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.
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.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk