COMMENTARY | It was a somber tone against the black stage Wednesday night this week, as host Ryan Seacrest stood to deliver an announcement that “with the involvement of law enforcement,” one contender’s quest for “American Idol” glory was over. In true “Idol” style, however, the revelation would not come early, leaving all viewers clutching their seats and their hearts. Jennifer Lopez set a brighter tone, looking like Sunkist was her newest sponsor, in glowing orange. As the guys and gals were challenged to sing songs from the year of their birth, under the tutelage of Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am again, the mood lifted, and the evening ended in singers seizing their moment!
Philip Phillips was battling kidney stones requiring surgery, but sang as though he hadn’t a care in the world on the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” to head out the night. His spirit and style wooed the panel for all they were worth, and Randy Jackson said the song would make a good single for Phillips to go for first in his new career! Jessica Sanchez’s parents told that she used to cry herself into a faint as a toddler, and perhaps that’s how those powerful lungs developed, but her selection of “Turn the Beat Around” didn’t sit well with the judges. Steven Tyler even called the performance “shady,” and Jennifer Lopez instructed Sanchez to “sing it straight sometimes,” so here’s betting she’s back to ballads next time, but it really wasn’t a bad job.
Heejun Han is likely on the bubble, too, this week. His choice of Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” was a little too tame and weak, and judges felt he was fighting the song more than singing his heart. His look was a little different, too, his hair gelled to more of a Bieber style, and decked in a short suit jacket. Maybe he had his mind still on Fergie from his rehearsal! Elise Testone laid it out on “Let’s Stay Together,” and her sexy, soulful blues captivated the stage and she should be staying a while herself. Steven Tyler praised that he and “my Aunt Sonja love your voice,” as Randy Jackson proclaimed, “Elise is back.” DeAndre Brackensick was persuaded to shift from “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to “Endless Love,” by Jimmy and will, and got a scold for not sticking to his guns. With all the tween voting power out there, though, and how he and his locks lock straight into the camera, he’s likely safe. Shannon McGrane made a bold choice to go for Mariah Carey hallowed ground on “One Sweet Day,” quite a big jump from her childhood favorite of “Little Thumbelina,” but the panel praised her as “fearless” and Jennifer Lopez still called her version “beautiful.” No one can say this girl doesn’t give it her all.
Colton Dixon said he would wait till next week to take on a known song. For this week, he chose “Broken Heart” by White Lion, and sold it all the way onstage! Hot off his inspiration from dinner with his Idol, Chris Daughtry, Colton left the song a rocker, and the judges loved it, even without recall of the song. Randy Jackson claimed “the song didn’t matter” because Dixon was so good. Erika Van Pelt went for the near legendary rock ballad, “Heaven,” looking better than ever in black leather, and doing Bryan Adams proud, but messing a bit too much with the melody for Steven Tyler and Ms. Lopez. Randy called her performance “an 8 out of 10,” so not too bad for this stage of the game. She’s a nice girl with a ghost of Janice Joplin somewhere inside.
The news everyone was holding for arrived with a clip of Jermaine Jones, the season’s “Gentle Giant,” meeting with Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe, who reveal that the singer has for warrants outstanding for use of fake names and even assault, which he made no attempt to detail upfront. The spotlight probes deep, and the baritone was given his second chance on “Idol” already, so hopefully, like his song, “Somewhere Out There,” this week, he’ll come to know the value of coming clean, and find his better future.
Skylar Laine is never sneaky with her talent, and she rocked her way through Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Sneaking Up on You” with her usual vivacious country twang, leaving the judges to sing her performance praises again, saying she “sang it right,” and stressing again that the singer matters more than the song. She’s a favorite for a long time to come.
Joshua Ledet said he was doing a take on Michael Bolton’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” but everything about the passion and purity of his performance called up the era of the original Percy Sledge version, despite Ledet likely never seeing that one. Stripping his white jacket and white-hot with soul, Ledet brought everyone in his presence to their feet, and never heard of praise from the panel. Randy Jackson said Joshua’s performance was “the moment” of the night, and Jennifer Lopez went much further, lavishing that it was the best performance ever seen on “Idol.” Ledet was not only the name of the night, he provided an impromptu crawfish eating lesson, courtesy of Mr. Jackson!
Hollie Cavanagh had the daunting task to be the tail end of the night, but this little girl has the chops to go big, and she did, with Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love,” even summoning up the look and camera sweeps that could be the diva’s. Playfully teasing that she had “amps in her pockets,” will.i.am was convinced she would seal her spot at the top, and Steven Tyler affirmed, saying her voice was from “heaven above.”
Tune in Thursday to see which talent’s prayers are answered by the vote! “American Idol” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
Source: “American Idol” telecast, March 14, 2012 FOX TV.