'American Idol'-'Voice': Do Elise Testone, Pip, Heejun Han rate?
Somehow that seems appropriate given that we're taking all the singers from both shows and putting them head to head each week. I will be choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton — and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here.
1. Elise Testone ("American Idol"): A rock star was born on "Idol" this week. It wasn't just the full band, the flashing lights and the fog machine. When Testone tackled Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," her ridiculously agile voice felt like its own sort of mind-blowing special effect. The stutter, the scream, the strut around the stage in Steven Tyler's sparkly pants all blew me away, but my favorite moment was when, just before wrapping things up with "Way down inside …" she tossed the audience a sweet little smile that showed just how much fun she hoped we all were having. That moment made me feel a whole lotta love for Testone.
2. Phillip Phillips ("American Idol"): "I think he's going to be very famous, and that's because he has a certain magic, and you cannot deny it," guest mentor Stevie Nicks said of Phillips on Wednesday night. She also called him "gorgeous" and posited that, back in the old days, Mick Fleetwood would have asked Phillips to be a part of Fleetwood Mac. Can I top that praise? No, but I will say that Phillips slayed Jonny Lang's "Still Rainin'," singing and strumming with the passion he brings to all his performances, and he could have been at the very top of this list had Testone not elbowed him out at the last minute.
3. Orlando Napier ("The Voice"): Facing off against Karla Davis on the Commodores/Lionel Richie song "Easy," Napier's voice had a suppleness, surety and soulfulness that commanded attention. I can understand why someone might opt for Davis, with her sweet clarity and smooth vocals, over Napier, as Levine did, but I probably would have made a different choice, going for excitement over ease. Napier may be off "The Voice," but I hope we haven't heard the last of his voice.
4. Jessica Sanchez ("American Idol"): Sanchez's "Sweet Dreams," by her idol Beyonce, was beautiful and far from a nightmare. She again proved she has complete control of her remarkably mature voice and can make it do wonderful things. In some spots, she gently caressed the notes; in others she swooped into a powerful attack, mesmerizing us as if, yes, in a dream. Everything from the dress to the red door she walked through to the comfort Sanchez exuded onstage just seemed totally tour-ready. How is it possible that she's only 16?
5. Justin Hopkins ("The Voice"): The battle round between Hopkins and Tony Vincent was like a face-off between a lovable mutt and a carefully groomed show dog. Cee Lo Green went with the show dog (Vincent), finding him "enigmatic" and "ambiguous." I admired the show dog's showiness and careful grooming, but the lovable mutt (Hopkins) stole my heart. He was all energy and grit and tail-wagging eagerness to please. I'm sad Cee Lo sent him off to go fetch a new dream.
— Amy Reiter
Photo: Elise Testone of "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox