Wednesday, April 4, 2012

'American Idol 11' - Top 8 sing songs from the 1980s

Tonight, our remaining eight 'Idol' finalists will take on music from the 80s. Ah, the 80s - big hair, big shoulders, and some of the most wretched music of all times. Goody!

The show starts with the sad departure of Heejun Han, who was decidedly not saved by the judges. J'Lo tells him she wanted to save him. Oh well. Jessica tells us they're down to the "best of the best." We see the Idols rehearsing, posing, and generally solemnly reflecting on their fate.

Voiceover man welcomes the judges. This week, J'Lo is wearing what looks like a tinsel skirt. Ryan descends the Adam Lambert Memorial Staircase and we are off.

Ryan tells us the Top 8 is doing music that will brings us back to our high school proms. Not me! We see a shot of a fly 1980s version of  Randy Jackson. The Top 8 hit the stage. The audience stands up. Tonight they'll be singing individually and pairing up for guy/girl duets. Convenient when they have an even number. First time that's happened in a while!

Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal from No Doubt are the mentors. The kids will tell us what they miss most about being away from home.

DeAndre Brackensick - "I Like It" by DeBarge

DeAndre misses his car. He just got his license before he went on the show. DeAndre starts out singing in the audience. The girlies like it. Lots of falsetto and he gets a chance to move around. Very true to the original. Unfortunately, he's first, which doesn't help at all. DeAndre is actually a good vocalist, a few pitchy moments, but he has a chance to work his range, and it's a solid performance.

J'Lo laughs loudly into the microphone. "I like it a lot," she says. She thinks DeAndre was comfortable and felt it was all very natural. "You really made it your own... great job." Steven says it was totally captivating and he forgot where he was. Not really unusual, now, is it Steven?  "That was exceptional today." Randy says DeBarge is saying "This kid has arrived. It was perfect, I would make records like this. You could be a 2012 version of DeBarge."

Ryan asks DeAndre about going first. He says it's a double-edged sword, but he was comfortable.

Elise Testone - "I Want to Know What Love is" by Foreigner

Elise misses her band in Charleston, SC. We see them cheering her on. She wanted to sing "Halleluiah," but changed her mind. Gwen thinks this could be a "magic moment" for Elise. The vocals are not good. She's all over the place pitch-wise to start off. She gets a little smoother on the chorus, but the overall effect is a bit disconcerting. Some more "ouch" moments at the end. I do like her voice, but this song, not so much. I also hate her one-sleeved white blousey top. Looks like something Erika would wear. I think Elise could be in serious trouble this week.

Steven says he loves her style and voice, but doesn't think this song was right for her. J'Lo says Elise looks beautiful and loves the way her look is developing. She thinks it wasn't totally right every moment, but she felt her emotion and says it was a great performance on that level. Randy says this is a tough song to sing, and Elise never hit the pitch right. He says she was under the pitch the whole time. "It was out of pitch everywhere for me." Yup, you got that right, Randy.

Now for the first duet. Colton and Skylar are singing "Islands in the Stream." Colton's hair is totally blonde now. Colton sings scarily into the camera. Together, they sound pretty good, but separately, Skylar owns this. They've put more red in her hair, and she really looks like Reba. I just know they'll force them to do this 566 times on the tour.

Randy says, "Wow." He thinks they did a nice job and it was sweet. "I enjoyed that." J'Lo says it was perfect for Skylar who knows when to bite into the song. She thinks Colton was the perfect partner. "Match made in heaven," says Steven. Ryan thinks there might be chemistry between the two.

Phillip Phillips - “That’s All” by Genesis

Before he sings, we meet Phillip’s brother-in-law, Ben, who he says taught him a lot about music. His dream is to have his brother right up on the 'Idol' stage with him. PP’s rehearsal started very rough. Tony wants him to stop playing guitar on the bridge to make it sexier.

