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Billy Joel State of Mind

"American Idol" kicked off the performance show with a tribute to Shannon Magrane, who had been eliminated last week and was apparently very popular with the other contestants. The Top 10 were shown immediately after the results show, still choking back tears and then sucking it up for the official Top 10 photo. And so it continues.

This week's theme was Billy Joel songs, and judge Steven Tyler opined that "if you can't sing Billy Joel, you can't sing anything at all." This week's video package would feature their consultations with new design consultant Tommy Hilfiger. This week's guest mentor was Sean "P. Diddy Puffy Puff-Daddy" Combs.



Top 10
The Top 10



1) DeAndre Brackensick was first. Tommy complimented his hair and wanted to keep it like it was but have him wear it down. DeAndre chose to sing "Only the Good Die Young," wearing a white T-shirt with black pants and a white and black denim jacket. His version of the song was very bouncy, and he stayed in his natural tenor range for it, jumping around the stage and having fun with it. Not a showboat performance, but pleasant. Still, it doesn't match the "bad boy" feel of the original.

Steven Tyler thought the rendition was "a little too happy." Jennifer Lopez, however, thought it was a good start to the show and that it showcased who he was. Randy Jackson said that DeAndre did a good job, but it didn't wow him. {DEANDRE'S PERFORMANCE]

2) Erika Van Pelt was singing "New York State of Mind." Diddy told her to pay attention to the song, and Jimmy Iovine said he was worried about her over singing it. Diddy also advised her to "represent New York, take some risks." Tommy asked her who she looked up to stylistically, and she said she liked Pink. He thought that her long hair was taking away from her look and advised her to go for a "punk cut." In a big difference, she got a variation of a dark pixie cut. Her outfit was very rocker: black V-neck top, black jacket embellished with rhinestones. She began the song standing by the piano, singing to the pianist. Very torch song. But while she might have oversung it at parts, she did take Diddy's advice to really feel the song, as a slide show of New York images scrolled by behind her. Her last note was golden.

Randy loved the look, and Jennifer said she hadn't even recognized her. Randy had a piece of advice regarding over singing: "Those that can't do, shouldn't." But he said that those who can do it should. Hmm. Jennifer agreed that it was a beautiful vocal. She liked the Pat Benetar vibe from the hair. Finally, she advised Erika to loosen up more. Steven liked that she put a lot of personality in the performance, which he termed "outstanding."

Host Ryan Seacrest said that "Not since the Sanjaya pony-hawk have we seen such a transformation with the hair." He said that fans on Twitter had been saying they loved it. Tommy was right: it does show off her face much better. [ERIKA'S PERFORMANCE]

3) Joshua Ledet met with Tommy to show him his fashion choice: all black. Tommy suggested that he go more formal: to wear a tuxedo and even go black tie. He said that would make him look like an experienced superstar. He was singing "She's Got a Way," and Diddy advised him not to make it "screamy" in the middle. Ignoring Tommy's advice and wearing the black suit with the black shirt, Joshua started out seated in a chair, singing very easily. Then, at the bridge, he built the vocals as background singers joined him onstage. That's when he took off vocally, sailing up to the final note like he had wings. Though I loved it at the time, listening to it back, I think he might be a little too gospel for the "Idol" audience and would probably do well to tone it down a little.

Jennifer said that it's important to feel the lyrics of the song, and that she wanted him to be more connected to the lyrics. Maybe that's what I was sensing, too. Steven didn't know this song and that "you sang your life into it" and "sang the sweat out of that song." Randy told Joshua that he should never feel defeated but should make the lyric his own. He said the performance was kind of "half-half" for him. [JOSHUA'S PERFORMANCE]

4) Skylar Laine was overwhelmed to be in Diddy's presence during rehearsal. She was singing "Shameless," which Diddy initially found forced. He told her to find the heart in it. For her meeting with Tommy, he advised her to "evolve" her look without losing the boots, but to add some color or some punch. She wore a gray and black top that draped in an unflattering way over her hips, and instead of boots, she had on black platform heels. Wonder what happened? She got a little shouty on the chorus, but her country version of the song sounded very natural. At the end, where she pulled back for the final notes, it was very sweet.

Randy mentioned a version of the song done by Brad Paisley and asked her if she was thinking about that. She said she was influenced by Garth Brooks's version (actually, that's who Randy was thinking of). He told her it wasn't her best. Jennifer told her, "You're not shameless; you're fearless." He liked how she gets the audience on her side. Steven found it slow in the beginning, maybe a little pitchy, but still thought she'd breathed life into the song. [SKYLAR'S PERFORMANCE]

5) Elise Testone chose "Vienna." Jimmy had no idea why she ended up in the bottom three last week. He was afraid of her doing a song that no one knows, and Diddy told her she had to make it special. Tommy, upon meeting with her, felt that Elise was very layered and was hiding her body. He advised she go for some high-waisted bell bottoms with a shorter top, to go for a refined Janis Joplin look. Instead of bell bottoms, Elise wore a bohemian burgundy halter dress with a black vest, standing at the mike as she sang the beginning part of the song. Her performance was very jazzy and absolutely mesmerizing, with a very low note at the end.

The judges gave her a standing ovation. Steven liked her choices. Jennifer liked it so much she wanted to shake her. She liked that Elise showed her personality. Randy said, "What you saw tonight, America, is the reason she's in that competition." He thought she'd had a moment and the run at the end was very difficult.

Ryan called up to the stage two of her vocal students, who gave her hugs and said that "it was amazing," one of them in tears. [ELISE'S PERFORMANCE]

6) Tommy thought that Phillip Phillips was being very dull in his fashion choices and was afraid to stand out. He told him that he's got to step it up, because America wants a star. He advised him to channel Bruce Springsteen, who will have at least one interesting item on, even though he keeps it simple. Diddy took his guitar away and told him to take some risks and told him, "You've got to groove." When Phillip took the stage, though, he had his guitar and was wearing -- yawn -- a gray T-shirt and a gray button-down. He did "Moving Out," but he destroyed the melody; it was barely recognizable until the chorus. I think that was a bad choice.

Jennifer felt like he was taking out some aggression at the end on his mentors. "You are who you are, and you have to be who you are." Phillip defending using the guitar, saying it's "not a shield for me." Whatever. Steven liked the performance, too, and he also agreed that "you can't listen to them." He said he was glad that Phillip wore gray, but even though Steven said he liked it, then he threw him his sparkly scarf, saying it would help him out. Phillip draped it around his neck briefly, and then took it off, balled it up and held onto it awkwardly for the rest of his time onstage. Randy agreed with the others that Phillip could just ignore advice because he's that good. Oh, please. [PHILLIP'S PERFORMANCE]

7) Hollie Cavanaugh was next, and we saw a video clip of her brother, saying hi from home and teasing their dad about tearing up last week. Tommy agreed with judges' comments last week that Hollie had been dressing too old. He asked her what she wanted, and she said she liked some sparkle. She had chosen "Honesty." Jimmy contrasted her own world view with Billy Joel's to help her understand the lyrics of the song. For her performance, she wore white pants, a sparkling boustier midriff top, and a white bolero jacket, which definitely made her look closer to her age but still a bit older (and was probably similar to what Tommy would have wanted Elise to wear). This song was perfect for her: a ballad that she handled with grace, taking the mentors' advice to find the emotion in the lyrics.

Steven called her "one of our grand singers" but thought she was a little pitchy and was over thinking the song. Jennifer also felt that she didn't know the song as well as she should have. She added, though, that Hollie's voice is one of her favorites this year. Randy told her that she can be great but she has to nail all the notes. She thought there were pitch issues in the verses. Listening to it back, I'm finding I agree. [HOLLIE'S PERFORMANCE]

After the commercial, Ryan spoke to Haley Reinhart in the audience, who would be performing during the results show.

