The Wednesday night installment of “American Idol” began with host Ryan Seacrest paying tribute to the man who was his mentor and his inspiration: the late entertainment legend Dick Clark, who died Wednesday from a heart attack at the age of 82.
Acknowledging that Clark pioneered the concept of pop music on TV with his landmark show “American Bandstand”, Seacrest said of “American Idol”, “Without Dick, a show like this would not exist. He will be missed greatly and our thoughts and our prayers go out to his family.” Ryan then added, “I know that he’s in a better place, saying, ‘Hey, let’s get on with the show, OK?’ You got it, boss.”
This week, each of the remaining seven contestants sang a No. 1 hit from the year 2000 through the present day, and then a classic soul tune, loosely inspired by the theme of “Soul Train”: ironically, another pioneering music show whose creator, Don Cornelius, passed away earlier this year. Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez — wearing in a bizarre-looking dress that seemed to be made of gray leather straps sewn together — were on hand to give their critiques.
Hollie Cavanagh kicked things off with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” She started the tune a cappella and built to a big finish and the judges loved it. “I’m so happy,” said J-Lo, noting that Hollie had stopped over-thinking things and loosened up. “You felt every word of it. You did it.” Randy called it “close to perfect” and said, “I felt you for the first time ever.” Steven said Hollie finally came out of her shell. For her second number, she performed Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and the judges loved that too, with J-Lo calling it “better than the first time” and praising her “new composure.” “You worked it out!” added Randy.
Colton Dixon, who dyed his hair blond with a streak of red, performed an emo-rock version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” for his first number, backed by an all-girl band, and surprisingly, it worked, but the judges weren’t overly thrilled. “Not the greatest, but I loved the interpretation,” said Randy. J-Lo said it was “exciting,” but she didn’t like the parts when Colton sang in a lower range. “You gotta get low to get high,” Steven argued. We think he was talking about singing. For his second number, Colton sang a drastically-reworked version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” which he played on the piano with some sort of electronic drum sounds in the background. Jennifer didn’t like the fact that he changed the arrangement so much, and Randy said it wasn’t as exciting as they would’ve liked. Steve wasn’t crazy about the song choice.
Elise Testone performed Alicia Keys’ “No One,” and told Ryan tearfully that her dog was sick and might not make it. Jennifer said the performance gave her her first “goosies” of the night, but advised Elise to “smile more” because it made her “eyes come alive.” Randy called the performance “a great lesson in restraint,” while Steven said, “You sang your little tushie off tonight.” Elise’s second number was Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” which she started by draping herself sexily over a white couch. The judges didn’t love it; Jennifer lectured Elise about showing the same emotion when she’s singing as she did when talking about her sick dog. Randy was booed when he said the song wasn’t the right one for her and urged her to feel her emotion. He also erroneously said the song was by Al Green before he corrected himself.
Phillip Phillips sang a surprising version of Usher’s “U Got It Bad” — he performed it acoustically on guitar, and his backup band was also acoustic. The three judges gave him a standing ovation, and Jennifer exclaimed, “That was so sexy! That was great.” Phillip blushed. Randy raved about how Phillip is a “true artist” who always tries to “be original and be himself,” while Steven said he “fooled them” with his surprising song choice. Later on, Phillip sang Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” without his guitar, and even danced around on the stage. The judges raved again. Steven called it “brilliantly awkward,” while Jennifer said she wanted to “get up there and do that little step with you.”
Jessica Sanchez, who the judges stormed the stage to save last week, admitted that when they rushed to her side and grabbed her mic mid-song, she “literally thought you guys didn’t want me to sing ’cause you guys didn’t like me.” She performed Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” and managed to sound sensual despite her young age. The judges raved — J-Lo called it “crazy and insane, the way you play with a song,” while Randy said her talent was “so otherworldly.” For her second number, Jessica sang Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” and J-Lo said she could see a bit of Jessica’s fierce onstage alter ego, BeBe Chez, come out in the performance. “Good God and bless my soul, you’ve done it again,” said Steven.
Skylar Laine wowed the judges with both of her songs. Her first was a country version of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” which Gaga actually did release last year. She sounded great, and Jennifer gushed, “I love that version! A more perfect song for you does not exist!” “You’re so beyond ready, to me,” agreed Randy. “You’re gonna give all the other girls a run for their money,” Steven chimed in. Her second number was a countrified take on Gladys Knight & the Pips’ version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which Randy called “brilliant.” Steven called Skylar “a wild horse that refuses to be tamed.”
Joshua Ledet, who was in the bottom three last week, received standing ovations for both his numbers: Fantasia’s “I Believe” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Jennifer praised him for “leaving it all on the stage,” and said she “felt blessed” that Joshua is in the competition. Randy said he was “one of the most gifted singers I think we’ve ever met on the show.” After he ended the Sam Cooke number with a huge note, Jennifer begged, “Please, America, don’t send this boy home!” Randy called it “stellar” and “the perfect song,” while Steven said “You stretched your voice to the limit of soul.”
Now that there aren’t any more saves left, somebody is definitely going home Thursday night. Tune in to see who it’ll be.