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'American Idol' Top 9 perform: Live blog

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American Idol live coverage

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As the weeks pass, we get closer and closer to crowning a new American Idol. This week, the Top 9 take on songs originally performed by their own idols in the hopes of making their mark. With such high stakes, every contestant will no doubt be feeling the heat to impress judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson - and American voters!

Who will stand out as the star of the show? Will it be Digital Spy crowd favourite Jessica Sanchez, or will another unlikely hopeful rise to the top? Stay with Digital Spy from 8/7c to find out!


21:58Well, that's it for tonight. Everyone was pretty solid, tonight. Who will be going home? Join us tomorrow at 8/7c and we'll find out!

21:55She actually... kind of rocks it, to be honest. I'm not a massive fan of Elise, but she's got a powerful voice that's perfect for this kind of track - it's way better of a fit for her than some of the stuff she's been singing in past weeks, that's for sure. I'll give her her due on this one.

And... it's another standing ovation! Jennifer jokes that she didn't want to get up, but that Elise made her. Steven wasn't sure if she could pull it off because nobody could, but in the end, Elise made Robert Plant proud. Jennifer calls it some "real rock star stuff", adding that it was "crazy". Randy doesn't know what's in the air tonight, but could tell that Elise really wants to win. "Dude, you did an amazing job - congrats!" he adds.

21:51
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Elise Testone
Elise Testone is last, and she's taking on Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' - Stevie is shocked, but believes that Robert Plant would be proud. They even sing some harmonies together on 'Dreams'. Ugh, I wanna sing with Stevie Nicks! Get away, Elise! Stevie feels a kindred spirit with Elise and says that if she needed a singer, she would definitely hire Elise.

21:45Skylar, Hollie and Jessica hit the stage for a Madonna medley of 'Like a Prayer', 'Borderline' and 'Express Yourself'. Still slightly awkward, but probably the best of these medleys tonight!

21:37
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Joshua Ledet
Joshua Ledet is ready to sing Mariah Carey's version of 'Without You'. Of course he did. Stevie and Jimmy are insistent that he has to convince the audience of the message behind the track or it's not going to work. Listen, Joshua's got a great voice, but I get zero feeling from him when he's singing anything other than gospel. This performance should be painful and give you chills... but instead, I just feel like getting up to get some more Diet Coke. His voice is good, of course, but we all know it takes more than that.

Oddly, he gets... a standing ovation. Oh, whatever. Randy thinks that Mariah would be proud of Joshua, calling it "flawless" and zzz... oh, sorry, I fell asleep. Randy also thinks it was "emotional", but I'm wondering what he was watching. Steven loves how much he pushed himself so far, to the point of an emotional breakdown. "Thanks for pouring your heart out!" he says. Jennifer calls him a "phenom" and an "angel from heaven" and frankly, I'm done here.

21:26I know I'm supposed to like Phil, but... meh. I just don't. I find him slightly generic and try-hard, though he is talented. Still, I'm sure he's not losing sleep and crying into his pillow at night just because I'm not a fan - the young female voters probably adore him. I once saw Jonny Lang in concert opening for Jeff Beck. I'm not sure why I was even at that concert, to be honest, but I was. Just thought I'd share that.

It's another standing ovation from the judges, with Jennifer calling it "too much" and saying that it really comes through how much Phillip wants the audience to feel the music. She also praises him for being in the moment and "making everything else go away" every time he performs. Steven feels the same way, saying that Phillip owns every song he sings and that it comes from his soul. Randy is a big Jonny Lang fan (really?) and thinks that he would be proud. He appreciates Phil's individuality and being a real artist in an industry full of generic acts.

21:22
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Phillip Phillips
Philip Phillips is ready to sing Jonny Lang's 'Still Runnin'' - great choice for his voice, in particular. Stevie mentions that even Mick Fleetwood thinks that Phil is gonna be a star, which is pretty high praise. She then sings a bit of the track with him, not failing to mention how handsome he is (and how much he looks like Lindsey Buckingham did in the '70s).

21:19For some reason, DeAndre, Heejun and Joshua are now singing a Michael Jackson medley. Not sure why, but why question anything on this show? You just need to let it wash over you like ocean waves... or something. I'm not even sure what the first song in this medley is. 'The Lady In My Life'? Anyway, 'Rock with You' also makes an appearance, as does 'Pretty Young Thing (P.Y.T.)'.

21:11Not much to say about Jessica's performance - she's got an incredible voice and it's pretty impossible to fault her for anything she does on this show. It's great that she's made the song different from the original, especially since Beyoncé is nearly impossible to come anywhere close to. Somehow, she manages to with this version. I'm impressed.

Jennifer jokes that Beyoncé should think about trying that rendition, saying that Jessica did a beautiful version and left everyone wanting more. Steven agrees, calling her an absolute star who is consistently great every week. "You really know your notes!" he adds. Randy admires the maturity Jessica has as a singer at only 16 years old, adding that she innately has talent and is one of the best singers he has heard in years.

21:07
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Jesica Sanchez
It's everyone's favourite Jessica Sanchez's turn to sing, and she's taking on Beyoncé. She's turning 'Sweet Dreams' into a ballad and takes guidance from Stevie, who thinks that Jessica is a great learner.

21:00Incidentally, my digital cable freezes on and off through much of DeAndre's performance, thankfully shielding me from much of his screeching, which is generally in dog hearing range only. Apparently I'm the only one who's not feeling it, though, since all three judges give him a standing ovation.

Steven thinks that it was "100% passion" and loves what he tried to do and was able to accomplish with the runs he was able to do, adding that he gave Prince a run for his money. (I don't think so.) Jennifer thinks that he has one of the most unique voices in the competition and offers something that no one else is able to because it was "so beautiful" and "went straight to the heart". Randy is happy that DeAndre is so focused on becoming an R&B star because it's who he is and what he should do.

