‘American Idol’ Recap: Reviewing the Top 10

There were two, count em two, moment-making performances last night on American Idol. I was a bit worried at the beginning of the show, but there were five or so performers who absolutely nailed Billy Joel’s spirit and complex note arrangements by show’s end. “Billy Joel” theme week was a success by all accounts and purposes! And to top it off, one contestant even selected one of my song suggestions. I know it’s past St. Patrick’s Day, but I’m not wearing green right now and still can pinch myself over the excitement that somebody actually took my advice! You will see how it paid off later in my review session. Right now let’s not waste time, and jump straight into the thick of business. I can’t wait, and neither should you!

10. Heejun Han, “My Life” (1978, Album: 52nd Street) — The whole intro package before the performance began left me feeling nauseated, disgusted, and downright disrespected. You can laugh at Heejun all you want, but if Elise Testone or Erika Van Pelt goes home tomorrow before this uncaring jerk, I promise your chuckles will forever cease to exist. He was flippant toward esteemed legends Tommy Hilfiger and P. Diddy, who came on the show to legitimately help him out, by going out of his way to make jokes and not take their sound advice seriously. P. Diddy hit the nail on the head when he coined Heejun a “con artist.” He is conning America’s votes with his comedy shtick, and millions of voters have foolishly bought into this clown. It’s okay folks, I’m sure he’ll be unemployed in the next week or so, so if Tiny Tim’s birthday is coming up and you need a clown for two hours, I guess you all know who to call. At least then Heejun will have some value. As an Idol contestant, he sucks. He’s so bad, he’s making me long for the days of Danny Gokey and Scott Savol, and that’s bringing me down to the depths of Idol hell by admitting that. His “My Life” may as well have been sung while intoxicated, because Heejun never hit a single note and seemed to fumble about the stage like your average fratboy at the local karaoke bar. Steven Tyler, bless this rock god, called out his BS to America by telling him he needed to take the competition more seriously. Code phrase: Your uncaring ass is not being saved tonight! If America can finally come to their senses, Heejun will bite the dust on tonight’s results show.

Performance Review: (zero stars)
Hallie Day and Creighton Fraker were sent home for this? Give me my damn refund!:


9. Joshua Ledet, “She’s Got A Way” (1982, Album: Songs in the Attic) — What the hell happened to Joshua? For someone who came off last week with the single best performance of the season, the guy sure looked like he’d just been told he was the worst singer of all time. Seriously, Joshua’s confidence was at an all time low starting at the mentor session and then continuing at the live show. I’m not sure if he is able to handle the pressure of being deemed a frontrunner, because he crashed and burned on “She’s Got A Way.” From the beginning note, I felt like Joshua was far too restrained, holding back his voice and trapping his emotions somewhere miles away in a small box. By the time he hit the Gospel chorus, the damage had already been done that no matter if Joshua hit notes that reached the gates of heaven, the performance was never going to recover after such a dismal and melancholic start. Joshua’s eyes were lit with fear, and I fear he may have a bottom three showing tonight. From best to second worst, Joshua may have fallen far down the ladder. I’m not sure he’ll be able to recover.

Performance Review: (**)
Somebody couldn’t handle the pressure:


8. DeAndre Brackensick, “Only the Good Die Young” (1977, Album: The Stranger) — Let’s start with the positives. It was certainly better than the week before. Particularly near the end, I felt like DeAndre had found his groove in the song, and he allowed himself to open up more. Unfortunately, the whole performance felt very gimmicky and jester-like. It wasn’t very serious sounding, and even though DeAndre looked committed to making each note felt, you couldn’t tell that through his hokey delivery. I’m very worried for DeAndre tomorrow, but I think America respects him enough to give Heejun the shaft first. I can only pray this is the case, because going first and doing poorly is never a good thing in Idol land.

Performance Review: (**)
When laid-back turns cheesy:


7. Skylar Laine, “Shameless” (1989, Album: Storm Front) — This was easily Skylar’s weakest effort to date. That beginning was more “shameful” than “shameless.” I’m not sure if it was the band or Skylar’s decision to change the key so low, but it made Skylar sound horrible on those beginning verses. Once she got on stage, Skylar was able to find her breath and nail those choruses like no one’s business. The song choice wasn’t particularly exciting, and I’m worried Skylar’s lackluster song selections will hurt her in the end. She’s one of the few I tend to forget when the show closes. I find her personality and talent awesome, but she’s going to need to have an Idol moment if she wants to always guarantee her safety. She may be in danger this evening, but enough country fans will probably keep her afloat.

Performance Review: (**1/2)
Boring song, horrible beginning, great choruses. All in all, a mixed bag of a performance:


6. Erika Van Pelt, “New York State of Mind” (1976, Album: Turnstiles) — Erika Van Pelt may have changed her look and sung the best we’ve ever heard her, but so what? The song, while brilliant, was also relatively boring compared to the rest. I look at Erika and see all the makings of a rocker chick, but when she opens her mouth and sings such stagnant songs, I want to rip my hair out. Where is the heavy rock anthem? Where is an earth-shattering performance this side of Pink, who she professed to loving so much? Erika Van Pelt’s look and voice contrast with nearly everything she has sung to date. As an artist, she confuses me. I know some people may have loved her performance last night, but for me it’s just one more nail in her coffin. I don’t think she’ll go home tomorrow, but the performance was boring enough to be sent to the bottom three.

