It was difficult to decide what was the most shocking part of Wednesday night’s “American Idol” : Erika Van Pelt’s new “Little Nicky” hairdo? The fact that Elise Testone may have finally found her way out of the bottom three? Or that, with the full Billy Joel catalog at their disposal, none of the contestants decided to take on “The Stranger” or “I Go to Extremes“?
Nah, we’re gonna say it was whatever Heejun Han was attempting to do with his mid-set strip show (just in case you haven’t watched yet, boy was this a special episode of “Idol”). Anyway, while we’re still scrubbing H.H. from our collective consciousness, we took a minute to hand out some grades for a truly Joel-a-riffic night. Who rode high on the River of Dreams? Who drove their car into a house in the Hamptons? Read on to find out!
Jessica Sanchez: She’s the one to beat, and now she seems to know it, as evidenced by her thorough throttling of “Everybody Has a Dream.” It was perhaps a bit too literal (like, we get it, this is your dream), but dang, when she lets it rip, there’s really no one else who even comes close. Standing ovation, massive praise from the judges, the overwhelming desire to just give her the crown right now … with Sanchez, it’s the same every week, just like our grade for her performance. A
Elise Testone: It only took her three weeks, but Testone finally found her groove, positively killing “Vienna” (wait, that sounds weird). Her full repertoire was on display, and she even worked in some of those goofy hand gestures that all the great divas make when they know they’re on point. And she was. She earned a richly deserved standing ovation for her efforts, and if she’s in the bottom three again this week, America is officially the worst. A
Erika Van Pelt: Her newly darkened hair only added to her attitude, and there was plenty of it on display during her version of “New York State of Mind.” Sultry and soulful, if perhaps a touch too lounge singer for our liking, but still, she was miles above pretty much everyone else on this night … and for once, people are actually talking about her. Even if it is because of her hair. Small victories, folks. B+
Skylar Laine: She’s got a great voice, and the fact that she’s still standing in the competition is proof that she’s a survivor, but still … it would be nice to see her step outside her country comfort zone for once. Shoot, she did Garth Brooks’ version of “Shameless.” Kinda screechy in parts, but a solid ending probably ensures she’s safe for another week. The judges didn’t do her any favors, though. B-
Hollie Cavanagh: Another week, another big ballad from the pint-size powerhouse. This time it was “Honesty,” and yes, as Steven pointed out, it was plenty pitchy. Randy also got in on the act, giving her the dreaded “come on now.” Yowch. Perhaps the cracks are starting to show. Also, it would be nice to see her change things up a bit, provided she’s still here next week, of course. C+
Joshua Ledet: His roller-coaster ride through “Idol” (The highs! The lows! The Mantasia!) bottomed out this week, as he struggled to connect with “She’s Got a Way.” Still, he battled through, hit some nice notes (and some not-so-nice ones, too), but we have a creeping suspicion the Josh-a-coaster might be entering its final turn, which is a shame, considering all he’s capable of. Like the suddenly sage-like Randy said, “Never ever feel defeated!” C
Deandre Brackensick: He kicked off the show with an even — if forgettable — version of “Only the Good Die Young,” and after three weeks of live performances, “even” and “forgettable” are about par for the course for him. Earned polite praise from the judges, a few screams from the crowd, wore a cool vest thingy, but perhaps this is the week the somewhat-good really do die young. C-
Colton Dixon: Oh, no way, he did “Piano Man“! Shocking. Also, lyrical content aside, isn’t this song supposed to be fun? Not in Colton’s world, apparently. Gave J.Lo goosies, probably because she was sitting on an air conditioner or something. The girls in the audience liked it, too, so once again he’ll be safe, but c’mon man, lighten up a bit. And change your hair. It’s not 2003 and Warped Tour doesn’t kick off for a few more months. C-
Phillip Phillips: Totally “Phillip Phillps’d” (thanks Steven!) “Movin’ Out,” which basically means he slowed the thing down to a dirge and growled a bunch. Congrats, dude, you proved it’s possible to suck the life out of even the most jovial of tunes! Randy, who was apparently watching a different show or something, called it “one of the best renditions of the song ever.” Go buy a house out in Hackensack, dawg. D
Heejun Han: He mystified both Diddy and Tommy Hilfiger, which hasn’t happened since Nelly decided to get into the clothing game, then went out and mystified everyone watching “Idol” with his goofy version of “My Life.” Apparently it was supposed to be funny or something. Gee, it’s a good thing the judges decided to keep him and not, you know, someone who actually wanted to win this thing. Note to Heejun: You’re not as clever as you think. F-
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