‘Idol’ Star’s Drastically Different Performance

March 29, 2012 by staff 

‘Idol’ Star’s Drastically Different Performance, Heejun gets seriousLast week on “American Idol,” Season 11 class clown Heejun Han supposedly let “the real Heejun” come out to play, declaring, “I wanna DANCE,” stripping off, and channeling crazy Casey Abrams, Magic Cyclops, and Norman Gentle all at once as he goofed his way through the “Bosom Buddies”-popularized “My Life” on Billy Joel Night.

While I found Heejun’s shtick–and it was a shtick–highly entertaining, Steven Tyler absolutely did not, and apparently neither did many viewers, who put Heejun in the bottom two for the first time this season. Heejun narrowly survived over the undeniably more vocally gifted Erika Van Pelt, stirring up even more outrage among “Idol” viewers who take this show very seriously.

So this week, on what was overall a highly emotional and highly competitive night on “Idol,” Heejun had a lot to prove. And by changing his strategy and going back to his old-school balladry, he got back in Steven’s–and probably America’s–good graces.

Heejun’s “A Song For You”Crooning Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” with a completely straight face, no wacky dance moves, and a lot of heart, Heejun totally redeemed himself. I held my breath, half-expecting him to say, “No, no, that song is way too slow!” and go nuts–but that moment never came. Instead he just delivered his best, most serious performance of the season.

Sure, I kind of missed the comedy, but the judges sure didn’t (they actually gave him a standing ovation this time), and this was definitely what Heejun needed to do to stay in the game. “Heeman, you did it! You turned it around. You don’t even know how good you sing. You keep believing in yourself,” said Steven. “People don’t realize you don’t make it this far by mistake. You’re here because we realize you can sing this way,” said Jennifer Lopez. And Randy Jackson declared, “Finally, the Heejun that we selected [in Hollywood] came back to us tonight!”

Explaining to Ryan Seacrest why he decided to play it straight this week, Heejun said: “I realized I was letting so many people down, and I don’t want to let them down anymore–and I especially don’t want to let myself down.” Heejun was definitely not the best singer during this VERY strong week, and I am still not 100 percent sure he’ll be safe on Thursday. But he was at his personal best, and he certainly did not let anyone down.

Jason Derulo’s new accessoryAnyway, Wednesday night on “Idol” started with what I initially mistook for a Tommy Hilfiger infomercial. (I wonder what Tommy, “Idol’s” new in-house style advisor, thought of the Bedazzler’d neckbrace that recently injured pop star Jason Derulo, seen sitting in the audience with girlfriend Jordin Sparks, was wearing? Or what he thought of the old ’80s footage of a shaggy-haired Jimmy Iovine rocking out with awesome guest mentor Stevie Nicks?) But eventually, the episode got AMAZING, as the contestants sang the songs of their own personal idols. Many of them were obvious choices (feisty country girl Miranda Lambert for feisty country girl Skylar Laine, Christian rockers Lifehouse for Christian rocker Colton Dixon, soul-pop diva Beyonce for soul-pop diva Jessica Sanchez), although there were a few surprises–like Phillip Phillips not covering Dave Matthews!

The best Fleetwood Mac cover band ever?The contestants also, surprisingly, performed in trios, perhaps as some sort of advance advertisement for this summer’s Idols Live Tour. And all I want to know is, when do tickets go on sale? Heejun, Deandre Brackensick, and Joshua Ledet were fun on their joint performance of Michael Jackson songs, and Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh, and Skylar Laine were fabulous covering Madonna, but the best of these threesomes had to be Elise Testone, Phillip Phillips, and Colton Dixon–my three favorite contestants of Season 11–teaming up for a medley of Fleetwood Mac hits that did Stevie proud. If none of these contestants end up winning, they should consider forming a trio. Heck, they should consider forming a Fleetwood Mac cover band.

Heejun’s triumph has already been covered, but honestly, the night was packed with stellar, emotionally charged performances that will make fans’ voting decisions, my elimination prediction, and Thursday night’s farewell all incredibly difficult. Heejun might be safe this week after such a turnaround, but after going up against the other eight, who were all at their top of their game, he’s probably still sweating mostly water right now. This was definitely the best night of Season 11 so far. Here’s how everyone else did:

Stevie Nicks’s sage advice to ColtonColton Dixon – Colton’s mentoring session began with Stevie Nicks telling him to ignore Hilfiger’s order to cut his hair, further proof that Stevie Nicks is a wise, wise witchy-woman. (Simon Cowell really should hire her to be a judge on “The X Factor.” Seriously.) Then Colton started singing “Everything” by Lifehouse. LIFEHOUSE. Really? Nothing against the band, they’re fine, but this was a night when he could have chosen any of his favorite all-time influences, and picking Lifehouse over, say, the Beatles or Stones seemed a little odd. He explained that “Everything” was his favorite worship song, wearing his religious influences on his white leather sleeve–a move that will either help him (overt declarations of faith never hurt cross-kissing Scotty McCreery) or damage his standing among less conservative rock-music-fan viewers. As for his performance, he certainly put his heart into it, ending the song on his knees, as if in prayer, as his eyes filled with tears (his grandfather, watching in the audience, was also misty-eyed). But overall, this was a mini-letdown, especially after last week’s amazing “Piano Man,” one of the best performances of Season 11 so far. “Everything” just draggggged, and the vocals were not his best. But the judges were unusually worshipful of Colton’s worship song. “You are a dream come true for a judge on ‘Idol,’ man,” raved Steven. “What a way to start the show! It was so emotional! I can honestly say that I was really moved,” said Jennifer. And Randy said, “I’ve been a fan since we met you a season ago, and one of the most important things an artist can have is believability. I believe you. I think I could be looking at a contender for the title! He wants to win!” So I guess Randy was saying that Colton is…wait for it…IN IT TO WIN IT? I agree, but I think he’ll have a better chance of winning if he delivers more performances like last week’s Billy Joel tour de force.

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