Usually at this stage, I’m looking at the group of finalists and already selecting the group I hope goes home first. I can’t really say that this time. Sure, I have my favorites that I want to stick around, but there isn’t anyone who I don’t think deserves to be in the top 13, despite not necessarily agreeing with the judges’ wildcard picks.
I’m hoping to still feel that way at the end of the night, after a night of Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston songs, with help from mentor Mary J. Blige. It’s another special night as well, as Ryan Seacrest announces tonight is the show’s 400th episode. And for one night only, it’s the guys vs. girls, and the judges will decide tomorrow night whether the guy or the girl who has the lowest amount of votes will go home.
Joshua Ledet met with Jimmy Iovine and Mary, whom he’s definitely impressed with, seeing her a a great artist. He’s singing I Wish and admits the song is totally out of his comfort zone. Jimmy asks him to push it more, wanting him to get into the feeling of the song. Mary talks about how the song needs to pop. She also compares his gospel background to that of Producer Eric Hudson on the piano, knowing they can get together with it. Tonight he has the horns on their feet and onstage with him. He does well with it and starts to find the gospel in it.
Randy Jackson doesn’t even know what other singers are coming, but tells Joshua he just blew it out. What he really loved is that he has the amazing gospel and ballad voice, putting Stevie in his wheelhouse, but he came out rocking. Mary was right on that he feels the beat he can do up tempo and ballads. It was flawless and he loved the run at the end.
Jennifer Lopez loved that she felt Joshua’s performance more than anything, and loved his hand thing he had going on that he calls his “Mantasia.” It tells her he feels it through his body and makes everyone feel it. Mary gave him some great direction on how to punch the chorus and he did it. Steven Tyler says he needed to punch J-Lo in the arm as Joshua keeps getting better and better. Randy is right; he had the snap and brought it home because he listened to Mary.
Elise Testone tells Jimmy and Mary she’s singing Greatest Love of All, surprising, as her style seems to have more grit than that ballad. Jimmy doesn’t think it’s a good fit and suggests I’m Your Baby Tonight instead. It seems to be a bettter fit, but Jimmy and Mary aren’t happy with it still, with Mary wanting the timing to be right. He thinks insecurity and fear is pushing against Elise. Mary tells her her voice is so dope, that if she crashes and burns, it will be unfair. She has the same onstage band tonight, It’s good, but she seems to be pushing it a little too much, clearly uncomfortable.
Jennifer tells Elise that admittedly Whitney is a beast, and what she was struggling with was certainly her trying to make it her own, but it was hard to find a marriage between the two specific styles of hers and Whitney’s. Undeniably she has a great voice, but she didn’t feel it was her best.
Steven explains it saying when you have a great voice, you think you can sing anything, but Elise’s has so much character, that she needs to find that one right song. When she has sung before, she’d nail the chorus, and he missed that from this song. Randy agrees, saying it felt like she was boxing with the song. She doesn’t need to provie it like that, and she needed to be able to sit in it like Mary was trying to get her to do. Elise explains to Ryan that she didn’t know that song, so it was hard for her to find her place with it.
Jermaine Jones is tackling Knock Me Off My Feet, and Mary sees him really feeling it, but wants to adjust the strength and timing with a few words, making her feel it more. She thinks it’s perfect for his voice, and Jimmy adds the timbre of it is perfect. She can’t believe he’s only 25, and notes that while he has a low voice, he can do anything. Jimmy is glad they brought him back and doesn’t think he deserves to leave. There’s just something very comforting listening to him sing tonight. I haven’t felt good all week, but right now I feel like it’s all going to work out. He can really be affecting.
Steven tells Jermaine that for a moment last week he had a problem wobbling, but the song he just sang fit him like an Armani suit. It was perfect for his voice. Jennifer tells Jermaine he’s such a sweetheart, the way he’s waving at everyone and smiling in the middle of the song, but she’d like to see him connect to it a little more. He concentrates on the notes, but she wants to feel like he’s singing to someone, even her.
Randy agrees with Jimmy, glad they brought him back, as he has that unique voice, comparing it to Barry White, Arthur Price, and Jerry Butler. He loved the verses, but he didn’t enjoy the changes he made to the chorus. He agrees he needs to relax, as singing in that register is different enough.
Erika Van Pelt gets stool chat and explains her feelings after she was chosen as a wildcard. It was the craziest thing, and she is so grateful, but right after that they hit the ground running. Ryan shows a clip of her in her photo shoot, asking what lady doesn’t love a fan. He thinks J-Lo invented it.
Meeting with Jimmy and Mary, Erika announces she’s singing I Believe In You and Me. Jimmy mentions her unique voice and approach, but if she goes to the literal version of the song, he thinks she’ll be in trouble. Mary compares it to steak and potatoes, celery and peanut butter. She thinks if she tries to sing like Whitney she’ll crash and burn, because she has so much rasp and rocking going on. I just want to say before she starts, my favorite version of this song is one by Kelly Clarkson. Yet Erika does bring the Erika into it and finds the right places to put the rasp, similar to Kelly.
Randy tells Erika that J-Lo had said she had goosies just from that little bit she sung with Jimmy and Mary. She has an amazing voice and unbelievable tone.when she hit the chorus and let herself go and stopped thinking; it was unbelievable and sold her. He doesn’t want her to think, as with her unbelievable tone, she can sing anything. It was amazing by the end.
J-Lo thinks the way Erika interprets the song, and combines it with her tone and the fullness of her voice, really makes songs come alive. She feels she’s playing it a little safe, and she can’t wait until she stops and just lets loose. Steven feels the same, mentioning her beautiful, fantastic voice. In the beginning she sat with the melody, then climbed up to the pre-chorus and put herself into it at the chorus, leading the place to react to it, as it was perfect.