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The legendary singer-songwriter openly ogled the Dave Matthews soundalike and fan fan during her gig as the celebrity guest mentor on Wednesday’s American Idol, wherein the nine remaining finalists performed songs by their respective idols.
The gravel-voiced Georgian impressed not only the judges with his cover of Jonny Lang‘s “Still Rainin,'” he had Nicks in the palm of his hand. Indeed, she visibly quaked in the 21-year-old’s presence, comparing him to old Fleetwood Mac flame Lindsay Buckingham and cooing: “Last but not least, he’s gorgeous.” She also bestowed upon Phillips the highest compliment by any Idol mentor in history by informing him that if this were the ’70s, he’d be asked to join the classic rock band famous for such hits as “Landslide” and “Go Your Own Way.”
Stevie Nicks guided contestants alongside Jimmy Iovine, with whom she collaborated during her Fleetwood heyday.
The first contestant onstage was Colton Dixon, who performed Lifehouse’s “Everything,” a wistful, plaintive pop song befitting the tone of his emo voice. “This song is my favorite worship song of all time,” said the Christian rocker.
The judges unanimously praised the performance: Steven Tyler dubbed Dixon a “dream come true,” while Randy Jackson declared, “I think I could be looking at a contender for the title!” Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez wiped away tears. Dixon’s grandfather cried in the audience. As for Nicks, in rehearsal footage she vetoed any efforts to trim Dixon’s skunk-like hairdo, advising him never to cut it. (To which we responded: NOOOOOOOOO.)
Here’s the best of the rest:
Skylar Laine: The effervescent country singer belted a song from her personal idol, Miranda Lambert. (Surprise, surprise. Meanwhile, Lambert is over at rival show The Voice mentoring with inarguably dreamy husband Blake Shelton.) As it happened, Laine did Lambert justice, infusing “Gunpowder and Lead” with a cheerleader-esque energy and wide vocal range that had Jackson comparing her to Carrie Underwood. Quoth Tyler, in a bit of uninspired criticism: “That was over the top.”
Heejun Han: This season’s Sanjaya was certainly on his best behavior in a total 180 from the cocky hipster-rebel persona he crafted over recent weeks, much to Iovine’s frustration. Sporting a sober expression, Han put a calculated and super-serious spin on his version of Donny Hathaway‘s “A Song For You” making Iovine very, very happy. “A lot of times, people put up a front. That’s what I think he was doing (before),” theorized the veteran record exec. The judges, meanwhile, were ecstatic to have the “old” Han back, with Lopez opining: “You don’t make it this far by mistake. He is here because we know he can sing that way.” Conspiracy theory: was Han, who rubbed Diddy the wrong way when the rapper-mogul guest mentored, on his best behavior out of respect for Nicks?
Hollie Cavanagh: The big-voiced hopeful and lover of Celine Dion ballads took a welcome detour from the adult-contemporary path with a rendition of Underwood’s “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” one of the ex-Idol winner’s best country-pop songs. While Jackson dubbed Cavanagh’s take as “pitchy,” and Tyler disliked the song choice, Lopez thought she genuinely connected with the material. (It’s all Nicks’ mentoring: in rehearsal, she advised Cavanagh to tap into her emotion and life experience, referencing her beloved mother’s recent death in a bittersweet moment. “My problem is my mom’s gone. That’s my problem,” she confessed.”)
DeAndre Brackensick: The Milli Vanilli throwback (there, we said it), who’s struggled to find himself on the show despite his undeniable talent, redeemed himself following Billy Joel week (his “Only The Good Die Young” was by turns cheesy and unwatchable) on Eric Benet‘s “Sometimes I Cry.” The California teen’s soul-tinged falsetto was a hit at the judges’ panel — especially with Lopez, who pleaded with viewers to vote for the distinctive R&B singer. “People pick up your phones and call for DeAndre! I need to hear his voice some more! A few more weeks for me,” J-Lo exclaimed, simultaneously building up Brackensick and suggesting that she doesn’t see him in the finals.
Jessica Sanchez: As expected, season 11’s resident, show-stopping diva idolizes Beyonce, whose “Sweet Dreams” she crooned to near-perfection. The performance was restrained with Bey-style vibrato and toned-down yet theatrical stage swagger. An unfortunate side effect: Sanchez’s short-in-the-front/party-in-the-back mullet dress, which should immediately be locked away, never to be seen again. (You got it wrong, Hilfiger!). Despite that sartorial setback, Jackson gushed: “Stars are truly born. … You just innately have this unbelievable talent. I look forward to hearing you every night.”
Joshua Ledet: The Lousiana soul singer cried after nailing his rendition of Mariah Carey‘s rendition of “I Can’t Live (If Living Is Without You)” as the judges stood for a standing ovation. Tyler loved how Ledet, who appeared unconnected to Joel’s “She’s Got a Way” last week, was able to achieve an “emotional breakdown” through the Carey cover. “I just know I could help somebody else (by singing this song),” said Ledet, his eyes brimming with tears.
Elise Testone: The Iovine favorite had a couple of magic moments on Wednesday. First, she dueted with Nicks in pre-show footage on “Dreams,” after which the elder stateswoman of timeless rock anthems confessed: “I felt a kindred spirit with her because I don’t like to sing with just anybody.” Such wild praise! And then Testone channeled Led Zeppelin with a bluesy, can’t-believe-she-had-it-in-her intrepretation of “Whole Lotta Love” that brought Lopez to her feet in spite of herself. “I did not want to get up but you made me get up!” she screamed, all giddy.
“You made Robert Plant proud tonight,” said Tyler, summing up the night as a “magical mystery tour of over-the-top talent and emotion.”
To spice up (or lengthen) the two-hour telecast, finalist broke up into groups of three to perform medleys of various pop idols. Dixon, Testone and Phillips performed Nicks classics including “Landslide” and “Edge of Seventeen.” Brackensick, Ledet and Han sang a Michael Jackson medley, during which Ledet attempted the moonwalk, while the girls took on Madonna‘s “Like a Prayer,” “Borderline” and “Express Yourself.”
So many burning questions, Idol-Worshippers: in your opinion, which finalist won the night? Who should go home? Do you, like Nicks, have a thing for Phllips? Did she come on too strong?
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