Even before the contestants performed last night, one had been eliminated. Jermaine Jones, the "gentle giant" of this season's American Idol, was forced to leave the show after Idol staff's discovery of his criminal activity -- oh, and him lying to Idol producers about the whole thing didn't help the situation either. Why the producers thought it was acceptable to air footage from the executive producers' conversation with Jones (much less even film the conversation) is a sign of the times for Idol, as it pandered for more viewers with a tacky swipe at creating unnecessary controversy.
Funny how this all worked out for a contestant who wasn't originally even part of the Top 13. We wonder if the judges are kicking themselves now for giving the wildcard slot to Jones when it only ended up wasted. Alas, we will never know.
Despite this, last night's performances of birth-year songs -- songs released during the contestant's birth year, if you couldn't decipher that one -- was an interesting one, offering up a bit of diversity and contestant personality. Will.i.am's spot as a guest mentor (again with Jimmy Iovine) proved relatively useless, so it was good the contestants had a strong perception of their songs before the time they got to will.i.am.
Hollie Cavanagh's performance of "Power Of Love" was excellent, like "heaven above" according to Steven Tyler. Where those pipes come from, we're not sure. Joshua Ledet's version of "When A Man Loves A Woman," though a relatively safe choice, saw a standing ovation from the three judges (they stood up even before he finished singing, actually). And deservedly so -- it was true enough to Michael Bolton's version of the song, with all of the vocal strength Bolton delivers, but complemented by the uniquely Ledet singing style.
Sylar Laine did Bonnie Raitt's "Love Sneaking Up On You" with an overtly country-fied flair, remaining truer to her artistry than some of the other contestants, like Erika Van Pelt's rendition of "Heaven" by Bryan Adams -- she really went over the top with it, and Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were underwhelmed, while Randy Jackson was criticism disguised as complement.
The most forgettable performance of the night came from Shannon Magrane with Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day." Though she sang it well, it wasn't memorable whatsoever -- too breathy, too uninspired. DeAndre Brackensick's take on "Endless Love," by Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross, was equally boring. Call us crazy, but Brackensick's creepy falsetto does more for the guy than his standard range. The judges dug into Brackensick for choosing the wrong song last night, saying they could tell he didn't "feel" the song.
The judges also called Jessica Sanchez out for her song choice, "Turn The Beat Around." While her powerhouse vocal, heavy on vibrato, didn't quite fit the song, she did do it justice.
Phillip Phillips had a long week, battling kidney stones, but he somehow powered through his performance of "Hard To Handle." Will.i.am was actually spot-on when he expressed how impressed he was that Phillips sounded so good during the mentoring session (and the live performance) even in pain.
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