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Freelance entertainment writer, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.

American Idol, Feb. 29 – Adele and More Adele

Haley Johnsen is 23 and from Oregon. When she was 15, she decided it would be a great idea to paint her room hot pink and yellow. Her cat seems to enjoy it. She cordially invites everyone to the outdoors of Oregon, splashing around in puddles in her rain boots and riding her bike. She also shows the coffee shop where she works and some great tumbling skills. She wants to put her emotions into the song and attempts to do that with Sweet Dreams. She does a dark performance of the song, but is also pitchy at the same time. She’s belting it out and not necessarily listening to the music.

J-Lo tells Haley she hopes America could hear her doing all the special things with her voice, because that’s what they love about her. She does have skills, with runs, soul, and pop, but she’s not sure this song and the way she chose to sing it was perfect, because people know it so well. Yet she knows Haley is a great singer and deserves to be there. Steven tells her some of the turnarounds weren’t perfect, but asks what in life is. She pulled it through. He loves the way she acted onstage and that’s half of it right there. The money shots were right on.

Randy struggles for the right words, then says it was a bit of a nightmare instead of a dream. He’s just trying to keep it real. It was kind of pitchy all over the place. It’s hard to do Annie Lennox, as her intricacies are spot on. Haley’s weren’t, and it left him in sort of a nightmare feeling a little dizzy. She just needs to pick a better song.

Joe Magrane is in the audience, as Ryan notes it’s the first time he and Steven have been in the same room together since the auditions. Joe puts in a request for a wrestling mat, as Steven says he didn’t mean it, referring to his comments about Joe’s daughter, Shannon Magrane, 16, and from Tampa. She goes from school to singing lessons to volleyball, then comes home at 9 to do her homework. It shows her how to operate on very little sleep. She’s 6′ tall, her dad is 6’6″, and her mom 5’11″. Sports has always been important to them, with her dad having been a professional baseballer.

Shannon sings Go Light Your World and struggles to hear her place in the song in the beginning, but brings it back. She sounds amazing and looks beautiful, but I wonder if it’s the right song. It seems too old for her, and the dress makes her look like she’s going to the prom. Nevertheless, she lets loose and does what they were asking all the others to do. She’s not afraid to pour it out.

Randy tells Shannon it’s a way to come out swinging. She has so much promise and is so mad young, but is also calm and collected, which is what she must have gotten from her dad’s ball-playing days. She has a big voice and always impresses him, with the vibrato as well. He’s a fan. Jennifer tells her she sings with such passion for a 16-year-old, and it’s not something you see every day. She gave J-Lo her first goosies of the night. Steven thought she started out real low and gospelly, then his reality check bounced as she took it upstairs and it was beautiful. She knew the song was a risk, because not everyone knows it, but it was in her soul and gut.

Jessica Sanchez, 16, from San Diego, gets Ryan’s stool chat tonight. She talks about getting emotional in rehearsals, as her voice has been very hoarse and sore. She saw the doctor, and it turns out her vocal chords are a little sore. Back at home she took the camera shopping at the mall. Her biggest supporter is probably her younger cousin. She sings Love You I Do, and puts it all out there with the song, not being careful of her voice. She has something you would never expect. She has the soul they keep talking about all night and it’s in such a little package. Her last note is amazing for swollen vocal chords. She gets the only standing O of the night. Eben Franckewitz is seen offstage saying “so good.”

Randy just wants to say he doesn’t know about no doctor or what’s going on, but what’s really happening is “that girl can really sing.” She is one of the best of the last two nights right there. That voice is one to be reckoned with. She is so unbelievably talented. Jennifer points to the swagger, the attitude, the moves, and the punctuation that she puts in there with her body on the end of he phrases, then pulls back and lets them have it. She’s so beyond her years with the growl. … it was all of it.

Randy jumps in and says he also loves the Beyoncé vibrato. Steven notes her exception timing, saying it comes out her fingers when she makes the turnaround. Her voice and pitch are perfect. They’re going to need to pay her the next time she sings the national anthem for the Chargers.

Elise Testone is 28 and lives in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s amazing there as it has the ocean and some of the best people. She works out every morning right on the waterfront, staring at the boats. While she loves it there, she’s never as happy as she is when she’s back home with her parents in New Jersey. She thinks the people that stay in her life are the ones who understand who she is. This is giving her the exposure she can’t get anywhere else.

Oddly, Elise, too, chooses to sing Adele’s One and Only. You never want to compare to other performers, especially on the same stage. She does her version from behind the piano. If I have to reward just one, though, I have to do that with this one, as it seems to have more soul packed into it, and even has gospel-like singers backing her up, although unseen. It’s just a “richer” performance.

Steven is proud of Elise, saying she blew it out of the water. It was from the heart and bluesy, and why Adele’s album was so big this year, because of what Elisa just showed. She apologizes and collects herself saying she almost cried. That’s what Jennifer was most impressed with, not just the tone in her voice that is so special and different than others there, as she’s one of the best in the competition, but she hopes America got it, as she’s one to watch.

Randy echoes that, saying Elise is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and one of the best voices, boys, girls, whatever. With a voice like hers, they don’t need to get it all at once. She has that bluesy, soulful smokey flavor. At the piano without the band, it gave him chills just to hear her turn the notes. It wasn’t the best they’ve seen her, but still great. She explains the flowers in her hair are the ones she takes off the room service trays.

Last night I counted eight guys I wanted to keep, and tonight I count six girls. That’s one more than is allowed, and they’re already starting with thirteen, so I don’t see them throwing in a last minute additional pick. Obviously one of those guys just won’t make it, which is a big shame.

Ryan asks Randy for the standouts from tonight and gets the names Elise, Jessica, Shannon, Jen, Erika, and Skylar. Jennifer chooses Jessica, Hollie, Skylar, and Jen. Steven chooses Elisa, Jessica, Hollie, Erika, and Hallie. Going to the guys, Randy chooses Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet, Deandre Brackensith, Colton Dixon, and HeeJun Han. Jennifer chooses Deandre, Joshua, and Phillip, although she could go on. Steven goes with Joshua, Deandre, “White Chocolate,” and Phillip. They picked slightly different than me, but the ones we all highlighted seem to be a cinch to go through – Jessica, Phillip, and Joshua.

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