Performance Review: (***)
Erika, you’re sucking the fire out of your rocker image:

5. Phillip Phillips, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” (1977, Album: The Stranger) — Phillip Phillips once again puts his own spin on a classic track. The guy is all about the music, and he’s one of the few artists who can master storytelling. Each lyrics he sings makes me go on some kind of journey that I find myself amazed at his interpretive skills. “Movin’ Out” isn’t my favorite song by Billy Joel, but Phillip Phillips did a very serviceable job that was almost better than the original. Sometimes his voice went a little off in spots, which was more obvious this week without the drowning of the Idol band, but Phillip still retains his title of Mr. Consistent. It’s only going to keep getting better for Mr. Casual yet Talented.

Performance Review: (***1/2)
He may dress dull, but he performs full of life:


4. Hollie Cavanagh, “Honesty”, (1979, Album: 52nd Street) — I know all the Erika Van Pelt fans probably want to pelt me with stones for placing Hollie above EVP, but let me explain myself before I get a rotten tomato whacked at me. For the first time since Hollie sung “Reflection,” I actually believed every word she sang. Whether she knew this Billy Joel song or not is of no consequence; she sold it to me. In fact, that little podium she was on may have seemed severely limiting, but it gave her the chance to really amp up her performance ability. The notes she hit were unique in parts, and her phrasing showed that she wasn’t all about soaring high like episodes’ past. Hollie took her time with this song, showed off some genuine emotion and feeling, and was amazing on the choruses. I’m not sure the judges can give Hollie flack on her pitch this week while ignoring her troublesome bum notes the week prior on her highly overrated “Power of Love.” Just because it was Celine Dion doesn’t mean Hollie should’ve been given a free pass. Yet this week she was thrown to the lions. Despite another ballad pick (ugh), Hollie revved up the tempo and vibe to let her personality come out a bit. I enjoyed the unique interpretation, and just hope next week she’ll fully break out with an upbeat number.

Performance Review: (***1/2)
EVP fans are going to kill me. Protective shield is activated while I enjoy Hollie’s performance:


3. Jessica Sanchez, “Everybody Has a Dream” (1977, Album: The Stranger) — Thank god Jessica was back to her former stellar self. I was starting to get worried for a wee second. This performance wasn’t a perfect vocal. When Jessica sung the chorus line “everybody has a dream,” she shrieked the “everybody” part a bit much for my liking. Her falsetto opening was divine, and I did believe each note she sang to us at home. I would have liked a different song just because it stank of the type of inspirational cheese you’d hear at a Miss USA Pageant. It wasn’t my favorite Jessica Sanchez performance, but it was still a diamond among jewels.

Performance Review: (***1/2)
Thank god she’s back! Frontrunner reclaiming her throne:


2. Colton Dixon, “Piano Man” (1973, Album: The Piano Man) — Colton just jumped ahead of Phillip Phillips as the best male of Season 11. If a female is tragically going to get shafted by the more popular Idol gender, let it be to Colton Dixon. Not only did he pick the song I thought was tailor-made for him, but it was also the song that defined Billy Joel as one of the greatest musicians of all time. Colton’s performance of “Piano Man” may have defined him as one of the best undiscovered talents in America. From beginning to end, Colton transcended all emotional capacity with the power of his soaring voice alone on those glory notes. I loved the way he stayed true to the melody while briefly playing around with the notes to give it a distinct Colton sound. I had goosebumps from start to finish, and I honestly wish I could tie this performance with the best of the night. In fact, the top two performances of the evening happen to be my favorite of Season 11 to date. I was both moved and impressed at the same time. When someone asks me what a true musician is, I’ll respond: listen to Colton Dixon’s version of “Piano Man.”

Performance Review: (****)
Colton felt this song in every fiber of his being. I was moved:


1. Elise Testone, “Vienna” (1977, Album: The Stranger) — A vocal could not get better than this. Elise is as experienced a musician you could ever hope to find on Idol. But what’s amazing is that the awesomeness of her voice isn’t enough for her — she pushes herself to a deeper depth with her performance skills. The way she sinks into each lyric, using her hands to demonstrate her mastery of the note like an orchestra conductor with their baton, shows her superiority to all other contestants this season. Elise was simply flawless last night. No one, and I mean no one except for maybe Billy Joel himself could have pulled off the variations required for that final note. That was simply a magical moment I won’t soon forget, and is the sole reason why Elise gets the edge over Clayton. I was floored. I turned to my mom and we both looked at each other with stunned expressions. What the hell did we just witness? Vocal mastery I tell you, vocal freakin’ mastery.

Performance Review: (****)
If this doesn’t prove why Elise Testone is Season 11’s Best Vocalist, you have no ears to speak of:

Predicted Bottom 3: DeAndre Brackensick, Erika Van Pelt, Heejun Han

Going Home: Heejun Han

Right now, I’m fantasizing a Colton/Elise Finale. I know it’ll never happen but an Idol fan can dream. That’s a wrap for my review session. Did you think I was on to something, or was I crazy with my rankings? Will the EVP fans be holding up signs in protest as soon as I walk outside my house? Sound off below to your Idol heart’s content!