idol top 13 2012 'American Idol' Top 13: Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and 400 episodes, oh my!
The “American Idol” Top 13 have been given the songs of Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston to sing this evening, so … way to throw them in the deep end. With sharks. And a bleeding arm wound.

Between J.Lo’s white pantsuit and Ryan’s lack of tie, the judges are looking very disco this week. Do the hustle! And let us not forget Randy’s terrifying dollhead on his lapel. WTF is up with that?

Can you believe its been 400 episodes? And I honestly haven’t missed a one since the Season 1 finale. Holy cow.

1. Joshua Ledet, “I Wish”

This is a wonderful choice for him. He actually sounds quite a bit like young Stevie on parts. The horn section is also awesome. The performance takes a little while to get to the chorus, though. That’s the more exciting part, so it maybe could’ve come a little sooner. But his scatting on the bridge and the ending are fabulous, plus he looks dapper as heck. Great way to start off the show. Hilariously, Randy goes, “Flavorless! I mean flawless.” Oopsy.

2. Elise Testone, “Greatest Love of All” “I’m Your Baby Tonight”

(I type at first) – Wow. this is the song she chose? This should be Shannon’s song. Oh, thank god, Jimmy Iovine is there to change her song choice. Because “I’m Your Baby” is totally the song she should be doing. But – wait, she just learned this song? Um, was she raised under a rock? I’m sorry, but … everybody knows Whitney’s stuff from the 80s/early 90s. Are you kidding?

Anyway. Elise sounds OK, tonally. But she has absolutely no flavor on the song. So maybe Randy was having a psychic moment earlier. This song should be cool and jazzy and syncopated. This is really flat and listless. Elise is also struggling with the notes – at times she’s flat. But also – they made the women sing WHITNEY, which is going to be a challenge, so we’re probably in for a lot of that.

J.Lo very astutely says meshing Elise’s style with Whitney’s song was hard, which is very true. It wasn’t her best, but this wasn’t really her wheelhouse, either. And Randy also adds that she was boxing with the song, which is very true too. She was fighting it and should’ve been sinking into it like a hep cat. Don’t boo Randy, audience! We have to encourage him when he says smart things!

3. Jermaine Jones, “Knocks Me Off My Feet”

Another great Stevie song choice by the guys, though why he’s dressed like an extra from the “Beat It” video is beyond us. Also, her shirt underneath looks like it got thrown in with Rachel’s load in “The One with the East German Laundry Detergent” – everything looks like jammies!

Sorry. Anyway, vocally, this is very, very good, especially once he gets to the bridge. The “I love you, I love you, I love you” part was particularly nice. There just isn’t much to say. It wouldn’t have me leaping to my feet because it’s in that weird spot between a fast song and a ballad, but there’s nothing to criticize. Lovely. J.Lo does want more connection with him and that’s true – but he hit it on the bridge, once he seemed to really settle in, but she does say that. I don’t agree with Randy that Jermaine’s changes on the chorus were bad, but I think it’s great that he voiced that opinion.

OK, so the judges are being awesome so far – did they read all their criticism about how they were too nice with the Top 25?

4. Erika Van Pelt, “I Believe in You and Me”

Interesting choice for her alto voice. It seems too big for her at first glance, but if they tweak it, she might be OK. She looks gorgeous, so that’s fun. And Mary J. is right – the tone on the verse is like molasses. Gorgeous. There are just tiny little moments when she reminds me a little of Karen Carpenter. I know she doesn’t sound that much like her, but on certain notes I hear it.

When she finally blows it up, it gets a little goosebump-y and she’s also really making it her own, which is nice. And the ending – wow. Total goosebumps. Man, she’s good. And J.Lo has “goosies,” which is a word I hate. It grates like how some people hate the word “moist.” But anyway, I totally agree with the sentiment. I also agree that she’s still holding back a little.

Watch Erika’s performance here.

5. Colton Dixon, “Lately”

So, this is Stevie Wonder as sung by Coldplay. It’s really not Colton’s strongest song, but Iovine was right that this is not his wheelhouse. It really, really isn’t. The first “always start to cry” part to the end is better than the beginning, so at least he ends strong. Ooh, and then the high note is unexpected. Not bad at all, Colton. Little rough to start, but he really pulled it off.