8) Heejun Han says that the negative comments have been hard. He asked for his mentors' advice on taking the criticism. Diddy told him not to take it personally but to learn from it. Jimmy advised him to use it as fuel. Diddy joked, "I don't know if he's an actor or a con man. I don't even know if he's Asian. Maybe he's black." In his style session, he asked Tommy who he looked up to, and Heejun said Jessica Sanchez, then Madonna. "OK, how about a man?" Heejun said Michael Bolton. Tommy told him to find his own style. Heejun wore a white shirt tuxedo shirt and a black jacket, and he wore his black knit hat. He began the song and said to the pianist, "That's much too slow for me. I want to dance." He stripped off the tuxedo shirt and had a white graphic T underneath, over a bright red button-down. He sang "My LIfe," working the audience and walking by the judges' table, where he sang to them. It wasn't a flawless performance vocally, but it was definitely very entertaining, and the tone of his voice is great.

Jennifer loved that he brought some fun to tonight. She noted that, because he was running around, he didn't hit the vocal exactly but it was a lot of fun. Steven called him "Hee-man." He asked him, "Are you happy that you took the piss out of that song?" He said that the music business will kick his ass, and at some point he's got to take it more serious. Randy said, "At least you had a good time." [HEEJUN'S PERFORMANCE]

9) Jessica Sanchez was freaking out about meeting Tommy. He liked the dress she'd chosen and suggested she shorten it a little because of her height. Diddy, in rehearsal for "Everybody Has a Dream," said he didn't believe in her and thought she was over singing it. He told her to pull back on the tricks. "Less is more; too much vibrato will get her in trouble." Jimmy advised her to make eye contact. She wore a cute A-line knee-length dress with a little see-through material on the shoulder and a lacy black bodice. She stood at the microphone to sing. She held back on the vocal acrobatics in the beginning of the song, throwing them in where they made an impact at the end.

Steven said that she was blessed by God (or something). Jennifer also loved the performance. Randy said that it takes consistency to win. "You have a moment every time you step on the stage." He praised the mentors for their advice to Jessica: "That was perfection." (So... sometimes it's good to listen to advice, Randy? ). [JESSICA'S PERFORMANCE]

10) Colton Dixon told Tommy he wants to be edgy, mixing punk rock and a military style. Tommy, though, thinks the hair takes away from him and it might have to be tweaked. Colton was doing "Piano Man," because he missed playing the piano. Jimmy thought the song was tailor made for him. Diddy wanted to buy the record after hearing him sing it. They advised him not to change it too much. Playing a red piano, surrounded by spotlights shooting beams up from the floor, Colton hadn't changed his hair, only styled it a little spikier. The opening was good, but then it got a little wrenched. His piano playing was a bit weak, to be honest. Colton wore a Goth-looking jacket with tails, which was a nice choice while sitting at on the piano bench. His version of the song was a little forced, and he swallowed the last words, "all right."

Jennifer got goosebumps from the performance. Steven found parts of it stunning. Randy praised him for being an individual. He liked the sensitive, touching performance and the simplicity of the arrangement.

In the interview with Ryan afterwards, Colton said he'd been praying that God will use him with his performance. Not sure why that came up, but maybe he felt called to testify or something. [COLTON'S PERFORMANCE]

Kudos to Erika, Elise, Jessica and a nod to Joshua. In danger this week: DeAndre, who went first and therefore might be forgotten; Hollie, who had trouble connecting to the lyrics; and Skylar, who got a bit shouty throughout her performance. There's still a lot of love for Heejun, but he could find himself in the bottom three this week (but probably not). Who's going home this week? I think that Hollie will fall prey to vote splitting: there are other singers in the competition who do what she does but are more consistent. If not, I fear I'm going to be very disappointed to see either Erika or Elise go home, who keep landing in the bottom three, having trouble connecting with the viewers.

Moral:
According to the judges, you should follow mentor advice... unless you know better.



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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
talonvaki
Mar. 22nd, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
I know this is going to be totally shocking, but...I loved HeeJun's performance! And the studio version of the song, on iTunes? Really nice!

Did you see the reports that Steven was angry with HeeJun about his "disrepecting" the song? I hadn't really gotten THAT from his comments, but, wow...
alycewilson
Mar. 22nd, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
I'd actually like Heejun to do upbeat songs like this. Listen to it without watching it, and he had more respect for the song than Phillip had for his.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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