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American Idol Recap: The Final Eight…Only Two “Gotta Have It”

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Wednesday night, Randy Jackson decided to coin a new catch phrase. It fell short as the singers continue to impress and the judges continue to embarrass on Idol. Who goes home tonight? Oh, I think you know…(what love isn’t)…

This show is an hour of content expanded to two hours, thanks to the hot air of the judges and host Ryan Seacrest, who had an extra bop in his step after announcing earlier in the day his new job as host of some of NBC’s Olympic coverage. I can’t wait until Bob Costas gets a load of Ryan. Nothing beats a dirty look from Costas to make the Olympic Village uptight.

It’s 80’s night, and after we get to see Randy Jackson in full 80’s regalia, we are told the guest mentors will be Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal of No Doubt fame. (WHOA! No Doubt is more of a 90’s band, aren’t they? Oh, I see. They once covered an 80’s song “It’s My Life”. Okay, close enough.)

In the lead off spot tonight is Deandre Breckensick, whose falsetto has been known to upset dogs across the nation. His spot on El DeBarge impersonation on “I Like It” impresses the judges, who lay all sorts of accolades at his feet. However, he fails to get the elusive Randy Jackson seal of approval, that is the elusive artist name check, where Randy claims a personal connection to the original. That may be a bad omen.

That omen was not nearly as nearly as bad as Elise Testone’s cheesy take on Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”. I told America to send Elise packing last week, so don’t blame me. The judges hated it, Randy using the dreaded “pitchy” to describe it, and when J-Lo can only say “you look good”, that’s code for “you sounded bad”.

I will save you the randomness of the duets on tonight’s show by just saying “Islands In The Stream” shouldn’t be remade, ever.

Phil Phillips gives us his standard twitchy, growly version of Genesis’ “That’s All”, accented by the guitar playing of his brother-in-law, which draws an “Awwww!!!!” from the teen girls in the crowd. “He knows that family comes first, which will be great when he meets my angry Dad, ” they must be thinking. Phil’s a solid lock for the final four, but he’s beginning to look a little vanilla to me.

After Hollie Cavanagh and Deandre cover the Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited”, which instantly reminds me of the time Jessie took too many caffeine pills on “Saved By The Bell”, Joshua Ledet is up covering Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, which is a cover of the 1972 Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes version, thus defeating the purpose of 80’s night.

Joshua is in top Soul Train form, chasing the 80’s away with his polyester smooth voice. His range is a little limited, but this is a solid performance, making Randy Jackson declare “He’s gotta have it!!”, which he makes plain is this year’s version of “In it to win it”, which means Train will put it into a song lyric by this time next year. I can’t wait.

Diminutive Jessica Sanchez is next, and while mentoring with Gwen and Tony finds out her dance moves are a little suspect. Gwen tells her to mix it up which causes Jessica to tell the camera she will be bringing out her alter ego “BeBe Chez”. (I assumed that’s trademarked already, if not, run out to the copyright office today and seal that deal because this kid’s gonna be big!! I’m talking huge!!)

Jessica runs through a tone perfect take of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, which was so 80’s, my hair grew into a mullet! When we go to the judges they are kind of half joining the studio audience in a standing ovation. Randy now says “She’s Gotta Have It!” and the home viewers begin to wonder how many times he’s going to go to his new catch phrase in the remaining hour of the show. Jessica is way beyond mature for her 16 years, and has firmly establaished herself as the best pure singer in this year’s competition. Can she break the trend of the guitar toting boys who have dominated the last four years? She should, but my one vote doesn’t go far in a world of Grammas and teen girls.

After another duet (Phil and Elise do “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”), Hollie Cavanagh takes the stage to sing the theme from “Flashdance”. Jimmy tells her she really has to feel this cheesy song if she’s going to be taken seriously. Hollie thinks this means run around the stage for no reason and sing directly at the judges faces. That’s not emotion, Hollie, that’s mania and the judges are made uneasy. Steven breaks the bad news to her: she was out of tune the whole time. After Randy says he was personally involved in the “Flashdance” project (of course!), he tells her to stop listening to what everybody’s telling her to do and just use her great voice. (Best. Advice. Ever. But then why have the mentors? Exactly. Get rid of them!)

The last duet has Joshua and Jessica doing a powerful take on Aretha Franklin and George Michael’s “I Knew You Were Waiting”. Did you know Randy was intimately involved in this song as well? He was. I don’t want to know how.

Colton Dixon has emerged as one of the favorites, based on his youthful sound and pious demeanor. He definitely put his unique stamp on Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, and you get the sense that this performance took him up a notch. In my opinion he bumped Phil out of the number two slot behind Jessica. The judges concur, although Randy refuses to give him a “He’s Gotta Have It!” and Steven oddly praises the drummer, of all things. I guess I just don’t know great drumming when I  hear it.

Last up is Skylar Laine, who was unsure whether to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” or “Nine To Five”. Having never worked an office job, she went for the most classic movie crying song of all time, “Wind”. Who didn’t cry during “Beaches” when Better Midler sang an ode to her (SPOILER ALERT) dying friend?

Skylar puts a country twist into the song with a steel guitar, which only makes the whole thing sound ten times sadder. Which is good when you’re singing a sad song. J-Lo points to her eyes as if to say “Hey, everybody, look, I’m crying!” The judges love her performance, and I have to admit, I may have dabbed a tear or two away.

Skylar’s in a unique position, as the only country singer remaining, she has a lock on a huge voting block. I don’t think she’s nearly as talented as Jess or Colton, but she is in a very enviable position in relation to how the country votes. She could steal this thing like Scotty did last year.

 

SAFE: Skylar, Jessica, Colton, Phil

IN THE MIDDLE, AND ON THE BUBBLE: Joshua

BOTTOM THREE: Elise, Hollie and Deandre

GOING HOME: Elise (but it should be Hollie and could be Hollie)

 

 

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