6. Shannon Magrane, “I Have Nothing”

I would’ve been so disappointed if she hadn’t done a big soaring Whitney ballad. Hopefully she can pull it off. When she starts … hmm. Is it just me, or was she better in rehearsal? That smidge we heard her do for Mary J. was light years better than the actual performance. Also, this song is a little too big for her. She did her best and with the Whitney songbook, what else is a ballad singer like Shannon going to do? But … hmm. The judges are very nice to her, while still pointing out that she blew this one.

7. DeAndre Brackensick, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”

Jimmy calls him on how bopping around and throwing his hair around isn’t enough tonight, which – thank you! This guy … we just have no idea what he is even doing here. This performance reminds us of that crazy girl from last year with the reggae – what was her name? Except this has 40% less awesome than she did. Naima! That was her name. Anyway, this guy’s time to go is long past.

Hey, Steven Tyler’s in my head, comparing him to Naima. But less awesome, Steven forgot that part. What do these judges see in this clown? It is a baffling mystery.

8. Skylar Laine, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”

This might actually be a great song for Skylar and I was worried about this theme for her. Rocking the Sincerity Stool, Skylar actually makes this sound like a country hit she could release and it’s totally unrecognizable from Whitney’s version (I mean that in a good way). This reminds me of the first time I heard Dolly’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” which I heard after Whitney’s version (because I was young, sorry) – it’s like, “Oh, listen to that! Country version!” Skylar then totally rocks the key change, wow. I still maintain that last week Skylar was a hot mess, but this week totally turned me around on her. Well done, shortcake.

See Skylar’s performance here.

9. Heejun Han, “All in Love is Fair”

Heejun starts off too breathy for my taste, which has been an ongoing problem with me and his voice. It just sounds weak and unsupported, there’s no strength, it’s just breathy. But once he starts putting some power behind it, it gets really beautiful. The ending is especially nice, almost haunting. If Heejun could work on his softer stuff, make it sound more supported – I’d be all set with him.  Randy nails it with – “It wasn’t perfect. But it was really good.”

10. Hollie Cavanagh, “All the Man I Need” 

This is a beautiful choice for this little girl with the humongous voice. If the rehearsal footage is any indication, this is going to bring the house do
wn. And we are not disappointed. The quiet verse is beautiful – her “to sleep at night” and “it’s not the same” are lovely. The chorus starts off a little big – I was hoping she’d build more. But she still nails it, even while standing on the sun, apparently. Oooh, and that ending. Chills.

Watch Hollie’s performance here.

11. Jeremy Rosado, “Ribbon in the Sky”

Hmm. I really like Jeremy, he seems like a giant teddy bear sweetheart. But – I don’t love this performance. It’s boring and just kind of floats along with breathiness and two steps to nowhere on stage. Even the key change is unexciting. It just feels like there is no connection there. And then ooof – the falsetto. Yikes. The one big note at the end does not save it. The only thing saving Jeremy will be that DeAndre was worse.

Randy nails it by saying it had no swag and was not believable. Totally. It had no oomph, no chutzpah. No pizzazz (though our favorite Misfit was definitely Stormer).

12. Jessica Sanchez, “I Will Always Love You”

This should be amazing, if the rehearsals are any indication. I didn’t type a single word while she was singing. From start to finish it was really, really good. Not impeccable. There were a few tiny spots that were not perfect. But it was damn close. It’s too bad the show felt the need to alternate boy-girl-boy-girl, because that should’ve ended the show.

We love that Steven Tyler says 40 million people are crying after that. Um, those aren’t the “Idol” ratings anymore, pal. Hee.

See Jessica’s performance here.

13. Phillip Phillips, “Superstition”

Great choice for him. I really enjoy it until he gets just a little too yell-y at the end. He loses his nice tone and the fun playfulness of the song and I just feel like he’s screaming at me. That was weird. It’s still a shame we couldn’t have ended on Jessica, but Phillip was one of the stronger men tonight.

So – I definitely think the women won the night, though there were several guys who did well. But Jeremy and DeAndre once again were the weakest for the men. As for the girls, Shannon was easily the weakest – but does she get the lowest number of votes? I don’t know. She’s pretty popular. Elise was also pretty rough and she’s not as popular as Shannon, I’d wager. So my predictions are that DeAndre and Elise are the Bottom 2 and the judges (hopefully) keep Elise. Though the way they’ve been slobbering over DeAndre, who knows?

What say you, “Idol” fans? Vote now in our polls on who is going to be in the bottom tomorrow night.

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."