'American Idol' Recap: The Top 12 Drop 1 and 11 Perform
'American Idol' Recap: The Top 12 Drop 1 and 11 Perform
This week, the Top 12 sing songs from the year they were born. This can either act as a demonstration that the late 80's and 90's were not a great time for music, or it can allow some to shine by making a dated song their own. Each of the early weeks has its own pitfalls that the contestant needs to avoid--singing the same type of song week after week, not making the song their own, and as always, song choice. The only reason I'm giving it such gravity is because I've been reading the Hunger Games trilogy and now I see each of the Top 12 as tributes, and Ryan Seacrest as the Head Gamemaker. Or maybe Caesar Flickerman. But I digress.

The drama has started tonight before we even get a chance to hear them sing, because TMZ is reporting that Jermaine Jones will be kicked off for lying about his criminal past. Where do we go from here? Will he still sing? Only time/Ryan Seacrest will tell.

Ryan tells us right away that they have discovered information that forced them to eliminate one of their Top 12 from American Idol. He tries to spin it with "anything can happen on a live television show!" but it still comes off as strange. The judges walk out, as Randy playfully brings Ryan in tow. Ryan escapes just in time to go to the top of the stairs and walk down again. What a diva.

"One of our finalists had to be eliminated last night," Ryan reminds us, "but we'll get to that later!" First, let's see some baby photos of the judges! Predictably, Randy brings up Ryan's baby photo. He looks chubby and Ryan notes, "apparently I was a carb lover." Such a diva!

Phillip Phillips is up first and we learn that he was premature. His parents, who are the sweetest ever, get choked up talking about Phillip's health problems. Phil has kidney stones now, and has to have surgery right after nailing it in rehearsal. "Thanks for singing," Will.I.Am says. He's singing "Hard to Handle" by the Black Crowes. He sang it quite well, especially for just having had surgery. I liked this performance better than his moaning, groaning rendition of "Superstition" last week. Randy tells Phillip that he's unique, and he the song choice. Jennifer says, "it's in every cell of your body, not to get too medical right now." Steven also thought it was a great song choice. The 90s are working in Phillip's favor!

Philhardtohandle.jpgJessica Sanchez made such an impact last season, she has a lot to live up to going second and singing a song from 1995. Apparently she used to cry and then faint? Is that a thing? Jessica is singing "Turn the Beat Around" by Gloria Estefan. The useless Will.I.Am tells her she is "a swaggernaut." Thanks for that. Jessica is wearing some very fun sequined pants and I appreciate that she chose an up-tempo song. I don't know about this song choice specifically, but she is having fun with it and still gets to show off her pipes. Her dramatic pause before the key change was successful, I think. Steven tells her not to stray too far from ballads, which she does best. He likes her pants. Jennifer agrees on all accounts, saying that the performance lost some energy and her vibrato is so big that it didn't totally work. Randy agrees, too, but really loves Jessica.

Heejun Han is singing Richard Marx and I totally called that! He was born in 1989 to his completely adorable parents!

Heejunsparents.jpgHe's singing "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx. Heejun got Will.I.Am's autograph and Fergie's phone number. Will that brief rehearsal moment be enough to save him from this likely-boring performance? When he's singing, he is so earnest. It's so likeable that we can almost overlook the snoozefest. I love his voice, but this performance was not exciting in the least. "I didn't really enjoy this at all," Randy tells Heejun, "it was pitchy ... it felt like you were out of breath the whole time ... it was just the wrong song, wrong time, not a great performance for me." Jennifer stuck up for Heejun because we all want him to succeed, but the performance itself, in a vacuum, was not great. Awww, look at his cute girlfriend in the audience!

Heejuninearnest.jpgElise Testone always used to get into trouble. She kept telling herself to appreciate the fact that she's here after last week's save, and Will.I.Am told her to smile more. She's singing "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green, made famous by Barack Obama. She's singing a mellow, slowed down version to start, then the music kicks in and it's a great fit for her. The dress was kind of awkward, but the performance was redeeming. She even remembered to smile at the end. Jennifer liked it, and Randy declared that "Elise is back!" When it's right it's right.

DeAndre Brackensick was born in 1994, and nothing can keep his mom from showing the video of DeAndre in his Music Man costume dancing at the TV. DeAndre came in with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" because he has probably seen the Lion King, but Jimmy suggested "Endless Love" because um, hello, LUTHER VANDROSS. It seems like a clear choice for DeAndre, but as the performance goes on, it seems like it's showing off all his vocal weaknesses. If this is all he has to offer a ballad, I think I'll be ready to see him go soon. Jennifer didn't love the song choice, but likes DeAndre. Steven agrees it was the wrong song, and Randy thought it was boring and safe.

