'American Idol' Recap: Go Your Own Way - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: Go Your Own Way

Guest mentor Stevie Nicks offers emoting tips

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Jessica Sanchez performs in front of the Judges on 'American Idol.'

Michael Becker / FOX

Welcome back to American Idol, where they are still trying to make Tommy Hilfiger happen. The designer gives the top nine contestants a few fashion tips that they promptly ignore because DID YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED TO ERIKA VAN PELT? Lesson learned, man.

Ryan Seacrest brings the Idol contestants out on stage and then quotes The Hunger Games, giving me a brief moment of hope that the contestants will be forced to battle each other until only one survives. Now that’s a show!

Unfortunately it’s all a lie, but to make me feel better, today’s special guest judge is Stevie Nicks. She and Jimmy Iovine have a long and storied past, involving a lot of dancing and whatever lead to dancing in the Seventies. It is safe to wonder whether these kids have any clue about Stevie’s career. Colton Dixon doesn’t, but Stevie’s OK with that. For tonight’s theme – “Idols Singing their Idols” – Colton reminds us that he found music through his church, so he has no idols besides Jesus. And maybe Lifehouse, who wrote his “favorite worship song.”

Colton sings for Jimmy and Stevie, who loves the line “How can I stand next to you and not feel moved,” because she thinks it is about her, when it’s really about Jesus. Awkward! Colton’s performance ends with him near tears and on his knees, which Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez love. Randy Jackson thinks he could be a contender for the title, which is true, because little Christian girls (and their heathen sisters, who are willing to look past Colton’s Christianity and see only his skunk-hawk and skinny jeans) will all be dialing in their votes for hours.

Poor Skylar Laine. Having to follow Colton’s literal come-to-Jesus moment with her honky-tonk cover of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” is a hard sell. Not that she doesn’t have fun trying. She stomps all over the stage in her bedazzled leather jacket and boots while singing her guts out. Steven helpfully adds, “It had so much Galveston in it.” What? Sometimes Steven reminds us of the Dormouse in Alice in Wonderland. Maybe someone should put some jam on his nose and push him back in his teapot.

Photos: ‘American Idol’ Season 11

Oh, look, Idol is now trying to tarnish whatever legacy Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” has left after Glee and Billy Corgan got done with it. Colton takes the lead, followed by the backing harmonies of Phillip Phillips and Elise Testone. Before I can work up a head of steam about children singing a song about getting older, I realize that when these three sing together it’s actually good. Finally, an Idol group sing that works!

Heejun Han is hoping that singing “A Song For You,” will change America’s attitude when really he should be singing the Pointer Sisters’ “New Attitude” – you know, if he wasn’t 22 and knew that song existed. Jimmy Iovine seems to be appreciating the new Heejun, and he has decided that Heejun was just fronting to cover for a sensitive spirit. Stevie feels that Heejun was pretending not to care about the competition so he wouldn’t feel hurt if, or more likely when, he loses. The real Heejun croons soulfully into the microphone with violins backing him, and he doesn’t crack a single joke. The judges give him a standing ovation, which, frankly, is unnecessary. Randy can’t help but point out that there were a few notes that weren’t perfect, but damn, Heejun has a buttery tone, and that makes Randy imagine some corn on the cob, and that is always a good thing.

Stevie scares the bejeezus out of wee Hollie Cavanaugh by grabbing her by the shoulders and saying “MY MOTHER IS DEAD” in all caps. Now Stevie has no problems, because her mother is gone and thus all her performances have deep meaning. We should all vote for Hollie for holding it together so well under such adverse conditions. For her somewhat wobbly performance of Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” Hollie belts out yet another ballad. As we learned from Colton’s performance, the judges can’t critique Jesus, so they just tell Hollie it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good. 

At the insistence of Jimmy and Stevie, Deandre Brackensick is singing a soupy, slowed down, all-falsetto version of an Eric Benet song called “Sometimes I Cry.” At this point I can’t remember what Deandre sounds like when he isn’t singing in falsetto. The judges give him a standing ovation and applaud his return to form. In fact, J.Lo likes it so much that she tells America to pick up their phones and vote for Deandre because she needs to hear his voice for a few more weeks. Wait, weeks? Is J.Lo admitting that Deandre can’t win this competition? Because she’s right. 

Jessica Sanchez covers Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams,” but as a ballad. It’s risky, but Beyoncé has done it, and if anyone can pull off a dazzling repeat performance, it’s Jessica accompanied by a smoke machine, a harp,and a lot of door frames. It’s like the dream sequence from Hitchcock’s Spellbound, but slightly weirder. She does a brilliant job, but when the judges and America have come to expect beyond brilliant, it feels like a bit of a letdown.    

Stevie Nicks tells Phillip that if they were friends in the Seventies, Mick Fleetwood would have invited both of them plus Lindsey Buckingham to be in Fleetwood Mac. Which sounds dirty to me, but what do I know? Phillip nods like he knows what that the heck Stevie is talking about. Then he sings the hell out of Jonny Lang’s “Still Raining,” which is good enough to get the judges on their feet. Again. Randy claims that Jonny Lang is his friend, which is an important fact. “I love you,” Randy declares as Phil stands there awkwardly.

The fog machine is getting a workout tonight as they crank it up once again for Joshua Ledet‘s Mariah Carey ballad “Without You.” At the end the judges are on their feet, again. I’m starting to suspect that they just didn’t make it to the gym today and needed a little workout. Randy says, “Yo, man, I talked to Mariah Carey yesterday and you didn’t . . .” Or something. I stopped listening to gawk at the namedropping on this show. But he wraps it up by saying the performance was perfect.

You know who can’t sing Madonna? The trio of Jessica, Hollie and Skylar. Randy is contractually obligated to say he loves this wretched time-filler.

The judges get in one last rep for their glutes when they rise to their feet again to applaud Elise Testone’s outstanding rendition of “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. Steven thinks she’d make Robert Plant proud and that she was able to pull off a song that no one can pull off. Except, of course, Robert Plant, and Adam Lambert a few seasons ago, but who’s counting? If Elise is in the bottom three after this performance, then Idol may need to address its ageism problem, and/or everyone in America is getting suspended from their phone privileges for a week. Awkward fashion alert: Elise and Steven are wearing the same pants. Someone’s stylist is getting a harshly worded memo tomorrow. 

Come back tomorrow for a performance by Nicki Minaj and find out who gets sent home.

Last episode: Curse of the Makeover


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