Idol Top 10 recap: Who should stay, who should go

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be clear after tonight:  American Idol has rounded up some special talent for Season 11.

I mean, Joshua Ledet sounded absolutely amazing Wednesday night.  And his performance, because it was a little short on emotion, was only my third favorite of the night.

Jessica Sanchez and Elise Testone were amazing.  Hollie Cavanagh can be.  Phillip Phillips and Colton Dixon are fine singers and excellent musicians.

Bottom line:  In just a couple of weeks, Idol voters are going to have some very difficult decisions to make.

On with the recap:

Best performance of the night:   I’m giving this one to Elise Testone.  She had been in the bottom three two straight weeks.  Last week, quite frankly, she looked discouraged and resigned to her fate when she landed there.  But she bounced back with a vengeance Wednesday, giving us a version of “Vienna” filled with attitude and vocal hijinks designed to show she belongs on this show.  Belong?  Folks, she’s one of the best singers Idol has.  And she looked much more self-assured during her performance.

Runners-up:  The only reason Jessica Sanchez finishes as a runner-up is because she had every reason to come into the week with more confidence.  That said, she admitted she really wasn’t familiar with Billy Joel’s music.  But it sure didn’t show.  She took on “Everybody Has a Dream” and turned it into a personal anthem.  And, in the process, served notice that she just might be capable of ending the streak of male winners on American Idol.

Oh, I’d be foolhardy if I didn’t also mention Joshua Ledet here.   Another superb vocal.  But also very nice pointers from Jennifer Lopez, who encouraged him to do a better job of selling what he’s singing, like Fantasia did when she sang “Summertime” back in Season 3.

Smartest performance of the night:  Heejun Han.  Hey, when you’re outmatched vocally, entertain.  And that’s just what Heejun did, turning in what was undoubtedly the most fun performance of the night.  He showed up on stage wearing a suit and a beanie, all prepared to sing a ballad.  After a couple of keys from the piano, he declared himself ready to dance, whipped off his suit jacket to reveal a brightly colored T-shirt and started dancing all over the place.  And, in the process, assured himself at least one more week on Idol.

Worst performance of the night:  I gave the lowest grade to Deandre Brackensick.   Sorry, fans of the hair.   On a night filled with solid performances, his wasn’t.   It came off as a little cheesy; the vocal as nothing special.  I’m pretty darn sure Simon Cowell would have ripped into Deandre, declaring it a performance worthy of a cruise ship.  The Idol judges were way too kind.

Please keep her:  I adore Hollie Cavanagh’s spunk.  And her fearlessness in tackling big songs.  But the teen tried to do a little too much with “Honesty” and Wednesday, and it honestly did not work.  It didn’t help that Tommy Hilfiger turned her into a fashion disaster.  More on that in another blog.  All that said, the gal from Texas by way of England has too much talent to leave this early in the competition.

No reason to worry:   Colton Dixon had a tough job, closing the show right after Jessica Sanchez had stolen the show.  And he couldn’t match her vocal firepower.  But his performance was Grade B solid.  And with his fan base, he’s going nowhere but on to the top 9.  Ditto for Phillip Phillips Jr., who put his own twist on Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out.”

Baffled by the judges:  Other than the free pass given to Deandre, I thought the judges did very well.  They even pointed out Heejun’s vocal flaws, even though his performance was a wild success with the Idol audience.

Best line of the night:  Steven to Jessica:  “You’ve gone way past my judging.  When God was giving out vocal cords, you were so way at the front of the line. I’ve got nothing to say except thank you for letting me listen.”

What should happen:   Heejun’s subpar vocals get him eliminated.  He’s joined in the bottom three by Deandre Brackensick and Skylar Laine, who had an off night.

What will happen:   Erika Van Pelt will be eliminated, despite a fine vocal.  She’ll be joined in the bottom three by (surprise) Elise Testone and Deandre Brackensick.

For the song by song grade blog, go here.  But the grades are as follows:

Elise Testone: “Vienna” — A-
Jessica Sanchez: “Everybody Has a Dream” — A-
Joshua Ledet: “She’s Got a Way” — B+
Phillip Phillips: “Movin’ Out” — B
Colton Dixon: “Piano Man” — B
Erika Van Pelt: “New York State of Mind” — B-
Skylar Laine: “Shameless” — C
Hollie Cavanagh: “Honesty” — C
Heejun Han: “My Life” — C-
Deandre Brackensick: “Only the Good Die Young” — C-


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