American Idol Recap: The Top 13 Tackle Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston

Because clearly the producers are cruel. And here's why:

If you've watched American Idol for some time as I have, there's one thing you can count on. The boys will tackle Stevie Wonder at some point, and the girls will tackle Whitney (or Mariah or Celine). And when they do the judges will tell them how Stevie or Whitney or Mariah is one of the "best singers ever", so you really gotta bring it if you're going to try to tackle the master. And usually the implication is that it has not been brought.

So why they thought they should do an entire single episode where every single boy would sing Stevie and every single girl would sing Whitney, I do not know.

But that was the plan last night. And the plan tonight for elimination is for there to be a revealed bottom guy and bottom girl…and to let the judges make decision on who stays. A little So You Think You Can Dance action, which I can appreciate.

The other thing I could appreciate was that mentor Jimmy Iovine brought Mary J Blige, woo hoo! MJ elevates any proceeding, you know?

And finally, one more comment before I dig into the actual performances: Make the karaoke video backgrounds stop. Do not imitate X Factor, just show us the band. Those visuals seem like a total throwback to the early lower-budget seasons. Me no likee.

Now. Let's dig in.

1. Joshua sang I Wish

Although I wished he would stop bouncing, I liked it when he growled. He sounded fantastic, although I think his on stage demeanor could use a little work. And one more side note: I appreciated the gender-balanced horn section! I think Joshua my annoy some folks, just as he really impresses some folks, so I don't think he's above being at risk.

2. Elise sang I'm Your Baby Now

Having switched songs at the last minute (and really, thank goodness, because the Greatest Love of All is a minefield of a song) Elise sounded pretty good vocally. I liked her growls too :) But she looked so tense and uncomfortable the whole time. She was telegraphing all over the place that she felt unprepared and unsure. And that's some bad mojo. Nice voice or not, she's at risk.

3. Jermaine sang Knocks Me Off My Feet

I love this song from Songs in the Key of Life, and MJ was so right when she told Jermaine to "start like butter". Lay off the melisma and just sing. When he did that it was lovely. And rich. When he got too fancy it was loungey and inauthentic. I think he had more of the fore than the latter though, so I think he's safe. 

4. Erika sang I Believe in You and Me

Erika actually had pitch issues (as a lot of the singers did) but what a nice tone. I could really listen to her sing all night. Very Adele kind of universal appeal. I think she's safe, despite some rough spots.

5. Colton sang Lately

This is one of the Stevie Wonder songs I have always thought this was over-rated and boring. (As opposed to I Just Called to Say I love You which is over-rated and HORRIFYING.) And when Colton started it was nothing special, and I was worried about sitting through it. But man, he ROCKED it on the second half. That's when he made it his own, and made it a better song. I think he's safe for that.

6. Shannon sang I Have Nothing

Oh yikes. This was, no other way to put it, bad. She had pitch issues to the point it was painful. Worse than that? I just didn't believe it at all. She should have done something upbeat, young and fun. Remember Whitney pre-diva? Remember How Will I Know or I Wanna Dance with Somebody? That's the Whitney this girl should have gone for. She's not just at risk. She is going home.

7. Deandre sang Jammin

The best part of this was Mary J working it out during the package!! She is so awesome. But you know what? Deandre was SO much better singing this way than his falsetto. His falsetto is only truly excellent within a narrow enough range that it has brought down his former performances. He sounded like a different person on this one. And he should stick with that person. I think he's safe.

8. Skyler sang Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

Hmm. She didn't seem entirely comfortable with the song, but there's no denying she has a powerhouse voice and is a dynamo. She strained a bit on the top notes, but ultimately I think she probably pulled it off. Didn't love it though, and can't say for sure she's safe…her personality will carry her further than her performance this week.

9. Heejun sang All is Fair in Love

This was not his best. The whole soft beginning was sharp. And his constant head-nodding and the way his mouth hung open when not singing…it started to bug me. Here's the thing with Heejun. He has such personality off-stage. And so far he's been all smooth crooner onstage. Eventually the disconnect will start to annoy people in ways they can't quite put their finger on. I don't think week is that week, but he will eventually be held accountable for his performing split personality!

10. Hollie sang All the Man That I Need

Hollie has a big big voice. But it was all voice, not much performance. In fact she had a blank blank expression throughout this. I think there were way worse performances this week, but eventually she needs to show us some heart, not just lay her voice on us.

11. Jeremy sang Ribbon in the Sky

I love this song. Jeremy did an acceptable job of it, although not as well as I was hoping. I think he's at risk because he should have delivered way more beauty than he did with that as his canvas.

12. Jessica sang I Will Always Love You

I know I'll be in the minority, but I didn't love this. I thought she was pitchy. I thought it was copycat. And she was looking down the whole time…at what I don't know (I guess the kids in the "mosh pit") but not at me the viewing (and voting) public. That being said: I really love her tone and when she was on pitch, it was beautiful. I just didn't want to give it the standing ovation everyone else did. If nothing else, I didn't appreciate the complete lack of making it her own. Having just watched the last bit of Whitney's funeral on an airport TV a couple of weeks ago, I full-on expected to be brought back to that moment and shed a tear or two, as I did while they wheeled Whitney's casket out. But nope. Jessica just didn't get me. But she's safe though, no doubt.

13. Phillip sang Superstition

I really have a hard time getting over his Dave Matthews Band impression. And you know what: I think Steven Tyler might be feeling that a bit too. It was weird when they caught him in a shot at the end of the song, and he wasn't clapping and had a skeptical look on his face. And then his feedback (and let's face it, Steven never says anything mean) was so generic. Really. He said, literally, "You just are!" That's like one of the top ten things you can say to actors after you've seen them in a show and it has sucked. Similar to "You all looked like you were having so much fun up there!" and "You!!! YOU!!!!" and "OMG, you looked so beautiful, that second act costumer was to die for!" and of course always including the ever-popular, "You did it again!" but I digress. Phillip will be safe, but even though I should like him, I'm not liking him because everyone is pretending he's original, and he's far from it.

Bottom line for the Bottom:

Women: Elise and Shannon…these are obvious.

Men: The men are tougher, but I'll guess Jeremy and Joshua.

There is no doubt in my mind that Shannon is going home if the judges get a chance to cut her. She was so obviously the weakest link last night.

But what did you think?


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