In the midst of Shannon Magrane struggling against a song choice from 1995, Jimmy Iovine plugged some phone with a "beatbox" device. Jimmy, not you, too! Shannon landed on "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey. So boring. Jimmy advised her to work on her breathing. It was "aite," but Shannon really lost it once the song kicked into high gear. She pushed too hard again. "That was not an easy undertaking," Jennifer Lopez says, secretly glad that Shannon didn't choose any of her songs from the 90s. "You sing your best when you don't try so hard," Steven tells her. Randy is really into saying the original artists sang "the I don't know WHAT outta that song."

Colton Dixon sings next, and he has selected the obscure "Broken Heart" by White Lion. Oh, but this week he met with Chris Daughtry for dinner?! Don't do that anymore, Colton. Daughtry told him to be himself and choose songs that people know, "which will be put into effect next week," Colton says.

ColtonDaughtry.jpgApparently the band didn't even know the song. "It's now Colton's song!" Will.I.Am offers, as useless as ever. I think people will still like this performance, even if they don't know the song. He kind of nailed it, too. It was an enjoyable performance, which Colton seemed committed to. It was refreshing, in this land of the sleepy ballad we seem to have encountered tonight. Jennifer liked it, but Steven didn't feel the song going anywhere. Randy doesn't know who to agree with this time! He announces that Colton "performed it dope." Sure! I like a man with the audacity to wear jeggings.

Erika Van Pelt is one of the "older" ones in the competition, born in 1985. She's singing "Heaven" by Bryan Adams, which Jimmy thinks is a good choice for her. The arrangement is nice for her. She can sing but the band is still giving it that edge that distinguishes Erika from Elise. She's wearing big wizard sleeves like Britney Spears circa Crossroads. Steven thought it was too busy, Jennifer compared her to Janis Joplin (but what of Elise??) and thinks Erika is coming together as an artist, and Randy liked it, calling it an "8 out of 10."

Finally, Ryan will tell us that Jermaine Jones has been eliminated. Humiliatingly, they taped Jermaine sitting down with the producers and are showing it to us now. That is so low. Total Capitol move! Nigel tells Jermaine his charges, as if he didn't know, and the other British guy tells Jermaine that he has four outstanding warrants and while they're not judgmental guys, he wasn't upfront with them. They call it "a delicate position really," and then tell Jermaine goodbye. That's a bummer. To rub salt in his wounds (and ours), the judges tell Jermaine that he was the best he'd ever sounded singing "Somewhere Out There" in rehearsal. So this is a bummer, but on with the show, let's separate the wheat from the chaff shall we?

GoodbyeJermaine.jpgSkylar Laine, who is wheat in my opinion, had a hard time picking a song from 1994. She chose "Love Sneakin' Up on You" by Bonnie Raitt, which I actually chose for her! I am so proud of myself. Jimmy and Will.I.Am suggested all different kinds of songs as an alternative, but Skylar stuck to her guns. I don't know what their issue is; I love this song! She handled it as we all knew she would. Nothing completely surprising, but she is consistent. "You really killed that," Jennifer told her, and Randy defended the judges for "keepin' it real," but agreed that Skylar rocked it.

Joshua Ledet performs next, but not before he eats some of that crayfish the state of Louisiana sent him!

joshuacrayfish.jpgJoshua is the youngest of 8 kids, born in 1992, and his mother tells us he was a "rascal." He's singing "When a Man Loves a Woman," the Michael Bolton version. Oh man, huzzah! Great song, great voice. I guess he "took it to church" but I'm totally fine with that. He sailed into the key change, took his jacket off like a pro, and just absolutely killed it. The judges were on their feet before the song was even two thirds of the way through. The first exciting performance of the night! "Yo, we need a moment tonight, somebody needs to come up here and blow it out the box!" Randy tells Joshua he was just saying. And Joshua served that. Jennifer called it "the best thing I've ever seen on American Idol." All one and a half seasons!

Hollie Cavanagh sings last, and we learn where her accent comes from! Her parents, who have that accent and are weird. She's singing "The Power of Love" by Celine Dion. Soon we will learn the Power of Hollie. Hollie gets the candle lighting effect again, but is wearing a different dress so we don't get confused. OK, a few pitch problems at the beginning, but she still has astounding clarity on those big, long notes, and she improved as the song went on. She cracked a bit at the end, but Jennifer opted not to comment on those "one or two things." They all passively brought up those one or two things, but admitted it was great.

Randy thinks Joshua Ledet is safe, and Heejun is in trouble (especially if they don't know how to pronounce his name by now). Jennifer thinks Joshua is safest, and thought Hollie and Phillip did a great job (I don't know about Hollie in the top 3 tonight ...). Steven says Joshua is their Jessica this week, of course, and liked Jessica, Skylar, Phillip, and Elise.

So, who "blew it out the box"? Did anyone? This was kind of the night of a thousand snoozes.

(images courtesy of FOX)