COMMENTARY | Judge Steven Tyler willingly confessed that he was “not always present” for most of the 80s, and he wasn’t the only one, as the “American Idol” talents were against tasked to tackle songs they hardly knew, from an era before they were born. No Doubt band mates Gwen Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal joined Jimmy Iovine to inspire an 80s vibe, but it didn’t transpire to everyone. Great singers can sing anything, though, as Randy Jackson frequently reminds in his remarks, and the cream rose to the top, and duet pairings provided some of the most memorable moments ever.
DeAndre Brackensick broke open the night of performances. The camera’s favorite crooner mused that he missed his car the most, but he cruised through DeBarge’s “I Like It,” in crowd-pleasing style. Jennifer Lopez let him know she liked the performance “a LOT,” and Steven Tyler praised that he forgot where he was through the performance. Randy Jackson enjoyed that more of DeAndre’s “natural voice” is coming through past his falsettos. He’s sure to be safe another week, but he’s still missing a feeling factor in his focus for approval. Great talents fuse emotion and through their gift of perfect pitch, and perhaps that will grow in time for him, just like those locks. In rehearsal, Elise Testone gave Jimmy, Gwen, and Tony “goosie’s” with “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and her look has never been more elegant, white flowing down set against the staging of dangling timepieces, but the appeal didn’t transfer in performance. Steven Tyler said it just wasn’t the right song for her, and even Jennifer Lopez faulted her pitch, while Randy Jackson bluntly concurred it was “never right.” After seeing her sizzle in her bluesy zone the past few weeks, this critique was tough, and she’ll need to feel some love from the votes to stay. She may have saved herself with her later duet, so don’t give up! Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine sounded like long-time partners, performing “Islands in the Stream” to perfection. They playfully pooh-poohed dating rumors backstage, but anyone could handle these two coupling in song. Philip Phillips went back to favorite Phil Collins and Genesis with “That’s All,” to raves from Randy, and acclaim for being “a wildflower” from Steven Tyler. Jennifer Lopez thought he got lost in the middle for a bit, but Phillips was already living his dream, playing with brother Ben beside him, relishing their fraternal and musical bond. Hollie Cavanagh showed she could kick up her heels, as she and DeAndre danced through the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” The panel was pleased as punch to see Hollie “let go” and have a little fun, encouraging her to do the same on her own. Joshua Ledet inspired audiences to rise from their seats again, singing, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” as done by Simply Red, and had Jennifer Lopez proclaiming “Lordy, Lordy” in praise. The choir, the candle backdrop, and complete mastery of a mood that Joshua admitted he was too young to know personally at 19, handling, “love problems,” came together again, and the moments were not over yet.
Only Jessica Sanchez could have the courage and the vocal chops to take a chomp into Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” with such ferocity as her own alter ego, Bebe Chez, in her most youthful, vivacious performance yet. Jennifer Lopez lauded Jessica’s fusion of little girl and woman in one, and Randy called her every performance “effortless.” Steven Tyler said her voice was simply “so fantastic,” and her fans will be running to call and click after her sizzle this week. Elise Testone and Philip Phillips made a marvelous match as duet partners with Tom Petty’s “Stop Dragging my Heart Around,” blowing out their solo songs. As judges and anyone there saw, the two were hot in big letters, making “a Tom Petty moment wrapped in Elise and Philip,” as Steven Tyler phrased it. Hollie Cavanagh was dressed to shimmy in her little blue dress, calling back to Irene Cara for “What a Feeling,” but not able to fetch her true “Flashdance” moment. The judges picked at her pitch, and Jennifer Lopez counseled that she had to listen to all the critique, “then let it go” for performances-a tall order for one so young. She may need time to grow into the power of that big voice. Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez got standing ovations in doubles as they did Aretha Franklin and George Michael’s “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” slaying the song as described by Jennifer Lopez, and equaling the original in Randy Jackson’s words, and he was therefore it. These two are already ready for the big stage, and the final vote could be between them. Colton Dixon missed face-painting season, of all things, from back home, and maybe those memories made his “Time After Time” so personal, because you would hardly think it was not his own if you could not remember Cyndi Lauper, and even his more highlighted hairstyle did not deter from the emotion. Steven Tyler told Colton he was “ready to record” right now, and Randy Jackson said he was “so current” even with 80s songs. Jennifer Lopez just loved the “journey” of his songs, and Dixon’s journey to the charts won’t take long once “Idol” is over.
Maybe it was predictable that Skylar Laine missed her Mississippi home cooking and her guns most, but it wasn’t predicted that she could shed her boots, put on pink and rhinestones, and rise to her moment as she did to close the night with “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Channeling her feisty energy into fine control, she showed ballads could be her own, too. As she took the last note for all it was worth, it was evident that she knew she had won back her place as a contender, and the standing ovation, confirmed, along with Jennifer Lopez’s words, it was a warning of “Do not count me out.” Randy Jackson it was her best, adding his “she’s gotta have it” trademark, and Steven Tyler shared she was set for “a great career.” What a pretty little pink dress wrapped around a country girl with a purpose can do!
See how the vote falls tonight, as the fateful eight become seven. “American Idol” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.