PP gets his wish and has his brother-in-law on stage playing guitar. PP pretty much does the same thing he does every week. The arrangement is a bit more lilting if that makes sense. PP attacks a song and wrestles it into submission! And he never seems to take it very seriously, which is why I like him! I think it’s interesting how PP transforms into someone totally different on stage. He's not your average WGWG!!! Good performance as usual.

Steven says PP is a wild flower and loves his individuality. J’Lo says he got a little lost in the beginning and wonders if he was distracted by his brother-in-law. Randy loves the brotherly love thing. He thinks it was a great song choice. He also appreciates Tony Kanal’s suggestion.

Ryan asks the brother-in-law how it feels to watch his brother on TV. He says he couldn’t be more proud and that PP is staying true to himself. The brothers hug.Everyone goes "Awwww."

Next up, are Hollie and DeAndre singing the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” Their voices don’t blend well at all. Hollie is done up in leather pants and a polka-dot blouse. This reminds me of why I have problems going to the Idols Live shows! The whole thing is el-cheeseo.

Steven says it was a beautiful duet and loves that Hollie let go. J’Lo says she wasn’t sure about the song before she heard it, but also loves that Hollie let go. She thinks they sounded great together. “Very, very, very nice from two young’uns.”

Hollie says it’s more fun to sing when you’re not being judge. But wait, they are being judged... by us!

Before the break, Ryan banters with the judges who are all agreed they need someone to come out and blow them off the stage. 

Joshua Ledet - “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Simply Red

Joshua says his emotions came out last week because he was missing his family. We see his entire family standing around in the kitchen. Jimmy and Gwen are a bit concerned by the arrangement so they suggest a break in it. They also warn him not to overdo it. But, of course, that’s what Joshua does.

Joshua gets the “Candles in the Wind” background. He’s taken this song and infused more soul into it. It wakes it up! And, once he takes this to church, he tears it up. Joshua has a real old-school vibe and his voice has just enough gravel in it to make it interesting. I've so missed having a really good black male singer on this show. Thank you Joshua!  Loved it!

The judges stand again. J’Lo says, “Lawdy, lawdy, we asked for a powerhouse performance and that’s what we got.” She loves that he held back in the beginning. “It was spectacular.” Steven says, “Over the top... how can someone sing like that at your age.” He says it wasn’t too much over the top, but it was way over the top. Randy says that it’s rare that he wants to stand up from beginning to end. He doesn’t care what the song it as long as they sing it. He says, “We’ve found someone tonight who’s gotta have it.”

Ryan asks how emotionally draining is this process from week to week. Joshua says it’s tough to adapt these songs to make them their own, and he has a problem because he’s only 19-years-old and doesn’t have these love problems!

Jessica Sanchez - “How Will I know” by Whitney Houston

Jessica says before all this, she considered herself a normal teenager who loved to shop and sing in her room in front of boxes. Gwen says Jessica is shockingly good. She does think Jessica should try to move in ways different from a lounge singer! We’re gonna see “BeBe Chez!”

I really don’t like this song for her, but I suppose she’s sort of balladed out. Once she gets into the chorus, her vocals get stronger and we hear her. I am still hearing Jennifer Hudson in her too. She still doesn’t have the moves down, but that's okay. It’s the song that sucks, not Jessica! No worries, though. I would say this girl is in it til the end.

The judges don’t stand! J’Lo says that’s two powerhouse vocals in a row. She says Jessica is such a little girl, but is a woman at the same time. She says she listens to her and can’t believe it’s coming out of her little body! Steven says everything she does is beautiful and great. Randy says he had the pleasure of working on this song. He says Jessica had big shoes to fill. He can’t believe the maturity in her. “She has to have it too.”

Ryan points out the nuances in her performances and is amazed she’s OMG only 16.

Phillip and Elise sing “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” PP looks odd without his guitar. He does this strange lurching movement around the stage. Elise sounds so much better on this one than she did her solo. I like the way she enunciates when she sings. Their singing, well, it sounds a bit canned to me. Not sure what’s wrong with it, but something’s off. Maybe it’s PP’s posture!

Randy says, “Yo” a lot and calls it “hot.” “That was great, both of you.” J’Lo says she wanted to be them! Steven says it was a Tom Petty moment wrapped up with Elise and Phillip. “It was beautiful, it was nice, as good as it gets.” Ryan says he loves the way PP creeps around the stage.

Hollie Cavanaugh - “What a Feeling”

This is the longest Hollie’s been away from home. Her little puppy is now huge. She was very surprised that Gwen is the mentor. Jimmy says he passed on the soundtrack! Jimmy says Hollie gets a little technical at times and needs to add more feeling into it!

Ooops, they’re not ready for her to sing and are still setting up the stage after the video clip. Now that would throw a girl off. She’s got the disco lighting and a fringed dress. She starts out okay, but once the song kicks in, she completely loses her pitch. Not a good song choice at all. Very, very karaoke. She knows it too.Hollie is a one-trick singer and when she strays from her comfort zone, she isn't there at all.

Steven says her songs are always great at the end, but takes time to get there. “Your pitch was all over the place.” J’Lo says Hollie is listening to what everyone is saying. She says you have to forget everything they say and just “free fall.” She says you’ve got to stop thinking and feel it from her heart and soul. Randy says they are both correct. Basically, honey, you’re thinking too much. Hollie says she agrees and is still learning.

Joshua and Jessica sing “I Knew You Were Waiting.” Seriously? It feels like the finale - Top 2 singing their mandatory duet. So polished. So professional. Perfection. Best thing I’ve seen on this show all season. Or maybe in two seasons. Fabulous. I love them both. Period.

Randy says two of the greatest singers in the competition. “This is one of the greatest performances I’ve seen on this show. You guys are ready.” J’Lo says this is a dream pairing and says she is thinking final!!! “You guys slayed that.” Steven says that performance was so over the top, it defies judging. I haven’t bought a single song this season, but I’m getting this one.

Colton Dixon - “Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper

Back home in Tennessee, Colton works as a face painter? Gwen says she thought it was strange he was doing this at first, but then sort of got it. She sings backup for him and he wants her to sing with him on stage. Tee hee hee.

Colton puts his usual angst into this. I really don’t care much for Colton and this song doesn’t change my mind any. His voice is somewhat toneless and the emoting feels forced. He works too hard at it. Sorry, not a fan.

Steven says Colton just proved what he can do with a song. “You’re ready to do.” J’Lo says Colton was in synch with the band and felt so many different things during it. She says it was like a climax... okay. Randy says he and PP and Joshua all made the songs their own. “You’re so current.” I guess I’m not current.

Ryan jokes about Colton’s new blonde hair. Colton acknowledges that he pretty much stole the arrangement from Quiet Drive. Good for you not taking credit like others have in the past.

Skylar Laine - “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler

Skylar misses her deer meet sausage, guns, and three-wheeler. Skylar says she was shaken by being in the bottom three last week. She’s debating “9 to 5,” but decides to slow it down.

I think she would have killed “9 to 5.” This song is too slow for her style. But, she does finish very strong and shows some power in her vocals we haven’t seen before.

The judges stand. J’Lo is pointing out that she has tears in her eyes. Randy says, “Wow, Skylar, Wow.” He says it started slow, but in the end, he loves her big voice. J’Lo says we might not know how well she can sing and is saying, “Don’t count me out.” Steven says that was the best song she could have picked for her voice and to end the night.

Skylar says she doesn’t want to be in the bottom three, so she put on a purty dress and showed ‘em something we haven’t seen before.

Best and worst

Hmmm. Joshua was my favorite tonight, followed by DeAndre (yes, DeAndre). I’d put Phillip third, Jessica fourth and Skylar fifth. My bottom three, then, would be Hollie, Elise, and Colton. Now, Colton isn’t going anywhere, which leaves Elise and Hollie. Of the two, Hollie had the weakest performance tonight, but Elise really hasn’t lit the audience on fire, so I’ll go with her.

We’ve got so much time to kill tonight. J’Lo says we should be voting for the “full package” (heh).

Kellie Pickler and The Wanted tomorrow night.

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