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‘American Idol’ top 7, part 2, performance recap: where’s the soul?

Jessica Sanchez performed Alicia Keys and Otis Redding tonight. CREDIT: Michael Becker/FOX

Jessica Sanchez performed Alicia Keys and Otis Redding tonight. CREDIT: Michael Becker/FOX

Who did you like the most tonight? (pick up to three)

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With 14 songs over two hours, “American Idol’ shortened the versions by at least 15%. That restricted some of the singers, who felt a need to go from 0 to 60 in two seconds instead of 30. There was a lot of yelling and growling and not always a lot of subtlety at times.

The first half – recent songs – was more successful than the second half classic soul section. That was surprising but perhaps the contestants felt pressured to up their game when faced with legends.  And it’s always tougher to sing two songs in a given week.

Hollie Cavanagh upper her game. Phillip Philips rebounded smartly from two less-than-inspiring weeks. Colton Dixon gambled big and lost big. Elise Testone did well with Alicia Keys, not so much with Marvin Gaye. Jessica Sanchez felt rote with her Alicia Keys, over the top with Otis Redding. Skylar Laine was more of a mixed bag overall to me. Joshua Ledet channeled Fantasia and Sam Cooke well.

Who’s safe? The three guys should be fine. Bottom three? I bet Hollie will be there. I think Colton’s fans will keep him from the bottom three, which will force Skylar there, along with Elise yet again. I think Elise will finally go home.Jessica, who had the fewest votes last week, will rally and escape the bottom three this week for sure. Her fans will ensure that.

Who did you like least? (pick up to three)

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Again, I expect the poll results on the left to show serious split decisions. Each of the seven has major fans and foes.

Here are my rankings of the 14 songs:

1- Phillip Phillips #1 “U Got It Bad” Usher – I sense he’s done this before but it’s still a major risk. On paper, this should have been a big fat fail. But in the end, it worked. He pumped his own type of soul into a very R&B song. Good to see Phillip surprise and get back to the top of the leaderboard.

2- Joshua Ledet #1 “I Believe” Fantasia – Sure, he’s named Mantasia for a reason. He brought out proper Fantasia-type gospel soul into her season 3 coronation song.

3- Hollie Cavanagh #1 “Rolling in the Deep” Adele – Another major risk because the world is about to hit Adele overload. But Hollie was smart. She had done this song a million times before so she was able to focus on showing more feeling and injecting more depth.

4- Elise Testone #1 “No One” Alicia Keys: When Elise channels her inner Steve Nicks (and wears an outfit like her, too), it works. She brought the proper blend of pain and hope.

5 – Phillip #2 “In the Midnight Hour” Wilson Pickett: This was much jauntier than the original version. While this is mildly disconcerting, Phillip brings a special kind of joy and energy, making this work surprisingly well.

6- Joshua #2 “A Change is Gonna Come” -Sam Cooke: This felt a wee bit predictable but he gets point at keeping it restrained, then unleashing the vocal hounds only at the end.

7 – Skylar Laine #2 “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” Marvin Gaye: This was, like Phillip, a more buoyant version than the original. This worked somewhat less well to me. Sometimes, her performances feel the same – loud, honky tonk, Reba-like. I won’t remember this one in two weeks.

8- Hollie #2 “Son of a Preacher Man” Dusty Springfield: Unlike the Adele song, it’s clear she had to learn this song and didn’t quite “learn” the meaning or come up with a compelling performance. At least she moved around a bit, though it’s obvious she isn’t comfortable doing so (unlike Skylar).

9 – Jessica #1 “Fallin’ ” Alicia Keys: As usual, it was technically fine but she didn’t add anything new or interesting to a very well-worn song.

10- Skylar #1 “Born This Way” Lady Gaga: Somehow, her aggressiveness felt a bit forced here. I didn’t quite buy it.

11 – Colton #1 “Bad Romance” Lady Gaga: Colton gets points for approaching the song in a more theatrical way but he’s no Adam Lambert and his lower register was godawful.

