Thankfully, Idol chose not to go with a specific artist's songbook this week - one can only take so much of a weird sort of karaoke night where the jukebox is stuck on one artist - and instead had the contestants perform songs from their own idols (solo and as part of three trios), resulting in some variety at long last. Find out more below, and don't forget to check out photos from this episode on page two!
This week's guest coach is Stevie Nicks. Also, Tommy Hilfiger is back again. I find myself wondering if Idol pays him or vice versa. Maybe it's just an even deal - he just appears on the show for free to dispense his advice, and then the contestants can just go ahead and wear whatever they were planning on wearing anyway.
Colton Dixon hits the stage first, with Lifehouse's "Everything." Colton's got a voice that would fit into today's radio very well, but this song seems just slightly flat throughout, and something about his "shucks, I never meant to audition" schtick still colors his performances for me. The response is positive from the judges: "You make it bleed," Steven tells him. OK, Steven. OK.
Miranda Lambert is, predictably enough, Skylar Laine's idol and she'll sing "Gunpowder & Lead." It's her typical fare, but the song fits her voice really well and all of the judges love it.
Colton, Elise Testone and Philip Phillips next perform a Fleetwood Mac medley as a trio. I wonder if the producers tell the audience that they have to leave if they don't wave their hands in time with the song - no, seriously, the people in the front are always either clapping or waving their hands throughout the whole show. I guess the fact that I was watching the audience rather than the performers is a bit of a tipoff that the song didn't really grab my attention, but Steven, as the only judge to speak, seems to have loved it.
This is Heejun's serious side.
Last week, the judges complained that Heejun Han isn't taking the competition seriously enough. Um, isn't this the same show that devoted waaay more than a few minutes (in multiple episodes) to auditioner Larry Platt's "Pants on the Ground" a few years back? Yeah, Heejun, you've got to keep the place classy. At any rate, Heejun tones it down with Donny Hathaway's cover of "A Song for You." I liked Heejun. He's one of the more entertaining contestants that they've had in a while. "That was beautiful," J-Lo says.
Jason Derulo is there with a broken neck (!) and a fully bedazzled neck brace to announce another Idol cross-promotion: he's going to perform on the finale and is launching a fan contest to write the ending of the new song.
Hollie Cavanagh next chooses Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel." I like Hollie and think the performance is okay, but Randy, who seems to be begrudgingly accepting of the fact that he's the only judge at the table equipped to critique contestants (J-Lo is full of empty compliments and I'm still not convinced Steven Tyler is fully aware of what's going on), tells her that "There were a couple of pitchy moments in there - this is to help her, this is constructive criticism...but I was impressed."
DeAndre is up next, with a surprisingly proficient falsetto rendition of Eric Benet's "Sometimes I Cry." Despite a standing ovation from the judges, DeAndre's totally that typical middle-of-the-road contestant who'll make it to the top seven or so before people forget about him two weeks after he's eliminated. I will say this about DeAndre, though: he seems like a genuinely nice guy (he was shown absolutely bawling his eyes out when Erika Van Pelt was eliminated last week), but when his hair is the most interesting thing about him it's tough to defend why he's still here.
Jessica Sanchez's idol is Beyoncé, and she'll sing "Beautiful Nightmare." There are a bunch of freestanding doors (for symbolism, I guess) and a harp on stage. Is it weird that I'm really digging the harp? Harps aren't used enough on Idol. I've spent the last couple of weeks really wanting to like Jessica, because I keep waiting for her to do something great. This isn't necessarily her best performance, but it's definitely more memorable than a lot of her other weeks and the judges, once again, all give positive feedback. "Unbelievable, sensational," Randy says.
Next is another trio with another medley - DeAndre, Joshua Ledet and Heejun with Michael Jackson songs. It's awkward and falls almost totally flat - but Joshua moonwalks, so I guess that makes it "Perfect!" in J-Lo's eyes.
I'm playing the guitar, I promise.
Phil Phillips tackles "Still Rainin" by Johnny Lang. He breaks out a guitar again (totally stealing the glory from the actual guitar player, as he only plays about two chords on it), but he does deliver another consistent, strong performance that earns a standing ovation from the judges.
Joshua Ledet's idol is Mariah Carey, so he's doing her cover of "Without You." Randy name drops yet again ("I was just talking to Mariah, she's on vacation,"), but says that it was "brilliant." Joshua moves himself to tears and I'm not sure if I'm heartless or it just wasn't that great, but it didn't impress - he's had much better performances in the past.
The remaining three who haven't yet performed in a trio (Holly, Jessica and Skylar) get a Madonna medley. Who decides that it's a good idea to stick these contestants together and force them to sing as a group? It's not as though any of them are going to form a group. The trio's performance comes across like filler time.
Finishing out the night is Elise Testone. Full disclosure: Elise annoys me. Every time they show her, I find myself wishing that there would be a sudden surprise elimination. It's mainly got to do with the fact that she waved her hand like some kind of bizarre magic wand when she went for a run at the end of her Billy Joel song last week, but I like to think I'm not quite so petty as that, so I'm sure there are other reasons too. In all fairness, though, she has a nice voice, very Adele-ish with a bit of an edge, and her performance of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin is impressive vocally. "I don't know what's in the air tonight, but everybody wants to win this thing," Randy says.
As the show comes to a close, Ryan points out that Elise and Steven are wearing matching pants, which is doubly strange considering that they're black pinstriped bedazzled sparkling bell bottoms. Don't forget to vote for your favorites - and tune in tomorrow for a performance from Nicki Minaj as well as to find out who's headed home!
Photo Credit: Michael Becker / FOX