Billy Joel is a master musician and songwriter, no question, but he's actually very underrated as a singer.
We were reminded just how epic his talent is as we listened to the American Idol top 10 take on the famed New Yorker's songbook. Most of them did perfectly "OK," as Randy Jackson would say, but hardly any managed to tell a story the way Joel does.
Really, though, who could expect them to? But there were a few exceptions...
First off, picture Dave Matthews covering "Moving Out," and you've got a picture of Phillip Phillips' performance—and, as has been the case with all of his other DMB-esque covers, the vibe suited him to a tee.
Randy called it "one of the best renditions of that song, ever" and pointed out this, which went against the advice of Jimmy Iovine and guest mentor Sean "Diddy" Combs: "Those that do, should. You just did because you do, and you know who you are—an unbelievably talented artist!"
And if they didn't before, "Everybody Has a Dream" now, thanks to Jessica Sanchez. The 16-year-old blew it out of the box.
"When God was giving out vocal cords, you were so at the front of the line," raved Steven Tyler. "It was perfect," added Randy. (We won't argue.)
Diddy said he wanted to buy Colton Dixon's rehearsal version of "Piano Man"—but did the fan favorite deliver when he closed the show tonight?
Oh, yeah. Accompanying himself on a red piano, Colton performed a downright haunting version of Joel's signature tune—and, to quote Jennifer Lopez, it gave us "goosies."
Elise Testone, in the bottom three every week so far, picked the lesser-known "Vienna," thereby perhaps freeing herself from the expectations and comparisons that plagued a lot of the others.
Then again, who was singing along besides hard-core Joel fans? (Though more kids than usual are probably downloading "Vienna" right now.)
"I'm so happy for you, I just want to shake you and hold you and squeeze you!" cried Jennifer, who along with her fellow judges gave Elise a standing ovation. Steven said, cryptically, "They know what they're gonna do tonight with the votes."
But was it enough to finally keep her out of trouble?
Previously blond Erika Van Pelt was rocking a new brunette pixie cut (resident stylist Tommy Hilfiger made her do it!), but nothing could distract from the really nice, soulful job she did on what is perhaps Joel's other signature tune, "New York State of Mind." But even Erika, who had one of the best vocal performances, was told that she "could have put more personality in it."
Joshua Ledet, who has personality and octaves to spare, also didn't quite get "She's Got a Way." The ballad is one of Joel's most deceptively simple songs, so...It was good, just not quite in the spirit of the quietly beautiful tune.
"I just needed to feel like you were connected more to the lyrics and what you were saying," observed J.Lo while Steven floored us by saying he didn't know the song. So in his eyes, Joshua successfully made it his own.
Skylar Laine's country-tinged take on "Shameless" suited both her and the occasion. Not that she was the first: Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley have covered the song, too, and Randy thought her performance was "pretty good."
Meanwhile, Heejun hit some pleasing notes here and there during his take on "My Life"—but only when he wasn't focusing on the theatrics. He reminded us more of Taylor Hicks than anyone else with his herky-jerky take on Joel's ode to independence, which started with him pretending to need a do-over before ripping off his tux jacket to reveal a colorful T-shirt that Hilfiger surely didn't approve.
"I'm a little tongue-tied," Steven admitted. "Are you happy you took the piss out of that song? You showed 'em, you told 'em...[Diddy and Jimmy] were right, the music business will kick your ass. At some time, you have to try and take it more serious."
Deandre Brackensick, whose "Only the Good Die Young" lacked soul, is most likely going to be in trouble. After him, we're predicting trouble, perhaps, for Heejun (then again, Taylor Hicks won the whole thing!); Hollie Cavanagh, who gave a forgettable performance of "Honesty"; and maybe Joshua, because he tried to gild the lily with "She's Got a Way."
Who do you think is in trouble tomorrow? And who did you love?! Sound off in the comments!