The “American Idol” top eight traveled back to the ’80s on Wednesday (April 4), and were helped along the way by guest mentors Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal. Each contestant took the stage twice — once for a solo and once for a duet with a fellow contestant.
The trip back in time paid off big for Skylar Laine, who made a huge surge forward in the competition. Laine said that after winding up in the bottom three last week, she was hesitant to return with another upbeat song, so she bagged doing Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” in favor of Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.” The gamble paid off: Laine received a standing ovation from the judges, and cameras caught Lopez mouthing, “That was so beautiful!” as the song was ending. “You know what you just said to America with that performance? Do not count me out,” Lopez told her. “You just told ’em you could sing with the best of everybody who’s here, and you can. Amazing!” Jackson called it Laine’s “best performance on the show to date” and Tyler called it “the beginning of a great career.”
Laine received one of three standing ovations Wednesday; the other two belonged to Joshua Ledet. He earned the evening’s first standing O with his version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and later earned the second for his duet of George Michael and Aretha Franklin’s “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” with Jessica Sanchez. His take on Simply Red’s 1989 hit — a cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ 1972 original — had Lopez gushing, “Lord, lord, lordy lordy lordy, it was spectacular!” while Jackson raved, “I wanted to stand up from beginning to end!” Tyler’s judgment was positive but wrapped in mystery; “It wasn’t too much over-the-top, and it was way over-the-top, so it was just perfect,” he said. (Say what?)
On her own, Sanchez — or was it her alter ego, “BB Chez”? — revisited the songbook of Whitney Houston, which originally brought her frontrunner status back when she knocked “I Will Always Love You” out of the park. This time she took on Houston’s 1985 #1 smash “How Will I Know,” earning another set of raves from the judges in the process. “Your vocals just make everything go away for me,” Lopez told her, while Tyler said, “Everything you do is beautiful, everything you do is great.” Jackson dubbed her one of the evening’s “gotta have it” performers, the term he was using for the evening for performers with the most gusto.
DeAndre Brackensick got positive remarks for his version of DeBarge’s “I Like It,” which he started out singing in the crowd before making his way up to the stage. The judges called it “natural” (Lopez) and “captivating” (Tyler), with Jackson calling it “amazing” and comparing Brackensick to a 2012 version of DeBarge. “It was one of my best performances from you,” he told him.
Phillip Phillips was called “great” by all three judges for his version of Genesis’ “That’s All,” which he performed alongside his brother on guitar. “You’re just a wildflower, aren’t you?” Tyler told him. “You just love being who you are, and that transcends.” (Coherence, you see, isn’t exactly Tyler’s strong suit these days.)
Colton Dixon’s version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” was lifted mostly from Quietdrive’s cover of the song, which Dixon copped to at the end of the performance. It didn’t matter: He scored with the judges. “You could do a record right now,” Tyler told him, while Jackson told him he made it his own and celebrated him for being “current.” The song’s drummer also earned a fair amount of praise for his performance on the song.
Elise Testone, who had scored big in recent weeks after a decidedly rocky start, suffered a setback with her lackluster version of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” which never quite found its footing. While Lopez gave it a qualified “really great,” Tyler said it wasn’t the right song for her and Jackson said she was pitchy throughout and “out of tune everywhere for me.”
But the evening’s most poorly received performance came from Hollie Cavanagh. Not only did the 18-year-old Texan get slammed by the judges for her version of the “Flashdance” theme “What a Feeling,” but something strange happened while she was being critiqued: The “Idol” audience, which usually boos at the first hint of criticism, was dead silent throughout the process. It was the most quiet an “Idol” crowd has been all season, and it was almost disconcerting to watch. “Your pitch was all over the place, I’m sorry to tell you,” Tyler told her, silence filling the studio, while both Jackson and Lopez told her she needs to stop listening to her advisers and feel the songs. But of any feelings gathered on the show, it feels like the fate of Cavanagh — who landed in the bottom two last week — could be sealed.
What did you think of “Idol” on Wednesday? Let us know in the comments!
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