American Idol Top 9 Cover Songs By Their Own Idols: Who Were Your Favorites?

skylar laineIt was a “night of redemption” on American Idol, said Ryan Seacrest. Or, as Steven Tyler put it, “a magical mystery tour of over-the-top talent and emotion.” Then again, from my living-room couch, it was more like “a night when even middling guys got standing ovations from the judges, while the best ladies received ‘praise’ with a side of vague ennui, until it came down to, ‘Oh, okay, I guess we’ll get off our lazy butts for Elise.'”

To be fair, Season 11’s Top 9 telecast was pretty damn stellar, one of the best Idol performance nights in recent memory. But if DeAndre Brackensick and Heejun Han were worthy of the highest form of praise from the judges, then how come Skylar Laine and Jessica Sanchez didn’t merit the same response? (Oh, Uncle Nigel, and you wonder why a woman hasn’t won Idol since Season 6!)

American Idol: Advice (and Fantasy Set Lists!) for the Season 11 Top 9

Anyhow, I’ve got to get crackin’ on a full episode recap, which will post on Thursday morning right here at But before I do, let me offer my pithy, pithy thoughts on the evening’s solo performances, as follows:

Colton Dixon: Lifehouse’s “Everything”
Heartfelt rendition of a song I’d be okay if I never heard again. But did I detect a couple of pitch problems in the verse?

Idology: Erika Van Pelt on Wardrobe Snafus, Charges of Oversinging, Her ‘Old Lady’ Status

Skylar Laine: Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead”
Dang, I thought she was gonna break out an actual shotgun at the end, there! There might’ve been a few problems with breath support, but there’s no denyung she painted a vivid/furious picture of a woman done wrong.

Colton, Elise, and Phillip: Fleetwood Mac medley

Heejun Han: Donnie Hathaway’s “A Song for You”
If this is what warrants a standing O, then I expect my hubby to rise to his feet the next time I fetch him a bowl of cereal. Did Heejun improve? Sure. But he’s vocally outclassed at this point in the competition, and the judges’ fawning means someone else (female) will pay the price when he survives another week.

Hollie Cavanagh: Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”
Not a good week for her weakest performance to date. Methinks she’ll need a higher power to steer her into the Top 8.

DeAndre Brackensick: Eric Benet’s “Sometimes I Cry”
I kept praying for Jesus to take the remote and switch it over to reruns of ABC’s comedy lineup, but nope, I had to endure the whole hot, buttered falsetto mess.

Jessica Sanchez: Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams”
How come when guys rearrange a song, the judges talk about “artistry,” but when a teenage girl does it, there’s no mention of the ‘A’ word? This was absolutely stellar — both in terms of vocals and in terms of recycling the red doors from the guys’ group performance on So You Think You Can Dance last season.

Presented Without Comment
DeAndre, Joshua, and Heejun: Michael Jackson medley

Phillip Phillips: Jonny Lang’s “Still Rainin'”
Heck, even the vein in Phillip’s forhead got up on its feet! That was pretty hot, and so was the velvet jacket.

Joshua Ledet: Harry Nilsson/Mariah Carey’s “Without You”
[I’m not using any words, just makin’ my stank face and throwing a Gospel hand.]

Skylar, Jessica, and Hollie: Madonna medley
Did somebody shut off Skylar’s mic for a minute?

Elise Testone: Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”
Can a grown woman actually win Idol? Or, rather, can a contestant who’s firing this solidly every week actually lose Idol?

What did you think of this week’s show? Who was your favorite? Who’s in trouble? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. justafan says:

    elise rockin’ da house… her version better than lambert’s … i had goosies for most of the song!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. jiji33 says:

    i am sorry but after adam i cant take elise’s version although i do normally like her. it should be forbidden on idol to sing a song he covered. esp this song they got led zeppelin’s approval only bcs of his unique talent. she was good but didnt match him.

  3. Cstrong says:

    If you people would actually listen to R&B music you would know what real singing is! DeAndre and Joshua can sing! The best performances tonight! Hee Jun and Jessica also have that R&B swag! Elise sounded like Jim Carrey on The cable guy and Colton sounds like every other guy who has won this show! I am ready for a R&B Idol!

    • Chris says:

      Yes. Anyone who knows Prince and Eric Benet’s falsetto hits would know DeAndre brought it. I think America is confused over what that gift means and how f’in hard it is to sing that snizzle. He has a very special gift and was happy I got to see/hear the passion – couldn’t have agreed more with Steven’s comments. Loved it.

      • SiniGang says:

        Deandre is limited by the cleared song choices… Why try to sing the phone book if you could have access to Prince’s catalog?

    • Miscellaneopolan says:

      I don’t think he was the best of the night, but I agree that Deandre did a good job, certainly the best he’s been since Master Blaster, if still not amazing. Really, it was a great night. I don’t think there was one bad performance, and several excellent ones.

  4. Zoey says:

    Elise won Idol tonight, hands down.

    (And I’m a pretty hardcore Adam fan jsyk.)

  5. Elise Testosterone says:

    Very happy to say that everyone did a great job. Not one bad apple.

  6. Namira says:

    i liked Heejun’s performance. he never really picked the right song and i think this week he picked well. he gained many fans from the get-go, any of those who doubted him after last week’s fiasco are likely back to support him this week. he might still make it another week or 2. and if he improves (yes, i still have faith in him), he can probably go further. i just wish the show wasn’t treating him like a kid though, the way J.Lo baby talks to him, the way Jimmy is either unnecessarily rude with his critiques or over the top praising him kinda, like this week. i’d be confused as heck if i were him. just address his issues but also credit his strengths in a normal way. tell him his diction’s a bit hard to understand at times, tell him his breathing technique needs work, tell him ballads week after week might bore the viewers, he needs to know that, but don’t altogether tell him (and indirectly the voters) that he’s disrespecting the whole competition.


    that having said i really do think it’s time one of the guys should go home. Heejun is one of the ones that might be in trouble. although he did okay but the competition is ridiculously tight right now. Deandre might be in trouble too and i was going to say Colton since he got the death-spot but his twitter followers increased by quite a crazy amount this week so he might be safe after all. if it’s a girl, i get the feeling the judges might whip out the save (which i think they should! boring ballads aside, all these girls can definitely SING!)

  7. C says:

    Though they were better tonight than they have been, Deandre and HeeJun are still the bottom two.

  8. Naomi says:

    The producers are worried for Elise… she’s gotten the pimp spot twice already.

  9. Delon says:

    Elise became a goddess last night right in front of our eyes! WOW!!!!!!!

  10. idolmama says:

    I thought Elise’s performance was outstanding. It was great to see her excitment and reaction to the crowd’s applause. Jessica and Hollie were OK. I think Hollie had a lot of pitch problems and Jessica sang well but sounded as if she had a mouth full of marbles. Really for the first half of her song we were all wondering what the words/lyrics were. Couldn’t understand a single word she was singing. How can an audience connect to a song if the artist can’t enunciate the lyrics. Hollie and Jessica may have big voices but they sing like robots. After they finish singing, no matter how great they sounded, I am left with a feeling that I have heard it before, over and over. I really can’t think of a song I would purchase. However, Colton, Philip and Elise… yes I would seriously consider buying their albums. They would be different. I also agree with an earlier comment. Idol needs to raise the age limit. 15 is too young. We are getting contestants that do sing great but they need time to mature. Heejun may have improved but still is not in the same league as the other singers. Did not deserve a SO. Deandre may have a great falsetto but seriously an entire song of it gets sooo irritating. Joshua really sounded screechy to me. The opening of the song was already loud and bombastic. Did he listen to thy lyrics? It’s a sad song. There was no pathos in Joshua’s version.

    • MellyMel says:

      I totally disagree with your comments about Joshua. It’s like you didn’t even listen to the performance, you just decided before he even opened up his mouth that he was going to be “loud and bombastic.” The opening to “Without You” was not loud at all.

      Call me crazy, but why do Phillip and Elise get a free pass for straight shouting and full on atonal screaming in their performances, but when Joshua adds grit to his voice for a couple bars at the end of the song he’s “screeching.” I can understand preferring one genre over another, but I can’t understand having a tin ear.

