American Idol Season 11 Top 9 Performance Live Blog

So far, American Idol Season 11 has gone according to plan.  There have been no shocking eliminations and no performances that have horribly gone wrong.  That could change this week. The them is “Songs From You Idols”.  That is such a wide open field that, inevitably, a few of the performers will pick songs that have a deep personal meaning but that don’t really highlight their voices.  So, we could see some big, and maybe surprising, missteps this week.

Also, we are getting down to the point in  the season that voting demographics really matter. While our American Idol Season 11 Top 9 Power Rankings have Heejun Hahn and DeAndre Brakensick at the bottom, both of them have such distinct styles that they could survive this week through the concentration of the voting demographics.  Taking demographics into account we think Elise Testone must have a very strong night tonight.  She is fighting the same fight that Hayle Reinhart fought last year and that Syesha Mercado, Crystal Bowersox and Melinda Doolittle fought over the past few seasons.  Fully formed, mature females seem to be forced to battle for survival week after week on American Idol.

Another view of demographics would say that Skylar Laine should be in good shape as the only country singer in the group.  Even though Phil Phillips and Colton Dixon nominally share the alt rocker voting block they are so different from each other and they have been so good to this point that they should be safe for several more weeks.

Joshua Ledet needs to be careful this week, not because the show is crowded with gospel singers, but because he had his first misstep last week and in this talented field you cannot afford to slide too long.  He is one shaky performance from being a shocking early elimination.

However, the biggest possibility for a shocking elimination comes from our dueling divas, Jessica Sanchez and Hollie CavanaughJordin Sparks is really the only singer of this style who has had big success on American Idol.  Neither of these two great singers have deeply engaged the audience either.  So if they are going to share a shrinking group of voters who love the big voiced , over the top female singers, this may be the week when one of these girls shockingly goes home.  Jessica has been more consistent and dynamic so we think Hollie needs to have a big night or she will be at risk.

So enough prognostication, let’s get onto American Idol Season 11 Top 9 performances.  Stevie Nicks is mentoring tonight and the two hour format will include individual performances and three trio numbers.

Colton Dixon leads off the show and Stevie Nicks. He is doing Lifehouse‘s “Everything” and our Christian musician takes a shot to share his faith.  Amazingly Jimmy Iovine and Stevie Nicks both loved this worship song.  Many people will not get this song but I have chills down into my soul and can you can tell that Colton is more connected to this song than any he has sung this year.  Another perfect singing demonstration.  Colton Dixon is owning American Idol Season 11Stephen Tyler raves and says he has star quality. J-Lo loved his performance and Randy says wow. Randy seemed genuinely moved by the performance.  Randy predicts that Colton has emerged as a real contender for the title.  This was a heartfelt performance that brought the house to tears.  A Christian musician exalting his God is a very powerful thing and American Idol just experienced that in a way I have not seen on this show, ever.  That was a very special moment.

Skylar Laine has to follow that and she is, surprisingly, performing Miranda Lambert‘s  ” Gunpowder and Lead” and Stevie Nicks asks, “does this song have harmony?” Skylar Laine is showing off her sassy self with another manic performance about shooting her man.  Skylar Laine just seems like she is already a star.  She has no fear when she is performing.  That was pretty fantastic.  That girl has star power.  The Top 9 are 2 for 2 now. J-Lo said it was perfect for her.  Stephen says it was over the top, in a good way. Randy loved it and pointed out her big range and what a powerhouse singer she is.

Now we pause with Colton Dixon, Elise Testone and Phil Phillips performing some Fleetwood Max songs. Boy, they sound really great together.  That was really fun.

Now it is time for Christian musician Heejun Hahn.  Can he recover from last week’s misstep. He is singing Donny Hatahway‘s “A Song For You”.  This is one of my five favorite songs of all time.  Jimmy and Stevie loved him in rehearsals. Gut wrenching tone in the first two lines. We are seeing a raw, honest Heejun Hahn. This is almost painful to watch.  This was not a competitor trying to win a competition.  This was a young artist laying his heart on the stage.  And at the end he gives glory to God. The judges leapt to their feet crying.  Stephen raved more I have ever heard.  J-Lo was gushing and she was moved. Randy loved his buttery tone and welcomed him back.  That is what you call a comeback, amazing. How can America vote Heejun Hahn off American Idol this week?

