‘American Idol’s’ top 9: Heejun Han’s comeback, standing ovations galore

Everyone upped their game.

Thank you, “American Idol,” for allowing contestants to have more song choices! After a subpar showing last week with Billy Joel songs, we were happy to see a number of contestants return to form. (We’re also grateful that we weren’t subjected to Phillip or Heejun dealing with Tommy Hilfiger for a long period of time.)

Also, we have some trio performances this week in here to help make the show feel like it was dragged out to death. As if it’s not coming through on you’re end, we have to say that we really enjoyed this.

Colton Dixon – Like Colton, we’ve had a deep connection to the Lifehouse hit “Everything” for quite some time, and we think it was an incredibly bold choice for him to make considering that the emotional build of the song cannot really be displayed in a cut-down version.

While Colton does not have the baritone or the rasp of Jason Wade, he did an admirable job conveying the emotion of the song and knowing that it is not something that has to be over-the-top. You do have to be careful about polarizing your audience when expression your faith so explicitly, but with the show’s demographics we don’t think he will have too many problems getting votes.

Skylar Laine – Like with Colton, Skylar picked the perfect song in Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead.” It’s obvious that she was connected to the song, but we admit during the first half we were worried that her “Skoutlaw energy” just wasn’t really present like it was during “Stay with Me” earlier in the show.

Thankfully, Skylar proved us wrong and then some in the closing minute of the song. There was the stomp, the moving around, the vocal runs, and the overall sense of fun that most contestants tend to forget about on a show like this. Remember, these performances should feel like something a professional would do — not like a talent show! Hats off to Skylar for proving she is a major threat once again.

Thankfully, he did not wear this.

Heejun Han – Heejun came out with a mission this week — to prove that he does take this competition seriously despite what you may end up seeing from him at times. With “A Song for You,” he did just that.

Was this performance necessarily perfect? No, but it was far better than anything the guy has pulled off in weeks, and there were some great moments in this that made us a little teary-eyed. There are people out there who hate this guy, but we really see him as a guy who was trying to please people, and thought that humor was the way to do that.

Hollie Cavanagh – It wasn’t so much Hollie’s performance of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” that was bad here. Instead, it was having to hear her take on another slow ballad. At this point, she is really the only person in this competition to do the same sort of song every week, and it’s getting dull.

The sad thing is us talking about repetition here takes away from her incredible voice, and how she hit notes that just about everyone wishes that they could have. Now, she just needs to learn variety.

DeAndre Brackensick – Note to DeAndre if he stays in the competition for another week — if you sing in falsetto all the time, you will get a standing ovation from the judges. It was his best performance since “Master Blaster,” though (for the second time this evening following Heejun) it was probably not standing ovation-worthy.

The biggest problem DeAndre has, and we saw it occasionally here again during this performance, is that he sometimes does not connect as well as some other people (see Colton or Elise). If he could figure this out, he’ll be dangerous.

Jessica Sanchez – We really didn’t think that this was as sweet of a “dream” as the judges. In slowing down Beyonce, Jessica sapped a bit of the soul and energy out of the song; with that in mind, it ended up being a bit sleepy.

On the other hand, our problems with the performance stopped with the arrangement. Jessica did a sensational job singing this, and we’re sure our concerns will not keep her from being safe.

Phillip Phillips – Somewhere, Tommy Hilfiger is crying that Phillip wore gray again. While we’re a little bit sad that the guy continues to shout a little much late in his performances, we’ll admit that this was probably his best performance in weeks.

But another standing ovation? Really? The biggest concern we have for Phillip is that he manages to make all of his songs fit him, and they are already starting to blend together a little bit.

Joshua Ledet – Another performance, another standing ovation. Notice the trend? This was a powerful performance by Joshua, but it does pose an interesting debate. Do we like it when people cry to the point of them being unable to finish the song? From an emotional standpoint, it was nice to see what he was feeling on the stage, and it did give this song a little bit more weight since melodically it was not the sort of thing we would listen to time and time again.

Elise wrapped things up.

Elise Testone – Elise Testone made a bold move in closing the show. Not only did she sing a Led Zeppelin classic in “Whole Lotta Love,” but it is also a song that has gone down in “Idol” history courtesy of Adam Lambert.

Did she pull it off? Yes and no. The band drowned her out through some of the performance, and we preferred both Adam’s version and when Haley Reinhart got her Led on last season. With that being said, this was worth a standing O more than some of the other singers who got one.

The trios

Colton Dixon, Elise Testone, and Phillip Phillips – Smart move in singing a song by mentor Stevie Nicks, and it may be one of the best songs in music history in “Landside,” and then moving it into some other hits by the legendary rocker.

Since “Landslide” is the song we specifically mention here, we might as well say it — Colton completely dominated this performance. Meanwhile, we really think that Phillip got the short end of the stick when it comes to how much time he actually had to perform.

DeAndre Brackensick, Joshua Ledet, and Heejun Han – If we took out DeAndre and Heejun here, it may have been better. this was much weaker than the Stevie mash-up, mostly because Joshua is the only one of the three who knew how to handle the passion of a Michael Jackson song.

The thing that really helped the guys was that the trios were not criticized for very long, and that dancing is also not part of the voting criteria.

Hollie Cavanagh, Skylar Laine, and Jessica Sanchez – Isn’t “Like a Prayer” one of the best songs ever created? We were first and foremost glad to see Hollie forced into doing something a little bit more upbeat,, and (pageant hand aside) she did a great job in this performance.

As for Skylar, she was the obvious weak link here thanks to her sounding out of breath, and Madonna really is not her genre of music at all.

Who did you love the most this week, and do you think that someone should run in and put glue on the seats of the judges before next week? As always, take our poll and share your thoughts with a comment below!

Photo: Fox

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