  11. When the contestants repeat or redo a song Adam Lambert did,there is always going to be a comparison. Adam sang WLL all over America, Canada, and Europe, Asia so many different ways and it was thrilling and sensual every time. I just rewatched WLL from Amsterdam on youtube. Elise was amazing,but cannot bring the power and sexy that song was meant to have. Just my opinion.

  12. Rick says:

    Was it my TV or did Skylar’s butt take up most of the screen in those white pants next to the size 2 Hollie and Jessica? She also looked like a Rooster trying to dance. The whole number was awkward. In general, most of these kids cannot dance and it is painful to watch.

    • Lo says:

      Yes, the Idol styling team doesn’t seem to know how to dress girls on this show who aren’t a stick, but Skylar looked fine. She is not a big girl by any means. And she has so much energy when she dances and is really fun to watch. The Madonna songs were a bit out of her element, but on her solo performance she looked and sounded great.

    • C says:

      Do you want to know who REALLY looked ridiculous? Joshua in his way too tight jacket!

  13. Sandi says:

    I disagree completely about Deandre. I thought his performance was excellent. He has an amazing ability and I hope he makes it another week.

    However, I definitely do agree about Heejun. If this is about expectations or “most improved” than I’ll stand for him as well. If this is about performance, I put him at the bottom of the pack.

    It’s really tough to call the bottom 3. I think it could be Hollie, Heejun, Deandre but there could also be surprises in there. Any of them could be vulnerable since it was so evenly matched.

    I really hope Heejun goes. Anyone else (especially a female!!) would really bum me out.

    • C says:

      I totally agree on your bottom three, and I’ll say right now that Hollie will be the one to go. The little girls still love Deandre, and I don’t know who, but SOMEONE is voting for HeeJun. I say this every week… female will ever win the Idol crown again until the voting changes.

    • Miscellaneopolan says:

      Much as I hate to say it, after last night’s performances I kinda want Hollie to go home. She’s just boring and she’s not getting better. I was ready to send Heejun home but have to admit that I enjoyed his performance last night (I love that song), and Deandre made a mini-comeback as well. Surprise residents of the bottom three may be Skylar or Joshua, although they both did fine jobs.

  14. Jermey says:

    Jessica didn’t rearange her song, she sang the version Beyonce did on her I Am… Yours show. Too bad Jessica didn’t give her credit, especially When J.Lo suggested Beyonce will take notes and do this version on her next tour. :\

  15. Faz says:

    “But did I detect a couple of pitch problems in the verse?” Michael writes about Colton.
    A couple? Seriously Michael you aren’t listening. He is nothing but pitch problems. He can’t sing.

  16. destiny says:

    WOw Am so amazed with Elise followed by Jessica and skyler tonight!!! it’s time to put an end to WGWG.. its time for a girl to win!!!

  17. bickoy says:

    Jessica’s name is not included in the poll?

  18. tomitweets says:

    Have to say it, I just don’t care without Erika. And I only have watched because I will be so happy to never hear another power ballad from this group. I liked the little group medleys better. At least Elisa was interesting…so glad she had the pimp slot. (But I am prejudice, I confess, since WLL on Idol belongs to Adam Lambert). But this group–mostly good singers–are ideal for the Idol world. After Idol? Probably not so much.

  19. Kat says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Michael! I don’t know what the judges have been drinking but I’m glad someone else thinks DeAndre singing another entire song in falsetto is a bad idea. God it hurt my ears! It’s just too bad the judges are making him think that doing THAT is a good idea!

  20. Erica says:

    I never imagined a world where standing ovations in AI can be a perfect drinking game. (I miss you Simon!)

    What is up with Randy’s necklace? My one year has the same necklace.

    Oh please, please put Randy’s singing during Jessica’s critique time in the next Idology episode.

    And Jennifer used the word baby but did not say something negative after. It might not be her “breakup word” after all!

  21. Red in Denver says:

    I think Phillip Phillips is highly overrated. After his initial audition, he has appeared to me to be nothing more than a Dave Matthews impersonator. Every song he ‘sings’ sounds the same as all the others.

