Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


American Idol recap: Top eight rock the '80s

David Cook mentors the top eight for ’80s night; Harry slowly starts losing it.

Posted on

American Idol Jena Irena

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

Before this week’s recap, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself to all of you as the new Idol recapper. I’m Jake, a staffer at EW, and I’ve been covering Idol all season long. (Check out some of my exit interviews with the contestants, my chat with the judges, and the sneak peek I got at the new set earlier this season.) I have a musical background and have been a fan of the show since season 1 and my girl Tamyra Gray. Like many of you, Annie Barrett’s recaps were one of the reasons I fell in love with EW.com, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with her for the past six months and absorb as much of her wacky brilliance as possible. (If you haven’t read her goodbye yet, check it out here.) So I hope you’ll come along with me for the rest of the season and we can all enjoy the pros and cons of J.Lo’s extreme close-ups together!

With the save no longer in play, the top eight had to rock it out to their favorite ’80s hits. Here’s the thing: None of the finalists were actually alive during the decade, so they brought in a real expert, season 7 champ David Cook, to mentor the young contestants. Did I mention that Cook won the show in season 7, because in case you missed it the million and one times it was mentioned on air, he did win! I have to say, I was really digging David’s look with his glasses and hair. Maybe it’s because I personally sport a similar coif and spectacles, but I thought he looked good and gave  good advice and perspective to the finalists, especially because, you know, he won in season 7, so he knows what it’s like.

I also loved Billy Ray Keith Urban’s hair extensions at the opening of the show. Ryan seemed to be a little too interested in playing with them, but somehow, that wasn’t even the most questionable thing he did with a fashion accessory tonight. More on that later.

Jena Irene, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: I love rock ‘n roll and I love Jena, but I just don’t know if I loved this performance. The arrangement was a nice effort but kind of worked against her in the end. The judges thought the song might have been a little low for her voice, especially in the beginning. It sounded like she may have even flub a lyric at some point, because the arrangement made me a nervous listener. No matter what, though, girl can finish a song! Once it picked up a little more and got to a more familiar tone and attitude of the original, Jena was able to shine, but it just took her a little longer than she usually does.

J.Lo liked the performance for the most part, though she thought it languished in the middle, even though she was interrupted herself in the middle of her critique by an adoring fan. She returned the love, ’cause she doesn’t like to ignore people (AWWW), but Harry felt left out and wanted her to proclaim her love for him too. At this point in the show, it seemed like Harry started to lose it a little. Maybe the weeks of live shows are catching up to him, but the crooner suddenly became Harry Cuckoo Jr.

Dexter Roberts, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by Georgia Satellites: OK, Dexter, you finally got me. Dexter clearly had a lot of experience performing this song, and it definitely showed. There was a comfort to his performance that I hadn’t seen in the past. I’m glad David Cook called him out on enunciating his words more, because that Southern drawl can definitely get in the way of some melodies if you aren’t careful. Dexter started the song on Stage B, behind where the judges sit, and worked his way onto the main stage with a Keith lookalike on guitar — playing maybe a little too close. Like, give the boy some space. Dexter only referred to him as “the guitar player,” so either he doesn’t have a name, or Dexter is quick-thinking when it comes to revenge.  The judges were pretty unanimous in their praise, though Keith wanted something a little more unexpected. So naturally Harry decided to try to scare Keith and do something unexpected! Okay, Harry Clever Jr., calm down now and sit back in your chair before you — and now he’s doing high kicks.

NEXT: Let’s play “Accessories of ’80s Pop Stars!”