American Idol Top 8: The song by song grades

Ryan Seacrest is heading to the summer Olympics in London, but he’s staying on Idol.

That was the gist of this morning’s much-hyped major announcement on Today.

Whew.  Big sigh of relief, right?

Though I don’t know.  I think there are some former Idol contestants — Kimberly Caldwell and Matt Rogers spring instantly to mind — who could take over his duties.

Or Kellie Pickler.  Now wouldn’t that be a hoot?

Meanwhile, the Idols seem to have survived two weeks in their mansion with no reports of ghosts or leaky roofs.

Though the mansion does have a dubious past, according to TMZ.   Pity the poor folks at Idol.  They just can’t seem to pick the right mansion.

On to more important matters as the Top 8 tackle the songs of the ’80s.

I guess Nigel loved matching the 8′s because I can’t think of any other reason to make most of the Idols sing songs from before they were born after they did so well with more current music a week ago.

We’ll get eight solo performances and four duets tonight. The links attached to each contestant’s name will take you to their previous Idol performances.

Deandre Brackensick:   Get ready for lots of  falsetto.  He’s singing “I Like It” by DeBerge, and Jimmy’s already predicting he’ll land in the bottom three.  He starts off sitting between cute girls in the audience.  Hey, Idol, we get it.  He’s a cute guy.  Very sleepy opening, which isn’t exactly the recipe for success at this stage of the competition.  A few hair flips later, Deandre seems to find his groove.  He actually delivered very nicely near the end of the song.  Perhaps his best performance yet.  But performing in the first spot, that’s going to be very forgettable two hours from now.  Grade: C.

Elise Testone:  The gal who’s looking more and more like a contender every day will tackle Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.”  Looks like Elise also considered singing “Hallelujah,” which has been so overdone on Idol.  Then she decided to go with Foreigner.  She’s putting a bluesy twist on the opening of the song.  Unfortunately, this isn’t quite the moment Gwen Stefani predicted.  It sounded like Elise was pushing a little too hard on the chorus, at least the first couple times around.  Like Steven, I wasn’t thrilled with the song choice, and can’t believe Elise couldn’t find a song that better suited her singing style.  Randy says the performance “was out of tune everywhere for me.”  Grade: C+

Colton Dixon and Skylar Dixon:  They’ll sing “Islands In the Stream,” originally performed by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  OK, I understand giving this song to Skylar.  But Colton?  I think they took one look at Colton’s hair and decided he needed to be punished.  So they made him sing this song.  With Skylar.  Syklar sounded OK.  Don’t judge Colton by anything that just happened.  Grade: C-

Phillip Phillips:  The former pawn shop worker decided to perform “That’s All” by Genesis.  OK, honestly, that was my least favorite Phillip Phillips performance.  The opening seemed really rough, as Jennifer pointed out.  But I’m not sure about the “pretty great” part.  It was OK, just OK, from start to finish.  But Phillip is so popular, he’s not going anywhere but on to the Top 7.  And nice touch, having his brother-in-law go out to L.A. to perform with him.  Grade: B-

Hollie Cavanagh and Deandre Brackensick:  They’ll perform The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.”  I’m not excited by the pairing.  It could be the kiss of death for Hollie. Nice to see Hollie sing something up tempo for a change.  But she doesn’t look entirely comfortable on stage.  That said, she ripped into that song near the end with vocals far superior to Deandre. Grade: C

Joshua Ledet:  Come on, Joshua.  Give us something special.  He’s singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Simply Red.  As always, Joshua displays a wonderful voice, a wonderful tone.  But, for me, he went over the top again, too far over the top, falling into the old Jacob Lusk trap.  The judges loved it, though Steven is specializing in spouting nonsense tonight.  It was the best performance of the night, and fell short of special for me.  Grade: B.

Jessica Sanchez:  Jessica always looks sharp, doesn’t she?  And I doubt she’ll ever have to worry about singing to boxes again.  She’s singing Whitney’s “How Will I Know.”  And it’s great to see her go upbeat again.  She went sharp in a couple of spots, but that’s my new favorite of the night.  At 16, she is absolutely in control of the stage. Grade: B+

Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips:  They’re singing one of my all-time favorite songs, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”  They both sound better on this than they did on their own solo. I mean they ripped into that. Nice pairing, Idol.  Grade: A-

Hollie Cavanagh:  This will be interesting. After some technical difficulties Hollie gets to tip into “Flashdance … What a Feeling,” recorded by Irene Cara.  She looks better than ever in that blue fringy number.  She just doesn’t look nearly as comfortable on stage as Jessica and some of the others. It’s like she can’t quite cut loose. There’s that big voice again, but that could have been much, much better. Grade: C.

 Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez:  They’ll duet on “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” recorded by Aretha Franklin and George Michaels. Idol, two of your best voices are on stage. They don’t need a chorus to back them.  Joshua sounded great on that.  And that ending was fantastic.  Very good.  Though I wasn’t quite as big a fan as the judges. Grade: B+

Colton Dixon:  This should be interesting.  Colton is going to sing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”  Love the gender switch on a song like this because you wind up with a performance you wouldn’t have expected.  And in spite of the hair, Colton sounds very good.  The best I’ve heard him sound this season.  Very nice arrangement of the song, too.  Loved the part where they slowed down the song in the middle. That performance is going to absolutely thrill Colton’s many fans, and should.  Grade: A-

Skylar Laine:  The country teen gets to close the show singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler.  Hmm, interesting song choice.  Hold it, she misses her “gun?”  Odd interview to lead into this number. But, hey, I was buying everything Skylar was selling through the first verse.  She got a little shouty toward the end, but it’s merely a mild criticism on what was Skylar’s best performance to date.  The judges absolutely loved it.  It was a very nice comeback after finishing in the bottom three last week and should buy Skylar another week on the show.  Grade: B.

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