American Idol: Top 12 - March 14, 2012

American Idol - Top 12 - March 14, 2012

Our annual "Songs From The Year You Were Born" theme which usually yields a mix of done-to-death songs and out-of-left-field songs.

1. Philip Philips - "Hard To Handle" (1990) B+

I liked Philip's phrasing throughout the song which was playful and differed in just discernible ways from the version by the Black Crowes. He slowed down certain words and phrases to make it a bit different. He had a fun energy throughout, which is especially admirable considering his recent kidney stone surgery!

2. Jessica Sanchez - "Turn The Beat Around" (1995) B

This is an exceedingly difficult song to sing and I think that's evident to even the most casual listener. Jessica threw in some grit to her voice this week and a bit of attitude which I appreciated. It made her seem more like an individual and let her personality show through. I obviously don't agree with the judges that she should only sing ballads - no singer could survive the musical landscape of 2012 that way!!

3. Heejun Han - "Right Here Waiting" (1989) C+

Heejun had a few issues with phrasing throughout the song - plain and simple, his singing just sounded off. This is a beautiful and deliciously cheesy song and I don't think Heejun did it justice. He did a have a soaring moment on the word "chance", as carefully instructed by Jimmy to make sure he stops clipping his phrases (he succeeded about half the time). Unfortunately, it's not the kind of performance I'll remember by next week.

4. Elise Testone - "Let's Stay Together" (1983) A

This was exceedingly, achingly gorgeous. I loved her additions and ad-libs in the song, although I have to stay I was slightly disappointed when the full band kicked in. This performance had so much personality and truly showcased Elise's gorgeous and unique voice. It was clearly proof that the judges made the correct decision in choosing to send Jeremy home over her last week.

5. Deandre Brackensick - "Endless Love" (1994) C

From the first note, Deandre's performance was shaky. I felt like his voice needed to "lift up" to meet the song more and it never took off. His voice almost cracked completely on one of the notes. I would have been much more intrigued to see him sing his original choice of song - "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from the Lion King. It is hard to watch Idol contestants sing a duet as a solo song, which brings us to our next contestant who succeeded more than Deandre in this regard...

6. Shannon Magrane - "One Sweet Day" (1995) B+

This performance was very pretty and much better than I was expecting from Shannon. I did feel like she sang it all in her "head voice" and I was worried she wasn't breathing properly throughout the song - which distracted me from the overall performance. Overall, a marked improvement from her flat Whitney Houston song last week. I was impressed, especially with the ending of the song.

7. Colton Dixon - "Broken Heart" (1991) A-

I was beyond excited to hear Colton would be singing a White Lion song. So much so that I was pretty much determined to vote for him tonight, regardless of his performance. Well, luckily he delivered on a song I have heard several times on my favorite Sirius/XM stations HAIR NATION! The judges (and Ryan) didn't know the song well enough to know just how different Colton made it sound - he stayed true to the original version but made it sound a bit more currently emo.

To those who have never heard the awesome original version:

8. Erika Van Pelt - "Heaven" (1985) B

It was pretty but the changes to the melody and the delivery of the song were too appalling for me to see past. I didn't like the staccato delivery of her words. I also thought the break that Jimmy Iovine recommended she put in was all wrong. Normally I like the idea of a musical break which heightens drama a bit and increases the intensity of a song. But to put it in a place it clearly did not belong was a misstep too big to ignore. All that said, Erika has a wonderful voice with a rich tone that is rarely matched by contestants who are 10 years her junior.

9. Skylar Laine - "Love Sneaking Up On You" (1994) B/B-

This was the first Idol performance of Skylar's I didn't absolutely love. Maybe it was the song or the fact that the background singers were too loud. I feel like there were so many other great songs from 1994 she could have really put her stamp on and had a true moment. Like "All For Love" by Bryan Adams, Sting, and Rod Stewart. That would have been AMAZING! "Please Forgive Me" by Bryan Adams or "Wild Night" by John Cougar Mellencamp. I have got to stop looking at this list of Top 100 Hits of 1994 for 2 reasons: it's making me way too nostalgic and I am coming up with so many better song choices for Skylar.

10. Joshua Ledet - "When A Man Loves A Woman" (1992) A+

This was so unbelievable I am not sure I have the words for it, but I'll try. I'm not sure I have loved a performance on this season of American Idol so much (with the notable exception of Skylar's phenomenal A+ worthy "Stay With Me" during Top 24 week). The first performance of the night that truly woke me up and had me singing along with all the words. The vocal theatrics were pitch perfect and beyond that, fit emotionally with the song in a way that enhanced the lyrics. I think that is a point worth emphasizing. So often when singers do vocal runs, it is just to show off their voice and has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics or emotional content of the song. Joshua nailed it tonight in a way that stunned me.

11. Hollie Cavanagh - "The Power Of Love" (1993) A-

Much like Jessica on "I Will Always Love You" last week, Hollie chose a song that is nearly impossible to condense to a minute and 45 seconds because of the way it slowly starts and builds to a dramatic crescendo. Hollie sang an unbelievably challenging song (ever try to sing along with this on the radio?) in an amazing way. I love the tone of her voice which has a sense of wise-beyond-her-years embedded in it. I tend to think Hollie is older than she is, just in the way she conducts herself and sings every word with such force.

Best of the night: Joshua
Worst of the night: Deandre

PS: I was dying to hear the rest of disqualified contestant Jermaine Jones' performance of "Somewhere Out There" from the movie AN AMERICAN TAIL! Come on, who did not love that and its superior sequel, Fievel Goes West? If you have no idea what you are talking about, run don't walk to Google to search for "Don Bluth movies".


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