American Idol 2012: Jessica Sanchez tops Whitney Houston/Stevie Wonder night with 'I Will Always Love You'

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 7, 2012 

When the top 13 "American Idol" singers performed Wednesday night, the men sang Stevie Wonder songs and the women sang Whitney Houston songs. Mary J. Blige mentored the contestants.

The biggest news of the night: The judges will decide who goes home this week. Ryan Seacrest on Thursday will announce the man and woman who received the fewest votes. The judges will determine which of those two singers will go home.

Excited about the news? I'm not. If this is a way for "Idol" to try to stay relevant, I'm not impressed. What happened to letting the people decide?

Anyway, Wednesday's performances were just OK. The standouts -- Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh -- were memorable, but overall the show was a bit too heavy on sleepy ballads. Let's hope some of the singers pick up the pace as the season progresses.

Here are my rankings. Please share yours in the comments section.

1. Jessica Sanchez, "I Will Always Love You"

2. Hollie Cavanagh, "All the Man That I Need"

3. Skylar Laine, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"

4. Joshua Ledet, "I Wish"

5. Phillip Phillips, "Superstition"

6. Heejun Han, "All in Love is Fair"

7. Deandre Brackensick, "Master Blaster"

8. Colton Dixon, "Lately"

9. Jermaine Jones, "Knocks Me Off My Feet"

10. Erika Van Pelt, "I Believe in You and Me"

11. Shannon Magrane, "I Have Nothing"

12. Elise Testone, "I'm Your Baby Tonight"

13. Jeremy Rosado, "Ribbon in the Sky"

Here's a full recap of Wednesday's show.


Joshua Ledet, "I Wish": Joshua does a great job with this tune. Initially, I'm worried he's going to over-sing it, but I think for the most part he avoids that tendency. My only criticism is that the performance gets a little repetitive midway through the song. Overall, a good way to start the night. Not my favorite performance from Joshua, though.

Randy: "I loved the run at the end."

Jennifer: "I love that I just felt your performance more than anything."

Steven: "You brought it home...Beautiful."

Elise Testone, "I'm Your Baby Tonight": Originally Elise wanted to sing "Greatest Love of All," but Jimmy Iovine and Mary J. Blige nixed that idea. Good move. Still, the start of this performance is slightly rough. Elise doesn't seem entirely comfortable with the song. She's just not too confident tonight. That said, she hits some nice gritty big notes toward the end. Is it enough to redeem the entire thing? Maybe not.

Jennifer: "It's undeniable you have an amazing voice...I just don't think this was your best."

Steven: Says it was good, but something was missing

Randy: "You don't have to prove at every note that you have that big old voice."

Jermaine Jones, "Knocks Me Off My Feet": I always feel bad saying anything negative about Jermaine. He just seems so nice. But I'll pull through. Jermaine actually picks a decent song to fit his deep voice. From a technical standpoint, the vocals seem fine. However, the entire performance veers dangerously close to Boring Land. Sorry, I still don't see Jermaine's contemporary appeal.

Steven: "That song just now fits you like an Armani suit."

Jennifer: "You are such a sweetheart." Wants him to connect with the song more and relax

Randy: "When you hit the chorus for me, I did not enjoy it."

Erika Van Pelt, "I Believe in You and Me": OK, this performance does absolutely nothing to change my fear that Erika's nothing more than a glorified lounge singer. Erika always seems so much older than 28...and not in a good way. This performance has strong moments...but like I said with Jermaine, I just can't see Erika having contemporary appeal.

Randy: "You have an amazing voice and an unbelievable tone."

Jennifer: "I feel still like you're playing it a little bit safe."

Steven: "It was perfect. I think you're great."

Colton Dixon, "Lately": Hmm. Colton tries to turn this Stevie Wonder tune into an indie rock ballad. I'm not sure if it works. The performance comes off as a bit whiny at times and I always feel like Colton's trying a little too hard. At least he shows some emotion at times. He deserves to stick around, but I'm waiting for him to have the elusive Moment.

Steven: "Colton, man, that was outstanding."

Jennifer: "It was great."

