimes I Cry” by Eric Benet
Oh, poor DeAndre. He really tries SO HARD, but his performances grow increasingly tedious for me. Lots of high-pitched tedium, hair-tossing in the air, youth never realized. I liked the performance (sort of). He sounded good (compared to Colton). But really, judges, a standing ovation? See what happens when you stand up for Heejun? You end up standing for DeAndre.
Jessica Sanchez – “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce
Stevie appreciated that Jessica takes direction so well. What she doesn’t understand is that Jessica’s willingness to be managed by less well-intentioned people like Jimmy comes at the sacrifice of any sliver of individuality. But no! I’ll attempt to banish my negativity because I thought Jessica’s performance was very cool last night. Surrounded by creepy red dream doors, Jessica delivered a slowed-down version of the Beyonce tune. Her voice was on-point, under control, and hauntingly understated. The judges loved it but neglected to give Jessica a standing ovation. But … but … I thought it was standing ovation night!
Phillip Phillips – “Still Rainin’” by Jonny Lang
Season 11’s inevitable winner is growing on everyone now. Even Stevie Nicks. Even ME. Not only did Stevie suggest that Mick Fleetwood would have chosen Phil for the band way back in the day, but she also called him handsome. Jimmy was SO jealous of Phil after that. The insecurity he exhibited after Stevie’s pronouncement almost gives him an excuse for wearing a baseball hat everywhere. Almost. I enjoyed Phil’s performance. His guttural singing fit the song well, and he seemed totally at ease with the band. Phil’s probably the most authentic contestant this season. The judges, poor things, had to get up off their asses AGAIN to give Phil a standing ovation. By this point, I know they were cursing their foolish decision to stand for Heejun. I KNOW it.
Joshua Ledet – “Without You” by Mariah Carey
Oh, this song. This song reminds me of a youth spent listening to Mariah cassette tapes (when I wasn’t listening to Celine) and belting along with her in the basement. I LOVE this song. Jimmy and Stevie were all like, “Uh, this is a tough song buddy.” And Joshua’s eyes were like, “Yeah, no big deal. I’m the best. Duh.” And Jimmy was like, “I don’t knnnooowww.” And Joshua’s sparkling smile was like, “No, seriously. I’ve got this.” And, boy, did he ever. I can’t stop loving Joshua Ledet, Dawgs. Every time he adds some gospel flair and shouting to a song, I’m putty in his hands. He cried at the end, too! Cried his very own tears! STAND, judges, STAND! By this point, it was evident that J. Lo, Randy, and Uncle Steven were SO embarrassed to spend that amount of time on their feet. Uncle Steven apparently has a foot spa under the desk, so every standing ovation posed a great risk to his tootsies.
Elise Testone- “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
Okay, night called for Elise. I genuflect at the throne of a real adult on Idol. Stevie was so impressed with Elise that she insisted on singing a duet with the contestant during rehearsal. How awesome would that be to witness in full? Elise had performed “Whole Lotta Love” before, so she wore the song like a second skin. Her integration of organic rock and roll into her superb vocal control gave me so many “goosies” that my arms resembled a picturesque pond. Elise kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way to the end, when she tackled Robert Plant’s signature wailing finish. The guitars. Elise. The lights. Those pants that matched Uncle Steven’s perfectly. Nuts of wonder, I want to keep this performance with me forever! And the judges, of course, HAD to finally stand for a lady last night. Elise worked for that standing ovation, and she is rapidly presenting herself as a real contender. This woman won’t go down without a fight. One might even say that she’s IN IT TO WIN IT.
Colton, Phillip & Elise – Fleetwood Mac: 4 stars
Heejun, DeAndre & Joshua – Michael Jackson: 4 stars
Hollie, Jessica & Skylar – Madonna: 5 stars
Nuts of wonder, I don’t even KNOW, Dawgs. Um … DeAndre will probably be in the Bottom 3, along with (maybe?) Heejun and … (Gah! What the hell?) Colton? Do NOT quote me on this.
Tune in tonight to watch the results! What did you think of the performances? Do you think Jason Derulo’s bedazzled neck brace is hot or not? Who agrees that Stevie Nicks should stick around for the rest of the season?