The covers of Whitney Houston's songs collided with the renditions of Stevie Wonder's tracks when "American Idol" season 11 kicked off its live-performance round on March 7. The female contestants were on hand to perform renditions from the late New Jersey singer's catalog, while the males were tasked to do songs from the Detroit music veteran. Mary J. Blige was one of the mentors.
The Wednesday night, which marked the 400th "Idol" episode, was opened by Joshua Ledet who did "I Wish". Randy Jackson praised Joshua for being able to do both ballad and uptempo, adding, "I loved the run at the end." Jennifer Lopez gushed, "I love that I just felt your performance more than anything." Steven Tyler also had nothing but good words, stating, "You brought it home...Beautiful."
Next, Elise Testone covered "I'm Your Baby Tonight", which was chosen by one of her mentors Jimmy Iovine. She initially wanted to do "Greatest Love of All", but Mary J and Jimmy were not sure about her song choice. Unfortunately, her "I'm Your Baby Tonight" performance failed to impress the judges. J.Lo said, "It's undeniable you have an amazing voice...I just don't think this was your best." Steven chimed in, "Good...but that part was missing." Randy added another criticism, "You don't have to prove at every note that you have that big old voice."
Jermaine Jones was the third performer. He presented a rendition of "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and got mixed reviews from the three judges. Steven was the one who thought it's a good performance, saying, "That song just now fits you like an Armani suit." J.Lo advised him to connect with the song and relax more next time. Randy pointed out which part he didn't like, noting, "When you hit the chorus for me, I did not enjoy it."
Erika Van Pelt sang "I Believe in You and Me". She was warned by Mary J and Jimmy not to perform it like the original singer, Whitney. Despite what the two mentors said, she gained positive review from Randy. "You have an amazing voice and an unbelievable tone," he said. J.Lo also liked her performance, but "I feel still like you're playing it a little bit safe." Steven thought "It was perfect. I think you're great," but she needed to "let it go."
The next one was Colton Dixon who delivered his own rendition of "Lately", and he blew the three judges away. Steven said, "Colton, man, that was outstanding." J.Lo added, "It was great." Randy also praised him, but noted that it's a bit shaky in the beginning. "Technically, for a second, it wasn't picture-perfect...When you hit your power point, it's always spot on," he commented.
Shannon Magraine followed next with a cover of "I Have Nothing", but she got criticized by the judges. J.Lo told her, "I think the thinking got the best of you a little bit on that one." Steven shared his thought on why she failed to impress them, "I think your nerves got the best of you." Randy couldn't agree more as stating, "The nerves got the best of you tonight...It wasn't great tonight."
DeAndre Brackensick did "Master Blaster' (Jammin')", which was loved by the judges. Tyler praised him for offering a "different flavor", adding "I liked it tonight again. Thank you." J.Lo didn't want the song to end, saying, "You have rhythm. You have soul." Randy sealed the praise with a note that "You came out tonight and you were in perfect rhythm."
The three judges continued giving their positive comments after Skylar Laine sang "Where Do Broken Hearts Go". Jennifer said, "You are like the definition of composure...That was amazing," and stated, "You gave us biggest moment of the night." Steven agreed with her, describing it as "a thing of beauty...That was fantastic." Randy chimed in, "You can sing any song. That was hot."
Heejun Han performed "All In Love Is Fair", and the judges liked it. J.Lo declared her love for him when it's her turn to comment. Steven added, "Fantastic. I love your voice, man." Although Randy didn't think it was "perfect," but he liked it because "it was really good." Hollie Cavanagh, who sang "All the Man That I Need", also got praises. Randy thought she nailed it, while Steven called it a nice performance. J.Lo added, "We might have a sing-off between two girls in the final...that's what I'm hoping for."
Jeremy Rosado did "Ribbon in the Sky", and received mixed reviews from the judges. Steven praised him for having "beautiful voice," while J.Lo said, "l love to hear your interpretation of songs." Randy, however, noted that he lacked of "swag." Jessica Sanchez followed next with "I Will Always Love You", and got a standing ovation from the judges. Randy said, "I think you're one of the best singers in this whole competition...This is one of the best talents in the whole country." J.Lo was "speechless," while Steven stated, "You just made 40 million people cry."
The night was closed by Phillip Phillips who did "Superstition" while strumming his guitar. Steven praised him by saying, "You just are." J.Lo also applauded him, "You made it your own and you killed it." Randy gave him another good note, "I love what you do...You drive your own car in your own lane and I love it."
Host Ryan Seacrest has announced there's a twist in this week's elimination. Instead of choosing who will go to the next round, viewers at home have to determine the least-favorite participants, one guy and one girl. From those two, the judges then will decide who will be axed. The announcement will be made on Thursday night, March 8. Scotty McCreery's cover of Tim McGraw's "Please Remember Me" will be played to send the outcast home.