‘American Idol’ 11 Recap: Top 9 Perform

At the start of the show just before the first performance, and when all nine finalists were on stage, Ryan Seacrest tells them, “May the odds be ever in your favor,” in a fantastic nod to one of the best films I’ve ever seen, The Hunger Games.

Usually at this point, the show is decreased to 90 minutes, but this year they’re sticking with two hours for the remainder of the season, unfortunately. So they obviously have got a lot of filler to provide. First up is a video of Tommy Hilfiger talking to the Top 9 about fashion and have them try on some clothing. Is it just me, or is anybody else not noticing a change in anybody’s wardrobe choices?

Joining Jimmy Iovine this week as mentor is the fabulous Stevie Nicks. Also, as part of the extra time the show needs to fill up, besides the solo performances, they will also be performing in trios. And it seems like The Voice has now creeped into Idol, because Twitter hashtags and handles were all over our screens tonight throughout the show. Maybe Idol‘s realizing that social media buzz is important.

1. Colton Dixon: “Everything”
Colton’s voice and look puts on this persona of a rock star, but he doesn’t pick songs that are anywhere near that. Tonight’s no different. The song didn’t complement his voice at all. His register is low pretty much the entire time, bringing out the pitchy flaws. I was waiting for the song to pick up, but it stayed slow almost all the way through. What were the judges thinking with their praises (they kept mentioning Colton throughout the night)? — Not warranted.

2. Skylar Laine: “Gunpower and Lead”
I’ve been waiting for a performance like this from Skylar. She’s never stood out, but finally brought it with this one. This may be my favorite Miranda Lambert song, and there was nothing wrong whatsoever. I loved her voice here, and you could tell that she loves this song because she was really getting into it, the energy spewing forth to us all.

Colton Dixon/Elise Testone/Phillip Phillips: “Landslide”/”Edge of 17″/”Don’t Stop” (Stevie Nicks Medley)
Here’s the first of the three trios tonight. Each person had their own song to shine. Overall, they did a really good job. Phillip was definitely the best. Colton’s the worst; he ruined the song, basically.

3. Heejun Han: “A Song for You”
On American Idol, this is Elliott Yamin’s song, so it’s tall order. Frankly, I was worried for Heejun with this song, and especially since he’s going back to the slow ballads. Overall, he did really well and possibly one of his best so far. It wasn’t perfect, though — the last quarter was falling off more and that last falsetto was pitchy. But he’s recovering.

4. Hollie Cavanagh: “Jesus, Take the Wheel”
That’s risky to take on Carrie Underwood on Idol. Hollie’s not country, so why is Carrie her Idol? It just seems like she chose her favorite singer instead. This wasn’t one of her best performances. Her voice wasn’t always smooth. Fortunately, the latter half was much stronger. Her best moments were during the chorus. My biggest complaint was with the arrangement — the lines they left out to shorten the song made the transitions to the chorus a little off-putting.

5. Deandre Brackensick: “Sometimes I Cry”
Deandre’s tone is something that most any singer out there would kill to have. He’s been on the downward slide lately, so he needed to pull out something like this in order to stay on. This may have just saved him. I could feel emotion and passion all throughout. And once he stayed in the falsetto for a while at the end, I kept thinking, in the words of Steven Tyler, beautiful.

6. Jessica Sanchez: “Sweet Dreams”
Does anyone know this song? Because I sure don’t. I couldn’t really gauge anything about it. But because it was Jessica singing it, it didn’t matter. Her magnificent voice was beautiful and rich and tender all throughout. And the staging of the doors on stage was really cool — dramatic and mysterious.

Deandre Brackensick/Heejun Han/Joshua Ledet: “Lady in My Life”/”Rock with You”/”PYT” (Michael Jackson Medley)
I wasn’t all that enamored with this medley. The best one was “PYT” with Josh. The other songs were too slow.

