It was Eighties Week on “American Idol,” with guest mentors Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal from No Doubt. In addition to their solo performances, they would be singing male-female duets.
At the top of the show, in honor of the theme, of course, host Ryan Seacrest showed an old picture of judge Randy Jackson with a big ’80s hairdo and colorful clothes. Yeah, we wore clothes like that.
1) DeAndre Brackensick was first, singing “I Like It” by Debarge. Gwen advised him to try to be more confident. Jimmy predicted that DeAndre would be in the bottom three this week, just based on the rehearsal. DeAndre started out in the audience, surrounded by girls, and then strolled up to the stage. His look was a bit of a misfire: a light gray button-down shirt with dark gray sleeves and a pencil-thin black tie. I guess the eccentric details of the shirt were a tribute to the ’80s. The mellow track was a good fit for his relaxed vocals and the occasional falsetto. But then he ruined it by embellishing it in his trademark falsetto at the end.
Jennifer Lopez liked it a lot and felt he was “super comfortable up there.” She liked the way he moved his hair. Steven Tyler thought that “you knew where you were” and it was “exceptional.” Randy thought that El DeBarge would be somewhere saying, “This kid has arrived.”
2) Elise Testone went with “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. This was her second pick, after the mentors talked her out of singing “Hallelujah.” Gwen and Tony both said she gave them “goosies,” but Jimmy said he was unimpressed. She wore a black and white dress with one wide droopy sleeve that made her look a little like one of the Golden Girls. She played with the melody a bit but not so much it was unrecognizable. As always, she put her heart into it, throwing in a few personal touches where it was appropriate, but she couldn’t inject much excitement into this essentially bland song.
Steven wasn’t sure if it was the right song for her, but he said he loves her voice. He added, with a sigh, “Eighties songs are Eighties songs. Yeah.” Jennifer said Elise has a powerhouse voice, but it “wasn’t totally right every single moment.” Randy said it’s one of the greatest songs ever, but “you never quite hit the pitch right.” He said she was underneath the pitch the entire song. He said that she’s a better singer than this performance.
3) With a duet of “Islands in the Stream,” Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine took the stage next. Colton’s hair had been lightened all over, to minimize that skunk streak he’d had. Much nicer. He wore a simple black jacket over a black button-down, and she wore a little flowered dress with fitted bodice. The song was a better fit for her than him, which wasn’t really a surprise, since it was originally sung by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
Randy thought it was “very sweet and very nice.”
4) Phillip Phillips did “That’s All” by Genesis. Gwen and Tony thought he would kill the song, though Tony suggested that he not play the guitar on the bridge. Phil accompanied himself on guitar, and his brother-in-law also performed with him. Phil wore a light gray button-down shirt. The song was a great fit for him, and he did a bluesy, syncopated version of it that worked but wasn’t as stellar as last week.
Steven called him “a wildflower.” He said that Phillip being true to who is, is what makes him great. Jennifer thought at the beginning wasn’t in his comfort zone, and she observed that his brother had been playing loud at that time. Still, she thought it was pretty great. Ryan said hi to Phillip’s brother and said he thought it was a great song choice.
5) For their duet, Hollie Cavanaugh and DeAndre did a Pointer Sisters song, “I’m So Excited,” she wearing a sheer white shirt over a black bra/top and shiny pants, with huge pink hoop earrings and red pumps. DeAndre looked a little more presentable, with an Africa T-shirt under a black and white baseball jacket. He seemed to get the song better than she did. I think her shoes might have been painful, the way she was walking in them.
Steven liked that Hollie let go a little bit, and he thought it was great. Jennifer had been skeptical about the song choice but thought it was really good and that Hollie needs to find the soul in things.
6) Joshua Ledet sang “If You Don’t Know Me By Know” by Simply Red. Gwen cautioned him about the vocal acrobatics, and Jimmy agreed that “it needs to be simpler.” He performed wearing a black jacket with white dots on it, with a white rose corsage. He had background singers on stage who sounded a lot like a choir. He put his gospel spin on it, which I doubt is helping him appeal to the younger viewers. But he did restrain his vocal acrobatics for the most part.
