‘American Idol’ Recap: Colton Dixon Becomes the ‘Piano Man’

Colton Dixon Piano Man American IdolS11E18: Taking on Billy Joel’s catalog is both a blessing and a curse. His songs are classics, and no one brings the emotion and style to those songs the way Joel does, but they’re also big, hearty songs. And that means they’re prime candidates for testing American Idol finalists.

This week, Diddy came on as a hilarious mentor with commentary that some previous helpers have either been afraid to make or didn’t notice. It was refreshing, and it seemed to help a few of the contestants—though he just seemed to confuse poor Deandre. This episode also brought designer Tommy Hilfiger in to assist the judges with their looks, and while most contestants took Hilfiger’s sage advice—some to dramatic effect—a few contestants stuck to their guns. It wasn’t quite a makeover episode, but the styling brought a few contestants our of their shells. Even so, it’s still a singing competition, so hot duds or not, the folks with the best voices are still the ones coming out on top.

As talented as this set is, for many, Billy Joel night wasn’t an example of their best. Here they are, Idol’s top 10, from the amazing voices to the singer’s whose times have run out.

Phillip Phillips

“Movin’ Out”

This is exactly what Phil needed. For the past few performances, he’s been really good, but this was a moment. He delivers an interesting, unique take on the song, or as Steven says: he “Phillip Phillipsed it.” He ignored Jimmy and Diddy when they told him no guitar; he ignored Tommy Hilfiger said no gray. He just did him and in the end, it was the best possible thing he could have done.

Colton Dixon

“Piano Man”

No matter how much I agree with Hilfiger about Colton’s Hot Topic hair, even I had to admit he nailed this performance. He’s clearly been waiting all competition for Billy Joel night and when he gets there, his fire engine red piano set-up looks like he’s actually singing in the middle of Madison Square Garden. The arrangement is very true to his style and it works, especially for fans of the Alternative Pop-Rock genre. The judges love it, they say it’s perfect. And it pretty much perfect for the type of artist he is. This kid’s going to sell a lot of records some day.

Joshua Ledet

“She’s Got a Way”

He didn’t know the song before he sang it, but by the end it was obvious: this guy can sing anything. But the judges weren’t as wowed. Jennifer says he sings so “crazy,” but she didn’t feel like he really felt the lyrics. I get where she’s coming from, but even if she’s right, Ledet is still head and shoulders above the others. Steven says he didn’t know what the song is, which could only mean he needs to get his musician card revoked.

Jessica Sanchez

“Everybody Has a Dream”

Diddy braves the truth with Jessica: he tells her he doesn’t believe her and that she’s over-singing, using her tricks instead of feeling it. It was good advice and it helped a bit, but not enough. We already know she’s got an amazing voice, but now she needs to polish her performance. She seemed to take the wrong parts of Diddy’s advice to heart, so that the entire beginning of the song was perfect, but somewhat boring. When she finally broke into the wow moment at the end, it woke us up a bit, but it simply wasn’t her best. No disrespect to Billy Joel, but there were so many better songs to choose and it’s a little cheesy to sing the one about this being her dream. But maybe I’m wrong. Some people are into that. Randy says she was perfect, and technically she was, but now we need something more.

Deandre Brackensick

“Only The Good Die Young”

He needed something upbeat after last week’s sleepy “Endless Love” rendition, and it gave him a chance to use his vibrato instead of just his falsetto—we love it, but he’s more than just that one tone. Jennifer loves the song and says it shows his personality. The other judges say it was good but not great, and it’s true. There’s nothing wrong with the performance, but he needs to stand out now more than ever. He needs a moment and this wasn’t it.

Elise Testone


This performance was much better than her last two and she finally seemed to show us a bit of her personality as a performer, but it might not be enough to break through after relegating herself to the background for weeks. The judges love it—Randy even makes the overstatement of the year when he says only Elise could manage that run—but it’s a little late. They are too many great people on this show, and they’ve already won our hearts.

Skylar Laine


Skylar always has a little issue when she’s singing softer parts, experiencing some shakiness and pitch issues, but when she hits the bigger notes at the ends she always makes up for it. This song was so exception to that rule. I wouldn’t have picked this Joel song, but it’s the one that Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley both covered, so clearly, it’s the country Billy Joel song. Randy says it started too low, gave her some issues, which is true. And as usual, Jennifer says she always has the whole audience by the end. Of course, Steven agrees, and far as he’s concerned, that’s all “the smatters.”

Erika Van Pelt

“New York State of Mind”

Holy haircut. Erika made a fantastic choice with her Lois-Lane black pixie cut, but that doesn’t help her performance. She has the same problem as last week: no dynamics—it’s all loud all the time. She’s still singing like she’s at wedding trying to be heard over drunk dancing people, and unfortunately it didn’t sound like the same song; it lost all of its subtleties. Randy says she’s one of the best singers on the show, and follows it up by telling her she should “treat the song like you should” at the beginning and let loose at the end. Translation: dynamics.

Hollie Cavanaugh


Hollie’s got a wonderful, powerful voice, but this week just wasn’t her week. Steven and Jennifer say she picks big songs, but she has to know every little piece of the song, and that lack of knowledge really caused some issues for her. She agrees that she has trouble learning it, which is fair because it’s not an easy song and she’d never heard it before the show. The good parts showed her powerful voice, but the other mishaps could cost her a spot in the competition.

Heejun Han

“My Life”

It’s official: Heejun is a giant dork and this is his last hoorah. It was like a really awesome karaoke performance; he almost knows his time is up and he doesn’t care. It’s cute and fun, and while Jennifer attempts to give serious commentary Steven speaks the truth: Heejun needs to take music more “serious.” Randy says it was entertaining and he was happy he had a good time: which means he knows Heejun’s time is up. He’s a likable guy, I just agree with Jimmy at this point: this isn’t American Comedian.

Do you think it’s Heejun’s time to go? Could Colton win the whole show? What about Phil? Who were your favorites of the night? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler.