Gee, for the 400th episode of "American Idol," that was... sort of lackluster, eh?
The singing competition celebrated the milestone with the Top 13 taking the stage to perform the tunes of two singing icons. To the credit of "Idol," the producers tried to up the drama to an extent. For the first time, the show pitted the guys directly against the girls. Thursday's show will find the bottom vote-getter of each gender taking center stage, at which point the judges will choose which contestant will be going home.
So, the choice is somewhat in America's hands -- just not the overall final decision. It's a curveball, sure, but nothing too gasp-worthy.
As part of the pitting-against of sexes, the seven remaining men sang Stevie Wonder songs, while the six women attempted (that being the key word) to do justice to the late Whitney Houston. Too soon? Too bad!
Overall, the 13 contestants didn't do much to impress. Sure, there were high points (Jessica Sanchez... more on her soon), but the tepid reactions by Jimmy Iovine and guest mentor Mary J. Blige seemed to tell the tale better than the judges, who as usual threw around the word 'perfect' indiscriminately. And seriously, what was up with the backgrounds while the singers performed tonight? Bubbles during Jermaine Jones? I'm confused. Could it mean something much deeper? What does it meeeeean?!
Anyway, here's a rundown of tonight's performances, conveniently broken up into those who'll sail through, those who put in solid showings, and the singers that may be in trouble.
Jessica Sanchez - "I Will Always Love You"
Well, called it. You just knew Jessica had to be the one to best carry the Whitney crown Wednesday night, and what better way to do it than to sing the diva's biggest song? I'm not going to dance around the issue any longer here -- she's the one to beat in 2012, and arguably the most commercially viable artist overall. This performance, soft when it needed to be and big when it counted, solidifies that.
Joshua Ledet - "I Wish"
As usual, Joshua breezed past the competition with a strong take on the Stevie Wonder classic. It was groovy R&B with gospel flair, a perfect fit for his big voice. It was nice to see him bouncing around the stage, too -- it shows he can have some fun rather than belting things out all the time. Going first might hurt him a bit, but Joshua's simply too good to go at this point.
Hollie Cavanagh - "All the Man That I Need"
Hollie turned in a solid performance that should win over a lot of viewers. She's quiet and unassuming, but with a "sick" voice, as Blige put it. Like Jessica, Hollie understood the dynamics the song needed, with a showing that established her as a force to be reckoned with -- if she can keep up the momentum, that is.
Phillip Phillips - "Superstition"
Phillip may be the truest artist of the bunch. He continues to make each song bend to his own will, molding each to fit his guitar-guy vibe. Phillip doesn't have the strongest voice, but his tone continues to please those in the alt-rock crowd. If "Idol" viewers want a guy who's more Dave Matthews than Scotty McCreery, Phillip's looking to be your man.
Jermaine Jones - "Knocks Me Off My Feet"
The rise of Jermaine Jones continued last night with the baritone taking on "Knocks Me Off My Feet." Jermaine may not be the most commercially viable pop singer, but he fits in well with the smooth stylings of, say, Luther Vandross. The performance didn't find him going as deep as usual, instead showing off a smidgeon of his higher register. Verdict? OK, but the deeper, the better. Still, Jermaine solidified himself as a contender who deserves to be there, and that's what he really needed at this point.
Skylar Laine - "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"
The young country girl admitted beforehand that she hadn't performed a Whitney Houston song prior to the show, but she sure didn't show it. Skylar wasn't spectacular, and the performance lacked a bit of the magic of her past songs, but good on her for making something out of relatively nothing. She'll be fine.
Erika Van Pelt - "I Believe in You and Me"
After gaining admittance to the Top 13 via a wild card pick last week, the mobile DJ came back strong during Whitney week. Erika's got a powerful voice -- that much can't be disputed -- and she's certainly most adept to singing ballads. J-Lo still thinks she's holding something back, which could pay huge dividends if Erika's able to tap into that supposed reserve. Either way, the judges made a good call in keeping her around.
Colton Dixon - "Lately"
Colton didn't impress me like he did last week, but like Skylar, this week's artists weren't exactly up his alley. The alt-rocker still impressed on "Lately," but he's going to have to show a little more muscle than that. Blige and Iovine preached vulnerability (or at least the illusion of it), which is absolutely spot-on. If Colton can pull that off, he's got the lady vote in the bag.
Deandre Brackensick - "Master Blaster"
I wasn't going to put Deandre here, but then I remembered two things. First of all, he didn't get enough fan votes last week, meaning America may not be feeling the crooner like the judges want us to. Plus, he went for a reggae vibe with "Master Blaster" -- and reggae didn't exactly work for Naima Adedapo last season. So, we'll see. He's got the talent to stay, and he finally showed less of a reliance on his falsetto, but Deandre's still a wild card here.
Elise Testone - "I'm Your Baby Tonight"
Quite simply just wasn't her best performance. Elise had originally chosen to sing "Greatest Love of All," but Jimmy Iovine didn't think the song fit her. The new choice didn't exactly work wonders either. Elise seemed out of her comfort zone, unable to show off the raspy vocal we know she has. She's been solid all season, but if "Idol" voters are unforgiving after one slip-up, it could spell trouble for the 28-year-old.
Jeremy Rosado - "Ribbon in the Sky"
The judges are obviously super stoked and excited about Jeremy, but he once again turned in a forgettable performance. Jeremy just doesn't have the swagger he needs -- and I swear I meant to put that before Randy pointed it out! His vocal was nice and easygoing, but he needs more of a spark if he wants to stick around.
Shannon Magrane - "I Have Nothing"
Wow. Ew. No. Shannon showed why we love her at the very end of the song with a nice little run, but she left a path of destruction in her wake. Either she was nervous or the song just didn't fit her (or both!), but either way, Shannon is one singer that could really use the votes -- because after that, I'm not sure that the judges would want to save her.
Heejun Han - "All in Love is Fair"
I still think Heejun is one of the best things to happen to "Idol" this year. His deadpan sense of humor is fantastic, and his tweets are so amusing to follow along with. His performance? Eh. No one doubts that Heejun has a good voice, but it's oftentimes too soft. The small-voiced schtick can only work for so long. Heejun may still move on from personality alone, but without it, he'd be in major trouble.
Who deserves to stay and who should go home after last night's performances? Is Heejun the best tweeter "Idol" has ever had? Let us know in the comments, and check out the results show tonight at 8 p.m. on FOX.