This week on American Idol, the contestants were left with the daunting task of taking on the legendary song book of Billy Joel. Now, as much as I love music and appreciate Billy Joel for his contributions to the industry, I couldn’t help but feel a little less than enthused. For one thing, the only people who will truly know and care for these songs are not within the target demographic of the show. But more importantly, pretty much ALL of the contestants on American Idol are too young to be singing these songs. I always find it ironic how the show creators and judges constantly bring up the term “current” in reference to finding a star, but then they have theme weeks that don’t exactly allow for that. But, in all fairness, the producers did try to bring something relevant to the table by allowing music industry icon, Diddy, and fashion icon, Tommy Hilfiger, to guest mentor this week, no matter how mismatched it was to the theme.
So, let’s kick off the show.
Deandre Brackensick– Deandre, who I fear is getting more attention for his hair and undeniable good looks, sang “Only The Good Die Young.” It was a great way to kick off the show and I was thrilled that Deandre chose an uptempo song. I love his ballads, but the boy knows how to work a stage and he’s at his best when he is doing just that. The performance was fun and his voice sounded great. The judges all agreed. Yes, America, I’ve got a bad case of the Brackensickness.
Erika Van Pelt– Sporting a new haircut and hair color, Erika completely redefined herself tonight. She was unrecognizable to me. And I mean that in a good way. The short, jet black hair worked for her. She looked phenomenal. Erika sang “New York State Of Mind,” one of Billy’s most popular songs. I was paying extra attention to Erika’s rendition of the song because I wanted to make sure she did my hometown justice. And she most certainly did. It was a stunning vocal. The judges told Erika to add more character to her performance, which I thought was completely misguided. This isn’t the type of song that you should be running around on stage while singing. I thought Erika nailed it. Now… let’s cue Ryan Seacrest’s awkward reference to Sanjaya Malakar’s pony hawk. Darn you, Ryan! Just when America was finally starting to move on with their lives.
Joshua Ledet– The stand out of last week chose to sing “She’s Got A Way.” This is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. And Joshua’s rendition started off great. It was a beautiful and soft opening and I was just praying that Joshua wouldn’t try to do more with the song. And then… he did. The choir came out, and the performance got way too “churchy” for my liking. The song is already amazing in and of itself. Don’t overdo a song that’s already been done to perfection. Just sing it. I understand that Joshua is a church boy and he’s been raised on gospel but it is truly doing him a disservice to be constantly categorized as that type of singer. I love me some gospel, but not every song needs to take me to church. Sometimes I want to go to the park or the supermarket or school, you know?. Anyways, the judges were indecisive about Joshua’s performance. J. Lo didn’t like it but Steven did, although, Steven had never heard the original song before. How is that even possible?
Skylar Laine– Our resident country girl sang “Shameless.” But before we get to the actual performance, I just have to say it. I was laughing my butt off at Skylar being starstruck by Diddy’s presence. Of all the contestants on the show, I would have never guessed that Skylar would be the one to lose it when she saw Diddy. I also was laughing at Skylar’s opening of the song. She was standing around four of the most “deer-in-headlights” looking men I have ever seen. Bad move. I thought the performance, overall, was decent. The singing felt very forced in some parts of the song but still very solid.
Elise Testone– I was a little concerned for her when she chose to sing “Vienna” because it’s not one of Billy’s more well known songs, but she pulled it off. But when I say she pulled it off, that was the extent of it. The judge’s standing ovation confused me. Her performance was good but nowhere near deserving of a standing ovation. But then I remembered that Elise was in the Bottom Three last week and the judges over-praising her this week suddenly made sense. It was their way of ensuring that she’s not going home this week. Randy’s comment about Elise’s run at the end of the song and how no one can do that better. Oh, Randy. Please don’t make statements like that. Because I can get you to eat your words with a few simple YouTube videos of some undiscovered talents.
