COMMENTARY | Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler have been reminding their talents on “American Idol” for weeks now that they need to give every song everything they’ve got at this stage of the game, and it was clear that the mentors made their point Wednesday, and maybe got a big boost in inspiration from ageless song mistress, Stevie Nicks, as the nine remaining talents never sang better, or more from the heart. They chose songs of artists they idolized, and no one could stay in their seats!
After an obligatory style consult from Tommy Hilfiger; hint-he likes jackets, the nine singers left never wasted a second, getting down to their songs, and getting a lot of great mentoring from Stevie Nicks, who not only loved the young talents, but clearly still had a soft spot for Jimmy Iovine. Colton Dixon led off with the Lifehouse song, “Everything.” He described how music found him in church, and how the song became his favorite worship song. Stevie Nicks felt the song in more carnal terms, but felt Colton’s complete passion, saying the song “went right to the heart of a woman,” and Colton’s rendition was utterly inspired, moving him, his grandfather, and the panel beyond words. Steven Tyler said Colton was “a dream come true” as a performer, as Jennifer Lopez described the moment as “so emotional.” Randy Jackson said he admired most that Dixon didn’t “hide” and remained authentic in every song. Skylar Laine set out to fill big boots again, channeling Miranda Lambert in “Gunpowder and Lead.” She had a big “two-second” moment singing with Nicks, and still displayed that fire “that you can’t keep in the can,” as Jennifer Lopez put it, blazing in her black studded glory, but Skylar may need to show more heart and less fire in her next song to show she can do it all.
Colton Dixon teamed up with Elise Testone and Philip Phillips for the first trio performance of the night, in honor of their star mentor this week, doing a mix of “Landslide” and “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow” that did Nicks proud. Heejun Han turned his frown upside down, and the judges, too, going to his bread-and-buttery tones in “A Song for You,” done by Donny Hathaway, but I recall the original from the long silver haired Leon Russell. Standing ovations followed the affirmation that Heejun was back in competition, as Jennifer Lopez praised his ever pleasing vibrato. After some star audience introductions, including Jason Derulo, announcing the Coke songwriting contest for this season,Idol title alum, Jordin Sparks, and Dionne Warwick, Hollie Cavanagh took the stage in angelic vision, singing her tribute, Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Jennifer Lopez extolled Hollie’s emotion and courage as one of her best, but Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler found their ever present pitch issues, but Tyler said he refused “to get between Jesus and Carrie.” Hollie had the voice to make Stevie Nicks cry, and she’ll likely carry her votes to stay for a few more weeks. Stevie had more in common with DeAndre Brackensick’s hair than his song choice of Eric Benet’s “Sometimes I Cry,” but her inspiration still stuck, as finally, the looker sang to his audience rather than the camera, and made them feel. Steven Tyler said he took a page from Prince, and Randy Jackson declared he had defined himself as an artist, Jennifer Lopez just begged everyone to “vote for DeAndre” just for her! Jessica Sanchez bestowed brilliance to her performance again, slowing down Beyoncé in “Sweet Dreams” to perfection, and staging her song with stunning red doors, she showed she was born for the stage, to raves again. Heejun Han, Joshua Ledet, and DeAndre Brackensick did the second trio performance, in honor of Michael Jackson, and they may not have the King of Pop’s death sparkle, but they hit the singing mark with bouncing energy.
Philip Phillips gave his best, most definitive, performance yet with Jonny Lang’s “Still Raining.” It was refreshing to hear Phillips plugged in and wailing blues, and the audience was swept away with him. Jennifer Lopez told Philip “everything goes away” when he hits his sweet spot, and he hit the sweetest one ever with his gravel-voiced vibe this week. He’s still got the “idol” stage. Joshua Ledet did Mariah Carey’s version of “Without You,” and this reviewer has the Harry Nilsson version, but Ledet made a new version, hitting more than perfect pitch, but poignant passion through the bridge, and rousing the crowd to the heavens again. Randy Jackson called the performance “flawless,” and Jennifer Lopez exclaimed Ledet was “an angel from heaven.” Ledet felt inspired in knowing his songs “could help someone else,” he told Ryan Seacrest. He’ll be around to help for a while! Hollie Cavanagh, Jessica Sanchez, and Skylar did the final trio performance as a Madonna medley, striking poses in her classic black and white.
Elise Testone showed some powerful female testosterone, treading on ground few have dared to go with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” and that’s just what she got, with the night’s final ovation. She shook Stevie to the core in her rehearsal, and got her dream come true singing “Dreams” with Nicks, but never has a lady rocked harder or more passionately on that “Idol” oval center stage. The power of her voice alone “way down” at the song’s close brought shivers. Steven Tyler said she made Robert Plant proud, she got almost profane praise from Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson’s highest compliment, being called “Dude,” for the flavor she brought to the classic. Elise dared the judges not to sit, and she won, and won the night.
Nobody brought any weak stuff this week, but somebody’s got to go home. See who stays after the vote count Thursday. “American Idol” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.