American Idol Recap: Top Nine Choose Songs From Their Idols

Last night on American Idol, the Top Nine sang songs from their own personal idols.  Once again, they were helped by Tommy Hilfinger and mentored by Jimmy Iovine.  This week he was assisted by rock legend Stevie Nicks.

Overall, it was probably the best night of the season.  All nine of the contestants brought their “A” Game and it was tough to pick a Bottom Three.  On the bad side, the producers are steadfast in sticking to a 2-hour format where it’s not needed.  So they have to find filler.  A lot of filler.  So last night they went with three group numbers: One Fleetwood Mac Compilation, Michael Jackson Compilation, and one Madonna Compilation.  For the sake of this article, and because I despise American Idol group numbers, I have chosen to ignore them.  In fact, I didn’t even watch them.

Colton Dixon:  Colton sang Lifehouse’s Everything.  Mentor Stevie Nicks fell in love with the lyrics.  While I was not crazy about the vocals, you can’t argue that Colton sang it with tremendous passion.   He told us that it was his favorite worship song, and he clearly meant it.  And it was that passion that carried him through.  He still had some pitch problems, and it may a personal thing, but I feel that he has far more vocal control when he goes with a harder rock song.

And by the way, I was very turned off that he ended the song on his knees, after telling us that it was his favorite worship song.  OK, we get it already.  Dude, do your praying at church, not in front of the world.  No matter what the song sounds like, the judges aren’t going to criticize you after that.  What is Steven Tyler going to say, “nice prayer to Jesus, but I don’t think he would appreciate the way the notes were all over the place and there were some real pitch problems”.  C’mon, cut us a break here.  And for the record, I feel the same way about sports figures who do the same thing, no matter how much I like them as players.

Skylar Laine:  It’s not surprise that Miranda Lambert is Skylar’s idol, well, it might be a surprise that it’s not Carrie Underwood, but anyway, she went with Lambert’s Gunpowder and Lead.  She was on fire and in full control of this one.  I think she might have sounded better than the original, certainly stronger and more energetic.  She was right at home and she was very comfortable.  She had one bad point near the end where she overran herself and ran out of breath, but the rest was decent.  I have heard/read real country fans (which anyone who has read this column for a while knows that I am not) do not like or consider Ms. Laine to be an actual country performer.  They consider her to be a wannabe.  I’m not sure.  I say she sings the songs, wears the boots, has the silly twang.  Walks like a duck, sounds like a duck… She sounds like a country performer to me.  And I think she’s way better than Lauren Alaina was last season, which should prove automatically that she is NOT a country performer, but a crossover pop performer, like Carrie Underwood, but I guess we’ll find out in time.

Heejun Han:  This week, we saw a whole new Heejun who wasn’t playing around anymore.  He sang Donnie Hathaway’s (Leon Russell’s) A Song For You.  The tone was of his voice was smooth and pleasurable to listen to.  He still had some pitch problems, and some enunciation issues, but this performance was miles ahead of anything we’ve seen from him in the past several weeks.  It earned him a standing ovation from the judges and audience that I’m pretty sure was given just because everyone was glad that he was actually singing.  In his post-song interview, he told Ryan Seacrest that he felt he was letting his fans and family down and he needed to show a more genuine self.  This might have bought him a couple of more weeks in the Idol Kingdom.

Hollie Cavinaugh:  Hollie sang Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel, but not before making Stevie Nicks get very emotional during the mentoring session.  Back live, unlike last week’s Billy Joel Honesty debacle, Hollie was in full command of her performance once again.  Judge Randy Jackson hit her for being pitchy in her lower range, but to be honest, I didn’t hear it at all.  I thought she was on pitch in all registers and sounded just as good and strong as she did when she sang Celine Dion’s Power of Love several weeks ago.  This was her best performance in a few weeks.

DeAndre Brackensick: We found out that DeAndre’s idol is Eric Benet.  Who knew Eric Benet was anyone’s idol besides his daughter Nala?  Anyway, he sang Benet’s song Sometimes I Cry.   It was very soulful and had a beautiful R&B flare, but he relied heavily on his falsetto, to the point of distraction.   I’m starting to wonder if DeAndre can sing anything but falsetto.  Does he even have a natural singing voice?  I can’t remember.  The other problem was his notes were all over the place.   The judges give him a standing ovation, but I just don’t get it.  Both Randy and Steven Tyler compared him to Prince.  I can kind of see that, and I would love to hear him sing some Prince and see what he can really do with that crazy falsetto.  Now that would be cool.

Jessica Sanchez:  It should be no surprise that Jessica idolizes superstar Beyonce, and she sang a very slowed down version of her song Sweet Dreams.  It started off beautifully, with just Jessica singing with a harp for accompaniment.   She showed incredible control throughout the entire song.  So much greater than her years.

Phillip Phillips:  Stevie Nicks paid Phil-Phil the ultimate compliment by telling him that if had been friends with her and Lindsay Buckingham in the early ‘70’s, Mick Fleetwood would have asked him to join Fleetwood Mac with them.  She felt he was that good.  When they showed an old pic of Buckingham, he could have been Phil’s twin.  Very nice.  Fleet-Phil sang Still Raining, by Johnny Lang, and it was a bluesier rendition of and already cool, bluesy song.  This guy just continues to go do his own thing, and people are still buying it.  It will be fun just to see how long it lasts.  His uniqueness makes him one of my favorites in the competition and I’ll be bummed out when he does finally go.

Joshua Ledet: Joshua sang Mariah Carey’s version of Harry Neilson’s Can’t Live Without You (I love this song, by the way).  During the mentoring session, Jimmy called it one of the top five most difficult songs to sing in public.  I wonder what he thinks the other four are??  My guess is that one of them is the National Anthem.  Back to Joshua, he hit some serious notes, some long notes, and some runs that were untouchable by anyone else in this competition.  The buildup was slow and pitchy getting to the heart of the song.  But once he hit the major power note (you know the one I’m talking about) he was on cruise control.  He poured so much emotion into the performance and was so connected to it that some of the pitchiness can be overlooked. I think the judges gave him a little too much credit with the standing ovation.  He was very good, but he’s been better.

Elise Testone:  Elise used the hard grittiness of her voice to sing some Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin with her rendition of Whole Lotta Love. And she held nothing back.  All I can say is, WOW.  Without question this was the performance of the night and one of the best in the past several weeks.  She rocked that stage as well as anyone has before her, Daughtry, Adam Lambert, or James Durbin.  She has shown some tremendous versatility moving between Billy Joel’s beautiful, soulful Vienna last week to this hard rocking classic this week.  Elise has been great the past few weeks and if this doesn’t get her some much earned respect, I don’t know what will.  She earned the fifth standing ovation from the judges of the night.  That has got to be an American idol record

BOTTOM THREE:  Skylar Laine, DeAndre Brackensick, Hollie Cavinaugh

GOING HOME:  Skylar Laine