American Idol’s Top 7: Songs from THIS decade!

Yes, you read that right. THIS… is night we’ve all been dreaming about. Songs from this decade! That’s songs from 2010-12! No excuses tonight that the contestants aren’t familiar with the Rat Pack or Neil Diamond. Thank you, Uncle Nigel, for the opportunity to see fresh twists on fresh songs. Songs from the past three years could either be a trainwreck or a godsend. I’m hoping for the latter. My expectations are guardedly high tonight. Please don’t let me down, Idol gods!

And speaking of current, American Idol has been all about Twitter this season, probably in response to The Voice‘s Social Media Correspondents and coachs’ tweets. Tonight, the names of each contestant’s fan communities were displayed as hashtags during the pre-performance packages and are so ridiculous, I can’t not acknowledge them.

Skylar Laine (#skoutlaws) – “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” – Kellie Pickler
Last week, Kellie Pickler performed on the Idol results show and I proclaimed that I could watch an entire evening of Sklyar watching Kellie. Girl was so giddy and so loving it. So it comes to no surprise that Skylar has cooked up a most fitting tribute to her idol. And again, I commend Skylar for sticking her ground against Jimmy Iovene and busting out her GUI-tar and for choosing a song that isn’t too familiar to the Idol audience. You can feel her passion fueling those homeless camp fires surrounding her. What a striking powerhouse! Of course this blazing performance was tempered with a sprinkling of backhanded compliments from the judges. “It was almost like it was picture perfect with the pitch!” harped Randy. I’m with Steven on this one: “When you sing a song, it’s a complete sentence.”

Colton Dixon (#messengers) – “Love the Way You Lie” – Skylar Gray
For whatever reason (well, for sizing up the female teen vote), Jimmy pitted Colton up against Phillip this week, giving Phillip the edge thus far. This threat of competition must have really sparked something within Colton, as he managed to tone down his over-rehearsed tendencies this week and expose a subtle vulnerability in his falsetto. For the most part, Colton shed his nasal affections and delivered a sincere and piercing rendition of “Love the Way You Lie.” Finally, something from Colton to get excited about!

Elise & Phillip – “Somebody That I Used To Know” – Gotye
This song du jour was a searing duet. While I could have used more chemistry between Elise and Phillip, the knock-out vocals and harmonies more than made up for it. I actually disagree with J.Lo and Randy; I think that Phillip outsang Elise, or at least the song fit his gravelly tone better. “She’s just a better singer than me,” he says. There goes Eventual Winner Phillip Phillips again, raking up humble points.

Jessica Sanchez (#blujays) – “Stuttering” – Jazmine Sullivan
Jessica displayed a spellbinding maturity beyond her years and beyond her fellow competitors. I loved that this soulful performance rid Jessica of her distracting diva antics. Songs from this decade did wonders for Jessica. For the first time in the competition, there was a real sense of passion. This was the most emotionally connected she’s been with a song and it is really quite stunning. Jessica dug deep within herself to give America a controlled, yet effortless performance.

"From Fantasia to Mantasia"

Joshua Ledet (#jjewels) – “Runaway Baby” – Bruno Mars
It’s Joshua’s 20th(!) birthday and he received a video birthday greeting from Idol Winner Fantasia Barrino. Fantasia closing out the greeting with “From Fantasia to Mantasia” – Now THAT’S a movie I’d pay to see in theaters. It’s a smart move by Joshua to show off his funky high-spirited side, instead of taking yet another song to church. And what better way that to vocally slay a current song by a retro-flavored artist! No doubt about it, this dynamic joyride! Randy says he’s “really got to have it” and I begrudgingly agree.

Skylar & Colton – “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Kelly Clarkson & Jason Aldean
For all this talk of showmance (Who came up with those rumors in the first place?! No one wants that.), these two sure lack chemistry. This duet wasn’t the snooozefest it was last week, but sharp and flat notes flew around their heads like nobody’s business.

Hollie Cavanaugh (#holliepops) – “Perfect” – P!nk
Hollie was seen sporting a Team Jacob (Ledet, natch) in her pre-package. Cute! This polished version of “Perfect” was perhaps too perfect and verged on hollow. I sorely missed the grit of P!nk original. But Hollie felt more comfortable this week and hit (bludgeoned?) all her notes while wearing a flamingo tutu miniskirt abomination, so props to her for fashion bravery. I feel like we’ve reached a plateau with Hollie.

Phillip Phillips (#philatics) – “Give A Little More” – Maroon 5
I need to find more ways to say “Eventual Winner Phillip Phillips does the same thing he always does, which more or less works.” Can we please see something different? What we do see is 300% less forehead vein this week, less growling, more singing, so I’ll take that as a step in the right direction.

Hollie, Jessica, & Joshua – “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” – Kelly Clarkson
What started out strong(er) with Joshua’s opening verse, slowly devolved into a cacophonous mess. Where did the measured greatness of last week’s Jessica & Joshua duet go? Boy, did those imbalanced harmonies border on shrill, especially with the girls.

Elise Testone (#theelites) – “You and I” – Lady Gaga
Elise, you are not Haley Reinhart. First, “I’m You’re Baby Tonight,” and now, “You and I”? There is no one else like Lady Reinhart. That being said, this performance really, really worked. Elise brought a fresher twist to this whiskey-soaked bluesy pop song by starting on the piano, leading up to that “you know what I’m talking about!” to the backup singers. I liked Haley’s version better than the original, and I’m thinking this one might edge out Lady Gaga as well. Oh, and here’s something that Elise has that Haley never had: support from the judges.

Overall, this was an amazing night of stand-out performances! I was not disappointed one bit. The contestants felt at ease and performed with a renewed confidence, singing songs in their wheelhouses. There may have only been one standing ovation from the judges (well, just Randy) for Joshua Ledet, but every single solo performance tonight was solid. Granted, there should only be two or three performances a season worthy of a standing O, but this wasn’t the five standing ovations in one night from a couple of weeks ago. There were no real clunkers tonight, save the duets and trios, which continue to be an unfortunate response to the network mandate of two-hour performance shows.

The voting patterns so far this season have been right on the money, weeding out the least successful and least accessible singers in succession. But with seven contestants left, from here on out, we’re bound for some interesting, and perhaps even shocking, results. There are only two weeks left to use the Judge’s Save. Will it come into play soon? There’s no way the Idol producers would pass at the chance for some headline-grabbing stunts. My bottom three predictions: Hollie, Elise, and… Skylar? Joshua? If someone other than Hollie is up for elimination, I’d expect to see the Judge’s Save.

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