Maybe tonight’s the night that I don’t roll my eyes at Idol… MAYBE. After weeks of old, unknown and painfully forgettable song choices due in large part to the show’s constantly pathetic attempt at a “theme”, we get this evening: “Idols singing their idols”, as the kids take on the (please dear god let them be famous) songs of the singers they grew up loving. What I hate most about this: In this area, this is where “X Factor” truly shines as they week-in get to choose from any song the show can pay for and blast away. They change their style and genre like they change their outfits to meet the judges and America’s expectations and that makes for a much more versatile competition. With American Idol we’re usually stuck with crap like: “The song book of Elvis” etc. Still, making lemonade from bitter, handpicked with his wrinkled paws Nigel Lythgoe lemons, what I like most about this challenge is the ability to pander, play to your abilities and most importantly: be memorable.

Personally, I’d lie through my god damn teeth and pick a song that was vaguely patriotic- or at least American iconic- from within the last decade, with a huge rise in it and one that every god damn person in that audience would know. Screw “singing the songs I grew up loving”: who the hell remembers Lisa Loeb’s Sandalwood“! Instead, use this vague theme to make that crowd weep and jump to their feet. Let’s hope some of the contestants were smart enough to figure that one out. That said, we also “get” some lame group performances by the contestants but , we do get classic American singer Stevie Nicks as the mentor: a great choice for “Idols and their idols” night even though (spoiler alert) I don’t really mention either of them at all in this article. Get to the end and you’ll see why.

Colton Dixon – “Everything”

A fine choice, Colton picks a song that matches his voice and style to a tee while keeping a bit of religion in the mix to access that Bible Belt vote. I love this song, so am excited even aside from his smart direction with this one and thought he did a very good job with it. Not perfect mind you. The musicality of this piece was wobbly especially at the beginning and we mostly sat there waiting for the chorus to kick in to recognize that great ol’ Lifehouse song we know and love. Though, it is Colton, and he can really do no wrong to the audience or the judges eyes and they tell him every nice word in the book and praise his inevitable rise to the Top 3. I think Randy needs to learn to control his excitement a bit though as we’re just starting the night and (having seen it all by this point) feel that this kid didn’t exactly show HE’S the best out there. But, I’m just one writer and about a million girls are tuning in for this boy alone week to week so we all know he’s going to be just fine tomorrow night.

Skylar Laine – “Gunpowder and Lead”

As country as country can be, this southern bell comes out wearing some rock version of an American flag and pulls on the heartstrings of country viewers everywhere in a very smart way. Looking a little more like Wynonna Judd every time she takes to the stage (is that just me?), Skylar continues to pull off strong performances not really on the strength of a booming voice as that bailiwick is the wheelhouse of Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh (I’m writing having seen the whole night as this point), instead she uses energy and enthusiasm to win us over. And, I’d argue it works. If you can’t out-sing Whitney Houston (and you can’t), then be different and sing in a way that captures from a different angle. Skylar is a smart girl and sweet to boot and I like that she’s doing so well, though I think all it’s going to take is one misstep and she’s in serious trouble on this show. I doubt she’ll take the gold but I want her as far as she can go. The judges call it over the top but in all the right ways and I agree with them for once.

Heejun Han – “Song For You”

Well, Heejun has decided to go back to having an accent. Fun to watch him “oh so naturally” turn it off and on. As much as I say it’s great to pander and take the advice given to them, doing something THIS obvious and race-related is dangerous and I’d be really careful you don’t turn your ethnicity into a gimmick rather than a natural part of you as a performer. That said, he DOES sing better without putting on the fake america-the-beauiful accent act and more importantly sounds more like himself. As such, his emotions weren’t all over the place as they’ve been in past performances and the judges seemed to agree. Randy rightfully pointed out this wasn’t perfect, but the rest liked it and I’m loathe to admit it was fine. But, that’s it: fine. The song was nowhere near recognizable enough and his version didn’t seem unique in the least- just breathy. I think the fact that he’s seen the Bottom Three might be a bit of a curse for him as his inexplicable ability to avoid going home has been cracked and he might just find himself there once again down there with this adequate performance.

Hollie Cavanagh – “Jesus Take the Wheel”

Now HERE is a song choice. While it’s not at all what you’d expect from the tiny, blond aussie, it IS religious (without being preachy), extremely well-known and with a great range. Hollie and her brain might be my new favourites out there- good for you girl! A bit of a messy start as she tried to find her note and timing, she caught up quickly and got right into that crowd-favourite chorus. Still dressing 30 years too old- Tommy Hilfiger if that 18-pound egyptian lookin’ necklace was your fault imma kick your ass- but her singing outshone the bad styling. Slowing the song down even more than the original wasn’t quite what I’d do, but all we care about is how she hit those huge final notes and likely convinced more than a few hundred rednecks to put the Bud down and give her number a call tonight. The judges were all over the place with her criticisms. I do NOT understand how acts like DeAndre (just wait for it) get a standing O and this gets “meh”?! Oh right, Idol cares about the little girl vote and the “cute” boy contestant and that’s it. Again, puke. Steven kills her saying he wishes she chose something else: which, is a bit harsh given that these are suppose to be their idols… you have to assume they’re not cheating as I would and calling someone out on their idol is a bit harsh there Steve. Jennifer loved it a little too much and Randy stayed tough and said pass. I think she’s in a slight bit of trouble tonight as her singing was off for the first time.

