Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


American Idol recap: '80s Night and the Feeling's Right

The Top 8 perform solos and duets; Randy switches his catchphrase from “in it to win it” to “gotta have it”

Posted on


American Idol

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

Randy Jackson really elevated his game last night by changing his verbal framing of an American Idol contestant’s potential and desire to remain in the competition from “[Tiny Teen] is in it to win it!” to “[Tiny Teen]’s gotta have it!” According to Randy, the singers who had to have it this week were Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez, and Skylar Laine.

I’d also include Steven Tyler, who rolled into ’80s Night wearing a decidedly ’70s patchwork blouse with big flowers and white bell-bottom pants. Did he really need those red vertical stripes running down the pants to elongate even further his spaghetti legs?! He did. (As Steven himself put it, he “wasn’t all there” in the 1980s.)

So in the spirit of stepping it up and altering your entire worldview like Randy and Steven just did, I’m going to discuss the Top 8 performances in order of how I ranked them from best to worst instead of the order in which they occurred.


Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet dueted on “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” by Aretha Franklin and George Michael, and for me (for you?) this was the performance in which Jessica became her most gritty and alive. Having the almost cartoonish Joshua to play off of really helped her become less self-aware than usual and get into a groove. She had a bit of oomph here, you know?

I think Joshua wanted to pull even more interaction out of Jessica toward the end, but overall the two screamers looked and sounded amazing together. This would be something I’d want a non-American Idol viewer to land on while randomly flipping channels. It was just (sorry) good looking out for both of them.

I’d obviously want these imaginary, no good very bad non-American Idol TV watchers to land on Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips, who took on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. Idol‘s still dreaming of Stevie! I love it. Elise was fantastic here and I kept getting excited when they switched up the staging and I realized she had another solo verse to do.

Phillip looked uncomfortable at the beginning without his guitar and had to “creep around the stage feeling that jacket” according to a jealous Ryan. But as their voices began to blend superbly, P. Phil started to have fun. It seems like they like each other. Idol friends! No, not like that, Ryan. As musicians.

NEXT: ‘Joshua’s gotta have it, America!’