Just imagine how good the night could have been if the show had allowed all the contestants to sing within their comfort zones.
Because for every Hollie Cavanagh who was quite fine with singing Whitney Houston, there was an Elise Testone who struggled to imprint her vocal style on the diva’s music.
For every Phillip Phillips, who threw caution to the wind on “Superstition,” there was a Colton Dixon, who tried to do the same and didn’t pull it off.
So, Idol producers, give us a very broad theme next week.
You’ve got a potentially special Season 11 cast. Let them succeed or fail doing what they do best, not because the show has selected an ill-fitting theme.
With the lecture over, let’s get on with the recap.
Best of the Night: Jessica Sanchez, of course. Heck, that almost moved me to tears. The a cappella opening. The big notes. Of course, she got to sing Whitney’s biggest hit — “I Will Always Love You.” But she still had to pull it off. It’s the type of song some Idol contestants have been warned not to try in the past. Jessica did more than try; she flourished.
Runners-up: I saw a pre-show interview on E! in which Hollie Cavanagh said it was a performance of a Whitney song (“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) that convinced everyone she could sing. Well, Hollie did a lot more convincing Wednesday night with a stellar performance of “All the Man I Need.” Until Jessica stole the spotlight, that was the performance of the night.
You also have to give a ton of credit to Skylar Laine, who seemed most mismatched with the Whitney theme, but sang the heck out of “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” country twang and all. And to Phillip Phillips for his rocked-out, show-ending, guitar-strumming version of “Superstition.” I still think he’s the favorite to win the show.
Please keep her/him: The Stevie Wonder theme seemed to cramp Joshua Ledet’s vocal pyrotechnics, but he’s still the best male singer on the stage. I felt bad for both Elise Testone and Shannon Magrane, who have sounded wonderful to this point, but struggled mightily singing Whitney. I could put Colton Dixon here, too, because he found himself in the same situation. But with that smoldering look, he’s in no danger of going home, so why waste a “please keep.”
Deserves to go home: Unlike the judges, I will not dodge this question. Shannon was the weakest of the gals, so she should be the low vote-getter. Colton was the weakest of the guys, but he has way too much talent to send home this early. Instead, I think Jeremy Rosado should be on his way out of the competition. He’s a great guy with a fine voice, but lacks the special spark it’s going to take to prevail over the other guys, let alone the ladies.
Baffled by the judges: They praised Colton; I didn’t get it at all. But at least they judged tonight. In fact, it was probably a best-ever judging performance from this panel.
Line of the night: If you missed it, Steven Tyler told Shannon that she “crashed and burned.” Really. It happened. Mr. Love Everything criticized an Idol. I know. I almost fainted, too. My other favorite line — Randy Jackson to Phillip on the way he rearranges songs: “You drive your own car in your own lane, and I love it.”
Prediction for Thursday: Sensing that they’re in danger, fans of Shannon and Elise are going to vote like crazy tonight and save them, leaving Erika Van Pelt, who performed admirably but early Wednesday night, as the low vote-getter. Remember, she needed the judges help to make the finals. On the guys’ side, I have a feeling the love for Jermaine Jones might run out. He was OK, but not special, and his support on Facebook and Twitter lags way behind any of the other guys.
The judges’ final say: Yep, they get to make the final decision on whether a guy or girl goes home. If Erika lands in that bottom spot with Jermaine, my guess is that they’ll save her and send him packing.
For the song by song grades from tonight’s performance, go here.