‘American Idol’s’ ‘top 12’: In defense of Heejun Han, Colton Dixon

Did he get enough credit?

This week on “American Idol,” the theme is “songs from the year of your birth” — however, for Jermaine Jones it may very well be “songs to remind you of your blown opportunity.” As much as Nigel Lythgoe and company may try to tell us that the show is really about the contestants who are still around, there’s no denying that the previously-known-as-gentle giant left a large (really large) shadow over the entire course of the night.

Phillip Phillips – Before we even get into our critique of Phillip’s performance, hats off to the man for being a warrior. How many people would have kidney stone surgery and then get back on stage to perform within a week? He clearly wants to be there, and we love that he’s not complaining about it at all.

Our only complaint here is that “Hard to Handle” is not really a song that showed off Phillip’s voice, but outside of a few dropped lyrics here and there this was far and away better than what we saw with his screaming take on “Superstition” last week. The only thing we need from his now is to show a little vulnerability.

Jessica Sanchez – Just one week after Jessica stirred the hearts of the nation with “I Will Always Love You,” she did something that we really dislike — complaining about how few songs that she had to choose from. The object of this competition is to do something great with what you’re given, and the arrangement on “Turn the Beat Around” just didn’t suit her voice.

This was not necessarily a bad performance so much as it just was awkward. We didn’t care for her outfit or the way in which she performed the song, and she lacked the speed necessarily to keep up with the lyrics at all times. Is she still one of the best singers in the competition? Definitely, but chalk this one up as proof that singing great does not always equal being great.

Heejun Han – Is this the wrong kind of song for Heejun? We don’t actually think so. We really thought that this was Heejun’s best performance in the live shows, and we were nearly tearing up by the end of it.

We’re not sure why it is, but the judges for some reason have been harder on Heejun than some of their other contestants. (See: no criticism for Phillip screaming last week.) We actually thought the breathy vocal worked for this song, and hope / plead that voters see through the critique and keep the guy around. After all, this is the guy who could literally sing the phone book.

Elise Testone – Singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” (otherwise known now as the President Obama song at this point), we’ll give Elise credit for singing better than the Commander-in-Chief. She didn’t miss an entire note during the performance, and she also came across far better than last week.

Unfortunately, we always have a problem knowing what to say about Elise, and it may just be because she lacks that excitement you need on a show like this. We’re not sure she will be remembered, and with two guys already gone a woman could be in trouble this week.

DeAndre Brackensick – One week after having killed it with “Master Blaster,” this was more of a snore-inducer. “Endless Love” was unfortunately endlessly dull, and it felt as though he was tacking on the falsetto just because he could.

At this point, DeAndre wins the “cutest baby photo” contest when it comes to the introduction packages, so he at least has that. At the moment, he’s just the most inconsistent contestant on the show. He’ll rock out one week, then be completely off the next.

Shannon Magrane – Another week, another ballad for Shannon. While we didn’t mind this for Heejun, it was a bit more irritating when it came to Shannon simply because she cracked so badly on “I Have Nothing” last week.

The good news? Thankfully, Shannon wasn’t bad this week! She managed to tackle some of the high notes without any problem, and it seemed to even make the spray tan melt off of Jennifer Lopez’s face. (Did anyone else notice this?) This may just be the comeback that Shannon needs.

Colton had his best moment of the live shows.

Colton Dixon – Just like Heejun Han, we actually felt that the judges (or at least Steven Tyler) were a little hard on the guy this week — and this is after they overpraised him the first two weeks.

Granted, we had never heard “Broken Hearted” before in our lives, but that doesn’t make this a bad performance. We loved the energy, the fact that he didn’t jump on the piano, and that he actually felt connected to the song. For the first time in the live rounds, we were totally feeling what Colton was bringing to the show. Can we ask for more, please?

Erika Van Pelt – Was anyone else out there secretly hoping for Erika to bust out the techno version of “Heaven” a la what Craig Colton did on “The X Factor” this past fall. Unfortunately, she didn’t do that and this performance was rather boring. We also thought the outfit made her look a little bit like a witch. (Just to clarify, she’s rather nice and is in no way evil and / or magical.)

Vocally, we still don’t understand why she changed up the melody after the break in the song, and that was a little bit of a distraction.

Jermaine Jones (sort of) –┬áRather than addressing this at the start of the show (as they should have done), producers waited until midway through to actually cart out executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick (a rarity for these two) to talk with Jermaine about what happened.

We actually think “Idol” handled this in an honest and mature way, with Nigel explaining the situation concerning Jermaine’s outstanding warrants without going into details. He also said that there was no way he could stay on the show, and Jermaine ended up taking the new better than expected. Ending the segment with his rehearsal performance? Classy.

Skylar Laine – What was with the background singers during this performance? With this awkward arrangement, Skylar was at a disadvantage from the get-go. It didn’t help that this performance was just a little too middle of the road for us.

We’re missing Skylar from the top 25 at the moment — where’s the headbanging and foot-stomping? Skylar may have actually set the bar too high for herself, and she’s not currently living up to it.

Joshua Ledet – When Joshua was in the bottom three guys last week, we wanted to throw something at our TV in anger. He was the best performer by far on the show, and he proved that he can take just about any song and make it great.

As for “When a Man Loves a Woman,” the first thing Joshua needs to do is take off the “Saturday Night Fever” jacket. The second thing he needs to do is make sure people actually vote for him. The problem? Someone went too the Jacob Lusk School of Doing Too Much this week. We don’t need the entire kitchen sink in your performance! The scary part of this is that the reaction of the judges means we may be in store of more of this moving forward.

Hollie Cavanagh – Our favorite part of this performance from a humor standpoint was her brother joking that her performance of Celine Dion was only “so-so,” but in reality it was rather fantastic. The biggest problem? There were a few major pitch issues here and there.

At this point in the competition, we’re torn on Hollie — talent-wise she is deserving to go very far, we need to see something different than just power ballads. At least with Heejun we’re feeling something from him emotionally.

Who was your favorite performer this week, and do you think that they handled Jermaine’s exit well? As always, we look forward to seeing your poll responses and your comments below!

Photo: Fox


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