‘American Idol’: Top 10 Take On Billy Joel

Carl Williott | March 22, 2012 5:00 am

Last night the Top 10 touring American Idol contestants took on Billy Joel’s all-American songbook. (Sadly, “We Didn’t Start The Fire” wasn’t included.) And who better to mentor the singers during Billy Joel week than … Diddy? (JLo apparently has a thing for working with exes on reality competition shows.) Tommy Hilfiger was also in tow as the style guru, so it was a blown-out episode. Read on to find out who blew up the competition.

While Diddy mainly served as some sort of song medium, giving “tips” — for lack of a better word — on channeling a song’s energy and spirit, Hilfiger served up some useful, and often hair-centric, style pointers. Many of the contestants completely ignored Hilfiger’s advice, and you know what, they didn’t suffer for it.

The performances were fairly consistent last night, but one singer stole the show, as usual. (See above photo if you’re not good at taking hints). With no cringe-worthy performances, America has a tough decision to make for this week’s elimination. Thank God we’ll have Lana Del Rey to distract us.


Season 11 favorite Jessica Sanchez was turning out a classic, smooth rendition of Billy Joel’s “Everybody Has A Dream,” and then she quit hustling us and just let it fly. Cue the requisite standing ovation and Randy Jackson dubbing it “a moment.” This girl can soar and her outfit was on POINT, but really, stop reading about it and just watch.

Jessica Sanchez, “Everybody Has A Dream”

Phillip Phillips chose to sing “Movin’ Out,” which has a great groove to go with his gruff and warbly voice. And like he does every time, he did his thing to the song — technical term, care of Steven Tyler: Phillip Phillips-ing.

Phillip Phillips, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”

When Erika Van Pelt 2.0 strolled out, we thought it was Kris Jenner sitting on that piano about to sing “New York State Of Mind.” The transformation distracted us for the first 30 seconds, but she looked great, and seemed more confident with the new style. As for the singing, she was slightly pitchy at times, but powerful throughout. Her version effectively turned the simmering tune into a power vocal. But let’s get another look at that ‘do.


While Skylar Laine rehearsed “Shameless,” Diddy told her “if you’re telling the troof, the troof will set you free.” Well, the troof is in the twang with Lil Reba, and her cover — while not “goosies” worthy — sounded like something you’d hear on CMT. Close your eyes, and this is country music by a famous country singer. As JLo said, Skylar goes in and completely attacks songs, bending them to her twangy will.

Elise Testone took The Stranger‘s deep track “Vienna” and won this week’s Joshua Ledet Sing Yourself Hoarse Award. The performance was sort of all over the place, but that doesn’t matter when the roof has been obliterated. Elise’s vocals can sound muddled when she shifts from soft to raspy to huge to nasally, but look out if she figures out a way to refine her sound to something less scattered.

[Interesting side note: When Phillip ignored Tommy’s and Diddy’s advice, the judges lauded him for “being himself,” but when Elise sticks to her guns America seems put off by it. Gender Politics 101 on American Idol! Or maybe it’s just that Phillip is charismatic and Elise seems salty as all get out.]

Before Heejun Han‘s performance of “My Life,” Diddy gave us the quote of the season: “I dunno if [Heejun’s] an actor, or a con man … I don’t even know if he’s Asian.” While Steven alluded to the fact that Heejun’s shtick is wearing kind of thin, last night he brought it! After a little stunt that involved a tearaway suit, the Heej traipsed around stage and showed off legit confidence. His lower register sounded a little pained, but the theatrics made up for it. We don’t say this often, but we think the judges were hard on the singer in this case, as his performance was a refreshing burst of energy during a relatively staid show.

Heejun Han, “My Life”


Ok, so the judges were gaga for Colton Dixon‘s “Piano Man,” but something about it just didn’t grab us the way it grabbed those in attendance. He was a little too squeaky on a lot of the breaks in the beginning, which soured us the rest of the way. But other than that, it was a strong performance, with a real Lifehouse vibe in the best way possible.

DeAndre Brackensick‘s rendition of “Only The Good Die Young” showcased his ability to meld the laid-back with the gravelly energy. But there was no wow factor here. A workmanlike cover, no better, no worse.

Joshua Ledet emerged as last week’s star, and last night he kept riding the swagger train, starting up sitting A.C. Slater-style for his performance of “She’s Got A Way.” Unfortunately, the confidence couldn’t help the lower, softer notes that led to the melody. Once he broke into his gospel thang halfway through, he became visibly more fluid. Let’s face it, yowling is his wheelhouse. It was a confusing tale of two songs that left all three judges confounded and searching for the right words, which led to equally confusing feedback.

We love Hollie Cavanagh, the little larynx that could, but her take on “Honesty” last night was her first major misstep. She never seemed comfortable in the song, constantly searching for the right pitch (painfully so at the final run). The judges blamed it on over-thinking and unfamiliarity with the song. As Steven pointed out, having a big voice is also a big risk, because minor key mistakes seem that much more severe. Also, why was she dressed like a marching band leader from the future?


Hate to break it you bloodthirsty readers out there, but we had none!

Best of the night: Jessica Sanchez once again cemented her #1 seed with the strongest vocal performance of the night. Heejun Han gave us the biggest spectacle.

Worst of the night: The miniature Hollie Cavanagh’s regular-sized misstep.

Tonight: The internet explodes and Skynet takes over when Lana Del Rey performs.

With no real duds last night, who do you think will end up in the bottom? Sound off in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook.