'American Idol' Recap: The Top Nine Emulate Their Own Idols

'American Idol' Recap: The Top Nine Emulate Their Own Idols

Randy Jackson likes to use the phrase "in it to win it" to describe contestants on "American Idol" who put in a heavyweight performance. It's always been a strange saying, since you'd expect ALL contestants to be, in fact, in it to win it. But on Wednesday night (Mar. 28), more than ever before, the remaining singers lived up to the phrase.

The final nine took to the stage to sing the songs of their own personal singing idols, bringing out a wide array of artists from former "Idol" winners to legendary rock bands. No one faltered significantly, with each singer putting in a performance worthy of praise on most nights.

In other words, "Idol" voters had their work cut out for them.

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Throughout the evening, contestants were also grouped into trios, singing a medley of songs from Fleetwood Mac (fitting, as lead singer Stevie Nicks was a guest mentor on Tuesday's show), Michael Jackson and Madonna. Seek out these performances if only to hear Elise Testone with her most fitting vocal yet on "Edge of Seventeen." Otherwise, don't bother. They're just trying to fill two hours at this point.

Let's take a look at whose performances should keep them in the game, followed by the singers who may be in trouble.

Looking good:

Skylar Laine - "Gunpowder and Lead"

My favorite performances are often those that feel as though they could be marketed as a radio single right then and there. Skylar's rendition of the Miranda Lambert barnburner was just that. Sure, we had our fix of country artists last season, but to me, Skylar's emerging as even more of the real deal in the genre than Scotty or Lauren. The vocal was great, and the delivery was everything this show should be. It wasn't a flashy performance, but it's the one I could see hearing on the radio most readily.

Elise Testone - "Whole Lotta Love"

Weeks ago I hypothesized that Elise could mount a charge not unlike Haley Reinhart's of season 10 that might propel her deep into the competition after a slow start. It remains to be seen if I'm right yet, but two things -- not being included in the bottom three last week and her killer performance this week -- seem to support my prediction. Simply put, Elise should not be leaving this competition anytime soon. I was a little worried when she announced she'd be singing Led Zeppelin, but it turned out to be so within her range and style.

Phillip Phillips - "Still Rainin'"

Prior to his performance, Stevie Nicks says of Phillip, "I think he's going to be very famous," and that if he had been around when Fleetwood Mac was being formed, they would have asked him to join the band. High praise! Can he deliver? Mostly, yes. Phillip broke out the electric guitar for this Jonny Lang staple, emiting a blues-rock vibe that the show rarely sees. It's nothing phenomenal, but the song is very much within Phillip's style that if he hadn't hit a home run with it, I would have been shocked. All in all, another solid performance from one of the frontrunners.

Jessica Sanchez - "Sweet Dreams"

I know what you may be thinking, and no, Jessica didn't sing the Eurythmics tune that Haley Johnsen butchered weeks ago. Instead, the young singer took a Beyonce song and molded it to her own needs (see: ballad). As usual, Jessica showed a maturity and command beyond her years, seldom missing a note on her slowed-down version of "Sweet Dreams." We've seen Jessica deliver stronger performances, but this was just another notch in her favor.

Colton Dixon - "Everything"

I actually didn't like this performance -- I thought it was bland, boring, and with such a narrow vocal on the verse that I was lost already. Colton can do a lot better than whiny adult-contemporary, which is what his rendition of the Lifehouse tune reminded me of. His delivery was fine, but I just couldn't get myself into the vocal -- especially not now, after having heard eight other high-quality performances. But really, who would I be kidding if I put Colton in a group that I consider in danger of going home? That just isn't going to happen at this point.

In trouble:

Deandre Brackensick - "Sometimes I Cry"

The good: Deandre brought back his falsetto, something I think we've all been craving these last few weeks. The bad? It still wasn't a flashy performance, and that's what Deandre needs at this point. He's one of the few remaining contestants who hasn't had a true "moment" on the show, and his continuing inclusion in the bottom three seems to support that. Plus, the falsetto's cool, but is there really a market for a guy to sing in that kind of voice all throughout a song? Deandre's been touted as a star package, but I'm not sure if the general public wants to hear that sort of singing all the time. So I'm troubled by Deandre.

Joshua Ledet - "Without You"

Joshua Ledet, Top 9 Compete ~ American Idol 2012 by HumanSlinky
OK, hear me out here. Yes, Joshua's a great singer -- arguably the best in this group -- and put in an emotional performance with a strong, commanding vocal. So why is he in the bottom half of my recap? Well, I'm not sure if Joshua's connecting with audiences even now, and I don't think his showing is going to make a lot of folks sway in his favor. I for one love the gospel-infused shouted vocal he brings to the competition, so I hope he stays.

Hollie Cavanagh - "Jesus Take the Wheel"

This was just a very average showing for Hollie. She almost always sounds good and really shows off her powerful voice on the higher chorus notes, but she has also not had a big moment that shows off her true potential. We're learning more and more about these contestants each time, but I still feel like I know nothing about Hollie and her personality, and if I'm not the only one, that could spell trouble.

Heejun Han - "A Song for You"

Heejun looked spooked this week. After a trainwreck of a performance last week, he definitely toned down the happy-go-lucky side of himself and returned to the ballads. The song choice was strong and he pulled it off well, showing off the pitch-perfect tone the judges raved about early in the competition. But was it good enough to pull him out of the bottom three on a night of above-average performances? I'm going to say it wasn't. Heejun got serious this week, and I liked to hear the result. But he needs to show more than he's done so far to have a shot at winning.

Who's moving on and who's going home this week? Am I totally off on Joshua Ledet? Excited to hear Nicki Minaj perform tomorrow night? Let us know in the comments and be sure to watch the results show tonight on FOX.