'American Idol' Top 12 Take Stage, Except Jermaine Jones

'Idol' suits send home 'gentle giant' Jones for covering up four outstanding warrants.

One contestant rose, another fell, and one was outright eliminated from the competition on Wednesday's (March 14) "American Idol."

Joshua Ledet stole the show, turning in a show-stopping performance of "When a Man Loves a Woman" that Jennifer Lopez called "the best thing I have ever seen on 'American Idol.'" Ledet, who whipped off his jacket during the performance, earned a standing ovation from the judges halfway through the song. "You gave it up so big, God came through your eyes," said Steven Tyler, in a rare soundbite that did not contain the word "beautiful," while Randy Jackson called it "incredible on every level."

Elsewhere, Jessica Sanchez, considered the competition's frontrunner after her startling version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" on last week's show, took a bit of a tumble with her version of Gloria Estefan's "Turn the Beat Around." (The week's theme was songs from the contestants' birth year.) Sanchez — dubbed a "swaggernaut" by guest mentor will.i.am — was criticized for straying too far from her safehouse of powerful ballads, and Tyler said her rhythm was "a little shady." (He did enjoy her sparkly pants, though.) Lopez weighed in with a half-enthusiastic "good job," calling it "not my favorite," while Jackson said her song choice didn't allow her to show her voice or make the song her own.

Meanwhile, as reported earlier, Jermaine Jones was dismissed from the show for not disclosing four outstanding warrants to producers. As promised, viewers were shown the confrontation between Jones and the "Idol" suits, who dropped the hammer on Jones while cameras were rolling and sent the so-called "gentle giant" packing.

"I just was scared and nervous, I didn't want to get judged, I didn't want to get penalized for anything that happened in the past," Jones attempted to explain. "I'm hoping I can just pay it and get it taken care of." But the producers wouldn't allow him to continue, telling him sternly, "We have to let you go." As Jones was shown leaving the building, footage from his rehearsal of "Somewhere Out There" was shown. Timestamps on the tapes showed he was rehearsing for his performance just an hour before he was let go.

Jones' dismissal hangs a cloud of mystery over this week's elimination; as Ryan Seacrest explained during the show, the singer with the lowest number of votes is "at risk" of going home on Thursday's episode. That seems like an odd qualifier to throw in there unless the judges plan on either not eliminating anyone this week or introducing some sort of "save" element into the competition.

Hollie Cavanagh was the evening's other highlight, as the pint-sized singer closed out the show with a version of Celine Dion's "The Power of Love." "You blew it out the box!" said Jackson, while Lopez and Tyler both agreed it was "beautiful."

Phillip Phillips opened the show with his least Phillip Phillips-y performance to date, giving a relaxed, decaffeinated take on the Black Crowes' "Hard to Handle." Phillips underwent surgery on his kidneys just last week, and the fact that he was able to perform at all was something of a minor miracle. But he eased off his more Dave Matthewsian instincts and let the song drive him. The judges were all in his corner, with Randy telling him he sounded very bluesy and very cool.

The rest of the contestants ended up in sleepy ballad territory, with one after another rolling out what seemed like an endless dirge of mediocre love songs. Elise Testone ("Let's Stay Together"), Deandre Brackensick ("Endless Love"), Shannon MaGrane ("One Sweet Day"), Colton Dixon (White Lion's "Broken Heart"), Erika Van Pelt (Bryan Adams' "Heaven") and Heejun Han (Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting") all kind of faded in and out of each other, with the judges offering middling praise for each. Most curious was Dixon's choice of White Lion; when given 1991 — the year of Nirvana's Nevermind, Metallica's Black Album, U2's Achtung Baby, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Pearl Jam's Ten and Michael Jackson's Dangerous, just to name a few, why in the name of Randy Jackson's sweater vests would you choose White friggin' Lion? But Heejun received the harshest criticism when Jackson told him he sounded out of breath and "pitchy" — yay, "pitchy" is back! — during his performance, and said the song was all wrong for him. "I didn't really enjoy this at all," Jackson told him.

At least Skylar Laine broke the mold, busting out a spunky take on Bonnie Raitt's "Love Sneakin' Up on You" that showed off her fiery side. "You killed that," Lopez told her, simple and succinct, and the other judges agreed.

What did you think about Wednesday's performances? Let us know in the comments!

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.