“Idol” went back to my decade, the 1980s, and based on the song choices, it was definitely the softer side of the 80s: a soaring Foreigner ballad, a syrupy Bette Midler ballad, an Irene Cara pop nugget, a Simply Red cover of an R&B classic.
Overall, the top 8 held up fairly well, though a couple of front runners didn’t quite hit the mark. I definitely enjoyed this week better than last week though there were only two standing ovations this time vs. five a week ago.
My biggest surprise: I found DeAndre Brackensick quite enjoyable. DeBarge fit him like a glove. I was pleasantly surprised to see Skylar Laine come back with a strong ballad. And I didn’t get why the judges were so harsh on Hollie Cavanagh. Elise Testone was pedestrian. Colton Dixon and Jessica Sanchez both did solid jobs but my general blah attitude towards both didn’t change. Phillip Phillips was the biggest disappointment, though oversinging Joshua Ledet was not far behind for me.
Tough call tonight who will be in the bottom three. Hollie, Joshua and Elise are the three I feel have targets on their back. Elise, I believe, will go home for doing a decent but not memorable job that won’t generate a lot of intense voting. I think the judges’ acid against Hollie might incite enough of her fans to keep voting. Joshua was over the top in a way that was a total disconnect to the song. I think he will be punished with this first bottom three ranking.
If Elise is at the bottom, will she be saved? I give it a 50/50 shot.
My top 8 in ranking: DeAndre, Skylar, Colton, Hollie, Elise, Jessica, Phillip, Joshua
I expect the rankings among the readers will be all over the place tonight. The Cover it Live blog poll showed a major split in opinion over many contestants. Negatives (% of those who didn’t like a performance) ranged from 19% to 49%. And the highest percentage of people who liked a performance enough to vote was a mere 44%. That’s relatively very low.
Generally, people liked the duets more, especially Joshua and Jessica/ Phillip and Elise combos.
My basic thoughts on each performance:
1- DeAndre (”I Like It” DeBarge, up first) – For the first time, he looked and felt comfortable, relaxed, at ease. He brought a nice mix of his normal voice and falsetto and gave a fun performance. Grade: A/A-minus
2- Skylar (”Wind Beneath My Wings,” pimp spot) – She has never sung anything slow terribly well at this point. But she gave this one just the right level of intensity and emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though a lot of the live bloggers hated it. I’m glad she was able to spread her wings. Grade: A-minus
3- Colton (”Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper, seventh) – He took a Quietdrive rock version of this classic and did a solid job. I do hate the way he phrases words but he brought a certain level of actual sincerity to this affair. Grade: B-plus
4- Hollie (”Flashdance,” Irene Cara, sixth) – Some live bloggers complained about pitch problems. I thought she really pushed herself here to do something more upbeat and move around the stage. While she wasn’t always spot on, any faults didn’t bug me. She could have brought a wee bit more joy to it but I thought the judges were tougher on her than she deserved. Grade: B-plus
5- Elise (”I Want to Know What Love Is” Foreigner, second) – Technically, she did a pretty good job but she wasn’t able to transcend the song or give it anything special. It was unmemorable in the end despite the choir. Grade: B
6- Jessica (”How Will I Know” Whitney Houston, fifth) – As usual, on a technical basis, she is great. She looks good. She moves around the stage well. But as usual for me, she is robotic. I don’t feel anything watching her. Grade: B
7- Phillip (”That’s All” Genesis, third) – I appreciate Phil tried to give this his own spin on it but it felt strained and he never quite got into his pocket with it, even with the non-guitar bridge suggested by Tony of No Doubt, one of the guest mentors. This was in my mind his weakest live performance to date but I don’t think it endangers him in any way. Grade: B/B-minus
8- Joshua (”If You Don’t Know Me By Now” Simply Red, fourth) I recall the Simply Red version, which was heartrending, subtle and beautiful. Joshua tried to turn this into a tutorial on runs. There was no sadness, no connection to the lyrics. Someone on the blog thinks he did the Harold Melvin 1972 version but I went on YouTube to hear him to do it and no, he was restrained, too. Overwrought is the best adjective. Grade: C
The duets were all interesting. My quick thoughts on them:
Skylar & Colton “Islands in the Stream”: Strangest combo for sure. Skylar sang circles around Colton, who did his best outside his comfort zone. I noticed they cut the lyric “makin’ love with each other, uh huh.” Grade: B-plus
DeAndre & Hollie “I’m So Excited” : Cheesy as all get out but the two went with it. Hollie, more relaxed than normal, excelled. DeAndre harmonized well with Hollie. Grade: A-minus
Phillip & Elise “Stop Draggin My Heart Around” : I seldom like Elise but in this case, she was perfect in Stevie’s role. Phillip countered her well, even with his distracting Joe Cocker mannerisms. There even seemed to be a connection between the two. Grade: A
Jessica & Joshua “I Knew You Were Waiting”: For some reason, this song works well when over-emoted and both can do that in spades. They may not have a lot of chemistry, but they enjoyed themselves and it worked. Grade: A-minus
Cover it Live polling
Top 8 poll, % voting for sure, % okay, not voting % didn’t like it
Jessica 44%, 33% 23%
Phillip 43%, 32% 25%
Colton 38%, 42% 19%
Joshua 34% 20% 46%
DeAndre 30%, 21%, 49%
Hollie 27% 30% 43%
Skylar 27% 33% 41%
Elise 14% 42% 44%
Grading Skylar & Colton: 18% liked both, 34% preferred Skylar, 14% preferred Colton, 27% didn’t like either, 7% had another opinion
Grading DeAndre & Hollie: 23% liked both, 6% preferred DeAndre, 46 preferred Hollie, 25% didn’t like either
Grading Phillip & Elise: 57% liked both, 4% preferred Phillip, 15% preferred Elise, 17% preferred neither, 7% had another opinion
Grading Joshua & Jessica: 63% liked both, 10% preferred Jessica, 8% preferred Joshua, 18% preferred neither, 4% had another opinion
Judges too harsh on Hollie? 68% said yes
Is this is a singing competition or an “artist” competition? 38% said vocals trump all, 27% artistry trumps all, 35% it depends
Chances Phillip would be eliminated tomorrow: 25% think there’s a 60%+, 10% 30-60%, 10% 10-30%, 55% less than 10%
Would Phillip get saved if he had the fewest votes tomorrow? 72% said yes
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk