The American Idol Top 13 sing the songs of Stevie Wonder and the late great Whitney Houston, with the boys tackling Stevie, and the girls honoring Whitney.
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It’s the guys vs the girls tonight! The guys sing Stevie, the girls sing Whitney. Tomorrow, Ryan will reveal the bottom guy and the bottom girl. The judges will decide who stays! WTGDF!!! This week only, says Ryan.
Tonight wasn’t the dire-fest I was expecting! A Whitney Houston theme would have meant trouble for most past Idol finalists, but this group of girls has got some mighty big impressive voices. My personal favorite of the night was Erika Van Pelt. Or, EVP as Ryan has begun affectionately calling her. She’s a little dark horse! I’m worried about my other favorite, Elise Testone, who changed her song at the last minute and didn’t seem entirely comfortable with her new tune. But what’s really going to kill her is the stank face she had all the way through the judges’ mostly negative critique. I would not be surprised to find her in the bottom two tomorrow.
And since the judges will be picking the person to go home—who knows what will happen. The bottom two will be made up of the boy and girl who received the lowest votes. If this is the one and only time the judges choose (meaning, this is the judges save for the year) I can sorta live with it. But I hate the idea of the judges interfering with the viewer vote. I know the outcome is wacky sometimes, but as Ryan Seacrest would say, “THIS IS AMERICAN IDOL.”
I’m also worried about Joshua Ledet who deserves to stay deep into the competition. But he performed first in a 13 person lineup. He could be forgotten. I hope not.
Mary J. Blige was a fine mentor, giving the contestants great pointers on how to phrase and deliver a song. She seemed genuinely helpful. And Jimmy added his typical color. I hope Jimmy will comment on the performances tomorrow like he did last week.
The judges are still judging! It’s such an improvement over what was happening before. I’m really hoping that we have some growers amongst the contestants here. The judges’ feedback will only help.
We’ve got a super solid Top 13 here, and I’m totally looking forward to the season.
Joshua Ledet – “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder – Joshua says the tune is completely out of his comfort zone. Producer Erick Hudson came in to show Joshua how the song could pop with a gospel feel. If Joshua was feeling out of his element, it sure didn’t show. He owned that stage. I really love his gritty, raspy gospel tone. I’m a little worried that going first will hurt him with voters. Randy: “You come out rockin. You just showed us you can do anything…flawless”. Jennifer: “I felt your performance. The music isn’t just coming out of your mouth. Mary gave you great direction on how to punch that chorus.” Steven: “You keep getting better and better. Beautiful.” – 1-866-436-5701
Elise Testone– “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston – Elise was set to sing “Greatest Love of All,” But Mary and Jimmy didn’t feel it was the right song for her. Jimmy suggests “I’m Your Baby Tonight”. Mary warns her that the timing has to be right. Elise feels uncomfortable with the feedback. Mary says it would be a shame if she crashed and burned. Everybody seems uneasy with the situation. Elise misses the timing almost immediately, but she eventually rights the ship, the rest of the song is solid and bluesy. I really like her growl. The judges slam her. Jennifer: You have an amazing voice, I don’t’ think this is your best. Steven: “Your voice has so much character, you have to find just the right song.”. Randy: “It felt like you were boxing with the song. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit in the song. It wasn’t your best for me. That one wasn’t good.” Elise says she didn’t know the song at all. If she had a month with it, she could make it her own. Oh boy. She’s got a big stank face on as Ryan recites her digits. That’s not going to help. – 1-866-436-5702