Randy: "Technically, for a second, it wasn't picture-perfect...When you hit your power point, it's always spot on."

Shannon Magrane, "I Have Nothing": Groan. I naively believed Shannon would avoid ballads tonight. Guess I was wrong. Anyway, this performance is just OK. Maybe a little less than OK. The biggest problem is that Shannon lacks an emotional connection with the tune. It seems like she's on auto pilot. She's a fine singer. I just won't be talking about this 24 hours later.

Jennifer: "I think the thinking got the best of you a little bit on that one."

Steven: "I think your nerves got the best of you."

Randy: "The nerves got the best of you tonight...It wasn't great tonight."

Deandre Brackensick, "Master Blaster": Wow...what an odd song choice. Deandre picks the most random songs. This isn't a performance that pumps up a crowd. It has kind of a mellow Jamaican vibe. At least Deandre delivers some uniqueness, which should count for something. Last week I was a Deandre hater, but he converted me a little bit tonight. So, um, way to go.

Steven: "I liked it tonight again. Thank you."

Jennifer: "You have rhythm. You have soul."

Randy: "You came out tonight and you were in perfect rhythm."

Skylar Laine, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go": Can we cool it with the ballads, please? Thanks. Now, Skylar...I guess this performance is fine. The end is much better than the beginning. Even though things border on sleepy at times, she easily delivers the best female vocal so far tonight. The big notes at the end are especially memorable. Needless to say, I'm still a fan.

Jennifer: "You are like the definition of composure...That was amazing."

Steven: "That was a thing of beauty...That was fantastic."

Randy: "You can sing any song. That was hot."

Heejun Han, "All in Love is Fair": I want Heejun to pick up the pace tonight, but I suppose this is a good song choice for him. I'm surprised: Heejun delivers a really nice performance. I didn't like his vocals last week, but he won me back with this one. Wow. Really nice. It's a very powerful, yet restrained, performance. Not to mention the fact that Heejun is still very likable.

Jennifer: "I love you."

Steven: "Fantastic. I love your voice, man."

Randy: "It wasn't perfect, but it was really good."

Hollie Cavanagh, "All the Man That I Need": Initially, I'm worried that this song is too mature for Hollie. But wow...her vocals are really amazing. She hits some really good notes and unlike what we saw last week, she actually moves around on stage. Hollie remains one of my favorites. Of all the women this season, she might have the best chance of winning this thing.

Randy: "You nailed it."

Jennifer: "We might have a sing-off between two girls in the final...that's what I'm hoping for."

Steven: "That was really nice."

Jeremy Rosado, "Ribbon in the Sky": Jeremy's biggest problem so far has been a lack of uniqueness. Unfortunately, this performance doesn't really change that. Overall, it's pretty forgettable -- even though Jeremy has no major mistakes. Of course, Jennifer Lopez still loves him. I think Jeremy could be in serious trouble this week. But who knows? With the twist, he might stick around.

Steven: "Beautiful voice."

Jennifer: "l love to hear your interpretation of songs."

Randy: "I didn't quite believe it tonight."

Jessica Sanchez, "I Will Always Love You": I really didn't want anybody to sing this tonight. I guess things could be worse. Jessica does a great job with it. I'm somewhat cynical about the whole thing because I've heard it performed so many times that any version seems like a copycat. I know, I know. Get over it. Jessica has an awesome voice and inserts just the right amount of emotion. The judges give her a standing ovation.

Randy: "I think you're one of the best singers in this whole competition...This is one of the best talents in the whole country."

Jennifer: "I'm speechless."

Steven: "You just made 40 million people cry."

Phillip Phillips, "Superstition": Didn't Phil perform this at his audition? Um, yes, actually he did. Yes, I know that Phil is from Leesburg, Ga., and lots of our local readers love him. But I really wish he would have performed something different. It still sounds really good, though. He takes the stage with his guitar and adds a rock/country edge to the song. Very, very good overall. Still one of my favorites.

Steven: "You just are."

Jennifer: "You made it your own and you killed it."

Randy: "I love what you do...You drive your own car in your own lane and I love it."

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