Phillip Phillips– Chose to sing “Movin Out.” Another one of my favorite Billy songs. And boy do I have a lot to say about this dude. If there was any person who deserved a standing ovation tonight, it was Phillip. And I’m not just talking about his performance, although it was the best performance of the night. I’m talking about the fact this guy is a REAL musician. He didn’t listen to Tommy Hilfiger. He didn’t listen to Diddy or Jimmy Iovine’s advice. He just did what he does best. In the epic words of Mr. Steven Tyler, he “Phillip Phillipsed” it. He was told not to wear grey on stage. He wore grey on grey because he didn’t care how he looked, he just wanted to put the music first. He was told not to play with his guitar. He played with his guitar because he just wanted to put the music first. I didn’t like how Tommy and Diddy were trying to change him and I was more than thrilled that Phil stood his ground and made it about the MUSIC. At the end of the day, that’s what it SHOULD be about. His performance was tremendous and I think it was my favorite performance of his. I especially loved the smooth opening with the lights. Take notice kids! This what you should strive for on the show. Knowing who you are and singing because you love music. That’s all it’s about.
Hollie Cavanagh– Hollie sang “Honesty.” I’ve never heard this song before but I’m pretty sure I won’t want to hear it after Hollie’s performance. She sang it alright but it was so boring. Her voice also cracked near the end. And am I the only one who is reminded of Christina Aguilera when she sings? Her voice strongly resembles Christina’s, but it’s her mannerisms on stage that really get me. I actually really adore this girl but this was not a good performance from her. I hope American keeps her around because I know she can do better than this. And I love her half British / half American accent!
Heejun Han– Heejun sang “My Life,” and for the first time ever, did something uptempo. And it was nothing short of disastrous. Don’t get me wrong. I love Heejun. I think he is hilarious. But he needs to go. He has a nice voice but he doesn’t have what it takes to be an American Idol. I also think that his accent is hindering him from reaching his full potential and that saddens me. He also does not seem to handle criticism very well. As a person, I love this guy. As a singer, I think he never should have been on the live shows to begin with. He just wasn’t ready yet. I’m afraid that Heejun is going to turn into the next Sanjaya. Basically, he will stick around because of gimmicks (which, in Heejun’s case, is his humor) until America gets bored. And I’m starting to feel that pang in my chest right before Heejun’s name is called, just like I would for Sanjaya. The pang of dreading what would transpire in the next five minutes. I dread it because it hurts me to know that the judges will eat him alive when it was their own fault for putting him in the competition in the first place.
Jessica Sanchez– She sang “Everybody Has A Dream.” Am I the only person who gets annoyed when Jessica puts her hand over her mouth whenever someone gives her a compliment or she is shocked about something? She needs to stop doing that. This was a good performance. She received a standing ovation. *sigh* Yet again, I think it was undeserved. Jessica is a truly amazing singer, but she screeches/screams a lot in her songs and I have yet to hear the judges criticize her for this. Her singing is over the top. Unnecessarily over the top. And Randy’s comment about consistently was so far gone. He said that Jessica was consistent every single week, but SHE WASN’T. She got panned last week at the judges table. Does Randy suffer from memory loss? I want Jessica to succeed on the show but if the judges continue to over-praise her, they are sentencing her to American Idol death. The WORST thing the judges can do on this show to any of the contestants is over-praise them. America is a country that roots for underdogs. If the past winners aren’t proof of this, I don’t know what is.
Colton Dixon– It was Colton who closed the show tonight with “Piano Man.” And when I heard the song choice, I knew I was in for something good. Colton is at his best when he is behind the piano. This is another contestant on the show who just exudes music through their veins in every way. It’s not about simply singing well for him. It’s about feeling what you are singing. It was the perfect song for him. He even got the pimped out red piano. And wow. Just wow. What a vocal. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- I believe that Colton has one of the best voices that I’ve ever heard on American Idol, not just this season, but in all 11 seasons. If I was betting on anyone to win this show, I’d put my money on this guy. Why? Because, like I said, America loves the underdog. And Colton is definitely one of the dark horses this season. He doesn’t get the praise that Jessica or Phillip receive. But his performances are just as good. And America will notice that. But possibly the most important reason for why I think this little rocker could win the whole thing? It was in two simple sentences that he uttered tonight- “God, use me. I want Him to shine through, first and foremost.” There is a transformation in Colton when he performs where you know that every single word of what he is singing comes from deep down in his soul. From a place that is genuine and sincere. And that’s a quality that a good majority of Americans hold near and dear to their hearts.
So, my predictions for who will be eliminated tomorrow? I can’t be sure. I can tell you who won’t be going home though- Colton, Jessica, Phillip and Deandre. Everyone else is fair game. I doubt Erika, Elise or Joshua are going home, but the you never know with this show.