Blimey. Ryan Seacrest was not a pretty baby.
And I’m aware that most of the songs listed are credited to cover versions, rather than the original performers. But since the theme this week is the year of each contestant’s own birth, it’s the version from that year which qualifies the song.
1. Phillip Phillips – Hard To Handle (The Black Crowes, 1990)
I’m finding it hard to comment on Phillip Phillips, much in the way I found it difficult with Scotty last year. He does his growly bluesy rock thing, hanging off his mic stand with authenticity in a way with which I simply can’t find fault. And yet I can’t find myself in the slightest bit excited either. It’s good, I guess, but it’s not for me. I can totally relate over the kidney stones btw. Been there, not nice. Major props for singing in that kind of pain, I could barely breathe.
2. Jessica Sanchez – Turn The Beat Around (Gloria Estefan, 1995)
A strange song choice that did little to showcase Jessica’s (usually) amazing vocals. It reminded me a bit of when Leona Lewis did Lady Marmalade to prove she could do up tempo, and then wisely stuck to the ballads thereon. Let’s hope Jessica does the same. It was far from dreadful, but it didn’t fit her in the same way it fit Gloria- another woman known for big ballads.
3. Heejun Han – Right Here Waiting (Richard Marx, 1989)
I love this song, I love Heejun and I love Heejun’s voice. But for some reason it just didn’t work. It sounded breathy in a way that felt a real struggle. There were some lovely moments, particularly when he went for it, but overall a huge disappointment.
4. Elise Testone – Let’s Stay Together (Tina Turner, 1983)
Elise has been all over the place so far this year, clinging onto the competition by her fingernails. And yet that was the best performance so far tonight. I’m not a huge fan of that song, and it’s a bit of a reality show cliché, but it suited her, it suited her voice, and she threw herself into it.
5. Deandre Brackensick – Endless Love (Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey, 1994)
Wow, he looks like a member of Milli Vanilli with his hair down. After being talked out of his original choice, Can You Feel The Love Tonight, he opts for a duet- a potentially wise decision given he could sound like both Luther and Mariah, if he chose to. Instead, he opted for a rather bland, safe, middle ground that wouldn’t have melted anybody’s heart, but was still quite sweet. There was the odd uncomfortable moment where he was about to go for it, started to, then backed out, causing a cringe or two. It was quite obvious that he simply couldn’t be bothered this week.
6. Shannon Magrane – One Sweet Day (Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men, 1995)
This is one of those songs that’s over-sung to the point of murder by the original artists, so I’ve been dying to hear a restrained version for years. For that reason alone, I’m grateful to Shannon for coming close, even if it was completely absent of any emotion. Unfortunately that song IS pure emotion. It’s about looking forward to seeing a dead loved one again in Heaven, and she sang it as if it was about picking daisies on her way to school. And yet, another of the best tonight.
7. Colton Dixon – Broken Heart (White Lion, 1991)
No idea what song this is, so this was pretty much his opportunity to show me what his album is going to sound like. The first half of the song completely captivated me, but once the bland- sorry, band kicked in, I lost interest. His vocals were good, although they did get a bit swamped in the second half, when he should have been in his element.
8. Erika Van Pelt – Heaven (Bryan Adams, 1985)
Again, it started strong and she attempted to give it her own twist. Again, it didn’t work. The big break that the rehearsal had us excited for (work with me here) just got in the way of the song. A perfect fit for her voice though.
It is now announced that Jermaine Jones has been kicked out of the competition for non-disclosure of outstanding criminal warrants. FOUR of them. He was going to sing Somewhere Out There by that mouse in that cartoon.
9. Skylar Laine – Sneaking Up On You (Bonnie Raitt, 1994)
Despite their attempts to get her to sing LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE, she stuck to her guns, and gave us her now familiar country rock thing. I can see why Jimmy Iovine and Will.I.Am (that’s going the be pain to type when The Voice starts in the next week or so…) tried to persuade her otherwise, as there was pretty much no song here. But it’s pure Skylar, and she does it well. I still would have preferred her put a country spin on a pop song. Now that she’s done it that once, that’s all I want from her, and anything less will not be good enough. Otherwise she’s just another country star that we won’t hear of again. Which I suppose is inevitable anyway, so girl done good.
10. Joshua Ledet – When A Man Loves A Woman (Michael Bolton, 1992)
In his charming VT we learn that both Joshua and Will.I.Am have similarly castigating moms. Well I now know how they feel, as Joshua sang that song like he was telling me off. The earlier tender love song about Heaven became about daisy-picking. This tender love song became, “When a man loves a woman, he holds her face and SQUEEZES IT AND SQUEEZES IT UNTIL IT POPS AND THEN SMEARS HER REMAINS ALL OVER THE WALLS.” All screeches, off-melody trills and just a general barrage of self-indulgent hideousness that I hated, hated, HATED. OW, MY EARS. A standing ovation from the judges, natch. Hellish.
11. Hollie Cavanagh – The Power of Love (Celine Dion, 1993)
The little girl with the big voice had a mighty task ahead, and did a surprisingly good, if not flawless, job. Actually, it came quite close to being something special, and was easily my favourite female vocal tonight.
We were spared a cringe-inducing group lip-synch this week, so instead we were treated to a performance by Demi Lovato that was worse than anything we have seen (or are likely to see) from ANY of the competitors this year. Way to lower the bar. Chris Daughtry also returned to show that true professionals can be discovered in this competition. Even if the song was a bit rubbish.
The bottom three were revealed to be Elise, Shannon and Erika.
And so we say goodbye to Shannon, but not before she gives us a reprise of One Sweet Day, aka The Daisy-Picking Song. Given that she was supposed to prove she deserves to stay, she actually proved she was the right one to go. Which is more of a comment on how strong the competitors are this year, rather than a comment against Shannon. For all of my nit-picking, I genuinely think this is the strongest line-up I’ve seen for years on ANY reality show.