Elise Testone performs at the piano.
1) Chelsea Sorrell, who lives in a two-stoplight town, included video of herself shooting targets and driving down the quiet streets. She chose Carrie Underwood's "Cowboy Casanova" and entered from behind the sliding doors at the back of the stage, wearing a sequined black minidress, black stockings, and a red leather jacket. Her performance was sassy, and she had fun prancing around the stage. She wasn't pitch perfect, but she seemed comfortable on the stage.
Randy Jackson liked the big note at the end but wondered if that song was the best choice, since she probably doesn't want to be compared to Carrie Underwood. I'm in heaven: he actually criticized someone! Jennifer Lopez thought she sounded nasally. Right on! I was hearing that, too, but I didn't see the judges noting it. She told her she needs to loosen up so her true voice comes through. Steven Tyler told her to watch her phrasing and her timing and to belt it out when it's time to do so. The judges are back, people! [CHELSEA'S PERFORMANCE]
2) Erika Van Pelt is a DJ and also featured video of herself tooling around her small town town. She chose a statement song: the Heart song "What About Love?" She dressed all in black with a sort of boxy, '80s-style jacket. Her hair has been bleached and straightened. Seemed like she sang from her throat and needs to open up a bit. Considering she's a belter, she could have given it more.
Steven liked it, saying her confidence "breathes wings" but Jennifer told her she should push it further. Randy liked that she showed a lot of confidence and restraint. [ERIKA'S PERFORMANCE]
3) Jen Hirsh dotes on her dog, whom she treats like her daughter, and she also showed her whole family getting together at the family vineyard in California. She sang Adele's "One and Only," wearing a little black dress with a fitted top and see-through sleeves and with her long brunette hair in curls. Her performance was pretty near flawless; powerful yet restrained.
Jennifer thought she did a really great job. Steven praised her confidence and noted, though, that she had a little trouble at the end. Randy has loved her since day one and advised her that she can always go for runs, because she's comfortable with them.
Ryan asked the judges to compare the genders. Randy said that "we were a little lenient, a little soft on some of the boys last night." You think? He said that the stakes are going to be high and that the contestants have to bring it every time. Wow. The judges must have really heard an earful from the producers, enough to make them finally listen to the critics! [JEN'S PERFORMANCE]
4) Brielle Von Hugel is a cheerleader in high school and also showed some video of her brother from, like, a million miles away. Of course, there was more video of her brash stage-mom mother. Briele sang Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," sitting on the stage surrounded by the guys. Heejun was sitting right next to her trying to look interested. She was the vocal equivalent of an over-actor, chewing the scenery. Lots of vocal acrobatics and strange phrasing as she strutted around in a beachy-looking rust, white and blue tie-dyed dress.
Steven liked the bluesy feel to her singing. Jennifer said that people underestimate her, but she loves that Brielle is a true performer. She said, "You eat it up." That's scary, because I almost said that she devoured the song, but not in a good way. Randy said he'd been unsure of the song until the middle, where she hit her comfort zone. "You surprised me; I didn't know you had all that swagger." [BRIELLE'S PERFORMANCE]
5) Hallie Day is a waitress in Baltimore. She and her husband live in a small house. She shared video of a visit with her husband's family. For her song, she selected the Nina Simone song "Feeling Good." She wore a black cardigan over a gold and white patterned shirt and jeans. Not the most flattering look for her, but it's more modern than, say, a cocktail dress, which would have made more sense while she was singing a very cabaret version of this tune. She was stronger when she stood still at the mike; as she walked around, tossing her hair, she started to sound like she was sing-talking a little, but she finished strong with a prolonged last note.
Jennifer thought it had some beautiful moments and that Hallie looks like a star. She liked the slow start but thought Hallie lost control in the middle and did beautiful at the end. Steven told her that she's beautiful and her voice is old-timey and compared her to Adele. Randy asked her what sort of artist she sees herself as. Hallie said she loves the old-fashioned torch songs and wants to bring soul to anything she does. Randy rattled off some more, but I think it's too early to demand that the contestants have their entire career mapped out! [HALLIE'S PERFORMANCE]
6) Skylar Laine is also from a small town and gave a tour of her favorite hang-outs and cruised around with her best friend. She also shot some video in her family's little grocery store. She went with "Stay with Me" by Faces, wearing a tiny little glittery showgirl dress and stomping across the stage. Turning this into a country anthem was a bit of genius, and it worked for her, because she found a couple moments to amp it up with a run or two. She is just a bundle of energy. Never thought I'd be rooting for a country singer, but she's fun to watch!
Randy thought this was the first time they'd had a rocking, performing great country singer on the show (Carrie and Scott will be happy to hear that). He called her Reba McEntire mixed with Kelly Clarkson. He thought she had star quality. He noted that he recorded this song with Travis Tritt a few years back. Jennifer thought she sounded like "Tina Turner went country" and called her a natural-born performer. Steve thought she'd made her hometown proud and told her to keep it up. [SKYLAR's PERFORMANCE]
7) Yet another country girl, Baylie Brown, showed off her horses and cows, as well as where she'd gone to high school. She'd been staying with her grandfather, who made a big breakfast and wasn't overly excited to learn she'd made it into the Top 24. She sang Lonestar's "Amazed," wearing a hot pink cocktail dress with spaghetti straps and sitting on a stool. She looked beautiful, but her opening was very shaky (nerves?). Even on the chorus, she didn't bring much more to it and was warbly and sometimes painfully pitchy.
