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Stevie Nicks took the emotional intensity to 11 on American Idol Wednesday night, regaling the Top 9 with stories of her own mother’s recent passing (may she rest in peace), how to channel feelings of anger and regret, Jimmy Iovine’s Grecian body… OK, not every moment was a recipe for depression — Elise Testone’s “Whole Lotta Love” certainly prompted plenty of smiles in the Idol studio. What else didn’t you see on TV? Read on for THR’s report from inside…
1. Even after several seasons of judges’ entrances, the show’s producers still haven’t figured out the best way to get the audience to respond to a grand reveal. That’s why sometimes, like on Wednesday night, it seems like the crowd is having a delayed reaction to the sight of Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson and especially Jennifer Lopez — there’s no one there to cue them following the video segment. There has to be a better way, Nigel Lythgoe.
2. It must be noted: Designer Tommy Hilfiger, who shows up once in a style segment at the top of the show, and Idol Worship contributor Fred Bronson (see top photo to right), who occasionally appears on Idol to talk about Billboard hits, could be twins separated at birth.
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3. With Colton Dixon up first, he makes his way to center stage and paces for several moments, head down and supremely focused. Immediately after performing “Everything” by Lifehouse and hearing his critique, Colton shakes off the nerves and runs down into the audience to hug his family members. Grandpa gets an extra-long embrace while the room lets out a collective, “awww…”
4. Ryan Seacrest is in an exceptionally chipper mood and during the first break, takes Steven Tyler on a choo-choo train ride by pushing his judging chair across the platform. For a second there, you didn’t know whether Ryan would end up on the Aerosmith frontman’s lap.
5. During Skylar Laine’s performance of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead,” Elise Testone, Colton Dixon and Phillip Phillips are marched out to the floor and into the crowd. It’s not clear yet that a trio number is on the horizon so many are scratching their heads. The contestants, meanwhile, do their best to blend in but it still looks and feels a little awkward.
STORY: ‘American Idol’ Castoff Erika Van Pelt Slams Jennifer Lopez’s Criticism, Blames Elimination on Lack of ‘Momentum’
6. Watching the mini-group number, a medley of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac songs, one can’t help but think: if this were The X Factor, they’d form a group by now. A possible name: Hotties and Dame?
7. Jennifer Lopez is all about the chair-rock moves during the medley. Not to fixate on X Factor, but she and L.A. Reid would make a stellar head-bopping duo.
8. Heejun Han’s glorious rendition of “A Song For You” has Randy shaking his head in disbelief while Jennifer and Steven practically sway in unison. When Heejun hits the falsetto, Randy turns to Jennifer as if to say, “Huh?!” Jennifer, in turn, leads the standing ovation, then turns around to make sure everyone is on their feet, too. (They were.)
9. Off on sidestage, a gaggle of minders is frantically applying touch-ups and fussing over an artist. Turns out it’s Jason Derulo, in blinged-out neck cast, getting ready for his Coca-Cola Perfect Harmony close-up.
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10. Hollie Cavanagh’s snowy rendition of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” has left a white mess on the stage. Ever the helpful host, Ryan Seacrest grabs the industrial vacuum for a test drive. Not to get nitpicky here, but isn’t handling any stage equipment forbidden if you’re not a member of the stagehand union? Oh Ryan, always a rule-breaker.
11. DeAndre Bracknesick comes out and, fo a moment, has a hard time finding his mark. That’s where you stand so the cameras can focus in as practiced during previous camera-blocking rehearsals. Once he does find his position, then it’s all about — you guessed it — his hair. What’s going through DeAndre’s mind? “How does it flip to the left? How about the right? Let me check if I over-conditioned it this morning by running my fingers through these curls ever-so-methodically.”
12. Anyone who thinks Jennifer Lopez is the sort of diva who has to have everything done for her take note: girlfriend fixed her own makeup. Not like there was anything wrong with that specimen of facial perfection to begin with.
13. Like Heejun, Jennifer is feeling DeAndre. She can hardly contain her enthusiasm before, during and after his performance. He looks equally stoked following his run-tastic rendition of Eric Benet’s “Sometimes I Cry,” bolting across the stage and slapping high fives to fans in the Idol mosh pit.
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15. Jessica’s stellar “Sweet Dreams” is the stuff Idol dreams are made of. To show her glee after the well-received performance, the 16-year-old rather impressively darts across the stage in heels.
16. A commercial break towards the end of the show brings out audience warm-up guy Jay who reminds the 700 or so in attendance that Jennifer has more than 5 million followers on Twitter. Almost on command, @Jlo whips out her phone, but not for tweeting purposes.
17. Phillip Phillips is usually low-key, but on this performance night, exceptionally so. As it turns out, he later bows out of post-show press to head back to the Idol mansion. “He wasn’t feeling well,” Heejun tells THR.
18. Idol stage manager Debbie Williams can’t see the Seacrest through the trees but needs him to introduce Joshua Ledet. “Find your way through the trees,” she says, summoning the host to appear.
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19. From snowflakes, to sad, lonely braches to whack steel columns — or as one person on Twitter described it, scaffolding — the rock portion of the night (minus the props) is a rousing one as Elise Testone brings down the Idol house with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The crowd is enthralled and maybe she can stay out of the bottom 3 for a second week in a row! She might be the oldest, but now it’s all about baby steps for Elise.
20. Post-show bonus (and you may want to sit down for this): Jennifer Lopez was spotted by her trailer wearing — gasp — flats! Sneakers, no less, while chatting up two very important Brits: Idol creator Simon Fuller (who also manages Carrie Underwood, David Cook and Scotty McCreery, among other Idols) and Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge (Jimmy Iovine’s boss, for lack of a better word). J Lo was in full dancer gear, wearing a white tracksuit with a giant peace sign on the back. It’s all in anticipation of her latest single “Dance Again,” which she later tweeted about. As if those Kohl’s ads didn’t do enough to prove that this fly girl’s still got it!
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