Here we go: Billy Joel week. The show opens on an odd note, showing how distraught all the contestants were by Giraffe Jesus' dismissal. Don't they know how this show works? But, according to the musical cues, they are somehow going to buck up and put on a show for us this week. So, the obvious mentor for Billy Joel week is Diddy. Obviously. They have also brought in Tommy Hilfiger as a "fashion consultant." This is awkward. (PS: anyone remember Rich Girls?)
Deandre is up first, singing "Only the Good Die Young." Jimmy Iovine claims that his repressed Catholic upbringing gives him the inside track on advice for this song. In the end, the performance is OK, but I don't feel like Deandre gets the message at all — there's no irony, no mischievousness. It all feels a little lightweight. The judges are also lukewarm, and I think Randy is wearing a sparkly pin with his own face on it.
Before going to break, they tease something about a "new look" for Erika's hair. Michael Slezak over at TVLine.com has been trying to start a movement to get her to go brunette after seeing an old picture in a rehearsal package. Could his dream be coming true?! She's chosen "New York State of Mind." Diddy tells her to hold back a little. Good advice! And also to let the song breathe. On to the fashion consultation! She tells Tommy she likes Pink, so he tells her to cut her hair. Ta-dah! It's short and dark, and looks fabulous. But more importantly, it looks different. She's no longer another elderly blond chick. The opening is pretty, and I like the mellow arrangement but she still over-sings at certain moments. The end was very delicate and affecting. Randy digs the hair, and calls her one of the best singers in this competition. J-Lo wants her to let loose in her body. Overall, Erika finally has a good week. Go old ladies!
Joshua Ledet is up next, hoping to live up to the hype he generated last week. Hilfiger wants to put him in a tuxedo, which I think is kind of a cool idea. Joshua is singing "She's Got a Way," and he's never heard it before. He says he went into the rehearsal session worried and discouraged. He doesn't seem to be someone who does well outside his comfort zone. Cut to performance: It's backwards-chair time. Also, he seems to have ignored Tommy and gone with all black. It looks like a tuxedo jacket over slacks. Not great. You could kind of tell that he wasn't crazy about the song, but the end had some good moments. J-Lo felt the same way I did: "I felt like you were singing it, but you weren't singing it." Steven liked it. Randy says they're both right. He is an idiot.
Next up is my gal Skylar, who is apparently a big Diddy fan — she geeks out when she sees him in the mentor chair. She's singing "Shameless." Hilfiger attempts to pump up her style, adding this tidbit: "Country Western, it's a big part of America." Yes, they have a lot of those people between my house in Nantucket and my house in Vail. I fly over them all the time. After a five-minute conversation with Hilfiger about cowboy boots, Skylar takes the stage in pumps. This is starting to become a trend. I am loving the pedal steel guy on stage, but the mix sounds a little off. The performance is solid, but nothing showstopping. I like when Skylar gets her sassy on. I would love to hear her sing Miranda Lambert.
Next up is Elise Testone, who has had a rough couple weeks. She's singing "Vienna." Jimmy is worried that it's a song no one knows, but she sticks to her guns. Hilfiger wants Elise to show off her bod more — didn't he see that horrible tube dress from Whitney Houston week? He recommends bell bottoms and ... she ignores him. Trend! That said, she does go kind of '70s with a long vest and maxi dress. Every song she sings seems to start slow and then has this big "the band comes in" moment. I wish she would just keep it more understated. She does close on a beautiful note. She gets a standing ovation, and it really seems to move her. Steven loves her, and assures her that she's staying this week. J-Lo says, "I'm happy for you." Then they bring up her vocal students for a tender moment — seems like the producers do want her to stay.
