Tonight, our group of finalists took to the stage to deliver their best rendition of Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. It’s a theme that promised to deliver soulful, vocally challenging performances that are terribly out of date and irrelevant. And it did not let us down! There were quite a few stand out performances that really “wow’ed” me, and just enough wrecks to keep things interesting. Overall, a good evening!
Joshua Ledet – I Wish
Josh opened the show with an uptempo number. Vocally, he really nailed the song choice. His raspy voice suited the song like a glove, and really allowed him to use his signature vocal runs and inflections to their full advantage. He did a good job at engaging the crowd, but my only complaint is that he often looked a little awkward when he was trying to get into it. For his next performance, he needs to play it cool a little bit more. I’d really like to see what he could do with a little restraint.
Elise originally chose my least favorite Whitney ballad, “The Greatest Love of All.” However, rehearsal does not go well, and she switches to I’m Your Baby Tonight. Its an odd song choice, but Haley made it work really well last year, so I was confident that Elise would as well. Oh, how wrong I was! Elise looked simply pissed off the whole way through the performance. She did not want to sing this song at all, and she let everyone know. Vocally, Elise was simply lost. Her unique tone did more to hinder her than help her, and as a result, the performance went no where.
Jermaine Jones – Knocks Me Off My Feet
Jermaine would sound amazing as the bass in a choir or an acapella group. As a solo singer? Meh. I’m over it. The performance was stiff and lifeless. Jermaine sauntered into the middle of the stage, and just stood there, making serial killer eyes at nobody in particular. His voice’s tone is so low, that once you get over the velvety quality, you realize that there isn’t much else there. Sure, I can take Jermaine for a minute and a half, but just 30 seconds longer, and I would probably find him boring, and maybe even unbearable.
Erica Van Pelt – I Believe in You and Me
Erica is something of an underdog in this competition, and tonight she proved that she earned her spot in the semifinals. This was a bold song choice, especially since Erica doesn’t seem like the type of singer that would have chosen a Whitney song of her own free will. However, she did a great job of putting her own spin on it, and making it work with her husky tone. It may have been a bit pagenty, but overall, it was a solid performance.
Colton Dixon – Lately
Colton could have struggled with this theme. Colton should have struggled with this theme. So, who hit one out of the park? Colton. In rehearsal, Jimmy and Mary harped on Colton to open up, and really be vulnerable while singing this song. That advice really helped Colton make the performance his own. Additionally, their vocal critiques were spot on, as Colton was able to really make the song suit his rocker qualities. And the falsetto at the end? That was the money shot. Take notes, DeAndre. Overall, it was a surprisingly good performance.
Shannon Magrane – I Have Nothing
I knew it was a matter of time before someone chose the most overdone Whitney song. Who better to suck the soul out of this soulless song than the soulless pageant bot? Shannon went for all of the big notes, and missed a good majority of them. However, she blew it entirely when during the key change. If she had nailed the big notes, I could have maybe forgiven her for her lifeless and bland interpretation of the song, but without the solid vocal foundation, the performance becomes something of a waste of two minutes.
DeAndre chose a reggae inspired song, and came out hopping around the stage like he was drunk for the first time. Once again…I have no idea what this kid is saying. His tone just gets in the way of whatever the frack it is he is saying. All I can say is that his high notes are spot on…the rest? Well, I couldn’t tell. The song never really played into what vocal strengths he does have, and once again it left me with a “wtf” vibe. The judges continue to gush over him…but I just don’t seem to be able to enjoy DeAndre’s performances.
Skylar Laine – Where Do Broken Hearts Go?
Being the resident country girl, I was doubting that Skylar could do well with this theme. Boy…did she ever prove me wrong! She shocked me by being able to country fry this ballad, and actually turn it into something that I could stomach seeing a country show! Vocally, she hit it out of the park with surprising accuracy. However, what shocked me the most was her ability to tell the song’s story, and really convey that heartbreak to the audience. It’s a quality that all the great country singer’s posses, and Skylar has got it too.
HeeJun continues to choose ballads, but this time, he clearly pushes his voice further than before. His soulful tone really soars here, and HeeJun is able to make an emotional connection that was missing from his earlier performance. The performance is still a little bland, but this time, we clearly saw the strength of his voice and the emotion he possesses. Also, can I just say how much I love his off stage persona? Seriously, if he can channel that into his performances, HeeJun will be unstoppable.
Hollie Cavanaugh – All The Man That I Need
Like Shannon and Erica, Hollie goes into full pageant mode with another ballad. However, unlike her competitors, Hollie’s voice simply tears through the song. It’s one of the vocal stand outs of the evening, and at times, she really reminds me of Celene Dion. Seriously, how does a voice that fills every nook and cranny of that theater come out of a girl that barely tops off at 5 feet? When Hollie gets to the bigger notes, she simply blasts through them effortlessly. It was a great performance, but she needs to switch it up and go uptempo. Now. Before its too late.
Comming off of a hot Wildcard performance, Jeremy was in a great place to gain some momentum. Unfortunately, this song isn’t going to do him any favors. Jeremy chose what was probably one of Stevie’s most boring songs, and even though he was vocally solid….there wasn’t too much to get excited about. He was still better than quite a few of his fellow contestants, but his performance was forgettable. That could be a very costly mistake.
Jessica Sanchez – I Will Always Love You
Jessica took on Whitney’s most iconic song. For being so young, she certainly is brave. I was all ready for this song to just collapse on her, but Jessica held her own with shocking ease. Did she nail it the way it was meant to be nailed? Not quite. On a scale from 1 to 10…this song is about a 17. Jessica turned in a performance that fell somewhere between 13 and 14…which, if my knowledge of basic numbers is correct…is still off the charts. Now…that was a terrible analogy, so let me just say this.
Jessica Sanchez gave the season’s first showstopping performance.
Ok, so I hated Phillip last week. This week, I found him much more tolerable. In fact…I actually enjoyed him quite a bit. I finally started to enjoy the raw bluesy tone of his voice, and the way that the music simply over takes him. I still stand by my assessment that Phillip needs to learn to control that raw energy, but he brings something different to the table. His take on Superstition was enjoyable, entertaining, and unique. Pretty good considering this song has been overdone to death, but Phillip breathed some new life into it, and this competition.
So, my take on the evening…
13. Shannon Magrane
12. DeAndre Brackensick
11. Jermaine Jones
10. Elise Testone
9. Jeremy Rosado
8. HeeJun Han
7. Joshua Ledet
6. Erika Van Pelt
5. Skylar Laine
4. Colton Dixon
3. Phillip Phillips
2. Hollie Cavanaugh
1. Jessica Sanchez
Tomorrow night, the judges have the final say on who goes home. I have a feeling that if Jeremy or Jermaine falls into the bottom 2, the judges won’t be able to justify saving them twice, but the real ones with cause to worry are Shannon and Elise.
Who will be the first one cut out of the tour? We find out tomorrow!