DeAndre Brackensick – “Sometimes I Cry”

How much am I laughing through tears of disgust with this kid and this show as DeAndre the falsetto queen once again takes to the stage SOMEhow yet again. This is not a way to sing. This is not what makes a career. Honestly, this is how fellow writer and ANTM recapper Rich manages to kill me on “American Idol” the video game as Celine comes on. On top of his heinous brand of “singing” is the fact that he was completely off tune the entire time. Not even close to a good SHITTY performance, I’m not sure if I’m praying for DeAndre to be in the Bottom Three and finally go or if I want him to stay just to prove how dumb this show has become. Literally the greatest of the worst since Sanjaya, this no-talent ball of frizz is the epitome of how much this institution has fallen. Also, THIS is your song choice? You’re THE youngest contestant up there and you pick such an unknown and un-youthful song? I’m honestly just happy to watch the train wreck that is you every Wednesday, kid. Oh, and I’m eating up the judges way-off love for this (Standing O, really??) as they show they’re robots controlled by Nigel to keep this mess in the running for the tweens. Pure puke.

Jessica Sanchez – “Sweet Dreams”

Beyonce is a good choice for this girl: slowing it down to a near-acoustic version is even better. SMART GIRL. Jessica killed it tonight as she continues to shine and show her maturity as a performer and brilliant uniqueness. I hated what she was wearing: I think the wicked queen might need those football shoulders and weird train thing back, but who cares really, she lit it up tonight with her voice. Singing with emotion and smiling/tearing up by the end you can see this girl puts her all into this. I’m so glad someone tonight really adapted a song in a bold direction and it absolutely killed as a result. Rightfully, J Lo as a fellow-female performer agreed with the decision and said Beyonce herself should slow this one down. I loved it and see this girl Top Three come a few weeks from now for sure. Deservedly so.

Phillip Phillips – “Still Rainin”

Oh hey there sexy man! Singing something I have no clue what it is, I realize it doesn’t really matter as I’m not listening to the actual words but just his sexy scratchy sound and his adorb-balls face and shoulder scrunching moves. He puts a great Phil Phils touch to everything he does and I don’t even need to find the original of this to know that his unique talent is in this one all the way. Taking a fast and upbeat song on, he’s different from a lot of other more sad singin’ kids tonight and I love that about him as well as he’s all about the smile and fun and I think that’s something great. Instead of pulling a Joshua Ledet and relying on super emotional tracks, Phil knows he’s got the audience’s hearts and sings to make them jump up and grin. I thought he did a great time though I’d still rather hear something I actually recognize and see what he can do with that, but who cares cause he’ll be here next week and that’s all that matters.

Joshua Ledet – “Without You”

Not sure if Joshua was trying to emulate Mariah Carey or the more manly original by Harry Nilson, it was more likely both as he did his male/female sounding thing tonight and communicated them both to the point of tears… literally. While Jessica Sanchez got all glossy-eyed by the end of hers, we see a total emo breakdown- as described by Steven- by Joshua as he can barely get out the final moments. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s cause I don’t like the church boy all that much- omg and his awful, AWFUL shiny rhinestone blazer- or that tearful explosions aren’t really a part of day in attempts but it was a bit much for me. I’d rather pick the best due to their abilities as a true singer and not just who is the most emotional. Still, it sure as hell worked with the judges and they were jumping up to tell him how amazing he was this evening and we all know he’s making it clear to next week.

Elise Testone – “Whole Lotta Love”

Not something well-known as I would have done, Elise nonetheless plays to her rocker girl sound and sings damn well tonight. Even as I type this, I know she’s going Bottom Three this week though. While I think this performance would have the Steven Tyler crowd running to their phone, the little girls who make up 99% of the voting contingency are going to see this as dated and incomprehensible. This song is just too old school rock to ever EVER be appreciated by the texters and tweeters of this show and I think Elise is telling us that she won’t change who she is to win. I say good for F-ing you girl! She knows she doesn’t have America’s backing and never ever will, so I think she’s chosen the long game here and is using this international platform for all it’s worth to showcase her talents and the artist SHE wants to be: not the bubblegum blond I’m sure Idol would rather her skip around as. The judges awesomely recognize the insane difficulty that is this all-over-the-place piece and give her full credit where credit is due for taking on such a beast and I’m happy about that. Still, I know the voters won’t see it and I’m completely expecting to say a big F-U come tomorrow when she gets told she didn’t get the votes. I am hoping that giving her the final slot will boost her numbers a bit though. Stay strong Elise, you are pure talent and even IF you get bottomed out, the judges just HAVE to bring you back.

Well, there you have it. A HUGELY better night of songs we mostly knew, but more importantly performances we will remember. Let this be a lesson to you Idol to allow your kids to be more free in their song choice: it’s better for everyone involved and most importantly us the viewers. You’ll notice I skipped commenting on Stevie’s input and those GOD awful group melodies interspersed throughout the night but really, it’s all just filler to pull this 25 minutes show into two hours of advertisement and I refuse to help Idol with that one. This show has truly lost itself to sales and that’s sad, but when we get some great performances like Jessica and Elise, we at least remember for those two minutes why we still watch. I honestly am terrified that Elise is gonna get booted for being too her own person and “old” for this voting audience but hey, that just means she can start in on what will be a wildly successful, independent of Idol career so I say: for the best. However, the two worst continue to under perform and we might finally see either D or H go tomorrow… we can only hope. Tune in for my review!

Adam’s Loser Picks for Thursday:
Heejun Han
DeAndre Brackensick *my must-go pick*
Elise Testone *too good for this show*

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