12- Jessica #2 “Try a Little Tenderness” Otis Redding: She misread this song completely. Try a little tenderness? How about try a big, heavy hammer? She growled through this from beginning to end to the point the entire melody felt swallowed up.

13- Elise #2 “Let’s Get It On” Marvin Gaye: Another exhibition in over singing. This was anti-sexy, just Elise emoting almost randomly. She can’t seem to always read a song properly or approach them in a way that showcases her in a flattering way.

14 – Colton #2 “September” Earth, Wind & Fire: This was like hitting on a 16 in blackjack. This was a monstrous gamble to take a joyous dance hit and turn it into a quirky dirge, Colton style. It blew up in his face, unlike last week. Again, he gets credit for swinging for the fences, even if he whiffs.

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

347 comments Add your comment

G

April 18th, 2012
10:48 pm

If you aren’t a fan of r&b and soul, tonight was a long one for you. If you are a fan of r&b and soul, tonight was still a long one because most of the performances were underwelming. In short, Joshua was the best followed by Jessica. Everyone else (especially Phil, Skylar, and Colton) couldn’t channel soul if they had free cable.

cadilac

April 18th, 2012
10:51 pm

joshua, colton, and jessica in the bottom three.

bknsty14

April 18th, 2012
10:54 pm

cadilac

April 18th, 2012
10:51 pm

Love your bottom 3

RxDawg

April 18th, 2012
10:56 pm

I thought Hollie, Jessica, and Phillip really brought it tonight. I also want to throw Skylar in there too. I think Joshua (man he should of did some James Brown instead of Sam Cook) and Elise will be in the bottom 3. And I have no idea whos the 3rd. It should probably be Colton, but I know it wont be. I just can’t imagine Jessica being there, but I couldn’t imagine her being there last week either so…. Overall great night. I thought Phil was the best he’s been. I thought Jessica was again miles above the competition. So that’s what I think.

Marc

April 18th, 2012
11:03 pm

Should be in d bottom 3. elise,colton and hollie!

Courtney

April 18th, 2012
11:04 pm

Elise cannot dance, and Joshua cannot sing

Marc

April 18th, 2012
11:05 pm

My choice is still Jessica Sanchez to stay.

Bob

April 18th, 2012
11:12 pm

Jessica proved that America was right last week. That was painful. Both of them.

I thought both of Colton’s were good, but not his best. Phillip and Hollie blew it out of the water. Everyone else was good, but, not as good.

Phillip and Colton’s worst is still better than everyone else’s.

Hollie is by far better than Jessica, and not just “technically,” as the judges keep parroting. She’s just damn good. I just happen to like Phillip and Colton’s music better.

I would probably put Josh higher if I liked that kind of music more.

Bottom 3: Jessica, Elise, Skylar

boots

April 18th, 2012
11:12 pm

We watched it as a family, and we pretty much think Elise is heading out this week. Joshua is sounding too much the same, week after week. I also hope there is a strong anti-Jessica vote. I can’t stand her now that they saved her. Talented, maybe, but all the talk about her “struggles to sing” and “working so hard her whole life” when she is 16 is just dumb. Happily, our Georgia guy is probably a lock for the final two.

Alex

April 18th, 2012
11:13 pm

I’m good as long as one of the Js goes home.

Mercedes S.

April 18th, 2012
11:17 pm

Hollie finally got to show what she’s made of…Her “Deep” sounded perfect to me – it honored the song, the singer who made it iconic, and yet Hollie managed to put her own spin on it. I bet “Preacher Man” would have been sung equally well if she didn’t have to start the song walking down those nasty steps in 5″ heels. I bet JLo was hoping for her to fall.

Phillip was my number two.
Skylar, unexpectedly # 3.
Colton had his worst week, but still landed on $4.

bknsty14

April 18th, 2012
11:24 pm

Mercedes S.

April 18th, 2012
11:17 pm

totally agree about the stairs. here’s my earlier comment.

bknsty14

April 18th, 2012
9:51 pm

Hollie’s only bad lines were when she was walking down the stairs. She did really well after that. People need to stop doing that. they’re trying so hard to not fall down the stairs that their singing suffers. I have hated almost every performance in the second half. I liked hers and skylar (if she would have screamed less).