Hollie Cavanaugh is doing the Carrie Underwood song “Jesus Take The Wheel”. I am really surprised that Carrie Underwood is Hollie’s idol.  I would have thought she would have more of a pop and R&B fan. What is happening on this show tonight?  Hollie brought Stevie Nicks to tears in a really deep emotional connection during her rehearsal.  Wow, this is almost like we are watching Hollie Cavanaugh surrender herself on a snowy road.  These guys are laying their hearts on the stage.  Randy leads with the”its always dangerous” and gave a lukewarm review. Tonight had turned J-Lo into an emotional mess and she says this was one of Hollie’s best. Stephen didn’t like the song choice.  I disagree with judges.  I thought that was great. It was the first honest performance I have seen from Hollie Cavanaugh on American Idol Season 9.

Wow, there is a lot of Jesus on American Idol tonight.  It is almost like “Chuuch”. Glory, glory!

Carrie Underwood just tweeted her adulation of Hollie Cavanaugh and her cover of “Jesus Take The Wheel.”

Now DeAndre Brakensick is singing “Sometimes I Cry” by Eric Benet. Stevie has DeAndre slow the song down.  What a night tonight!  This is DeAndre’s best performance, by miles.  How can this guy sing an entire song in falsetto and still have power to hit big notes?  Once again that judges jumped to a standing ovation.  Stephen says he gave Prince a run for his money. J-Lo begs America to vote for DeAndre.  Randy says it was beautiful.  That was the first time I “got” DeAndre Brakensick.

Now Jessica Sanchez takes on her idol, Beyonce.  Not sure the rhythmic nature of Beyonce‘s songs are the best showcase for Jessica’s voice. She is turning “Sweet Dreams” into a big ballad. The opening verse is a little tough for me.  I am have difficulty hearing her.  But then she kicks in with her big voice and some nice tempo changes.  This was okay, maybe a little over performed.  I think this was the first performance tonight that was not a “big moment”.  J-Lo loved her arrangement and her performance choices.  Stephen likes that she held back at the right times in the performance.  Randy is amazed at her maturity as a singer and calls her one of the best singers he has heard in years.

Heejun Hahn, Joshua Ledet and DeAndre Brakensick are the next trio doing Michael Jackson.

Phil Phillips has a tall order to maintain tonight’s standard.  He has chosen to sing “Still Raining” by Johnny LangStevie Nicks says Phil Phillips has an undeniable magic and says he would have been asked to join Fleetwood Mac if he had been around in the 70′s. Is this guy guesting on the American Idol results show? No he is a competitor, but he is too polished, too comfortable, too unique to be competing. Every week Phil Phillips amazes us and we get another standing ovation from the judges. J-Lo just hit it. She said that every time he sings he is just present in the moment like a great artist.  This may be the best episode of American Idol I have ever seen and Phil Phillips lived up to the challenge.

Joshua Ledet is performing Mariah Carey? Disappointed.  I was hoping for Al Green or Bill Withers. He is singing “Without You”, which is really a Harry Nilson song.  Jimmy Iovine says it is one of the five most difficult pop songs to sing. Wow, Joshua is just powering through this song.  He has turned “Without You” into a soul stomp and once again the judges leap to their feet.  They are just amazed.  Randy loves him and says his performance was flawless.  Randy saw real emotion in the performance.  Randy calls it brilliant.  Stephen says the emotion was amazing.  J-Lo calls him a phenom and says his voice is God sent. Randy and Ryan are now trying to remember an American Idol show as emotional as this.  I love this song and I have heard dozens of singers perform it.  In every performance, until tonight, it felt that the singers were climbing the mountain of this big, difficult song.  Tonight, Joshua Ledet just cut a tunnel through that song and turned “Without You” into his soul song.

I am grateful for these trios so I can balance myself.  Now Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanaugh and Skylar Laine do a Madonna medley.

Now, Elise Testone must close this amazing show and as we had all hoped she is singing Led Zeppelin.  She is doing the big one, “Whole Lotta Love”  Jimmiy Iovone says she murdered it in rehearsals. Let’s see how does it live. My jaw is hanging open. She is slaying this song.  I have never seen her have this much fun.  Tonight, Elise Testone became a rock star.  It is like she is a different person.  Oh my gosh!!  Another standing ovation by the judges.Stephen says nobody can pull that song off but she made Robert Plant proud.  The other judges just babbled adulations.

That is now officially the greatest American Idol show I have ever seen. Every single person was amazing.  We had five standing ovations from the judges. I am exhausted.  My prediction is that the judges will use their save tomorrow night, no matter who is voted off, and I think they should.

Check back in tomorrow night when we blog the results show.  I am going to go watch this show again. Goodnight.






  1. Jim Richardson says:

    This is the best Idol show in memory..amazing how much better when they can pick their own songs! Can’t wait for the downloads this week. Colton blew me away!

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