This week the theme is year they were born, which is one of our favorite themes. Probably because we like the music of the 1980s so much (though, as J.Lo cringed about, some are getting so darn young they were born, like, yesterday).
1. Phillip Phillips, 1990, “Hard to Handle,” Black Crowes
How sweet is his crying dad, talking about his health problems as a baby? Oh my goodness. And then he has to have surgery for his kidney stones? Yikes.
Even if he doesn’t sound good, he’ll be fine. Phillip has to be one of the most popular contestants, so I’m not worried he’s in danger. Which is good ’cause I like him. Also, spectacular song choice for his voice. It’s a little more subdued than this song should be, but he kinda gets a pass this week. We wouldn’t want him to strain anything.
Randy Jackson’s outfit once again makes me wonder if he has a stylist. Or a mirror.
2. Jessica Sanchez, 1995, “Turn the Beat Round,” Gloria Estefan
Interesting choice, but it’s nice to see her go up-tempo the week after her big Whitney ballad. Her outfit is totally rockin’, she’s channeling the original disco version of the song. And her sassy, growly voice sounds great. The modulation doesn’t go quite as awesome as was expected. It wasn’t quite the moment I think it was supposed to be. But a very solid performance and a great way to show off her fun side.
Steven Tyler says not to stray too hard from ballads, but I think she should be encouraged for doing this. It wasn’t as good as Whitney last week, but if all she did was stand there and sing every week, she would get boring and old real quick.
3. Heejun Han, 1989, “Right Here Waiting,” Richard Marx
OK, guilty pleasure time – I love Richard Marx. LOVE HIM. I actually squealed when the opening strains of this song came up. However. Heejun has got to learn how to support his lower register better. The verse is so breathy! It sounds like he’s whispering it to us! Once he gets to the “oh, can’t you see it baby” into the chorus, it gets a little better, but the bridge loses it again. The key change and final chorus kind of save him. Still, he keeps breathing in weird places. Heejun needs a good cardio program and some breath training. He also wasn’t on pitch several times. That was pretty rough.
And it was one of his worst performances. Randy is the only judge who is honest about it, citing the breathing problems too. J.Lo says she “felt” how much he “wanted it” it to be great. Well, that’s nice. I want to be a Tony-winning Broadway actress starring in “A Chorus Line,” but …
4. Elise Testone, 1983, “Let’s Stay Together”
Interesting choice for her Janis-y voice, but actually – if you can’t be a big R&B singer like Al Green, you gotta go really different with it and Elise does that. Strangely, this really works. The quiet part reminds us she can sing without sounding like she’s passing a stone all the time (sorry Phillip), and then the chorus lets her show off a little. The ending is particularly pretty. So, it doesn’t have me leaping to my feet, but it was nice. Certainly better than she’s done so far in live shows.
5. DeAndre Brackensick, 1994, “Endless Love,” Luther Vandross/Mariah Carey
OK, this choice is marginally better than “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” but it’s still boring as all get out, DeAndre sounds weak in a lot of spots and it doesn’t work as well when it’s not a duet. Also, the gratuitous high note doesn’t fit in with the song, it’s completely shoe-horned in there. I’m sorry, I’m not a fan. Though at least in my
J.Lo says he can sang anything, which – yeah, I suppose that’s true if you take it to mean he can make the songs come out of his mouth. But he can’t sing anything well.
6. Shannon Magrane, 1995, “One Sweet Day,” Mariah/Boyz II Men
Hilariously, Will.I.Am and Jimmy advise her to practice her breath control – where was that advice for freakin’ Heejun? Anyway, this song is just OK for me. It’s a little big for Shannon, plus without all the voice parts, it’s pretty boring. Same problem as “Endless Love.” Luckily, there’s a spark of life when the key change hits, so at least it isn’t a complete snooze-fest. She tries her best on some high stuff, but she’s no Mariah. Not terrible, but not great either.
Frankly, I would’ve like to see her bust it up on some No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak,” though I’m not sure that was 1995, so I don’t know why Iovine played it for Shannon.
7. Colton Dixon, 1991, “Broken Heart,” White Lion
Hilariously, the band doesn’t even know this song. Yeah, great choice for a show where stupid Americans vote. I have actually heard this song before, not that I could’ve sung a lick of it for you if asked. But I at least recognize it. Anyway, the nice thing is that Colton can do his thing and nobody has anything to compare it to. And he does a great job on it, much better than last week. He’s back to reminding us a bit of Glambert.
I agree with Randy and J.Lo – it was pretty dope.
8. Erika Van Pelt, 1985, “Heaven,” Bryan Adams
OK, first Richard Marx and now Bryan Adams? It’s like a love letter to me tonight! The break Iovine advises in the rehearsal gives me chills. I think this is going to be great, but I’m a little disappointed. It’s not terrible and the bridge gives me goosebumps, but just like with Jessica – the break doesn’t work as well live as I expected it to and the ending is very weird and abrupt. Hmm. The judges don’t love the arrangement, which – yeah, I didn’t love it either.
9. Skylar Laine, 1994, “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” Bonnie Raitt
I’m glad she stuck to her guns on the song choice, this is a great one for her. She sounds like Reba covering Bonnie, a little. What’s nice is that she’s up-tempo without losing her darn mind like she did two weeks ago. It’s a shame Skylar can’t play the guitar, because she could really be a fun singer/guitar performer. But tonight she did well.
Honestly, the last two better be great – this night has been really lackluster so far, right? Nobody has totally biffed it (though DeAndre and Heejun were pretty rough), but nobody has really slam-dunked it either. Nothing has me leaping to my feet.
10. Joshua Ledet, 1991, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Michael Bolton
Oooh, this should be good. He’s got some Percy Sledge in him. Also, that white suit jacket with the rose is smooth. So, he starts singing and … wow. His turn on “she can do no wrong-ong” made me shiver. He could’ve backed off on the extraneous runs and been a little quieter with the performance in general, but that’s a pretty minor quibble, especially this week since everybody has been pretty meh so far.
And then the key change! Holy [bleep]! I hope DeAndre is paying attention about how you do falsetto. And he whips off his jacket! So great. I wish the very last note hadn’t been so scream-y. Sometimes I just want to hear his beautiful voice. But that was pretty fabulous.
Jennifer Lopez is so adorably like freaking out right now about that performance. She’s gonna burst into flames on the spot.
11. Hollie Cavanagh, 1993, “Power of Love,” Celine Dion
Before we knew the song choice, I was really praying it was “All Coming Back to Me Now.” Is that ’93? I don’t even know, I was just keeping my fingers crossed for that. How disappointing (for me personally) it was “Power of Love.”
But luckily, Hollie nails it. First off, she looks gorgeous. Then the quiet beginning lets her really build. The “as I look in your eyes” gave us goosebumps and that was before she busted loose on the chorus. However – it’s a little boring. It’s big note after big note, arm sweep after arm sweep. It’s a shame she wasn’t second-to-last and then Joshua was the closer.
I’m also a little disappointed she didn’t go for the money note in the right spot. She stayed the same on the “power of love,” then added another one and went up on that one. That felt like too much. I would’ve liked to hear the big note on her second-to-last “power of love” and let that be the ending. Does that make any sense?
So, clearly the final two tonight were the strongest. Who do you think is in trouble? I think the Bottom 3 should be Heejun, Erika and DeAndre, with either of the boys going home. Erika gets one more week with me to really show us what she’s made of.
What do you guys think?