Mercedes S.

April 18th, 2012
11:26 pm

Colton, number 4, I mean. His worst week, but I still liked him better than

5. Elise
6. Joshua
7. Jessica

Jessica was unbelievably painful to listen to, and she had taken leave of her sartorial senses as well.

Why did so many singers think that soul equals scream? To me, “soul” means “intensity”, and the only one of the Idols to display that tonight were Hollie, Philip and Skylar.

i am always correct

April 18th, 2012
11:28 pm

BOTTOM 3 GUARANTEE: colton, elise *and she is going home*, and jessica. holly is safe

Mercedes S.

April 18th, 2012
11:28 pm

14, did read your post and meant to comment on it!

As for Joshua’s “Change” I kept comparing it to Adam Lambert’s superior version.

grecian

April 18th, 2012
11:31 pm

Jessica is the best in the bunch. Even Jimmy and Randy who are both experts in the music industry know it. If Colton or Philip win, they’ll probably go to the same route as Lee and Kris careers.

bknsty14

April 18th, 2012
11:34 pm

Joshua brought nothing to that song. No soul from the soul guy. And I’ve noticed that Jessica cuts some notes short because she won’t be able to hold them.

bknsty14

April 18th, 2012
11:35 pm

WGWG – It stands for White Guy With Guitar and it is the last 4-5 winners. That is a guarantee that Phil will win.

JTesla

April 18th, 2012
11:41 pm

Just got done watching Colton’s first song, blech. But there goes Randy… what a chump. Let’s face it though, Colton could come on stage, drop trou and leave a big deuce on stage and he’d still be safe.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

anna

April 18th, 2012
11:50 pm

for me Jessica is the best ………..I pray for you Jess……..

Seth T

April 18th, 2012
11:52 pm

My 2 cents on the “screaming” subject – is that some of the better singers over time — can swoop through a falsetto on-pitch and hi-lite certain phrases or words in the song – which translates into an “expession” or “emotion” to the listener.

Although some aspiring singers can come close to the note — they only have an out-of-control screaming projection to try to simulate what the better singer can do with the phrase. So for some, it becomes grating and turns them off quickly.

I do some work in a recording studio with various local singers/vocalists. Sometimes we might do 20 “takes” on a certain section of a song, to try to get things to land right. Sometimes we strongly encourage the singer to use a more contained phrasing on the higher register points, because they could not do anything but scream if they tried it all day.

If you download any of tonight’s studio version of their songs – you will find them even better, and sometimes much better than what you heard live. It’s much tougher on the live sound stage to hold your tone with all the sound level/ear monitor problems and running around.

One thing tonight is that there was a wide variety of style and delivery – which helps to define for the undecided or first-time voter — what floats their boat.

Jojo A

April 19th, 2012
12:05 am

The songs were …. TOO SHORT. Cramming 14 songs into a show made for performances that never really took off. They probably should have gone with the duets to save some time.

Not a smart decision, IMO.

JTesla

April 19th, 2012
12:09 am

They are always too short Jojo A. They used to be able to fit 10 in 1 hour, so 14 in two hours isn’t too bad.

Just caught Ryan saying “American Bandstand” when he meant to say “Soul Train”, very understandable tonight.

liona

April 19th, 2012
12:11 am

America represents the talents worldwide jessica joshua you got it so well and we are so proud of you no matter what happend tomorrow guys you are already star

Cindy

April 19th, 2012
12:23 am

Jessica is the best,she’s like a professional singer.

Stevee Stayton

April 19th, 2012
12:26 am

I just wish to say to all the Jessica haters out there…ARE YOU ALL TONE DEAF? I want to say that she has a strong voice…she can pretty much do any song she wants. If she is so bad why did the judges, who are professionals, saved her for the show. All the haters I say until you become someone who is on the same level as the judges…listen to the pros on this. Again maybe it is that at the age of 16 she has more tallent than you have had in your whole lifetime. I understand your envy and feeling of inadequacy in failing to accomplish what this 16 year old has already done. I forsee that she one day will cry all the way to the bank as she cashes her royalties from her records. I am saying just close your eyes and listen to the song and forget she is not a kid. Then again I see you not doing this because you know you cannot accomplish what she has. And name one person on Idol who is better. If she does not win Idol, she will be in same company as Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry. She will be just as famous regardless of your narrow opinion.

Chelsea

April 19th, 2012
12:39 am

Overall, great show tonight! It will be tough to pick a bottom 3. I’m not a big joshua or phillip fan, joshua might be in the bottom 3. The other two elise and colton (hope not, love him), Hollie might be there as well, though I thought she did great tonight, so proud of her! My faves for the finale are still jessica and colton.

JTesla

April 19th, 2012
12:39 am

Who is this Allen fellow that is performing tomorrow night? I thought I knew most current artists, but I don’t know that cat.

Gezonheid

April 19th, 2012
12:47 am

This blog has no credibility whatsoever… the bias is just there

Gezonheid

April 19th, 2012
12:49 am

Enter your comments here

Jenny

April 19th, 2012
12:50 am

Wow. Now that was a good show. They are all good singers. In many other years, they’d all be frontrunners. Even Elise and Philip might be at the top of the pack. (I thought they were at the bottom tonight, along with Colton.)

My favorites:

1. Hollie, Rolling In The Deep. — Do some of you **finally** see what Sam, Mercedes and I have seen all along? :-)

2. Hollie, Son of a Preacher Man — really, in ANY other year she’d be the one to beat. She’s got the look, the voice. I think she did great tonight.

3. Joshua, I Believe — Actually, I’ve always liked this song. Ever since Diana and Fantasia did it on Idol for the win. Fantasia’s version with the choir was one of the two times all season I liked her (Summertime was the other.) I even own Diana’s version (though I bought it for “Don’t Cry Out Loud”.)

But anyway, I loved this from Joshua. No screeching or over-emoting, and that’s when I like him best.

4. and 5. Jessica, both songs. My husband had one word for her — effortless. Girl is ready **right now**. I still think she’s the best shot for a girl to finally win, and I hope she does.

6. and 7. Elise, No One, and Joshua, A Change Is Gonna Come. — Josh was back to over-emoting. Adam took this song to church in his season much better. Elise was good but didn’t move me.

8. Elise, Let’s Get It On. — I love the song, but this just didn’t quite fit.

9. and 10. Skylar, both songs. — Dang, the girl surely has a voice… she’s such a little country rocker! She absolutely can sing, but I just don’t enjoy that nasal twang. I do love her joy, though.

11. Colton, September. — The chorus was good, but the verses were totally missing all the lilt that EWF brought, that made it such a great song. He goes from hot to cold for me.

12. Phil, In the Midnight Hour — Finally, something slightly different, and he wore black!

13. Colton, Bad Romance — meh.

14. Phil, the Usher song. I fell asleep. :-)

Jenny

April 19th, 2012
12:53 am

It sounds like I was contradicting myself about Elise above…. but although I personally thought she was middle-of-the-pack, I think she’ll be near the bottom in the voting.

I like her better than Skylar, but I’ll admit that Skylar sure can sing, and is probably more popular.

Dick Lark

April 19th, 2012
12:53 am

Josh and Jess sing in more of a gospel style than soul, to me. Otis Redding was the greatest soul singer who ever lived, and he didn’t use those up-and-down gospel runs like Whitney did, and as J&J do. He just sang it from his soul and let it all hang out. Yes, you can be white and sing with soul, as Elvis Presley did and Van Morrison does; and so does Phillip Phillips. Michael Bolton does not sing with soul; he screams as if he is being subjected to electric shock therapy, and so does Skylar. I still like all of the remaining contestants except Skylar, and I like country music.

JUN

April 19th, 2012
12:57 am

jessica is the best contestant of them all. she is number one….

Jenny

April 19th, 2012
1:02 am

QUOTE:
Mercedes S.
April 18th, 2012
11:28 pm

As for Joshua’s “Change” I kept comparing it to Adam Lambert’s superior version.

Funny, Mercedes! I posted my comments without reading anyone else’s first.. I said the same thing about the Josh vs. Adam versions!

mint

April 19th, 2012
1:13 am

Jessica is the best!!!!!

Albert

April 19th, 2012
1:14 am

Jessica is the second coming of Whitney Houston (the young, clean version). Incredible that her talent is underappreciated. Her and Joshua are clearly two of the best contestants the show has ever had.

Kelli

April 19th, 2012
1:15 am

Team Jessica. that’s all I gotta say….

Seth T

April 19th, 2012
1:17 am

I wouldn’t bet against the “always right” blogger that said Elise will be going home this week. But I see various surveys around the net that are also picking, Skylar, Hollie, Colton, Joshua and Jessica as on the bottom — so should be interesting.

I have learned over time however, not to put much stock in Dial Idol at all. They did have DeAndre the bottom of all 3 categories when he got popped, but otherwise – no cigar.

josh,colton and jessica fan!!!

April 19th, 2012
1:52 am

Bottom 3= Skyler,Holly and Elise

Janice

April 19th, 2012
2:06 am

Phillip and Sklar are natural performers. I would love to see them as the final two, with Phillip winning. Phillip is a joy to watch and never fails to make me smile.

Joshua and Jessica are good technical singers, but their performances always make me feel like I’m wataching a high school talent show.

Hollie is hit and miss, when she hits, her tone is beautiful. I’m just not sure she hits often enough.

Colton and Elise are good, but I don’t think either can win.

miley

April 19th, 2012
2:19 am

i think elise will take an exit tomorrow.my bottom three are skylar,holly and elise

lehua blossom

April 19th, 2012
3:45 am

Go Jessica! keep up the amazing performances…Good luck!

Charles

April 19th, 2012
6:33 am

Jessica is by far the most talented out if all of the contestants. She undoubtedly should
win this season.

Deirdre

April 19th, 2012
7:38 am

Morning!

What a night! Have you been reading the WIDE variety of opinions on here????? If someone was trying to pick the best singer just from the comments on this blog, they wouldn’t know who to choose.

Huge number of fans for Joshua, Hollie, Jessica, Phil, Elise. Also seeing Colton and Skylar fans but not quite as many.

Jubie

April 19th, 2012
7:39 am

Remember Pia. Jessica is this years Pia. She can sing, but not very entertaining. I think someone called it soul.

Jen

April 19th, 2012
7:45 am

Ever notice how all three judges give a standing ovation for Joshua almost every time…regardless of any of the others performance…….He isn’t the best but for some reason they think he is…He is good if you like listening to James Brown type music..Umm I don’t.

Deirdre

April 19th, 2012
8:02 am

All Joshua’s performances are emotional and, with only a couple of exceptions, most of the other singers do not tap into the feeling of the song. I think that’s what makes the judges get on their feet with Joshua. Whether he sings to your taste or not, he emotes in a way that those of us born anywhere near the mid-point of the last century can understand. G talks about old-style R&B music and that is what Joshua is doing. Last night was his to succeed or fail. I think he succeeded.

Deirdre

April 19th, 2012
8:07 am

Here are my picks again from last night. Rest assured that I rarely pick the winner at this point, going more for the interesting singer than the popular one.

1. Phil: I still don’t think he should win because it will ruin him as a musician but he was just so solid tonight that I had to put him in first.

2. Elise: She can’t win, I just think she’s so smooth and easy to listen to.

3. Joshua: This is another unpopular choice but I think he’s really good at his particular style.

4. Hollie: Her first song was amazing. That’s the Hollie I’ve been wanting to hear, However, her second song brought back Pitchy Hollie with a vengeance.

5. Colton: This guy has style and a good voice. He almost always makes his songs interesting and good. His second song tonight was about as close to a train wreck as I’ve ever seen him.

6. Jessica: I would still vote for her because her voice is terrific. She lacks warmth.

7. Skylar: I’m just so tired of her screaming her songs..I know she has a good voice, I’ve heard it. I just didn’t like anything she did tonight.