The American Idol format may be getting tired, the judges irrelevant, and the iconic host may be jumping ship at the end of the season. But after the performances of the final nine on Wednesday night, American Idol proved that despite its flaws, this show can still find and cultivate amazing talent.
Randy Jackson knew, in his heart of hearts, that if he kept repeating, season after season, that this was the best season EVER – one of these times he would be right. On Wednesday night Randy Jackson was finally right.
Even the American idol contestants who were bad were only bad in comparison to great – and there was greatness on the stage more than once. Not surprisingly, the premiere of the season's trio of trios did not quite make it into the stratosphere of greatness, although they are a vast improvement over the larger group performances. Perhaps the best of the three, and no – it's not just because Phillip Phillips was in the group – was probably the compilation of songs by Fleetwood Mac by Colton Dixon, Elise Testone, and Phil.
Later, Jessica Sanchez, Skylar Laine, and Hollie Cavanagh's performance of Madonna songs fulfilled its intended purpose – to pass the excess time left by the ever dwindling talent pool. Finally, Heejun Han, Joshua Ledet, and Deandre Brackensick made the strongest argument for a 90-minute show (instead of 2 hours) when they performed a Michael Jackson tribute.
But thankfully, these trios were flanked by individual performances and therefore were a bit easier to endure. Kind of like when you wrap a dog's medicine in bologna - masking the offensive portion with meaty flavors. Speaking of meaty goodness - let's recap the performances of the best season ever, dog!
Colton Dixon: Colton made claims a few weeks ago that American Idol advised him to tone down his religious rhetoric. So this week, Colton chose to sing his favorite "worship" song, Lifehouse's "Everything," and performed the rock band's song with all the fervor of a preacher, falling to his knees. Afterward, he was near tears when he told Ryan Seacrest that "my God is my everything." Hmmm, apparently the tone-it-down suggestion got as much traction with Colton as Tommy Hilfiger's suggestion last week that he change his hair. What Colton's performance lacked in melody and range it made up for in passion. B
Skylar Laine: Following Colton must not have been easy for Skylar but she took to the stage with the same fire in her belly that she's demonstrated since week one with her performance of Miranda Lambert's, "Gunpowder and Lead." But the fire, that was so exciting earlier in the season, is burning a little less bright as the weeks wear on. Just as the decision by other performers to sing ballads week after week gets old, so too do the country-infused anthems that Skylar delivers each week. Yes Skylar, we know you have spunk, we know you love country. Time to show the audience something we haven't seem from you. How about some vulnerability and softness? B-
Heejun Han: It was obvious that Heejun knew he looked a gift horse in the mouth last week with his almost disrespectful antics. This week, he was on a quest for redemption and surprisingly, Jimmy Iovine was rather quick to grant it after listening to Heejun's rehearsal of "A Song for You," by Donny Hathaway. The past couple of weeks of foolishness had erased the memory of the smoky depths of Heejun's voice, and hearing it again reminded viewers how he became a finalist in the first place. It would seem that Phillip might have given Heejun some of his advice: It should be about the music first. B
Hollie Cavanagh: Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks earned her mentor's seat next to Jimmy when she immediately zeroed in on what has been Hollie's weakness from the start: believability. In a poignant moment, Stevie explained how her mother had passed two months ago and said she wanted to hear the same level of emotion from Hollie's rendition of Carrie Underwood's, "Jesus Take the Wheel." The advice struck a chord with Hollie who came out and delivered her most moving, believable performance to date. JLo appreciated Hollie's emotion, Steven Tyler and Randy disagreed, saying that Hollie was pitchy and should have chosen another song. B
Deandre Brackensick: Deandre chose, "Sometimes I Cry," by Eric Benet. The lyrics twere easy to identify with by the time he finished whining out the song in a falsetto that is reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard. Apparently nails on a chalkboard sound infinitely more appealing when heard in person (a theory I have been attempting to test but one obviously needs to possess a great deal more clout to score Idol tickets) since the judges gave Deandre the first standing ovation of the night. C
Jessica Sanchez: Up until this week, Jessica's talent was always begrudgingly accepted in this blog. While there was no denying Jessica had the vocal abilities of an angel, her song choices vacillated between predictable and ill-advised. When she announced that she was a long-time Beyonce fan and began singing a slowed-down version of "Sweet Dreams," something clicked. Suddenly Jessica had the edge that she had been sorely lacking. The song, imbued with an almost haunting lull, was even better than the original. A
Phil Phillips: Stevie should be the next American Idol judge. Heck, she should be the next American president! Her appreciation of both Phillip's talent and devastatingly good looks prove that she has impeccable judgement. But just when you think there may be a rival for Phillip's affections, Stevie signed an autograph and spelled Phillip's name wrong. (Dear Phillip-with-two-"L's," please note that I, who write your name multiple times a week, always spell your name correctly. I always remind myself that the extra "L" stands for love. <3 ) Phillip sang "Still Raining" by Jonny Lang and brought his some-kind-of-wonderful to the song. Here's hoping that Phillip can bring another kind of wonderful eventually: Predictability can be a dangerous thing, even if you're predictably great. A-
Joshua Ledet: When Joshua chose Mariah Carey's version of "Without You," the expectations were set very high. To pull it off he had to bring both perfect pitch and an emotional connection that would make you believe that the words meant something to him. Joshua pulled out his gospel gusto toward the end of the song, which helped to drive home the emotional aspect. But despite the judges standing ovation and unfettered adoration, he did hit a few flat notes in the early portion of the song and failed to reach the heights of some of the other contestants. B
Elise Testone: American Idol saved the best for last on Wednesday night. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Despite being woefully under-appreciated, Elise has always had the potential to do really great things and that's exactly what she did with Led Zepplin's "Whole Lotta Love." As Stevie pointed out, Led Zepplin is not easy to sing but one would never guess that after hearing and seeing Elise's performance on Wednesday. Not only did Elise hit every single note with perfect pitch and conviction, she completely owned the stage. A+
Well, there you have it, a recap of one of American Idol's best nights – at least in terms of standing ovations from the judges. Five in total . . . and three of them actually deserved it! You might be asking yourself who in the world could be in the bottom three after such a strong showing? Well, you've come to the right place.
This week, some contestants transcended not just their own personal best, but the best of the best. Still, personal bests may not be enough at this stage of the contest. So despite some good performances, the bottom three will likely include:
- Deandre Brackensick
- Heejun Han
- Skylar Lane
And, if there is any justice, the universe (or America) will correct the mistake of the previous week and say goodbye to Deandre. If not we can all make pacts to boycott the show and never watch again. Or at least until Wednesday of next week . . . at the earliest!