Now it's time for my boyfriend, Phillip Phillips. According to Seacrest, the Phillips family pawn shop has been greatly aided by his stint on Idol. PP follows that up with a ham-fisted joke about people pawning babies. Leave the quips to your boy Heejun. On another note, I've had an epiphany: I think part of my intense attraction of Phillip Phillips is his Aw-Shucks-Matthew Saracen vibe (I'm in the midst of Friday Night Lights season two, no spoilers!). He's singing "Moving Out." Diddy takes PP's guitar and tries to get him to groove. "They got me girls to sing to, and I wasn't really all about that," he says after Diddy plants a gaggle of women in front of him in the practice space. He's so faithful to me! Trend alert: He keeps the guitar for his performance AND ignores Hilfiger's plea for him not to wear gray. The performance was solid, but I liked the verses more than the big, growled notes. The judges liked it, and joke about all the mentor-dissing. He tells Seacrest that he doesn't care if people don't like him, or if they do like him. Man, how did this guy end up in this competition? It's like a dream I once had where I was a contestant on American's Next Top Model. Skill-competition disconnect, to say the least.
Man, Holly Cavanaugh loves the sparkle. I think she has what Tim Gunn would call a "taste issue." Jimmy also hated that taupe dress from last week. During her package with Hilfiger, she says, "It's every girl's dream to have someone bring them thousands of pieces of clothes." Feminism! She's singing "Honesty." Jimmy wants her to stop being so chipper, and feel the music. Her voice is good, but at this point, I'm bored with her singing these big power ballads. JLo is the only judge clapping. Steven says she was a little pitchy, and that she was over-singing it. No matter what, I doubt this girl is going anywhere this week.
I am very excited for "Heejun meets Diddy." But first, Alert, Alert, Haley Reinhart is in the house! Apparently she's performing on the results show. I might have to stop fast-forwarding for that. Heejun has chosen "My Life." In his pre-performance package, he says he was heartbroken by the criticism last week. Diddy can't wrap his head around Heejun. He says with a laugh, "I don't know if he's an actor, or a conman. I don't even know if he's Asian. He may be Black." When he finally takes the stage, he acts like he's gonna be singing a sleepy ballad by the piano, and then stops the music, rips off his tuxedo, and dances around like a fool. I don't even know what to say about it. I mean, it's insanity. Entertaining at least? Steven Tyler does not look amused. JLo liked that he brought "fun." Turns out Tyler was a bit offended, he says, "At some point you have to take [the music business] a little bit more serious." There are moments when it feels like Heejun might be trolling this whole competition, and I don't know how I feel about that. I mean, obviously this insane spectacle could use a little irony, but I do spend a lot of time on these recaps.
Jessica Sanchez is up next. She's singing "Everybody Has a Dream." Of course she is. I have never heard of that song, but if I saw it on a list I would bet money that Holly and Jessica would be mud-wrestling over it. (Side note: there were bunch of songs I had never heard tonight, and I suffered through a touring production of Moving Out in Atlantic City! Shudder.) Diddy, who gave some pretty solid advice throughout the evening, cautions, "Less is more." The performance is great, because this girl is a singing machine. That said, the song choice was cheesy and she's kind of a singing machine. It cuts both ways. She gets a standing ovation from the judges. "You've gone way past my judging," says Steven. "When God was giving out vocal chords, you were so at the front of the line."
Speaking of God, our own little, local toothpick with hair gets the pimp spot this evening. Hilfiger really "enjoys Colton," but he's "a little worried about the hair." We all are, Tommy. Colton counters with, "My hair is my baby." He's singing "Piano Man," which is a huge advantage. Can he Haley this? When he's done rehearsing, Diddy says, "I actually wanted to buy that record." Cut to stage: red piano, spotlights — it looks awesome. He sings it tenderly, with these odd little emo vocal tics. It kind of works, if you're into that sort of thing. He made it his own, and people who like him will love it. The best moment of the night is when J-Lo almost calls Diddy "Puffy." Ha, like when they dated! Apparently pillow talk is forever. Randy commends Colton for "being an individual." Again, the theme of this week is that we're gonna pay a lot of money to bring in these experts, but don't worry, it's only a sadistic test. Ignore them and you will be greatly rewarded! In his post-performance interview, things get very Shannon MaGrane. I will quote directly: "I've been praying before this whole thing, because tonight was a big moment for me. And I was just collecting myself, and saying 'God, use me.' I wanted him to shine through first and foremost." As we all know, there is no one more godly than Billy Joel.
Till next week! In trouble: Deandre, maybe Erika.