Happy 400th episode, American Idol! Honestly, you don't look a day over 350. And I'm not just saying that. Tonight, we'll embark upon a battle of the sexes. The guys will be performing Stevie Wonder hits, while the girls have been tapped with Whitney Houston (didn't see that one coming!)
To switch things up a bit, tomorrow Seacrest will announce the bottom male and female vote-getters, and it will be up to the judges to decide who goes home. No word yet on whether there will be a "save me" song.
Mary J. Blige is in the house! She's "mentoring" the contestants alongside the only Idol person that matters — Jimmy Iovine — in all his blue Bono-glasses glory! (We'll later learn that Blige didn't mentor so much as tell people they made her feel like meat and potatoes, but no matter). We've got a long journey ahead, so let's hit the ground running.
Joshua Ledet, "I Wish"
Josh's performance is lively and energetic — but it's also so bouncy. Like, lady-in-a-trampoline-aerobics-class bouncy. The song definitely didn't showcase his powerful pipes as well as another song might have, but it was nice to see that Josh is capable of owning a peppy number, as opposed to his typical dramatic ballads. J.Lo's so excited she could punch him (creep), and Steven says, "You brought it home, and you nailed it."
Elise Testone, "I'm Your Baby Tonight"
After much debate over her song choice, Elise's mentoring session was a bit disconcerting. She went with Iovine's advice and steered clear of "Greatest Love of All" (which would have been her greatest downfall of all, anyway). But her lack of commitment to the new song choice read all over her performance. While she successfully displayed the raspy, sultry sound that we love her for, something was definitely missing, and the judges took note. "It's undeniable you have an amazing voice," says J.Lo. "You just felt a little unsure."
Jermaine Jones, "Knocks Me Off My Feet"
Zzzzzzz. Oh, sorry. That was just me sleeping during Jermaine's tired performance. I do recall him singing a verse about "not wanting to bore you with this" and he failed miserably at doing that. He hit all of the notes — but seemed nervous and stiff the entire time. "When you hit the chorus, for me I did not enjoy it," says Randy, just being real. What he's also being is a fashion tragedy. Can we talk about the pony-hair cheetah-trimmed collar? That pin made of sparkly beads melted together to form a face? Befuddling, really.
Erika Van Pelt, "I Believe In You and Me"
Let me start by saying I'm thrilled to see Erika is wearing a dress with straps this week. And blingy ones, at that! In rehearsal, she struggled to make the song "Erika," but apparently the practice paid off. It didn't start out strong, but she put an unusual spin on the number toward the end and totally achieved the uniqueness that the mentors had been hoping for. "It was unbelievable," says Randy. "I was like 'Yes! Yes! Go! Go!'" Yeah... what he said.
Colton Dixon, "Lately"
Colton's performance really didn't do much for me until he hit his first high note mid-way through. After that, it was honestly one of his best performances to date. He showed incredible passion and emotion, and in doing so, he also proved himself as a worthy competitor — not just a piano-player with spikey hair. "Amazing. Colton, man, that was outstanding!" says Steven. "They say you're only as good as your last performance, and your last note. So that was great, man, that was beautiful."
Shannon Magrane, "I Have Nothing"
When Shannon takes the stage, it appears as though she got her decades confused (she's only 16, don't hate), because there's a bit of a disconnect between her 1980s pleather pants/jacket/neon combo and the Bodyguard-era song she's singing. Unfortunately, her performance didn't remedy the outfit situation... at all. The thing is the song choice was too ambitious. And both Iovine and Blige should have told her that. Shannon wasn't capable of mastering such a classic just yet — and it became evident in the uncomfortable number of pitch problems she encountered along the way. "I think your nerves got the best of you baby," says Steven, which was Steven's first attempt at letting her down easy. "It's a huge song and that turnaround... you kind of crashed and burned in the turnaround," he continued, which was subsequently Steven's way of saying he got tired of sugar-coating the 16-year-old's sh---y performance. And good for him! She's made it this far. She can handle it.
