'American Idol' Recap: The Top 13 Sing Hits from Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder
'American Idol' Recap: The Top 13 Sing Hits from Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder
It all starts now: the Top 13 have been chosen, and starting tonight, they will sing for our amusement as we pick them off one by one. They wore us down with last week's six hours and now we belong to them.There can only be one Season 11 American Idol, and I have a feeling that this season it will be a girl. I mean, it better be! 

We've elected 5 guys in a row; but this year the girls are bringing the heat. I'm ready to see one go home tonight. Like, don't even bother performing, Jeremy, we just don't have the energy for it. (But please do, because I'm sure you'll do a good job and be really nice and supportive to all your fellow competitors, much to Jimmy Iovine's chagrin). 


This week, the girls and guys of the Top 13 will be taking on hits from Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, respectively. I've made my predictions for who will sing what (and I forgot to mention that Shannon will almost certainly sing that song "When You Believe" from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack). Songs I could do without hearing tonight are: My Cherie Amour, Superstition, and Isn't She Lovely from the guys, and I Will Always Love You for the girls. Who can top these artists? No one. You can only try to make it your own. So maybe tonight won't belong to Jessica Sanchez and DeAndre Brackensick as I predicted, maybe it will be a good one for weird ol' Phillip Phillips

But seriously a girl had better win this season, against all odds. If I had to cautiously make my pick at this point, I'm going with Skylar Laine, although I would love to see Elise Testone win, too. We've got a long way to go, but that's how I see it shaking down from this vantage point. Here are my colleague, John Kubicek's picks for who will win, and here is where you can vote for yourself!

The episode started off promising, with the contestants dancing and clapping as the intro to Stevie Wonder's "1 2 3" played, but then it was business as usual. Steven Tyler is wearing crazy eye pants! Business as usual. It's American Idol's 400th episode! Can you believe that? What have I been doing with my life ... ?

They're really making it a battle of the sexes this season, despite the guys having an extra team member. Tomorrow night, for one time only, we'll learn the bottom guy and bottom girl, and the judges will determine which goes home. Alright, whatever. Mary J. Blige is the guest mentor! Oh, and can I just say that I appreciate Heejun's sad face behind Ryan's shoulder in honor of Whitney Houston?

Joshua Ledet is first to perform with the upbeat "I Wish." I think it was a smart choice for him not to become a ballad machine too early in the game. It's a fun performance, and Joshua slays it, naturally. It sucks to go first, though. We're just sitting down with a snack! Randy loved it, he called it "flawless." Jennifer still wants to punch him, but in the best way. He nailed it.

Elise Testone started out singing "The Greatest Love of All" but it was not hot (and no one should try that one, even Elise). THANK GOD, Jimmy and Mary J. Blige suggested "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Hell. Yes. God, I hope she finds the pocket in this song. Haley Reinhart had a lower amount of success with this song. I don't know that it was THE song for Elise, but she got to show off the voice we know we love to hear! Jennifer said that the styles don't match up entirely and it wasn't the best, Steven agreed that Elise needs to find the right song for her voice's character, and Randy suggested that Elise was boxing with the song. I'm glad everybody is "keepin' it real" tonight!

Eliseisyourbaby.jpgDo you sense that Elise isn't totally into this televised reality competition series? I do, but it makes me like her even more.

Jermaine Jones is singing "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and taking it up from that deep, rich bass we've heard before. He smiles with his eyes (smizing!). He sounded great and looked happy. Steven said the song fit him like an Armani suit, Jennifer would prefer that Jermaine connect with the song a bit more. Randy didn't like the chorus as much as the verses, and I agree. The audience booed, but only half-heartedly. "I feel pretty good about it," Jermaine tells Ryan sheepishly.

Erika Van Pelt is the first Wild Card pick to perform tonight. She's singing "I Believe in You and Me" and making it her own. Her voice starts out lower than Jermaine's and it is great. I think Whitney Houston week will be rough for these girls. Not such a tribute, more of a struggle. They're doing fine, but in the end, no one can match Whitney. It seemed just a little bit meek, weaker than I'd like to hear Erika, but it was perfectly nice. Randy was sold, Jennifer got goosies, and Steven wants her to be less restrained still (I don't know about that). Ryan dubbed Erika "EVP," which I'm pretty sure he just pulled out of his well-manicured butt.

Colton Dixon is not in his wheel house with "Lately," so Jimmy asked him to play one of his own songs. Oh god, I hated the sound of it just in rehearsal. But I love this song? It's not my cup of tea, but he is very good at his style. Oh, and the hair is just getting even further out of control. I see Colton Dixon cruising into the James Durbin/rocker spot of the season, without the screeching. Alright, it is much more pleasant in this performance than it sounded in rehearsal, and he really opened his voice up toward the end, which demonstrated a surprising amount of control. Good job, Colton! Randy said it wasn't picture perfect technically but "hang on, hang on, hang on! ... by the end, dude you were flawless." Randy and I have a good mind link tonight.