Steven wasn't sure about the song choice, but he enjoyed it and added "and you're pretty." Jennifer thought she was beautiful but found it shaky all the way through and told her that she understood it was probably nerves. Randy agreed it started off shaky and pitchy and that she'd never seized control of the song. He agreed that she looked amazing, though. [BAYLIE'S PERFORMANCE]
8) Hollie Cavanaugh shared home video of her hulking big brother and a big family celebration for her, as well as her cuddling and playing with her cute puppy. For her rendition of Christina Aguilera's "Reflection," she took the stage in a gold sequined mini-dress. She was eating a lot of the words: it was hard to make out what she was singing. The tone of her voice was nice, but until she hit the chorus, she was just mumbling. This sounds like a Disney song the way she did it (and I wrote that before I knew the song appeared in the Disney film "Mulan"). She has a big voice, but she needs to work on her enunciation.
Steven said she's one of his favorites and that she'd hit her notes right on. He wants her to let her hair down next time. Jennifer thinks Hollie will be a frontrunner, and she looks forward to America seeing more of her. Randy agreed she's one of the judges' favorites, but it would have been nice to see her let go a little bit. He admitted it wasn't all perfect, but the ones that were brilliant were "genius." [HOLLIE'S PERFORMANCE]
9) Haley Johnsen showed off her hot pink bedroom and her ginger cat, and splashed in her rain boots in her Oregon home town. She also visited the coffee shop where she used to work and showing off her gymnastics skills. With the Eurythmics song "Sweet Dreams," she took the stage bathed in green pulsating lights. She sounded a lot like Annie Lennox at the beginning of the song, wearing a black top with short shorts, fishnets and a see-through lace skirt. The arrangement of the song was a little odd, though, and she got very shouty on the chorus. She has potential, but this performance was a turn off.
Jennifer said she hoped America could hear all the special things she was doing with her voice, that she likes her runs. She didn't know the song was the best choice and wasn't sure about the arrangement, but she said she hopes the viewers heard her skill. Steven liked how she acted onstage, although he also acknowledged there were some problems. Randy said it was a bit of a nightmare for him instead of a dream: it was pitchy and all over the place. Way to channel Simon, Randy. The audience booed him; somewhere, Simon was clapping. [HALEY'S PERFORMANCE]
10) Shannon Magrane played volleyball and did homework in her home video. She included some old photos, as well, including her at a baseball stadium with her dad. She chose the song "Go Light Your World" by Kathy Troccoli. Wearing a white dress with a glittery waistband that made it look like a prom dress, she had a lot of trouble getting started. The performance began to sound like a high school talent show.
Randy thinks she has a lot of promise but is "cool and collected," which he imagines she got from her baseball playing father. Jennifer thought she sings with a lot of passion for a 16-year-old, which seems to come from her soul. She got goosebumps. Steven thought her performance "took it up a notch." [SHANNON'S PERFORMANCE]
11) Jessica Sanchez got a sit-down interview with Ryan, who asked her to explain what happened to her this week. She had to take a break from rehearsing because her vocal chords were swollen. Her voice was still a bit sore, but she was hoping she could pull it off. Her home video showed her playing dress up with her cousin. When she started to sing "Love You I Do," sung in "Dreamgirls" by Jennifer Hudson, she was hard to hear, probably because of the problem that she'd discussed with Ryan. She wore a silver sequined dress with black leggings and black platform shoes. Although she had to hold back at points, she hit the money notes, even while dancing along the front of the stage, interacting with the audience. She reminds me a little bit of Jennifer Hudson, in terms of her tone. The judges gave her a standing ovation.
Randy said, "That girl can really sing." He called it one of the best of the last two nights. "That voice is a voice to be reckoned with." Jennifer praised her attitude and her punctuation that she put on the end of the phrases; "the way you pulled back, the way you let us have it." Steven thought she had exceptional timing. "Your voice is perfect; your pitch is perfect. They're going to have to pay you next time you sing the national anthem for the Chargers." [JESSICA'S PERFORMANCE]
12) Elise Testone lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where she likes to work out near the water. She also showed video of a trip to see her parents in New Jersey. She accompanied herself on piano, also doing Adele's "One and Only," wearing a dark green strapless dress and purple and white flowers in her hair. The first part of the song was a little forced, but when she grabbed the microphone and stood up, she took command of the stage. She is definitely one of the biggest voices in this competition and was very professional in her performance. Love that smoky tone. I could see her winning.
Steven compared her to Adele. Jennifer was impressed with her tone and called her one of the best singers, "maybe the best singer here." She hopes that America got it, because she's "one to watch." Randy said she's "definitely a force to be reckoned with" and is one of the best in the competition, boys and girls. He didn't think it was her best performance, but he hopes to see her a lot more. [ELISE'S PERFORMANCE]
Kudos to Erika, Skylar, Jessica, and Elise, with a nod to Jen and Hollie.
Who will make it into the Top 13? The ones most likely to get in on viewer votes would be Jessica and Elise. I could also see Skylar and Erika in there, plus maybe Jen. If Hollie doesn't get through on viewer votes, I could see one of the judges adding her, since they seem to have such faith in her.
If the ratings drop fat enough, the judges will eventually do their job.