American Idol Review: 12 (Minus One) Perform Songs (Remakes) From the Year They Were Born

Last night on American Idol, the remaining twelve contestants (minus Jermaine Jones) sang songs from the years they were born. Although I’m thinking it could have just as easily have been called American Idol Sings Remakes. Also, Ryan informed us “that with the help of law enforcement, we discovered information that left us no choice but to eliminate one of our own”.

My first question with this is, isn’t it part of producers’ job to check this stuff out before they get this far in the competition to save everyone all of this embarrassment? They had several months to figure this out. Someone on that staff dropped the ball on this one.

Anyway, helping mentor Jimmy Iovine this week was none other than legendary producer and Black Eyed Peas singer,

Phillip Phillip: This guy has earned some mad respect points. He stopped by practice on his way to kidney surgery like he was stopping by on his way to Walmart. Just dip into his kidneys, take out what’s ailing him, good as new. Ain’t but a thing. Let’s get to singing. Phil-Phil sang Hard to Handle by The Black Crowes and it was a perfect song choice for him. The tone that his voice naturally carries handled this song well. It was a very good fit. You would have never known he just had surgery less than a week ago.

Jessica Sanchez: If you thought Jessica did something special last week singing some Whitney, she nearly topped herself last night (but not quite) singing Gloria Estefan’s Turn the Beat Around. She was in full control of the stage and even though her timing was slightly off at one point, but she was rat-tat-tatting on the drums with no problem whatsoever. I will say that she was one of many last night that cheated a little on the whole, Songs from the Year You Were Born thing. Vickie Sue Robinson actually put Turn the Beat Around on the charts first in 1976 ( it was huge hit reaching #10 on Billboard Hot 100). Gloria Estefan made it a huge hit a 2nd time in 1994 (#13 on Billboard Charts)

Heejun Han: Heejun stayed with what he seems to do best, ballads, as he went with Richard Marx’s Waiting for You. He hit some sour notes in the front of the song. Right in the middle he hit a beautiful run and smoothed out the back end of the song, but I really think it might be too late at that point. Most of the song was really all over the place. It was one of Heejun’s worst performances as he continues to go in the wrong direction.

Elise Testone: Elise, recipient of the Judge’s Save last week, made the absolute most of her second chance by singing a jazzy, soulful rendition of the classic, Let’s Stay Together, by Al Green (this was another remake, as it originally came out in 1972). She was fully invested, and the tone in her voice as she changed modulation fit this song beautifully. She was just as good as any time during her auditions, and so much better than any previous live show. Steven Tyler said he loved her, and he said his Aunt Sonja loved her. My daughter Tara, who I was watching with, wanted to know if that was Aunt Sonja’s big floppy hat that Steven was wearing.

DeAndre Brackensick: DeAndre wanted to sing Elton John’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight, but told him that, no, he could not feel the love in that song. So together, will and Jimmy selected the duet Endless Love by Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey . (Oh look, another remake. This one came out in 1994 and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Charts. But when it came out originally in 1981 by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, it hit #1 and stayed there for several weeks.) It wasn’t a bad choice for DeAndre, but Luther and Mariah, dude. C’mon. Really?? Overall, it sounded really good, but it’s always hard to turn a duet into a solo. And he hit a couple of weird notes when he went to his falsetto, which is his security blanket. It will put him on the Silver Chairs of the Bottom 3, but it shouldn’t send him home.

Shannon Magrane: Shannon sang One Sweet Day, by Mariah Carey and BoyIIZMen, a beautiful song, really. I loved the way she used the power in her voice to create the growls, and then went back down into a sweet, tender ending. It was very natural and unforced. That’s not to say that there wasn’t some pitchiness and control issues, because there were both, and a good amount of them. But you get that when you take on Mariah, and BoyIIZMen for that matter, and you’re really not ready for either.

Colton Dixon: Colton rocked it out with the unknown White Lions’ song, Broken Heart. And I mean unknown to the judges, the mentors, and the band. Seems no one knew this song but Colton. But it was good. This was, without question, his best performance. I don’t know why this guy is doing all that stupid Emo crap. He is great as a rocker. Chris Daughtry is his personal Idol. Maybe he should emulate him more. Leave that Coldplay stuff in the closet. This is where he belongs. Sadly, Steven Tyler doesn’t agree with me and said the exact opposite in his critique. He said that he didn’t feel the song go anywhere. I will go on record now as saying that Steven Tyler is one of my all-time favorite vocalists and songwriters, but we seem to go separate paths in regard to Colton Dixon.

Erika Van Pelt: Erika sang Heaven, by Brian Adams, another very good song choice for her. This fits right in with the other songs she’s been singing so far, Heart’s What About Love and Whitney Houston’s I Believe in You and Me. The change in arrangement was a little choppy. It would have been nicer if it was smoother. The register that she sings in is so beautiful and different, no one sings there, no one can even go there.

The show then cut to a scene with Jermaine sitting with Exec Producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick where a discussion ensued and Jermaine was eliminated from the show due to his failure to disclose to Idol producers that he had not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR outstanding warrants against him. Sadly, the show is not allowed to have contestants with outstanding warrants. Bye-bye Jermaine. To be honest, I’m not sure he would have lasted more than another week or two anyway.

Back to live TV, Ryan informed us all that despite this, it would be business as usual on Thursday night and the person with the lowest number of votes would still be in a position for possible elimination. Hmm. Good thing we had that extra person to burn this season.

Skylar Laine: Like others before her, Skylar was going to try to stay in her comfort zone with Bonnie Raitt’s Love is Sneaking Up on You. Jimmy and will wanted her to go with Coolio’s Fantastic Voyage. But Skylar stayed tough and went with Bonnie Raitt despite their objections. And it paid off. Really, with her voice and attitude, how could it not. She had a couple of moments in the second frame of the song when she was a little screamy, but she knew what she was doing staying true to herself.

Joshua Ledet: Joshua sang Michael Bolton’s version of When a Man Loves a Woman. His voice is so well suited for this song, both the Bolton version and the original Percy Sledge version (yep, another remake). Of course, just the Bolton version came out the year Josh was born. All three judges were on their feet before the song was even half over, along with the rest of the audience. He didn’t hit a single false note. Jennifer was over the top in her “critique”, telling him that it was the best performance she has ever seen on the American Idol stage. That may a little carried away. It was good, damn good, in fact. I’ll even say the best of the night. But saying it’s the best ever is just crazy-talk.

Hollie Cavinaugh: Hollie is taking on the power ballad, Power of Love, by Celine Dion. She has already shown us that she has the voice that can pull it off, and she actually does. What a rich, powerful instrument this girl has. Shocking, really. It’s very easy to think of people like Gwen Stefani or even Christina Aguilera when Hollie sings. That is, very small girls with enormous..voices (did you think I was going to say something else??? Get your mind out of the gutter…)

What did I say last week about Jessica and Erika fighting for first? Fuggetaboutit. This is a race. There are some serious contenders here. And it gets tighter every week.