Five contestants received standing ovations on a night Steven Tyler called ‘a magical mystery tour of over-the-top talent and emotion.’
By Adam Graham
The Idols took on songs by their own personal idols on Wednesday (March 28), and time and again they brought the judges to their feet.
Five singers — more than half the field — earned standing ovations from the judges, and if that isn’t technically a record, it certainly felt like one. And while several contestants surged forward — most notably Colton Dixon, whom Randy Jackson dubbed “a contender for the title” for the first time — it was Heejun Han who seized the opportunity to wipe the slate clean after last week’s flub and realign himself in the “Idol” ranks.
The night kicked off in an odd fashion, with host Ryan Seacrest telling the contestants, “Hunger Games”-style, “may the odds be ever in your favor.” And from there it was a veritable bloodbath, with each contestant giving their all and making the “Idol” landscape as difficult to survey as ever.
Han, who was criticized last week for not taking the show seriously following his goofball performance of Billy Joel’s “My Life,” dialed himself way down Wednesday and gave a straightforward reading of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.” The result: a standing O, along with praise from the judges who felt he was finally done mocking the proceedings.
“You did it man, you turned it around,” Steven Tyler told him, while Jennifer Lopez backed his performance and dispelled any notion he was a fluke contestant by telling him, “You don’t make it this far by mistake.” Jackson agreed the performance represented a major turnaround for Han. “Finally the Heejun that we selected came back to us tonight,” the Dawg said. “Welcome back.”
Also bringing the judges to their feet were Joshua Ledet (singing Mariah Carey’s version of “Without You”), Phillip Phillips (taking on Johnny Lang’s “Still Raining”), DeAndre Brackensick (doing Eric Benet’s “Sometimes I Cry”) and Elise Testone (who closed the show with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”). The praise was flying around so fast and furious it was almost hard to keep track of; at show’s close, Tyler called the evening “a magical mystery tour of over-the-top talent and emotion.” (We’re not 100 percent sure what that means, but we’re pretty sure it’s good.)
Ledet’s performance was perhaps the evening’s most emotional; afterward, Lopez told the Louisiana native, “you’re a phenom, you are an absolute angel from Heaven!” Phillips, meanwhile, was told he “owned” his performance of “Still Raining.” “You’ve got big things in front of you,” Jackson told him.
Testone wasn’t the first “Idol” to take on “Whole Lotta Love”; Adam Lambert memorably upped the song’s sexual mojo back in Season 8. Her version didn’t have Lambert’s same oomph, but Tyler told her, “you made Robert Plant proud tonight” while Lopez said, “that was some real rock star stuff.”
Brackensick, meanwhile, earned comparisons to Prince for the high falsetto he delivered while singing “Sometimes I Cry.” “You gave Prince a run for his money, man,” Tyler told him, while Jackson gave him one of his customary “DeAndre’s back in the house!” declarations. Lopez pleaded with America to vote for the curly-haired singer. “People, pick up your phones and vote for DeAndre!” she said. “Please, I need to hear this voice some more!”
Though he didn’t get a standing O, Dixon opened the show with Lifehouse’s “Everything” and was called “a dream come true” by Tyler. “You sing a song like it should be sung. You make it bleed, you have perfect pitch, and you’ve got star quality.” And with Jackson officially welcoming him into the potential winner’s circle, the playing field was again shifted.
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