Here we are, back again — a little older, a little wiser, and slightly sad over the ouster of shriveled-up old lady Erika Van Pelt. This week, we open with another melancholy montage of the contestants' "journey" set to "Landslide." I want to hate this, but that song is some serious emotional kryptonite. You could set it behind a video of monkeys on roller skates and I would probably well up.
Seacrest opens the show with, "Good luck tonight, and may the odds be ever in your favor." Hunger Games! Like that movie needs his help, amiright?! This week, the contestants will be channeling their own "idols." As a mentor, they've defrosted Stevie Nicks — no wonder they were pulling my "Landside" strings.
First up is that odd amalgamation of Q-tips and dryer lint, local boy Colton Dixon. Stevie tells him, "Don't ever cut your hair." Breaking News: Colton is making a serious play to fill the Shannon MaGrane-sized hole (um ... ) and be our resident Jesus Crispie.
He's singing Lifehouse, assuring us, "It's my favorite worship song," and then adding, "Music really found me through church." Let's take a deep breath: Lifehouse is this kid's idol. He's Hanging by a Moment. Just breathe. OK! So, he starts singing a song called "Everything." Is it just me, or are CCM songs kind of creepy in the way they be read as either to a lover or to God? He croons, "You're all I want, you're all I need." It's like Colton is turning Idol into church, and not in the fun gospel way. I feel like I'm sitting next to Lyla Garrity at the hip megachurch in Dillon, Texas. Of course, the judges gush, because Jesus is popular. At least in public. When you're not getting divorced (J-Lo) or doing drugs (Steven) or getting turned on by the trailer for that new Zach Efron movie The Lucky One (no comment). Meanwhile, Randy is wearing some sort of macaroni necklace. As if this all wasn't already a bit much, Colton adds, through tears, "God is my everything." He's really making a play for those Santorum voters.
My gal Skylar Lane is up next, singing Miranda Lambert. I am a genius. May I direct you to my comments from last week: "I like when Skylar gets her sassy on. I would love to hear her sing Miranda Lambert." And, if you had been in my head, you would have known that I was imagining "Gunpowder and Lead." Right again, Stabert. This song is badass — a redneck feminist anthem. Skylar, of course, kills it. She leaps around the stage and brings the whole thing to a righteous crescendo. It's great that we're following Colton's Vacation Bible School with a song about an abused woman pulling a shotgun on her man, a song dripping with irony and anger. I'll take door number two. The crowd loved it, and the judges too.
This week as a time filler, the contestants are also singing in trios. I don't have much to say about these bland karaoke numbers, but the best group performance of the night was Colton, Elise and Phillip singing Fleetwood Mac. There's more "Landslide," and Colton sounds much better on this than on his praise jam. Phillip sings "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" — which my boyfriend recently reminded me was Bill Clinton's campaign theme song.
Heejun is up next trying to redeem himself from what America apparently decided was an affront to all that is holy and sacrosanct on Idol. Hey production team, remember this guy? Or this girl? Anyway, he's chosen "A Song for You" by Donny Hathaway, an Idol classic. He's back to the ballads, which is what he's best at. It's a pretty, emotional performance. A lot of my fellow Internet recappers feel that Heejun is "outclassed" at this point in the competition, but I disagree — I really like his voice. He earns a standing ovation from the judges (trend alert).
Holly Cavanaugh is singing Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel." Stevie Nicks goes on some ramble about her mother dying, then breaks down in tears. Holly looks terrified. She takes the stage in a super-cute white dress with understated jewelry. Finally! The performance is just OK. This song really suffers when it's clipped to Idol length. The dynamics are all off — it's either low-key verse or huge chorus with no build. Also, I just went back and listened to Carrie's version, and this was a pale, pale, pale comparison. Randy doesn't seem too excited, though he claims she did a "really good job." J-Lo says it was, "one of your best." She is wrong.
Up next is The Hair, singing "Sometimes I Cry" by Eric Benet. I feel like this kid still has so much maturing to do — he needs to learn how to use his voice. And he seems uptight on stage. Stevie and Jimmy told him to look at the camera, so he is looking at the camera. This performance is brutal. It hurts my ears. And somehow the judges are giving him a standing ovation. Steven says, "You gave Prince a run for his money." J-Lo adds, "People, pick up your phones and vote for Deandre." Yeah, like it's the young, cute boys who need her help in this competition.
Jessica Sanchez says her idol is Beyonce. She's going to sing "Sweet Dreams." I love when people slow down a pop song. I'm a sucker for it. Her vibrato seems a little off, but it's a solid performance. Something about this polished young lady continues to leave me a little cold. J-Lo opens with a "Hi baby," but, in a shocking twist, she seems to like the performance. The judges are positive but not effusive.
Next up is my boyfriend, Phillip Phillips. He's chosen "Still Raining" by Johnny Lang. Stevie Nicks is thoroughly under his sway (back off, bitch!). She says, "I think he's going to be very famous," and then insists that if this was the '70s he would have been asked to join Fleetwood Mac (and therefore have sex with her). Quite the complement! I think I saw her slipping one of his delicious earth-tone T-shirts into the folds of her flowing black robes. Finally, as if we didn't get it, she adds, "And he's gorgeous." The performance is fine — I always like Phillip better on the verses than on the choruses, when he tends to howl. Another standing ovation from the judges! (Trend alert.) Randy continues to be useless, saying, "Being an artist today is about being individual." To crib from Claire Zulkey at A.V. Club: "Randy once again praises Phillip for sounding completely unique, now that apparently Dave Matthews is dead."
Joshua Ledet is singing "Without You" by Mariah Carey. Jimmy calls it one of the top five hardest songs to sing in pop music. The set design for his performance is nutso: a forest of dead trees. Joshua goes big on this one, and hits some great notes before breaking down at the end. I wanted to love this more than I did. The judges are standing (again!).
Elise has the pimp spot, singing Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Jimmy and Stevie loved her during rehearsals, especially Stevie — she harmonizes with Elise on "Dreams" and says, "If I needed a singer, I'd hire her in a second." And if I needed sex, I'd hire Phillip Phillips. We get it. This week, Elise has finally donned those bell bottoms she talked about with Hilfiger last week. This is not my favorite Led Zeppelin song (so sue me!), but her voice sounds surprisingly great. She actually sounds a lot like Robert Plant. I also get an odd sort of pleasure from hearing a woman sing, "I'm gonna give you every inch of my love." (America, meet pegging!) Long story short: This lady should really front a rock band. The judges don't stand for this one, oh wait, yes they do. Steven and Elise are wearing the same pants.
So, that's it folks. At risk: Holly? Deandre? We shall see. On a final note, I just saw a story on the Internet entitled, "Is Colton Dixon TV's Tim Tebow?" Ruminate on that.