'American Idol' Recap: Erika Van Pelt Voted Off, New Look & All
'American Idol' Recap: Erika Van Pelt Voted Off, New Look & All

Erika Van Pelt began the week with a totally new look, courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger. She ends the week leaving "American Idol," courtesy of the American public.

After failing to connect with audiences since her time on the contest began, the 26-year-old mobile DJ decided to go with a different hairdo, trading her blond locks for a shorter black cut. And yet again, Erika's search for acceptance from "Idol" viewers fell flat -- this time, for good.

However, her last-ditch effort to stay on the show in the form of Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me" was among her best vocal performances. Later in the show, such a showing might have elicited a save from the judges. But at the top 10 mark is quite an early stage to be using the only save, and if Erika wasn't connecting before, who was to say she would the next week?

So the news that the save would not be used was no real surprise

Erika was joined in the bottom three by two of the male contestants, Heejun Han and Deandre Brackensick. Both singers arguably deserved to be in the pits after subpar-to-dismal performances Wednesday night. Heejun especially appears to have lost his entire focus in the competition, opting instead to ham it up for the audience -- and if comments from fans online were any indication, the audience wasn't buying it. Yet, along with Deandre, Heejun was saved, and will sing another week.

While Erika was unable to connect with viewers yet again, Thursday night did have a minor success story in the case of Elise Testone, who was consistently in the bottom three vote-getters despite solid performances. Looks like something may have finally clicked after the singer's jazzy rendition of Billy Joel's "Vienna." It's good to see Elise may have some fanbase support at last.

The "Idol" stars were joined onstage by two singers, one of which should be quite familiar to viewers of last season's competition. Haley Reinhart returned to the "Idol" stage for new single "Free," a piano-driven tune that could very well bring the singer her first big hit on the radio waves.

Venerable Internet punching bag Lana Del Rey also appeared for the lulling ballad "Video Games." Miles better than her "SNL" spot, sure, but on a television show looking for strong singers, it was but a strange interlude.

Did the right singer go home? Will you miss Erika Van Pelt? What did you think of the performances by Haley Reinhart and Lana Del Rey? Let us know in the comments!

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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