American Idol recap: Stevie, Take the Wheel
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell? It’s only Stevie Nicks who wants to wrap around your dreams and… convert them into what ended up being one of the best Idol episodes ever! What a coup to have this rock and roll legend and one of my favorite singers of all time as a guest mentor. She was able to pinpoint exactly what the Top 9 contestants needed to hear, and a wide-open “the idols sing songs from their idols” theme was exactly what season 11 needed this week. Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone…
Stevie brought her patented brand of gypsy magic to the show.
I’m also obsessed with this. (Coke!) But my long and twisted tumble down a google image search rabbit hole is not important right now. Let’s get to this week’s performances.
Stevie assured Colton Dixon that Tommy Hilfiger is not the boss of him when it comes to his hair, so I guess we’re stuck with the skunk for now. Colton chose his “favorite worship song of all time,” Lifehouse’s “Everything.” The judges raved wildly about his emotional composure and believability. I could tell the guy was passionate about this song, but I wasn’t feeling it. Then again my favorite worship song is probably “Party and Bulls—,” so I’m probably not the type of Idol viewer our friend of God is desperate to reach. I’ve decided I like Colton Dixon a lot more when he’s on the piano.
Throughout the night Randy would not shut up about Colton having “thrown the gauntlet,” probably because evil gargoyle Nigel Lythgoe kept furiously whispering Colton’s name into Randy’s earpiece.
“GRANDPA HAS TEARS,” Ryan announced. Very cute grandpa. My favorite worship grandpa of all time.
NEXT: Heejun Han redeems himself, like buttah According to Jimmy Iovine, Skylar Laine took a big risk with Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” because it has such a narrow melody. But the country powerhouse had no problem interpreting Miranda’s defiant lyrics as she showed the judges what little girls are made of: chiefly, leather and sparkles. I was wondering if Steven Tyler would respond to the word “ragdoll” in the song, but they never showed him. We really missed out. I liked Stevie’s reminder to Skylar to remember she was telling a story, but I’m not sure Skylar even needed it. She’s an exciting performer. I much prefer when she gets to show off her range — like at the very end of this song — but she’s fun to watch stomp around either way. I love fireworks!
After the judges’ comments (Randy compared her to Carrie Underwood), Skylar sort of twitched in for a possible Ryan hug, but it was a no-go. Cute moment. I’m gonna need a closeup of a grandpa pretty soon.
In addition to their solos, the Top 9 also performed in trios! Colton, Elise, and Phillip truly delivered on their Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks medley. Shhhh, others. The adults are singing.
I think we can all agree, though, that the biggest star of the night so far was Random Hot Guitar Player.
The judges’ standing ovation for Heejun Han — just because he took the competition seriously this week? — was a bit much. Their solemn applause looked like something you’d see in slow-motion in an episode promo. Take a seat, guys. You know you J. Lo wants to. Stevie offered some great insight on Heejun’s subversive, joke-y exterior: “In his heart I think he doesn’t want to be hurt if he doesn’t win, so he’s gonna act like ‘I don’t care.'” She’s right, but it’s still annoying when Heejun does that. Last night’s performance of Donnie Hathaway’s “A Song For You,” though, was a straight shooter aimed right into J. Lo’s heart — or, rather, the deep V in her white jumpsuit.
I agree with Randy that Heejun’s voice has a “buttery, beautiful tone,” but I’m not always convinced by his diction. He does convey feeling well. Sometimes it seems like that’s all the judges are looking for. We’ve seen so many better renditions of “A Song For You” that the tidal wave of praise seemed forced. (Now I’m picturing Nigel Lythgoe licking his lips while gripping the controls of a creaky old indoor wavepool. Who knows where these thoughts come from, they just appear!)
NEXT: Don’t your beautiful nightmares contain five red doors? You could help Jordin Sparks’ sweetie Jason Derulo write a “new smash” for Coke. Wait, are there old ones?
Hollie Cavanagh got Carrie Underwood to tweet at her in support, which might make all the difference after Hollie’s not entirely convincing cover of “Jesus Take the Wheel.” The judges and Jimmy acted surprised that she was such a big Carrie fan, which was weird, because, like…even if she wasn’t (and of course she is, everyone is), why wouldn’t you lunge at the chance to sing a song by America’s best-selling Idol with the word “Jesus” in the title? Hollie’s a smart cookie, but this song was a little Thin Mint when it could have gone full-on ice cream sandwich.
I’m actually dying to hear something uptempo from Hollie after hearing her contributions to the Madonna medley. I definitely perked up when she sauntered onstage with that big voice on “Like a Prayer.” Who’s that zesty minx in the black and white bustier pushing my love over the borderline? It couldn’t possibly be the same sparkly wood nymph who favors dirge-like diva ballads.
