American Idol’s last remaining contestants offered a great show last night, as song choices were limited to Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston hits.
Jessica Sanchez created shock and awe in equal measure when she brought the house down with Whitney Houston’s greatest hit, I Will Always Love You.
Joshua Ledet did kick off the show with an incredible performance of I Wish, but Elise Testone brought the mood down when she failed horribly with I’m Your Baby Tonight.
“Whitney’s a beast,” Jennifer Lopez stated oddly, though it was clear to understand what she meant despite the odd choice of metaphor.
Whitney Houston’s vocals seemed insurmountable to the spirited young girls struggling desperately to emulate her.
A similar fate befell Shannon Magrane, who was understandably having trouble catching her breath throughout I Have Nothing.
“I think your nerves got the best of you, baby,” Steven Tyler told Shannon Magrane.
“You kind of crashed and burned.”
Jeremy Rosado’s beautiful voice struggled last night on Ribbon in the Sky, which was the song Stevie Wonder himself sung at Whitney Houston’s funeral last month and therefore probably doomed to failure by comparison.
Even “gentle giant” Jermaine Jones was nitpicked for “forcing” the chorus on Knocks Me Off My Feet.
Heejun Han turned in an adequate All in Love Is Fair, and Colton Dixon ably sailed through Lately, looking every bit the pin-up.
“The song started out shaky for me, but by the last eight bars, you were flawless,” critiqued Randy Jackson, who said that Colton had the most trouble staying on pitch when he was singing “soft and low”.
Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh fared the best.
Jessica Sanchez had a surprisingly good performance of Whitney Houston’s best-known hit, I Will Always Love You, while Hollie Cavanagh gave a heartening performance of All the Man That I Need.
Randy Jackson told Jessica Sanchez that it was one of the most difficult songs to sing and that she was the best “vocal of the night and one of the best vocal talents” in America.
While Steven Tyler added: “You may be the one. You just made 40 million people cry.”
Skylar Laine turned Where Do Broken Hearts Go into a lilting country ballad which worked better for this personal touch, though Jennifer Lopez felt she got “nasally” despite her offering the “biggest moment of the night” up to that point.
While Erika Van Pelt on I Believe in You and Me gave the judges goosebumps.
DeAndre Brackensick showed a different side of his voice with a reggae version of Master Blaster and was praised for his “Jamaican patois” by Steven Tyler.
Phillip Phillips gave Superstition a rock makeover.
The first elimination will run a little differently than in year’s past.
On tomorrow’s show, host Ryan Seacrest will announce the boy and the girl who got the least votes, then let the judges pick which one stays and which goes.