ColtonLately.jpgShannon Magrane is singing "I Have Nothing." From The Bodyguard! Get ready to send your creepy stalker love notes to her! ("I have nothing, you have everything"). Anyway, Bodyguard obsession aside, this song is soooo goooooood. So Shannon has a good voice, but this was not her best performance. It always just seems like a pageant or a church talent show. It was pretty off when you can tell she was reaching for those big notes. You can tell she was really pushing, too. And who is styling this girl? It's so Disney.

Shannonpushing.jpg"I think the thinking got the best of you tonight," Jennifer admitted, "just tell the story." That was a nice way of saying it wasn't good. Even Steven thought she crashed and burned! "You didn't quite hit it," Randy said, "it wasn't great tonight." Very interesting. She even told Ryan she "wasn't really listening" to the piano or the band, she was more focused on herself. Oh god.

Deandre Brackensick is the second Wild Card pick to perform tonight. I wasn't sure about Deandre's personality until they showed him footage of himself very upset backstage and he said, "oof, lawd have mercy." That made me like him. He's singing "Master Blaster" and tying his hair back. It was fun. I don't know that it put Deandre at the forefront of our minds, but it was good! The judges liked it just fine, and Randy got excited about Deandre showing us a different side of himself.

Skylar Laine is singing "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" and hasn't listened to Whitney very much, but she knows that no one can compare to the late and great Whitney Houston. The audience freaked out just when Skylar took it down a bit in rehearsal and Mary J. Blige got goosebumps! I'm already getting excited. Did you know this was a country song? Neither did I, until Skylar sang it. It's all about a cold November day and being broken hearted. A+ performance. I actually got goosebumps when she took it into the key change. What else can you say? She just killed it.

Skylarwheredobrokenhearts.jpgJennifer admitted that it got kind of nasally in the beginning, but it led into the biggest moment of the night. Then Steven interrupted to tell her nothing of great importance. Do you think Jennifer is getting annoyed with that? Randy said Skylar proved she can sing any song. But seriously, who is styling these girls?

Heejun Han sings next with his rendition of "All is Fair in Love." Sometimes he's so funny we forget that he has a beautiful voice. He won Jimmy over, even when he gave them each pictures (Jimmy's was inscribed "I love you" and Mary's was inscribed "Mary, I love you more than Jimmy.") I would like to see Heejun sing something besides a ballad, but maybe he's going for the Michael Buble crooner type of vibe. This performance is a little sleepy, although I liked some moments from it very much, especially the end. Heejun has my favorite personality, and a good enough voice to keep him around to entertain us for a while. The judges love Heejun, too. "It wasn't perfect, but it was really good," Randy says.

Heejuncrooner.jpgHollie Cavanagh is singing "All the Man That I Need," and I wish she was singing something a little more fun. But hey, she's got the voice for Whitney and I can't wait to hear it! They even gave her the 90's music video candle background to help her shine. I still can't believe how big her voice is. Oh, and she totally slayed this song. What was up with that crazy ring she was wearing? It was a little too insane of a ring. "Dude, you nailed it," Randy confirmed.

Holliecandles.jpgJeremy Rosado got an awkward introduction from Randy pretending to be Ryan. He's nervous, singing "Ribbons in the Sky." Meh, this song. Just as he got the key change, my feed cut out, so I have no idea how it went from there. I will assume it was pretty good and that Jennifer liked it.

Oh no, Jessica Sanchez is singing "I Will Always Love You." No one should do this song, not even Jessica. But here we go! If Jimmy is OK with it, I am too. This is the second song Jessica has sung that has a recent Jennifer Hudson comparison. She did a good job, because after her performance I no longer believed the song was untouchable or cheesy. I still think it's cute how Jessica always looks surprised that she did a good job at the end and that people liked it. "JESSICA SANCHEZ IS LEGIT!" Randy proclaims. I'm inclined to agree! "You may be the one. You just made 40 million people cry," Steven tells her.

Jessicaalwayslove.jpgI see we're putting Jimmy Iovine's favorites at the end, or rather, the two people he said he would sign in a heartbeat. Phillip Phillips is last to perform before the lines open for the vote. In another disappointment, Phillip is singing "Superstition," but he thinks it will be different than the way it's been done on this show in the past. Jimmy and Mary like Phillip because he gets lost in his music and comes "batteries included."

I have a weird thing about Phillip. I like his personality, and won't argue that he's a good musician, but he sounds just way too Dave Matthews Band. I'd like to see him progress into his own thing throughout the competition. He definitely has star quality, and could make it on any show. The judges love that he's on this show, though, and they love how different he is and the way he re-interprets everything (and turns it into a DMB song). But he's adorable and could be the love child of Scotty McCreery and Lee DeWyze, so ...

But what do I know? I am not a judge! Ryan asks the judges for standouts and people in trouble. Randy won't name anyone in trouble, but thought Joshua and Jessica were standouts. Jennifer thinks Shannon might be in trouble, and everyone had a great night! Steven is worried for Elise and Shannon, and his standouts were Jessica and Jessica. He loves that song!

Who stood out? The girls or the boys? Could it be a girls' season or were they defeated by Whitney's song catalogue tonight?

(images courtesy of FOX)


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