DeAndre Brackensick is still so young. He’s 17! Can you imagine this kid re-joining Idol as an Old at 25? Sometimes I cry just imagining it. I can’t really get behind DeAndre’s all-falsetto choices — like this week’s “Sometimes I Cry” by Eric Benet — but I also can’t stop wondering how the kid would work all the facets of his voice to his advantage after having a few years to mature. I think he’d be a totally different presence onstage by then. He’s already got the look and the instrument; he just needs to grow up and…well, get sexy. It’s going to happen! Big time. It just can’t right now. I’ve never felt creepier.
And yet the judges gave baby boy another standing O. “PEOPLE, PICK UP YOUR PHONES AND VOTE FOR DEANDRE,” J. Lo screamed. “I need to hear that voice more! A few more weeks for me!” Funny that she only said a few weeks, basically acknowledging that there’s no way he could win.
Jessica Sanchez‘s slowed-down ballad version of “Sweet Dreams” is something Beyoncé’s done before, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful, just beautiful. When you start out walking through one of five haunted red doors and the camera is aimed at you through a harp, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
The judges acknowledged that the parameters of the song didn’t allow for Jessica to push her limits, but they loved that she “held back” and “left us wanting more.” Her technical precision is undeniable. And clearly she’s a “good student,” like Stevie said (I loved that she gently encouraged Jessica to opt out of the 1-2 pause at the end “if it’s not pleasing you”). Does she excite me? Not totally. It’ll happen. She’s not going anywhere.
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Much like Tess McGill, she has a head for business and a bod for sin(ging).
NEXT: We just need to turn back time so that Phillip Phillips can join Fleetwood Mac On the opposite end of the spectrum is Phillip Phillips, who is not necessarily a melodic genius but is truly captivating and a live wire when he performs. Phillip sang “Still Rainin'” by Jonny Lang, prompting the judges to give their third standing ovation of the night. Why you gotta make J. Lo stand up, P. Phil? She’s sick of it!
During their mentoring sesh, Stevie told the 21-year-old that if he’d been friends with her and Lindsey Buckingham in 1975, “Mick Fleetwood would have said ‘I want all three of you to join Fleetwood Mac.’ No doubt in my mind, because you’re that good.” She made sure to add later, “And last but not least, he’s gorgeous.”
My lifelong devotion to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac could be blinding me here, but I have to admit I started to see Phillip as a more viable artist with serious star power immediately after she said that. That’s how easy I am. That’s how much I trust her judgment. I mean, what do I know? Nothing. Stevie knows all.
No way are these two different people.
Joshua Ledet‘s cover of Mariah Carey’s version of “Without You” started off a little shaky, but I could have been disoriented by all the weird “unfinished trees” he had to navigate onstage. There were even some digital hack-job trees in the giant oval behind him. Pretty scary stuff. I had no idea this song required an eerie doomsday forest.
Perhaps the theme of the segment was “sap.” After Joshua took us to church again with a hearty helping of vocal acrobatics, he became extremely emotional and even wiped his nose in the middle of the last line of the song. Unheard of! Standing O from the judges! So at this point they had stood up for every guy, and J. Lo would soon be forced against her will to rise to her feet for Elise. That seems fair.
Anyway, I liked this from Joshua — it reminded me of last week’s “She’s Got a Way,” but in this case the song actually did warrant his histrionics and a big crescendo.
NEXT: Elise Testone’s gonna give you every inch of her love My favorite performance of the night BY FAR had to be Elise Testone‘s “Whole Lottta Love.” I just can’t believe she did this song. The balls on this woman!!!
She said she’d sung it before with her band, so that explains why she was so comfortable embracing her true grit onstage. She knew exactly what she was doing — dragging that mic stand around, wiggling her legs just so — and yet it still felt organic. She screamed “gonna give you my…loooooove!” like a madwoman yet had such precise control. After a sly smile to the audience to let them know there was more to come, she let loose on Robert Plant’s signature haunting, echo-y final wail. It was just a lot to pull off! I’m stunned.
Hey, look who’s back. Elise wisely took the time to genuflect before our guitar hero.
Stevie Nicks and her moon necklace were also feelin’ it with Elise (who I’m pretty sure wore that giant yellow scarf in honor of Stevie, priestess of scarves). Stevie dueted with Elise on Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” during their mentoring session — undoubtedly the best moment of Elise’s life, and that’s even counting that one time she and Steven Tyler wore the same black sparkly bell bottoms. (Also last night.)
Elise sort of covered her face in disbelief after Stevie extended “Players only love you when they’re playing” with a “for you…” I sprung a tear here. I did. Then I rewound it four times. They have a similar spirit! Aggggggggh. STEVIE NICKS IS ON AMERICAN IDOL. I can’t believe it. Basically everything about this final segment was unreal.
Stevie told Jimmy, “If I needed a singer, I would hire [Elise] in a second.”
Who goes home tonight? At this point, the only one I can picture the judges using their Save on is Hollie — and she’ll have a huge comeback next week if that happens. Heejun will have gone out on top after last night’s rave reviews, and DeAndre was a wild card to begin with and just isn’t ready. What do you think?
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Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.