    Is it possible to start a ‘cover band’ for an individual artist? Because that’s all I think Phillip has the talent to do. I have to wonder about supposed music professionals who call imitation (although the sincerest form of flattery) ‘artistry’.

    • I agree with ya. At least during their run, Cook and Allen were pioneers and they showed creativity backed with great vocals. The WGWG winners after them just pale in comparison and for some reason, their thing got old as weeks went by. Was over Lee by Top 5 and didn’t care for Scotty by Top 8, though he had moments during the Top 6 and Top 5.

      As for Phil, got over him by *gasp* Top 11. He makes songs his own, no doubt. But they’re just there.

    • Joe says:

      Red – I agree with you. I don’t think that the music professionals have ever seen DMB live. I think they know who Dave Matthews is and they know a couple of his songs, but they have no idea that Phillip’s entire stage persona from dress to voice to looks he makes w/his eyes are all ripped from Dave. I was having this conversation with my wife who is also frustrated that he’s impersonating Dave and Idol is calling him an original and I said I think while Dave has a massive following, a lot of people don’t know him. Phil should be thankful for that because this is like watching an Elvis impersonator week after week. The thing of it is, when he’s off the show he’s going to put Dave Matthews style records out, but that’s when he’ll be exposed. You can imitate DMB but you can’t bottle it and sell it. Phil is the G rated DMB experience and he’ll have his teeny bopper fans until they hit high school and college and get exposed to DMB. Then Phil will be the velveteen rabbit and all the people telling him he’s a star will struggle to remember his name. Outside of Idol he’ll be going up against DMB for the kind of music he wants to sell and he’ll lose.

  22. Jane says:

    Elise rocked! Best performance this season! What’s is it about Idol and Zepplin? Haley killed it with “What is and Never Should Be” last year and Elise schooled us all with “Whole Lotta Love,” and of course who could forget Adam’s electric performance of the same song. How about a Led Zepplin night on idol? It would definitely be cooler than another Stevie Wonder night. Joshua could do a great Fool in the Rain, Hollie could sing Thank You, and I’d love to see Phillip cover Going to California.

  23. zgirl says:

    Hollie sang very well last night. The judges did a good job of watering down her performance by giving her their luke warm reaction.

    Compare Hollie to Lauren Alaina last year–Hollie sings so much better than Lauren and the judges fawned over Lauren!

    I really liked Elise, Joshua, P2 and Hollie last night. I hope Hollie does not get Pia’d. There are several others who do not sing as well as she sings who should go first.

  24. Mara says:

    My god, someone needs to force Phillip into better clothes. He is not performing in a moldy basement. If he looked a little less like a homeless first year university student during the 80’s, he could be great.

    I love Hollie. Why is she choosing such terrible songs though? Jesus Take the Wheel? Really?! the out-of-tune backup singers screwed her over on that awful song. She did great in the up-beat group song though!

    Colton is getting too religious. Also, his contrived try-hard voice and hair is becoming grating.

    Overall, I hated pretty much every performance (aside from Elise). Phillip was ok, but he pretty much sounds the same in every single song. I never remember the songs he sings, they blend together. Lucky he’s good looking.

    Adam Lambert will always win in a song/image comparison competition.
    I mean Elise even stole his pants, flashing lights, and microphone choreography. ;)

  25. Pretty great performances overall (love me some Colton and Skylar), not mention the HOT guitarist! Hello!

  26. Yo' says:

    Every week I seem to come for a full recap five, six, seven times and every week there isn’t one. MIchael, please don’t have us waiting for a recap that ain’t gonna happen!

  27. vicky says:

    good one

  28. junebug says:

    Deandre is freaking amazing. I don’t understand the hate for him. I like a lot of the other singers as well. The competition is very tight. I would love to see Deandre taking a confetti shower. Either way, he’ll have an incredible career when this is over and done with.

  29. scrutinizer says:

    is it my eyes playing tricks or is jessica’s name missing from the poll?????? she would’ve been the one i voted for…..amazing, beautiful, restrained vocals!

  30. zee says:

    oh lord .. it’s late ! i just realized u said she “wasn’t” responsible.. YES you are right.. she wasnt .. lololo — okay i’m going to bed!