American Idol kicked off tonight with a quick tribute from Ryan Seacrest to Dick Clark—who not only was the host's mentor and friend, but who also, with his American Bandstand, created the template for all the live musical shows featuring up-and-comers that came after it.
You know, like Idol.
Fittingly, tonight's theme transcended decades, as did Clark. The top seven sang two songs apiece, one a No. 1 hit released between 2000 and now, and the other a "soul song from back in the day."
First, the contemporaries...
Hollie Cavanagh kicked things off with no less a challenge than Adele's "Rolling in the Deep"—and the judges applauded her strong return to the competition! (And, for the record, she looked chicer than ever.)
Lady Gaga got the cover treatment from two hopefuls: Skylar Laine rocked the country version of "Born This Way" and Colton Dixon(!) did a not-always-melodic but still kickass take on "Bad Romance."
"A more perfect song for you does not exist!" Jennifer Lopez raved of Skylar, while Colton was praised for being a compelling performer no matter what he sings.
Elise Testone and Jessica Sanchez, meanwhile, both tried out Alicia Keys—"No One" and "Fallin'," respectively.
"You gave me my first goosies of the night," J.Lo said of Elise, while Jessica had Randy Jackson calling for Keys to "holla at the dawg" to let him know how much she liked the teen's take on her Grammy-winning hit.
Like Colton, Joshua Ledet did some impressive gender-bending with Fantasia's Idol-winning tune, "I Believe." But it was Phillip Phillips who blew the judges away with his raspy, oh-so-Phillip rendition of Usher's "U Got It Bad."
If that doesn't sound like a good fit to you, you would be wrong.
Heading into the second half of the night...
Hollie topped her earlier performance with Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man," but Colton underwhelmed with Earth Wind and Fire's party classic "September."
"You sounded really good," Jennifer said hesitantly, "but I'm not sure that it was the perfect performance in the way that it usually does for you."
Elise sang, in our opinion, a perfect lady version of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On"—growly, seductive and slow-burning. But apparently we were too busy listening to notice that she needs to, according to Steven Tyler, "take it up a notch."
Steven did, however, successfully pinpoint the little leg-jerking dance that Phillip always does as "perfectly awkward." And it doesn't hurt how good he is at pulling off tunes like "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett so effectively.
And the seductive growling didn't end there: Jessica tore into Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness," Skylar ripped "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (yet another Marvin classic) a new one, and Joshua gave us major goosies with Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come."
If he's in the bottom three again tomorrow, we will be thoroughly convinced that the voters are watching on mute.
Concluded Randy: "The talent this season on Idol is better than any show on TV. Period. End of story!"