Although the American Idol contestants didn't end up performing material from this millenium as many might have hoped, the songbook of Billy Joel is a melody infused collection of passion and emotion and not an altogether bad way to spend an evening.
American Idol's Top 10 contestants, in addition to the coaching of Jimmy Iovine and P. Diddy, were offered image advice by fashion mogul Tommy Hilfiger. Some of the contestants took Tommy's image advice to heart (or to head in the case of Erika Van Pelt and Deandre Brackensick) but several contestants opted to ignore Mr. Hilfiger's advice altogether. Between American Idol contestants dismissing his genius and underpaid workers perishing in unsafe working conditions, while manufacturing his clothing, it may be Tommy Hilfiger who is in need of an image consultant.
Steven Tyler provided the prologue to Wednesday night's show by stating that "if you can't sing Billy Joel, you can't sing at all." Hmmm, surely that was meant as a compliment? Or simply words of encouragement for the contestants?
Deandre Brackensick: Deandre, otherwise known as this season's Samson, was encouraged by Tommy Hilfiger to leave his hair loose because it was cool. Deandre required little prompting before letting his mane tumble wildly over his shoulders as he swung his head shaking the golden ringlets to and fro. The hair love affair continued on stage where Deandre performed Billy Joel's popular, "Only the Good Die Young." Deandre stomped around the stage awkwardly in an attempt to dance and seemed more focused on highlighting his hair than his vocals. The performance was at once comical and embarrassing, depending on the empathy level of the viewer. Thanks Tommy. D
Erika Van Pelt: Erika was the next to succumb to Tommy's image advice, choosing to chop off her multi-colored hair in exchange for a very short, very black style. Neither the hairstyle or her performance of "New York State of Mind," were crowning achievements. Erika sang the song very well and heeded Jimmy and P. Diddy's advice not to over sing it, but the performance was a little sleepy. Randy Jackson, forever intent on sending conflicting messages, urged Erika to embellish the end of the song with vocal runs and JLo suggested that Erika let loose both vocally and throughout her body. B-
Joshua Ledet: After delivering a performance of epic proportions last week it seemed that the only way for Joshua to go was down. Despite Tommy telling him he was too special for an all-black outfit, Joshua dressed to match his mood, which seemed subdued and depressed and chose to sing, "She's Got a Way." Joshua didn't know the song and obviously had issues with it being "pop." Ummm, Joshua does know he is on a television show that is the epitome of pop culture, right? He never connected emotionally and the choir seemed out of place with such an intimate song. Jennifer wanted to say as much but instead acted as if she had no right to be judging Joshua, diminishing her wise advice by behaving like a giggly, insecure school girl. C
Skylar Lane: Skylar, our resident country singer, was so overwhelmed by meeting Diddy that he's no doubt contemplating a cross over into country now that he's identified such an untapped market. Daddy Combs has a nice country sound to it. Speaking of country, Tommy immediately focused on Skylar's love of cowboy boots and came up with an idea so ahead of its time that it rocked the fashion world: Let's match her boots to her dress!!! Obviously not prepared for such cutting edge advice, Skylar opted for pumps. Skylar chose to sing, "Shameless," and for the first time, her spunk failed to elevate the performance. She struggled with pitch problems early on and, though the judges insisted she worked it out by the end, it was her weakest performance to date. C
Elise Testone: Tommy thought Elise should wear bell bottoms. Jimmy thought Elise should sing a popular song. Elise wore a dress and sang, "Vienna," one of Billy Joel's least known songs and had her best performance of the season and perhaps one of the best performances of the night. The judges gave her a well-deserved standing ovation after her delivery of a powerful and riveting performance that showcased her amazing vocals. She was on top of the world but she seems to struggle with a likability factor. Let's hope America rewards her for such a breakthrough performance. A-
Phil Phillips: Tommy demonstrated just how out of touch he is when he told Phil "Not to be rude, but I think you need some help." Remember, this is the same guy who was responsible for the Deandre hair fiasco earlier in the night. Tommy suggested that if Phil continued to dress the way he did it would impact the way America votes. Judging by the girls swooning over Phil during his rehearsal with Jimmy and Diddy, Phil's uninspired clothing doesn't seem to be too much of a detriment. When he took to the stage to deliver a powerful performance of "Moving Out," in jeans and gray shirt (or two), it was his vocals and his talent that were the signature piece that Tommy claimed he desperately needed. Phil is just Phil and that is way more than enough. A-
Hollie Cavanagh: Tommy's goal was to prevent Hollie from dressing like an 80-year-old in sequins. So instead he dressed her like a 50-year-old in sequins. Hollie then opted to sing, "Honesty," an interesting choice since the performance came across as anything but. It's been said before but it needs to be said again, Hollie desperately needs to choose songs that aren't just vehicles for her wonderful voice but also for her emotions. She has great potential but somehow manages to keep missing the mark. The judges agreed that Hollie struggled and was over thinking the song. C+
Heejun Han: Heejun had a tough week last week and he requested advice from Diddy on Jimmy on how to handle criticism. They encouraged him to use the criticism as fuel to propel him. But the fuel may have propelled Heejun right off of the show this week. In his meeting with Tommy he was borderline disrespectful when he intentionally mocked Tommy. And Heejun's performance of, "My Life," almost made a mockery of the show as he faked a false start and danced around in a brightly colored T-shirt. Even Steven was not amused and told Heejun that at some point he needed to try and take the music more seriously. D
Jessica Sanchez: Next up was Jessica Sanchez. Of course, Jessica is so devastatingly close to perfection the only thing that Tommy could offer as means of improvement was to shorten her hemline. But Diddy went a bit further with the criticism and told her he didn't believe her rehearsal performance of "Everybody has a Dream," and said that too much bravado would get her in trouble. Jessica came on stage armed with a shortened hemline and less bravado and delivered an almost perfect performance of the song. She looked great. She sounded great. The judges loved her. All of these things should result in a perfect score. But somehow, Jessica, even in all of her glory, leaves me wanting more. B+
Colton Dixon: Tommy suggested that Colton think about changing his hair and this did not sit well with Colton who claimed that his hair was his baby and he hated that Tommy immediately discredited it. Wow - imagine if Tommy said to Colton what he said to Phil! It seemed that in a stand of defiance, Colton opted not to change his hair after all. But like Phil's wardrobe, this week Colton's hair was of little consequence when compared to the performance of "Piano Man," that he delivered. This week, all of Colton's promise, that never quite came together in previous weeks, materialized and he had his first "moment." A
It's always a tough call when there are contestants, such as Elise who the public just doesn't seem to support, despite her amazing talent. But, the bottom three this week will likely be comprised of:
- Heejun Han
- Hollie Cavanagh
- Deandre Brackensick
Despite Heejun's behavior, he was half mocking the show while Deandre's performance was completely genuine and that somehow made it worse. Deandre will likely be the next to go.
Who do you think should be eliminated? Share your comments!