DeAndre Brackensick, "Master Blaster"
If anyone had an advantage tonight it was DeAndre. His sound undoubtedly lends itself to Stevie Wonder songs, but the performance was a disappointment for me. Too much bopping around the stage, not enough projecting. It almost seemed like he wasn't speaking into the microphone, and at times he was mumbling so much we could barely make out the words. This seems to be a recurring issue with DeAndre -- we saw a similar situation last week with his Earth, Wind and Fire performance. And here comes my first big disagreement with the judges: "You were in perfect rhythm," says Randy. "The audience was feeling it. We didn't want it to stop. That's how good it was."
Skylar Laine, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"
We got a glimpse of Skylar during her mentoring sessions, and she seemed to take direction really well, but it was 100 percent confirmed during her performance. It was a definitively unique rendition of the song — complete with Skylar's trademark country twang. She poured her soul into every ounce of it, and the judges noticed. "You are the definition of composure. You gave us our biggest moment of the night. That was amazing," says J. Lo. Randy also points out that this performance proved she can sing any song — not just country.
Heejun Han, "All In Love Is Fair"
After Heejun finished eating his bowl of DeAndre's hair noodles, he had time to give the mentors signed head-shots of himself. As much as I find Heejun incredibly amusing, his performance tonight was a bit of a let-down. It wasn't bad, and it wasn't good. It just kind of happened. His voice was smooth-as-silk per usual, but it lacked something that I can't put my finger on. "It wasn't perfect, but it was really good," says Randy.
Hollie Cavanagh, "All The Man That I Need"
Hollie was particularly connected to this song because she felt like it "has a lot of emotion." Sure, "All The Man That I Need" doesn't necessarily seem like the most natural fit for a girl who looks like she could be in kindergarten... but so be it. The word that keeps coming to mind with Hollie tonight is composure. For someone so young, she's undeniably composed, self-assured, and confident. Her vocal performance was stunning. "You've been nailing it every time. That was really nice," says Steven.
Jeremy Rosado, "Ribbon in the Sky"
Given his recent lackluster performances, Jeremy has a lot to prove tonight. Sadly, his performance did not do that. There were some strong moments, but for the most part, it felt like he was holding back. Of course, J.Lo looked like she was on the verge of joyous tears the entire time. Here's to hoping someone slips her a valium on the day he inevitably gets sent home. "For me, it wasn't your best performance. This is a really difficult song. I didn't really quite believe it tonight," says Randy.
Jessica Sanchez, "I Will Always Love You"
When a contestant picks a song like this, the thought is usually "how bad are they going to screw this one up?" But if any of the finalists could possibly come close to doing Whitney's most famous single justice, Jessica's the one. And did she ever. During the first few notes, there was an eerie, powerful silence that seemed to take over the theater. The rest of the performance was just as hauntingly beautiful. It was the best of the night by a landslide, and arguably the best we've seen thus far. The judges gave her a well-deserved standing ovation. Randy calls her the best vocalist of the night, and one of the best talents in the whole country. Steven says, "You may be the one. You just made 40 million people cry."
Phil Phillips, "Superstition"
As excited as I usually am for Phil's performance, I can't help but feel sorry for him tonight. He has to compete against that? It's cruel, really. Anyway, he puts his rock 'n roll spin on "Superstition," and had it been earlier on in the evening, it could have been one of the most memorable. Week after week, he conveys a sense of enthusiasm and passion, without going overboard. Also, Phil has really mastered the art of interpreting a song in his own unique way — better than any of his competitors. "You took it, you made it your own, and you killed it," says J. Lo.
Who will you vote for, America? Let me take two guesses: Jessica and Phil! I can't even remember any of the other contestants' names at this point. Is it going to be a Jessica vs. Phil death match for duration of the competition? Could Joshua or Skylar creep their way to the top? Let us know your thoughts below!