Wednesday was '80s night on “American Idol.” Host Ryan Seacrest billed it as an evening that would send some of us back to our high-school prom. Maybe, but it sent every contestant besides Elise Testone back to the oldies station, since she’s the only one of the remaining eight singers who is not a child of the 1990s.
And that makes it kind of strange that Testone is one of the two singers who did not receive lavish praise from the judges on a night when they seemed predisposed to applaud anyone.
The panel was clearly basking in the nostalgic glow of times gone by (or, in Steven Tyler’s case, trying to remember the years he had forgotten). Pretty much everyone got kudos, oversinging be darned.
You have to give the judges credit for consistency – two looooonnnnng hours, and not one of them dozed off or asked Ryan whether they could help Fox come up with a half-hour sitcom pilot to avoid having to stretch these episodes out so much. If “Idol” decides it needs to cut costs, it could fire whoever dressed Randy Jackson in that red polka-dotted shirt, and just put all three in cheerleading uniforms for next week.
Even guest mentor Gwen Stefani, who along with fellow No Doubt member Tony Kanal joined Jimmy Iovine in the mentoring chairs, was filled with joy and mirth. Stefani’s a regular in that guest role by now and has been hit-or-miss in previous seasons, but she seemed fun and energetic Wednesday. It was not at all like when she was trying to figure out what to do with Sanjaya lo those many seasons ago.
The result was a night where everyone was rewarded for being average.
Jessica Sanchezyelled through Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” and the judges loved it. Can you imagine how much a judge like, say, Simon Cowell would have mocked her for talking about her alter ego, Bebe Chez? Well, keep imagining, because he’s gone and these guys don’t care.
Joshua Ledet spent his cover of Simply Red's "If You Don't Know Me By Now" staring at everything but the audience, and got straight A's. DeAndre Brackensick picked the comparatively obscure but predictable El DeBarge song "I Like It," and Jennifer Lopez could not stop reminding people how good he was and that they should vote for him. The same praise followed Phillip Phillips and his brother-in-law for their performance of Genesis' "That's All." We should all have such bosses evaluating our work.
Skylar Laine had a legitimately big week, closing the show with “Wind Beneath My Wings.” And Colton Dixon sported a brand new hairdo and a nice arrangement of “Time After Time.” Those were the two who stood out in a positive way, with an honorable mention to Ledet and Sanchez for the only duet that wasn’t completely painful to watch. (Laine and Dixon’s “Islands in the Stream” had all the passion and chemistry of paint drying, and it still caused Laine to deny that they were dating. It was that kind of night.)
Testone and Hollie Cavanagh were the two singers who drew criticism, though in the “you’re great, but could be even greater!” school of thought. Testone could have renamed “I Want to Know What Love Is” as “I Want to Know What Key to Sing In,” a rare misfire for someone who’s been very good over the past couple of weeks. And after previously sounding good in her duet with Brackensick, Cavanagh once again looked like she was overthinking every note in “What a Feeling.”
That probably means Cavanagh’s in trouble, considering she was in the bottom two last week. But based on what the judges have said, she and everyone else are destined for stardom regardless. Being on "Idol" means rarely having to hear a discouraging word.
Did the judges go too easy on the singers? Who do you predict will be in the bottom three Thursday? Give us your picks on our Facebook page!
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