Wednesday, March 7th 2012
Another Idol Twist!
by The AI Insider
You've chosen your finalists, America, but did they prove they are here to stay? For the first time ever during the finals — in honor of American Idol's 400th episode — the guys (singing Stevie Wonder songs) competed against the girls (paying tribute to the late, great Whitney Houston).
All 13 contestants got some help from resident mentor Jimmy Iovine and guest mentor Mary J. Blige, starting with Joshua Ledet, who sang "I Wish." Jimmy urged him to "punch the chorus a little bit more." He added, "Joshua can blow it out. He'll have people dancing with him and singing with him if he doesn't hold back."
Mission accomplished. "You just wore it out at the top of the show!" Randy said, adding, "What I really love is we've been hearing you sing a lot of ballads, and now you come out rocking." Jennifer agreed, saying that she "felt" Joshua's performance (including his "hand thing"), while Steven warned that Jennifer wants to punch Joshua again, because he keeps "getting better and better."
Elise Testone was up next, but Mary and Jimmy didn't like her song choice, "Greatest Love of All." They suggested "I'm Your Baby Tonight" as a better "spot" for her. "Your voice is so dope; if you crash and burn it will so unfair," Mary said. Unfortunately, crash and burn she did.
"Whitney's a beast," Jennifer said after Elise performed. "It's about taking these songs and making it your own. It's undeniable you have an amazing voice; I just don't think this was your best. Maybe it's because they switched the song on you at the last minute."
Randy agreed that it wasn't Elise's best performance. "It felt like you were boxing with the song," he said. "You have amazing potential. That one wasn't good."
Elise was followed by "gentle giant" Jermaine Jones, who sang "Knocks Me off My Feet." Mary and Jimmy really "felt" his studio session. "I'm 1,000 percent thrilled the judges brought him back," Jimmy said. "He does not deserve to go home from this competition."
It's unlikely that he will. Steven said that the song fit him "like an Armani suit." Jennifer said that Jermaine "nailed the notes." Now she wants to see him "connect with the song a little bit more." Randy loved the verses but not the chorus; he urged Jermaine to "relax" and sit in the song.
Erika Van Pelt followed with Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me," and Mary loved her voice in the rehearsal session. "Your tone is the real deal — like a steak and potatoes dinner, not celery and peanut butter," she said. Jimmy warned Erika to put her own spin on the song rather than being "literal," and she pulled it off.
"When you let yourself go, it was unbelievable!" Randy said. "I was like, 'Yes, yes, go, go, dude!'" Jennifer told Erika, "I had goosies before you even started singing." However, Jennifer added that she still wants Erika to let loose a little more. Steven declared that Erika's performance was "perfect."
Rocker Colton Dixon was up next, singing "Lately." Iovine worried that Stevie Wonder was not Colton's "wheelhouse," and he urged him not to be afraid of his "vulnerability." The judges were impressed the results.
"You're only as good as your last performance, and your last note — that was beautiful. Well done!" Steven said. Jennifer loved how Colton showed his "heart and vulnerability," while Randy said there were notes that were a little flat and a little sharp (especially in the softer parts of the song), but it all came together at the end. "By the last eight bars, you were flawless," he said.
"Hot, humid, and happening" Shannon Magrane decided to sing "I Have Nothing," but Mary was concerned. "I can see you thinking," she said, urging Shannon to "stop running." The judges agreed that it wasn't her best performance.
"I think the thinking got the best of you a little bit on that one," Jennifer said. "You can sing that song; we didn't get to hear that here tonight." Steven agreed that Shannon's nerves got the best of her. "You kind of crashed and burned on the turnaround," he said. Randy also agreed, but he noted that the band might have thrown her off. "It wasn't great tonight," he concluded.
The ladies love romantic Deandre Brackensick, but Jimmy said that Deandre's "hair flying around" wasn't going to be enough this time. "He has to sing in perfect dynamic rhythm," Jimmy warned.
Deandre sang "Master Blaster (Jammin')," and Steven enjoyed the reggae-inspired performance. "I've loved you from the beginning — you've got the male Naima in you," he said, referring to last year's finalist. "You have rhythm, you have soul, you have swag up there. It was a weird ending — maybe I just didn't want it to end," Jennifer added. Randy loved how Deandre showed a different, more up-tempo side of himself. "We didn't want it to stop, that's how good it was," he said.
Country girl Skylar Laine was up next with "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," which was a bit of a challenge, since she didn't grow up listening to Whitney Houston. Nevertheless, she gave Mary goosebumps.
After the live performance, Jennifer said, "The front part of it for me got a little bit nasally, but you kept it together — you gave us our biggest moment of the night." Steven called the song "a thing of beauty." And Randy agreed with Jennifer. "The front of the song was a little bit iffy, but by the time you hit the end, it was great," he raved. "You're a country girl, but what you just proved is you can sing any song!"
Heejun Han — who seems to want to eat his fellow contestants — sang "All in Love Is Fair," and Mary loved his tone. Jimmy agreed that Heejun had "won him over." And the judges liked him, too. "I loved you from the first time you sang for me, and I still love you now," Jennifer said. Steven agreed that Heejun was "fantastic," while Randy said, "It wasn't perfect . . . but it was really good."
Hollie Cavanagh, the little girl with the big voice, followed with "All the Man that I Need," and Mary urged her to be comfortable with the song rather than "faking it or trying to find it."
The judges were impressed with her performance. "This is like [Whitney's] prime joint that you did, and guess what? You nailed it!" Randy said. "That's the Hollie that I know from last year and this year," Jennifer said. "You're the one! We might have a sing-off between two girls in the final. That's what I'm hoping for."
"Jer Bear" Jeremy Rosado chose "Ribbon in the Sky," and Jimmy noted that the song is "difficult." The judges were mixed on the performance. "You didn't get a chance to fly like you usually do; doesn't matter — it wasn't in that song," Steven said. Jennifer called it "really, really beautiful," but Randy told Jeremy, "It wasn't your best."
Next up, Jessica Sanchez chose Whitney's biggest hit, "I Will Always Love You." Mary urged to take her time . . . and Jessica nailed it, earning a standing ovation.
"Jessica Sanchez is legit!" Randy exclaimed. "This is one of the hardest songs in the world. You're not only the best vocal of the night, you're one of the best singers in this whole competition. This is one of the best talents in the whole country!" Jennifer was left "speechless" by the "amazing" performance, and Steven said that Jessica may be "the one," adding,
"You just made 40 million people cry."
Last, but certainly not least, Phillip Phillips stepped up to the mic for a rocking performance of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
"There are no words for it … you just are," Steven said. "Just like 'Thriller,' you made it your own, and you killed it," Jennifer said. Randy said that they "need" Phillip in the competition. "I love that this show the past couple of years has this indie spirit going on," he said.
So who's safe and who's in danger? The judges agreed that Joshua and Jessica killed it, and Elise and Shannon may be in trouble. On Thursday, the bottom guy and bottom girl will be announced, and the judges will make the final decision about who goes home and who survives to see another week. The race to the finale is officially on!