The Top 12
The theme was "Songs from the Year Contestants were Born," and baby photos would also be shown (starting with one of judge Randy Jackson in a bowtie, and an adorable baby Jennifer Lopez, as well as a goofy-looking young Steven Tyler, hamming it up in front of his siblings. Finally, a pudgy-faced Ryan, who said, "Apparently, I was a carb lover.")
The contestants all worked with Will.i.am as a guest mentor.
1) Phillip Phillips was born in 1991. His parents told about a scare where he was taken to the emergency room (but of course, he turned out OK). When he showed up to rehearsal was having surgery because of kidney stones. Will.i.am was impressed with how well he sounded, even though he was in pain. He went with the bluesy "Hard to Handle" by the Black Crowes, which was a great fit for him. He wore just a chocolate-brown button-down shirt and dark pants, and this song did a much better job than last week of showing off his vocal abilities.
Randy repeated that Phillip is unique, and he was impressed that he was performing after having (minor) surgery. He thought this song could make a good single for him. Jennifer thought he was natural: "it's in every cell in your body." Steven told him to "watch your melody" but agreed the song was a good fit. PHILLIPS'S PERFORMANCE]
2) Jessica Sanchez was born in 1995 and was singing the Gloria Estefan song, "Turn the Beat Around." Will.i.am praised her power, calling her a "swaggernaut." She wore silver sparkly bell bottoms and a little white sleeveless sweater (kind of a '70s look, but the retro '70s look was in during the '90s, right?). In the middle she got a little swallowed up by the quick lyrics, but her ending was a little stronger. Not her best.
Steven advised her not to stray too far from ballads, and he said the rhythm was a little "shady." He also loved the pants. Jennifer did, too. She agreed with Steven about the song choice and noted her vibrato didn't work as well with this type of rhythm. Randy also jumped on the song choice band wagon.
Ryan asked her about the song choice, and Jessica said that the choices for her year were limited. Probably true; it's a matter of which songs the producers had managed to have cleared. [JESSICA'S PERFORMANCE]
3) Heejun Han's parents shared thoughts on him as a child, with her mom saying he got his sense of humor from her. He sang the Richard Marx song "Right Here Waiting" from 1989. This song was a challenge for him. In a hot pink button-down shirt and a charcoal suit, he sang tenderly, which was the best part of the performance. But he ran into a little trouble with his pitch at the beginning of the song, and he had some issues with diction, which could put him in danger.
Randy thought it was pitchy and that he was out of breath. Jennifer didn't critique him, saying his "heart was in the song." Steven agreed with Randy, although he told Heejun that he was special.
Ryan asked Heejun if he was singing the song for anyone, and he admitted he was to his girlfriend, who was in the audience. He added that he was also singing the song about "20 percent for Jennifer Lopez, and 10 percent for Fergie." Aww. Some young hearts are going to be broken now. [HEEJUN'S PERFORMANCE]
4) Elise Testone was born in 1983, and according to her parents, was always getting into "cute trouble." She'd chosen "Let's Stay Together," which while an Al Green song, was covered by Tina Turner in 1983. Will.i.am suggested she have a sing-off with President Obama, who recently sang it at an appearance (so they did it with a split screen. Cute.) Elise began the song wearing a black tank dress, sitting on a stool. This song was a great one to showcase her smoky vocals. On the bridge, she stood up and began to belt it. She seemed much more comfortable this week. The dress was sexy, too, with a slit up the front showing off her leg.
Steven says that "everyone loves your voice" and said she has beauty in her soul. Jennifer said, "It feels good when it's right, and that was right." She liked that Elise made it her own. Randy announced, "America, Elise is back." [ELISE'S PERFORMANCE]
4) DeAndre Brackensick was born in 1994 and was crazy cute and a ham, also. We got to see home video of him in a drum major costume dancing to "The Music Man" again. He'd originally chosen "Can You Feel the Love," but Jimmy and Will.i.am talked him into "Endless Love." He wore a white suit and a black sweater vest. The song wasn't the most exciting, but he had a chance to show off his tenor (before offering up a little falsetto at the end).
Jennifer told him that he can sing anything and that he sang that beautifully, but she thought Jimmy steered him wrong about the song choice. Steven agreed but told him "you're going to find it." Randy found it boring and safe and hoped the voters would "look past that." [DEANDRE'S PERFORMANCE]
5) Shannon Magrane, born in 1995, used to love the Thumbelina song. Her dad, though, loved Stevie Ray Vaughn and yet had that song stuck in his head. Jimmy suggested the No Doubt song "Don't Speak." But she decided on "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boys II Men. Will.i.am suggested practicing it lying down, which he thought would help her breath control. For her performance, she wore an outfit that looked straight out of Blanche's wardrobe on "The Golden Girls": gold short-shorts, a loose white and gold top with shimmering sleeves, all over black stockings. Bleh. Her performance was a little better than the previous week, but it seemed like she was wrestling with the song and just barely holding on.
Jennifer said this song was not an easy undertaking but "you did a wonderful job." Really? Steven told her she sings her best when she doesn't try so hard. Randy name-dropped that he'd worked with Mariah, but he liked the result. He wasn't sure about Will.i.am's advice about lying down, though. [SHANNON'S PERFORMANCE]
6) Colton Dixon, a Daughtry fan, got to have dinner with him recently. Colton was born in 1991. His parents said he was a good kid, involved in sports. He chose "Broken Heart" by White Lion, but Will.i.am remarked that nobody knows it, not even the band. Colton insisted on it, and after considering arranging it with just a panel, Will.i.am told him it needs to be a hard rock tune, with a band. Wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and a black leather vest, Colton crooned into a microphone stand. After the slow opening, the song kicked in and he joined the guitarist and bassist on stage. He must really love this song, because he put his everything into it and made it exciting. His best yet.