7. Phillip Phillips: “Still Raining”
Phillip’s growl and rasp sounded perfect and fit well with this song — this is the type of song that suits him. He can let loose and have fun, and just go all out on whatever. Overall, a strong night so far. Can everyone keep it up?

8. Joshua Ledet: “Without You”
Jessica more than recovered from her stumble. And here, Josh did too. Whenever I think of this song, I think of Kelly Clarkson’s version, because she did this brilliantly back in season 1. Joshua’s voice was virtually flawless. The emotion at the end only helped to funnel that power and energy to provide a magical and moving performance.

Hollie Cavanagh/Skylar Laine/Jessica Sanchez: “Like a Prayer”/”Borderline”/”Express Yourself” (Madonna Medley)
This was the best out of all the group performances tonight. Jessica and Hollie were the strongest. Skylar was the weakest, but mainly because the songs didn’t suit her range or style.

9. Elise Testone: “A Whole Lotta Love”
Elise gave one of her best performances last week. Can she match it? I’ve been waiting for her to do a song like this. She just slayed it, killed it, and every other similar word you can imagine. The shriek near the end was just brilliantly executed and fantastic. She needed a night like this because of her possible disconnect with viewers/voters. Plus, she got the pimp spot; I’m glad the producers did that.

Favorite Performances: Joshua Ledet / Jessica Sanchez / Elise Testone / Skylar Laine / Deandre Brackensick

My Votes: Jessica Sanchez (30 votes) / Joshua Ledet (30 votes)

Bottom 3 Prediction: Skylar Laine / Heejun Han / Deandre Brackensick

Elimination Prediction: Deandre Brackensick (or the Judges Save)

It’s been a heck of a long time since American Idol has had this strong a night with the talent oozing out all over the place. For the most part, most everyone was fantastic. When was the last time that’s happened? Along the same lines, it’s amazing what can happen when the producers choose a more broad them to give the finalists a bigger palette of songs to choose from, unlike doing Billy Joel or Whitney Houston or Stevie Wonder. Nigel Lythgoe, take note: The broadest theme turned out the strongest night. Keep that up.

Because of this strength, it’s hard to pinpoint who might be in the Bottom 3 or even who’s going home. I would personally put Colton in the Bottom, but the judges seemed to love him, and I’m sure voters did too, so he’s safe. Skylar had her best performance, but once we went through Jessica and Joshua and some of the others, did people remember her by the end of the night? Heejun has partially recovered from his missteps, but was it enough to keep him safe? He was in danger last week, and there’s a good chance that good happen again this week.

I’m not sure how strong Hollie’s fanbase is (I’m sure it’s strong), but she took to the stage around the middle, so who knows how she might rank because of that. I would hate to see her go, though. Deandre finally brought it, after a couple ho-hum weeks. But he was in the Bottom 3 last week, after all. I have a feeling that he will at least be in the Bottom again, even if he’s not going home. Jessica, Phillip, Joshua and Elise have nothing to worry about, as long as fans didn’t forget to vote because they think they’re safe.

I ultimately went with Skylar, Heejun and Deandre for my Bottom 3 predictions based on my comments above, though, again, who knows with how everything went on this night. In terms of who might receive the lowest votes? That’s even harder to call. It could be Skylar. It could be Heejun. It could be Hollie. It could be Deandre. Who knows? I don’t know. The realist in me says that it will most likely be either Heejun or Deandre.

Since the judges loved this strong night as well (they did give numerous standing ovations), I wouldn’t put it past them to use the Judges Save this week. If it’s someone like Skylar or Hollie or Deandre, they could very well use it. Even though Heejun was a lot better here, I would hate to see them waste the Save on him. He’s someone that could easily go. You know, Colton performed first, so he could receive the lowest amount. And you know darn well the judges would use that Save in a heartbeat for him.

Who was your favorite this week? Do you agree that it was one of the strongest nights of American Idol in a very long while?

By the end of this week’s results show, we will be down to our Top 8 (unless the Save is used). Plus, Nicki Minaj will take to the stage to perform. See ya then…