The judges gave Joshua a standing ovation. Jennifer commented, “ask and you will receive,” saying they’d asked for a powerhouse performance. She thought he’d been holding back and was very comfortable, and the performance was spectacular. Steven wondered how someone can “sing like you at your age.” He liked that it wasn’t too much over the top. Randy thought it was a very mature performance and Joshua was “in your zone.”
7) Jessica Sanchez was singing “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston. Gwen advised her to do some different things with her moves onstage. Wearing a denim bolo jacket over a white and lemon yellow shirt, with a huge plastic bangle bracelet, she started in the audience surrounded by guys before making her way to the stage. Her moves did seem more natural this time and less like a “Star Search” contestant. Her voice was, of course, stellar.
Jennifer thought that Jessica was both a girl and a woman onstage. She has trouble believing that her sound can come out of “that little body.” Steven said her voice is fantastic and “everything you do is beautiful.” Randy name-dropped the fact that he’d worked on that song. He compared Jessica to Whitney Houston, who sang everything effortlessly.
8) Elise and Phillip did a duet of “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, she in a purple blouse with a big green chunky beaded necklace, he in a tan jacket with a black button-down shirt. The two of them were a great partnership. I could see them recording together.
Randy liked this performance much better than Elise’s song at the top of the show. Jennifer said that their performance was sung so well that it makes the viewer wonder if they’re in love. Steven called it a “Tom Petty moment wrapped up in Elise and Phillip.” He thought it was “as good as it gets.”
9) For her solo, Hollie had chosen “What a Feeling” from the “Flashdance” soundtrack. Jimmy admitted he didn’t originally like the song when it first came out. Gwyn told her to bring some toughness to it. Before Hollie could perform, Ryan vamped while they fixed some audio issues with one of the instruments. Then, wearing a filmy turquoise flapper dress that made her look like she ought to be ice skating, with white lights zooming around her, she sang the opening, very seriously. As the tempo kicked in, it kind of fell apart. Just karaoke.
Steven said she always arrives at the end, and her pitch was all over the place. “You got there at the end, but it took a while to get there.” Jennifer said that, after all the advice, “You do have to let it go.” In other words, just feel it. Randy said that she has talent but “if you stop thinking, your voice is amazing.” He noted some pitchy moments.
10) For the last duet, Joshua and Jessica, whom Ryan introduced as “our two soul singers,” sang “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” by Aretha Franklin and George Michael. Jessica wore a stunning black and gold evening gown, and Joshua wore a champagne colored suit with a black button-down shirt. Their voices blended well together, and they danced a little bit at one stage. Joshua needs something like this to help him tone it down a little.
Randy name-dropped that he’d worked on that song. He thought this was “one of the greatest performances I’ve seen on this show.” He said, “They’ve definitely got to have it,” which he is desperately trying to make his new catch phrase. Steven said that performance was “so over the top it defies judging.”
11) Colton performed the Cyndi Lauper song “Time After Time,” turning it into an alt-rock song. In rehearsal, both Gwen and Jimmy loved it. For his performance, he wore a white T-shirt, red vest and a long black scarf (one of the best interpretations of the ’80s theme). This performance was actually one of his better ones, if only because it kind of made sense for him to be singing it this way. While his tone is a little nasally, he sounds like a lot of artists out there today.
Steven said he’s so good he could do a record right now. He thought the drummer was astounding. Jennifer thought he was in sync with the band. She liked that the song took her on a journey. Randy said he’d taken the song and made it his own. He liked the breakdown with the drums.
Afterward, Colton admitted to borrowing the arrangement from the band Quiet Drive.
12) Skylar did “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler, wearing a hot pink evening gown with bedazzled belt and huge earrings. The arrangement of the song was very country ballad, and she hit some big notes. I think she wanted to prove that she had more to her. She was wise to do so, in case her country spunk isn’t enough to endear her to fans.
The judges gave her a standing ovation. Ryan couldn’t say anything but wow. He loved her look and thought it was her best performance on the show. Jennifer said that what she’d just said to America with that performance was “do not count me out.”
Kudos to Jessica for both her solo and duet, and to Elise, Phillip and Joshua for their duets, and a nod to Skylar.
I think that Jimmy’s prediction will come true and that DeAndre will be in the bottom three, along with Hollie and possibly Elise. Any one of them could be going home, to be honest. Since we lost a guy last week, I’m guessing it will be Hollie’s turn to sing for her life.