20:56
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: DeAndre Brackensick
Up next, DeAndre Brackensick is singing Eric Benet. Is anyone surprised? No? I didn't think so. Stevie and Jimmy urge him not to try and overcompensate with his higher register and tell him that he must connect with the audience if he hopes to make any impact since he's definitely in jeopardy otherwise.

20:50Little Hollie is turning into a total star - she looks great and sounds even better - polished, powerful and emotional all at once. She doesn't miss a note and really seems to connect with the message behind the track, which is exactly what Stevie was urging her to do. See, look how sincere I can be when I actually like something!

Hollie thinks that it's dangerous to have taken on a song by a past winner, but he believes that she did a great job with it. Still - he does nitpick a bit about certain notes in her lower range. Jennifer disagrees with Randy's criticisms, however, calling it one of her best as it's one of the first times she's felt Hollie's heart in the performance. Steven, however, thinks that while she did a great job, she should have sang a different song - he's not into the Jesus bit, apparently.

20:46
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Hollie Cavanagh
Hollie Cavanagh is singing Carrie Underwood's 'Jesus Take the Wheel', and sings it damn well in rehearsals, even making Stevie emotional. Stevie believes her and thinks that she can totally make the emotion translate to the audience, and I have to agree. I think Hollie is one of the best in the competition and I'm a big fan.

20:44Oh, God help us everyone. Jason Derulo is here - with glittery neck brace, natch - to talk about his contest with Coca-Cola and Idol in which a fan can help him finish writing a track called 'Defeated', about his unfortunate neck injury, and he'll perform it later on. I present that tidbit of info with no other commentary.

20:37Admittedly, Heejun's performance is better than his usual hyuck-hyuck, just for laughs material, but his voice just isn't big enough to pull this song off. It is good, though - and I think it'll earn him high praise from he judges since it's such a stark contrast to last week's train wreck. Oh, plus someone's playing the pan flute! Can't argue with a good pan flute.

Steven praises him for 'turning it around', saying that he's such a natural talent that he has never realised how much he could achieve. Jennifer insists that Heejun hasn't made it this far by mistake, but because she knows that he could sing that well. She loves his beautiful vibrato and tone, saying that when he connects to his performance, he moves the audience. Randy agrees, adding that while a few notes weren't perfect, it was good to see Heejun back on form.

20:32
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Heejun Han
Heejun Han is up next, and he's trying to get serious after his disastrous performance last week and is singing... one of the most cliché songs to sing on American Idol, Donny Hathaway's 'A Song For You'. No one will ever do better with that song than Elliott Yamin did. You know, besides Donny Hathaway. However, Jimmy and Stevie are impressed, with Jimmy calling it a "real step forward" for Heejun as an artist.

20:31Oh wait, it's a medley! We've moved on to Stevie's 'Edge of Seventeen' - another great track. Does Stevie Nicks have a bad track? Do Fleetwood Mac? The group's 'Don't Stop' is up next and is, luckily, last.

20:29Colton, Elise and Phillip fill up empty space in the two-hour broadcast by taking on Fleetwood Mac's 'Landslide', effectively ruining one of my favourite songs. It's not terrible, per se, but it's sure not necessary, either.

20:22The performance itself is great - not the most incredible thing you'll ever hear vocally, but still strong and full of energy and personality, which is way more than some of her fellow finalists have. Skylar's got great stage presence and certain bits of her just seem so experienced. Again, I'm not blown away, but this is pretty solid.

Jennifer loves that Skylar has "unbridled energy" and thinks it was the perfect song for her. Steven calls it "over the top", as if she was singing to an old friend. "That was beautiful, good for you!" he adds. Randy agrees that it was a great performance, appreciating what a great storyteller she is as well as her ability to show off an incredible vocal range, dubbing her a "powerhouse singer".

20:19
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Skylar Laine
Skylar Laine is singing Miranda Lambert's 'Gunpower & Lead'. Stevie even sings a bit with her during rehearsal to help her find the power in the song. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm not a massive country fan, but I really love Skylar. And Miranda Lambert, for that matter. I might go download her album during the ad break.

20:11This performance is definitely slightly lacklustre - but I suppose many would translate that as sombre and emotional. The track, 'You and Me', will definitely go over well with the ladies. It picks up a bit towards the end, and luckily the lyrics stay bland enough ('You're all I want / You're all I need / You're everything') that it won't scare away the non-Christians in the crowd.

Steven says that Colton has star quality and calls him a "dream come true" for an Idol judge as he is always able to "make a song bleed". Jennifer is also moved, as she believes that he sang it with emotion but still managed to retain his composure and control without resorting to too many vocal acrobatics. Randy has been a fan since Colton's first audition and admires his "believability" and his approach to the performing, which always sees him laying it all on the line.

20:07
American Idol Season 11 Top 24: Colton Dixon
Stevie has had a long working relationship with the ever-present Jimmy Iovine, so we're treated to some old video clips of the pair in the studio back when Jimmy had hair. But then it's Colton Dixon who's up first, and he's choosing to sing a Lighthouse track - his favourite worship song that he discovered as part of the church. Stevie loves him, by the way.

20:02It's that time again! A bunch of wannabe superstars singing hopefuls are here to perform some of their own personal favourite songs. Only this time, Stevie Nicks is here to help. I do adore Stevie Nicks. They're even playing 'Landslide' over the opening credits, which is one of the best songs ever. Maybe Stevie's presence will temper my sassiness tonight. Not likely, but it's a thought.

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