On a night that paid tribute to a decade of excess, "American Idol" was somewhat underwhelming.
The top eight "Idol" contestants tackled '80s songs Wednesday night and delivered a two-hour show that included songs by acts like DeBarge, Genesis and Whitney Houston. A few singers stood out, but nobody had the elusive Moment.
In fact, the best song of the night was probably one of the four duets: Jessica and Joshua's take on "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)," originally performed by George Michael and Aretha Franklin.
Gwen Stefani and That Other Guy From No Doubt mentored this week. Here's how I'd rank the performances:
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1. Jessica Sanchez, "How Will I Know"
2. Colton Dixon, "Time After Time"
3. Skylar Laine, "Wind Beneath My Wings"
4. Joshua Ledet, "If You Don't Know Me By Now"
5. Deandre Brackensick, "I Like It"
6. Phillip Phillips, "That's All"
7. Elise Testone, "I Want to Know What Love Is"
8. Hollie Cavanagh, "What A Feeling"
Here's a full recap of Wednesday's show.
Deandre Brackensick, "I Like It": OK, I can't hear a DeBarge song without reflecting on the episode of "Facts of Life" that featured El DeBarge. Sigh. That was awesome. I'm not as enthusiastic about this performance, though. Sure, it's one of Deandre's stronger efforts. He interacts with the audience a lot while performing -- in fact, he starts while singing in the crowd. Deandre seems more confident that what we've seen in recent weeks, but I'm not sure he's entirely safe this week.
Jennifer: "I like it. I like it a lot. That was really great, baby."
Steven: "Totally captivating."
Randy: "It was perfect...I would make records like this."
Elise Testone, "I Want to Know What Love Is": I really want Elise to rock out tonight. This Foreigner song doesn't quite cut it. It's like she lost all the energy she delivered last week. Considering she probably already has a shaky fan base, Elise does NOT need to enter ballad land. Vocally, there aren't any huge flaws...but it doesn't quite scream "perfection," either. The end of the song gets gospel treatment. That's not enough to make me rave about this performance. Overall, it's average and kind of sleepy.
Steven: "I'm not sure if that song was the right song for you tonight."
Jennifer: "It wasn't totally right, every single moment."
Randy: "I think you're much better than this."
DUET TIME! Skylar Laine and Colton Dixon sing "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. I suppose this performance is fine, but I'd rather hear "Ghetto Superstar." Who's with me?
Randy: "You guys did a really good job...Very nice."
Jennifer: "It was perfect."
Phillip Phillips, "That's All": Want a fun fact? My first cassette EVER was a tape by Genesis. I'm still a loyal fan, which is why I'm especially happy Phillip chose this song. It's a good fit. Predictably, he plays his guitar, sings and has a semi-angry expression on his face while performing. Yeah, not too many surprises tonight. Still, Phillip consistently keeps me hooked, even if it is partly because he's from Georgia. It's hardly my favorite performance from Phillip, but I'm still a fan. His brother-in-law plays guitar with him on stage.
Steven: "I love your individuality...You just love being who you are."
Jennifer: Says the beginning was a little shaky, but he brought it home toward the end
Randy: "I loved it."
DUET TIME! Hollie Cavanagh and Deandre Brackensick sing "I'm So Excited" by The Pointer Sisters. It's nice to see Hollie finally perform a fast song. I'm not going crazy about Deandre on this song, but whatever.
Steven: "That was great."
Jennifer: "Together you guys sounded great. Good job."
Randy: "You guys can both really sing."
Joshua Ledet, "If You Don't Know Me By Now": Yes, this song was originally released in 1972. But Joshua is performing the Simply Red version. It's a pretty good fit, though I take issue with the fact that this song technically isn't an '80s tune. Guess I have to get over that. Anyway, this is a standard Joshua performance: big vocals, lots of emotion and gospel backup singers. I think he over-sings at points, but overall it's a pretty solid effort. He gets a standing ovation.
Jennifer: "We asked for a powerhouse performance and that's what we got."
Steven: "What a perfect, beautiful song."
Randy: "It was so mature, dude."
Jessica Sanchez, "How Will I Know": Woo hoo! Party time! I'm so happy this song is in the mix. Immediately, I give Jessica props for dressing in '80s-inspired apparel. Taking on a Whitney song is an ambitious move, but I'm happy with the final result. I'm glad Jessica has escaped the limits of ballad land. She seems to actually have fun on stage. Jessica is really growing on me. She's not the robotic singer I envisioned early in the contest.
Jennifer: "Really, really good."
Steven: "Everything you do is beautiful."
Randy: "You did an amazing job."
DUET TIME! Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips sing "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. They do a great job with it. Elise is 100 times better than what we saw earlier in the show.
Randy: "That was hot."
Jennifer: Loved it
Steven: "It couldn't have been better."
Hollie Cavanagh, "What a Feeling": I appreciate Hollie's attempt to change things up and do a fast song this week. And I'm a total "Flashdance" fan. But this performance just isn't good. She's clearly trying too hard to seem relaxed on stage. She over-sings most of the song and even appears stiff while attempting to interact with the crowd. Sorry, I'm not impressed tonight. It really seems like she's lost her thunder in this competition. Hollie could be in serious trouble.
Steven: "Your pitch was all over the place, I'm so sorry to tell you."
Jennifer: "You don't release. You don't let go."
Randy: Says she thought too much about the performance
DUET TIME! Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet sing "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)." I'm slightly embarrassed to note that I LOVE this song and listen to it on the treadmill on a regular basis. Jessica and Joshua do a great job with it. There's tons of big notes and they get gospel choir treatment. Standing ovation from the judges.
Randy: "Two of the greatest singers to ever hit this competition."
Jennifer: "That was something amazing."
Steven: "That was so fine."
Colton Dixon, "Time After Time": Colton changes the arrangement, giving this tune a pop-rock melody. After his performance, he admits he ripped off the arrangement from a band called Quietdrive. Thanks for being honest, Colton. I'm really divided on this one. At points, Colton still seems a little whiny...and I'm not entirely sold on the arrangement. However, I do see him having some appeal as a current artist -- at least more so than some of the other contestants who remain in the game.
Steven: "You nailed it."
Jennifer: "It was amazing."
Randy: "You're so current."
Skylar Laine, "Wind Beneath My Wings": Initially, I'm a little skeptical of the song choice. This season of "Idol" does not need another female contestant inhabiting ballad territory. However, Skylar does a good job with it. She demonstrates quite a bit of range, which is definitely a plus. Definitely one of the strongest performances of the night, but not one of the greatest "Idol" performances of all time. I'm impressed, though.
Randy: "I think this is your best performance on this show."
Jennifer: "You can sing with the best of everybody who's here."
Steven: "The beginning of a great career."