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

American Idol, Apr. 11 – “Crawling Into People’s Hearts”

The cast on American Idol this year are for the most part very young. Not too young like on The X Factor, but young enough. While on the newer Simon Cowell show it was hard to watch the young kids break down when they were voted out, tonight’s Idol opens with us seeing the other contestants break down as Deandre Brackensick was voted out last week. True, they’re competing against each other, but these are also people together 24/7, at home, at play, and at work. They just lost a friend, but somehow have to pull it together to move on as a group of seven to compete against each other again.

As the Idols forge ahead, Tommy Hilfiger is in the house again. Literally, in the house. He visits them in the Idol mansion, talking to them about looking good offstage and on. They get to go pick out some clothing, and Phillip Phillips is looking very unenthused.

The theme tonight is music from 2010 on up, and we’re taking visits back the Idols’ homes to check out the support they’re getting. In additional Jimmy Iovine is joined this week by Akon to help mentor the Idols with their song choices.

We begin our night in Brandon, Mississippi, home of Skylar Laine. They’re having parties there at her cousin’s restaurant, and there’s a nearby billboard promoting her time on Idol. Her grandpa tells her he wants his guitar back, and also tells her they’re going to kill that big deer next year.

Meeting with Jimmy and Akon, Skylar tells them she plans to sing Didn’t Know How Much I Loved You. Jimmy wonders if it’s a big enough song, but has to admit she owns it. Akon is impressed even, calling her voice “[bleep] stupid.” She’s considering playing the guitar as well, but Jimmy warns her it’s not about how many tricks a girl can do.

Skylar does pick up the guitar tonight, and it makes me wonder if it’s the one her grandpa was talking about in her clip. She has a few pitchy moments in the song, but Jimmy is right that she owns it. I said in the outlook for this week that she could sing country songs for a few weeks and stay if she gave us a little bit of a reminder of the stunning voice she was hiding, and she does just that.

Randy Jackson loves the kids from Skylar’s hometown, but also loved this. He says she’s back and that this is so in her wheelhouse. It’s what she loves and what she should be doing. She could have a hit with a song like that, and he felt her for the first time in a long time. He feels she returned to be the country artist she can be. He and Jennifer noted she was nearly picture perfect with her pitch. From what they could hear there, Jennifer says that perfect pitch wasn’t easy with a song like that. She looks beautiful, and they felt her right from her soul. It was a perfect way to star the show.

Steven Tyler tells Skylar when she sings a song, it’s a complete sentence. He’s enamored with the girls on the show this year, and it goes to prove that “The crows may crow, but the hens deliver the goods.” He loves the way she sings. Ryan Seacrest mentions that seconds before they went on the air, Skylar was fanning herself. She admits it’s because she knew she was going first, and first or last, a lot is expected of you.

We travel to the east to Murfreesboro, Tennessee with Colton Doxon. He thinks it would be weird to be home right now, as his name is on different signs and restaurants all around. His old high school let out an hour early just to picket in the front yard. It’s cool, humbling, and a blessing.

Colton is singing Love the Way You Lie, and it puts him back at the piano. Jimmy likes it, but wants to challenge him. He suggests they “cut the [bleep],” believing he’s behind Phillip in some imagined ranking system, but Colton doesn’t like being compared to anyone. Akon believes there are things about Colton that he himself hasn’t even discovered yet. Colton knows this song has the potential to be a game-changer for him, and that it’s his chance to say “don’t count me out.” Colton was thinking of doing I Will Not Bow, but Akon and Jimmy steered him this way, and he’s glad they did.

From the first notes plinked out on the piano, it’s changed Colton’s game. It’s an absolutely gorgeous performance. When he stands and rocks it out, it’s always good, but when he sits at a piano and gets tender, it just grabs the emotion out of you. And after he’s done, when he stands to approach the judges, you can tell he’s beat, as he just gave up all that emotion.

Jennifer asks Colton how he feels, and when he replies good, she tells him he should. He always surprises her with his approach to notes, but then does it his way, that is so signature to him. He really makes the songs his own, and it’s the mark of him as a real artist. She thinks he did a good job with the song, but wishes it were more of a song. Steven loves his jacket, and so does Randy, prompting Steven to suggest they flip for it. He calls Colton such a rare talent. He could have recorded that just now in one take. He also believes Colton hasn’t found his top yet, and that’s the beauty. Doing his original songs will make it even better.

Randy again mentions the jacket, calling it “crazy fly,” and thinks he could wear one side of and Steven the other. Jimmy and Akon were right. Every week he comes out and does his own version of songs and always has the big note at the end. He loves the really stellar subtle performance, as going into the break, it never got bigger than that, showing the sensitivity. He loves that he started it almost like a lullaby, and that Colton always pours himself into all these songs. He is an artist and thinks this show is opening up to be one of the hottest with two for two.

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