Jennifer said the best singers fall in love, are traumatized and sing about it, and she felt that's why he picked that song. Also, she noted that "you look pretty when you sing." Steven thought it was the wrong song for his voice and his passion. He didn't think the song went anywhere. Randy thought that the song didn't matter because it was about him, and he was paying attention to him. Though he didn't know the song either, he liked that he was in the zone and liked his "fly vest." [COLTON'S PERFORMANCE]
7) Erika Van Pelt was born in 1985, "with music in her," according to her mom. She was very loud and always "the alpha." She chose one of my favorite songs, "Heaven" by Bryan Adams. Will.i.am predicted that she was going to go home if she doesn't execute. She wore a dowdy black shirt with bell sleeves and stood in front of a screen of video of ascending a staircase (reference to Steven's description about the parts of a song? Or just a stairway to heaven?) The song felt like it ended a bit early.
Steven thought her interpretation was "too busy" and that she should have stayed with the melody. Jennifer agreed that it's such a powerful song, that she's this year's "Janis Joplin." The arrangement left her wanting more. She liked how she looked, though. Randy kind of liked it, giving it an 8 out of 10 but piled on about the arrangement. [ERIKA'S PERFORMANCE]
Then, Ryan revealed that Jermaine Jones was the guy who had to be eliminated due to information that came from law enforcement. They'd filmed his meeting with the producers, including Nigel Lythgoe. In March of last year, Jermaine was charged with giving a fake name to police of Joel Jones. Later, he was charged and gave a fake name of Kareem Watkins. There are four outstanding warrants out for him. The producers emphasized that he hadn't been honest "on any level." Nigel asked him about a fight. Jermaine said he was charged because he and a friend "had a disagreement." Although the producers regretted it, they said they were going to have to let him go. He thanked them for the opportunity, and video of his Tuesday rehearsal was shown as he was shown leaving in a car. How sad. [JERMAINE BOOTED FROM COMPETITION]
8) Skylar Laine was born in 1994. Her parents said she used to bang her head on things when she got frustrated. Jimmy thought his first choice wasn't a good one. She didn't recognize a lot of the choices and wanted to stick with a Bonnie Raitt song, "Love Sneakin' Up on You." She wore a black biker jacket, a patterned blouse in gray and earth tones, and dark pants. The opening of the song was a little weak, but she found her comfort zone on the chorus and finished strong.
After saying, "We do you guys a disservice if we're not honest with you," Jennifer says that Skylar killed it, and so does Randy. [SKYLAR'S PERFORMANCE]
9) Joshua Ledet had a sit-down with Ryan Seacrest before his performance. Because he had previously said he missed crawfish, the state of Louisiana sent some for Joshua. A huge bucket was delivered to him on stage, and they tried to get some teen girls to eat them with him, but they looked horrified. Joshua's parents said he was a "little rascal." He chose Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman" from 1992. He wore a white jacket with black lapels over a navy blue shirt and dark pants. His gospel version of the song was much more exciting than the original. At the key change, he ditched his jacket and leaned on the mike stand as if the emotions were overcoming him. Master class.
The judges gave him a standing ovation, and Jennifer bowed to him. Steven said it was so good "we were up halfway through." Randy was grateful that he "blew it out the box." He found it phenomenal, and Jennifer went further: "The best thing I ever saw on 'American Idol.'" Steven thought that "God came through your eyes." [JOSHUA'S PERFORMANCE]
10) Hollie Cavanaugh was born in 1993 and had a "great personality but was really untidy," according to her parents. They thought she was special, because they're not from a musical family. She chose "The Power of Love" by Celine Dion. Will.i.am asked if she had "amplifiers in your pocket," based on the power. She wore a real nightmare of a dress: it looked like the curtain in an old-fashioned hotel ballroom, with silver glitter over beige skirt. The opening was kind of meh, but she powered through the center of the song. No doubt she's got a great voice, though she cracked a little on the last note. I'd like to see her do something different next week.
Jennifer thought they'd "saved the best for last." She said there were some "tiny little things" but to criticize them would be silly. Steven thought it was a little pitchy at times, but he thought her voice came from "heaven above." Randy said he would criticize. "You've got more swag than that," but still, "you blew it out the box." [HOLLIE'S PERFORMANCE]
Ryan asked who was safe and who was in trouble. Randy said Joshua was safe and that Heejun was in trouble. "Everybody wasn't great tonight." He thought Phillip, Hollie, Elise, Colton were good. Jennifer thought the safest was Joshua. Also, Hollie and Phillip. She'd let America decide who would go home. Steven thought Joshua was "our Jessica this week." He liked Jessica, Skylar, Elise and Phillip, too. He also refused to say who was in trouble. "Let America," he said. As in let America decide.
Kudos to Joshua and Elise, with a nod to Jessica, Phillip, Skylar and Hollie.
If they're building a typical bottom three last night, my man Heejun is probably in danger of being in it, based on his performance. We'll probably also see DeAndre there, since his performance was lackluster, or Shannon, because her performance wasn't stellar. But almost definitely, I think Will.i.am called it, and it will be Erika going home for a crazy arrangement that didn't do her justice.
It's not a good idea to keep things from the producers when there's this much at stake.