Jermaine Jones – “Knocks Me Off My Feet” – Mary says she’s feeling it. She gives Jermaine some advice on his phrasing. Jimmy loves the timbre of his voice and is so happy he’s back. They can’t believe he’s only 25. Jermaine has an interesting tone, but it’s weird and old fashioned. Jimmy really seems to love it. Some of Jermaine’s phrasing is operatic, which I find a little unsettling. He needs to smooth out a few of those rough edges. Steven: That song fits you like an Armani suit. Your voice fit the song beautifully.” Jennifer: “You are such a sweetheart! I would like to see you connect to the song. I see you concentrating on the notes. I need to feel like you are really singing to somebody.” Randy: “I love the verses, when you hit the chorus, I did not enjoy it. You changed up the melody and did your own little thing with it. Just relax and sit in it. The sound of your voice is different enough.” Wow. Jermaine TOWERS over Ryan! – 1-866-436-5703
Erika Van Pelt -“I Believe in You and Me” – Mary loves her tone, comparing it to steak and potatoes. They advise her not to try and sing like Whitney. They tell her to do her own style. Erika’s got such a beautiful, rich voice and so much confidence. She seems so comfortable on stage (in contrast to Elise) She takes the song up a notch on the second verse and it’s beautifully done. She hits a couple of sweet high notes, but she never over sings. Just lovely. This girl is an original. Randy: When you hit that out chorus and you just let yourself go, it was unbelievable. Let yourself go. Amazing by the end.” Jennifer: “The way you interpret songs with the tone, really makes songs come alive. I feel like you’re playing it a little safe.” Steven: “You’ve got a beautiful fantastic voice…it was perfect.” Ryan has dubbed Erika EVP. – 1-866-436-5704
Colton Dixon – “Lately” – Jimmy says Stevie Wonder is not Colton’s wheelhouse. Jimmy asks Colton to do an original song, After listening for a bit to Colton’s angsty rock, Jimmy tells him to rely on his vulnerability. It’s not a great sign that Colton had to be told that. Oooh. Super pitchy at the top of the song. He picks up steam near the end with a big angsty finish. So, it’s the post-grunge-emo version of Stevie. For me, Colton’s vocals are on and off—he’s got pitch problems—but when he’s on he’s pretty good. Steven: “Colton that was outstanding. Well done.” Jennifer: “You were probably the most challenged tonight.” She felt his vulnerability come through. Randy: “It wasn’t picture perfect. The things that were most out of tune were the things with you singing soft and low. By the last 8 bars, you were flawless. You sang it like it was a Coldplay song…where did that falsetto come from? Well done” Ryan remarks on his smoldering eyes. A good eye f*ck can certainly bring in the votes. – 1-866-436-5705
Shannon Magrane – “I Have Nothing” – Mary says she can see her thinking. Don’t run to the big note, Mary says. Oh my. This is off pitch almost immediately. She misses the key change, and it’s all downhill from there. Wow. Kind of a trainwreck! Shannon is only 15. She has no style or experience. She’s completely out of her depth here. Jennifer: “Sweet baby, I think the thinking got the best of you. I know you are capable. Just tell the story. Relax.” Steven: “Your nerves got the best of you. It’s a huge song. You crashed and burned on the turn around.” Randy: “We know that you can sing that song. Everything you could go for, you didn’t quite hit.” Shannon admits she wasn’t really listening to the band. Well, there you go. She’s just too inexperienced. – 1-866-436-5706
Deandre Brackensick – “Master Blaster” – Mary gives Deandre some great advice on how to attack the song. Jimmy says he’s going to have to bring more than his pretty hair to the party. Whoa Deandre! There ain’t nothing wrong with your lower register dude. You need to show that off! And he is tonight. He’s got an awesome groove going and is working the stage like a pro. He’s using that falsetto, but sparingly. Deandre’s best so far. Steven: “You got that “male Naima” in you—a different flavor than everyone else. Like a Jamaican Patois.” Jennifer: “You have rhythm, soul, swagger. I thought you brought it from the beginning.” Randy: “You and Joshua showed two different sides of yourselves. You showed you can be the balladeer and do uptempos. Job well done.” – 1-866-436-5707
Skylar Laine – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” – Skylar says she never sang Whitney before. Mary tells Skylar to pull it back a bit so she has somewhere to take the song. Skylar countrifies the song and it works! I can hear this song on country radio, for reals. She hits a huge money note at the end. So she brings the big voice like Whitney, but with a country twang. Impressive. The crowd goes crazy. Jennifer thought the beginning was nasally, but eventually Skyler gave us the biggest note of the night. Steven: “You nailed it. That was fantastic.” Randy: “You’re a country girl, but you proved you can sing any song. That was hot.” – 1-866-436-5708
Heejun Han – “All is Fair In Love” – We see some of Heejun’s “entertaining tweets”. Mary loves Heejun’s tone—she wasn’t expecting it. She wants him to give a teeny bit more. He brought gifts—a photo for Jimmy that said “I love you Jimmy” and one for Mary that said “I love you better than Jimmy” Ha. Jimmy says, “You’ve won me over.” Heejun has a lovely tone, but he could really use some voice lessons. Better diaphragm support would help him produce a fuller sound. And he needs help with his diction! He doesn’t enunciate well enough. He’s got potential and when he sings ballads, he really connects to the song. Jennifer: “I love you.” Steven: “I love your voice. Something about it that’s real special.” Randy: “It wasn’t perfect, but it was really good.” Not sure why they weren’t more constructive with Heejun. He could really benefit from some coaching. – 1-866-436-5709
Hollie Cavanagh – “All The Man That I Need” – Mary said be comfortable with the song and sing what you feel. “Your voice is sick,” she says. That’s a mighty big voice coming out of such a tiny little girl. She’s got some amazing and impressive pipes. Hollie handled one of Whitney’s larger than life songs just fine. Randy: “Dude you nailed it.” Jennifer: “We might have a sing-off between two girls in the final. That’s what I’m hoping for. Steven: “You’ve been nailing it every time. That was really nice.”- 1-866-436-5710
Jeremy Rosado – “Ribbon in the Sky” – Jimmy tells Jeremy that he’s all up in his head right now. Jeremy knows he’s on the cusp here, and he’s very nervous. Alas, Jeremy’s performance is competent, but lackluster. I still think he’s total cannon fodder and a waste of a wild card spot. Steven: “Beautiful voice. Velvety high—great song, nice passion.” Jennifer: “I love to hear your interpretation of songs. That was really really beautiful.” Randy: “For me, it wasn’t your best song. This is a difficult song. It’s the kind of song that you have to put more swag in it in order to really make it believable.” Randy…keeping it real. Somebody has to. I think the other two were afraid of hurting Jeremy’s feelings. – 1-866-436-5711
Jessica Sanchez – “I Will Always Love You” – Jimmy calls Jessica out on her excessive vibrato. Jimmy and Mary both say that Jessica just nailed it. “Impeccable,” says Mary. Jessica nails all the notes, that’s for sure. But she doesn’t deviate much from Whitney’s version. As fantastic a voice as Jessica has, I want to hear her put her own spin on songs. Still, she tackled a really difficult tune that only a few Idol hopefuls have dared attempt. It was a pretty big risk. She gets a standing ovation. Randy: Give it all to her. Jessica Sanchez is legit. You are the best vocal of the night, and of this whole competition. This is one of the best talents in the whole country.” Jennifer: “Amazing. I don’t even know what to say.” Jlo is crying. Steven: “Jessica. You may be the one. You just made 40 million people cry.” (try more like 15 million, but whatevs). Whoa at Randy’s hyperbole. Early frontrunners rarely win on Idol. Maybe Jessica will be an exception. – 1-866-436-5712
Phillip Phillips – “Superstition” – Phil knows “Superstition” has been done many times on Idol, but he does not think it’s been done the way he’s going to do it. Jimmy says he’s a rare find of a great musician and great singer. The arrangement was decent, but I did not like Phillip’s vocal at all. It felt shouty and unmusical. I keep waiting for him to Hawk up a loogie. . Sorta gross. Jennfier: I was worried this week, but you made it your own and you killed it” Randy: “You are probably the most different artist that we have this year. I’m waiting to see every time how you’re going to reinterpret somebody’s song. You drive your own car in your own lane and I love it.” But there was some hot guitar playing on that. Steven: “You got a lot of “forget about it” in your voice”1-866-436-5736
There was time to kill at the end of the show, so Ryan asked the judges to reveal their best and worst picks of the night.
Randy: Randy refused to name who was in trouble. Standouts: Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez.
Jennifer: In trouble: Shannon: She couldn’t name a strong performance, but she says the girls were stronger.
Steven: In trouble: Elise Testone and Shannon Magrane. Standouts: Jessica Sanchez.