Last week’s elimination of Colton Dixon was wholly unexpected (I wrote a blog post the day before he got cut, saying he just might win it all. Oops). Yet at the same time, it was not all too surprising (song choice, song choice, song choice!). With Colton out of the picture, this competition is all but over. Phillip Phillips doesn’t need to do anything more than show up on performance nights to win the title. But, as Freddie Mercury once sang and Skylar Laine will sing, the show must go on… Deadline and TMZ reported that Ryan Seacrest may be too ill to host the show tonight, but there he is at the opening, clearly trying not to lose it. The show must go on… Randy Jackson is wearing a brooch that says “YO.” Again I say, show must go on… This week’s theme: Queen & Contestant’s Choice.
Jessica Sanchez – “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
This looming Jessica Cerberus is unnerving. Yes, it’s an overt homage to the Queen music video, but there are no two ways about it: It’s unnerving to see four Jessicas onstage, three of which are disembodied heads. I’d much rather watch the hot guitar player who’s constantly cut to. As for the song arrangement itself, naturally, it’s extremely difficult to cut the epic “Bohemian Rhapsody” into a minute and a half. So what’s left is a whiplash journey, roaring from a delicate restraint, to shout rock. While Jessica tries her best to assert her way through the rock portion and sounds as powerful as ever, it doesn’t quite all add up.
Skylar Laine – “Show Must Go On” – Queen
Now here’s a build-up that worked much better than Jessica’s performance. I love that this Queen song brought Skylar out of the country lane a little further, while keeping her searing vocals front and center. She commanded that stage, running circles around Jessica, all while simply standing still and belting at the microphone. Easily one of Skylar’s best performances, if not the best of hers. I’m picking up on some Carrie Underwood “Alone” vibes here, which is a good thing.
Joshua Ledet – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen
Fantasia covered this song her season and the judges give Joshua a standing ovation. What else is new? Well, that swanky old-school mic, for one. The performance was cool and relaxed, but at times, it bordered on strained. Hands down, though, Joshua is the best performer of the bunch, working the stage and the crowd like a seasoned pro.
Elise Testone – “I Want it All” – Queen
Elise can play the tambourine, y’all! SHE WANTS IT ALL! This classic-rock performance is just so confident and effortless; a fine return to form, right in her wheelhouse. And look! J.Lo and her “in it to win it” clapping agree.
Phillip Phillips – “Fat Bottom Girls” – Queen
Wait a minute. Didn’t we just hear “Fat Bottom Girls” in the group performance that kicked off this show? And is that a blue shirt I see? What’s going on here, Phillip? Other than those unexpected elements, this performance screams “That’s So Phillip!” It’s another straight-ahead, gravely performance.
Hollie Cavanagh – “Save Me” – Queen
If these lyrics aren’t a desperate plea to voters, I don’t know what is. This awkward red pantsuit / Titanic necklace combo makes her look so tiny. This performance is not as strong or as emotionally connected as last week’s “Rolling in the Deep,” but not as misguided as “Son of a Preacher Man.” So it’s the Hollie we’re most familiar with: middle-of-the-road Hollie.
Jessica Sanchez – “Dance with My Father” – Luther Vandross
Notice how in the pre-package, the other contestants don’t really mention anything about Jessica’s personality… Sorry, Gentle Giant Jermaine Jones, but this performance was significantly more appealing and palatable than yours. It’s a heartfelt and tender melody, but ultimately forgettable…
Skylar Laine – “Tattoos on this Town” – Jason Aldean
Oddly enough, Skylar didn’t quite own this country tune as much as she did the Queen number. She hits the song out of the park by the final notes, however, overcoming any nasal patches she encountered along the way. Even when Skylar picks little-known country songs (see “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You”), she delivers them with such conviction that it just doesn’t matter. We have front row seats to the Skylar concert.
Joshua Ledet – “Ready for Love” – India.Arie
This stripped-down cover showed just the right amount control and vulnerability. But I must say, these standing ovations from the judges are getting tiresome. Judges, you can learn a thing or two about restraint from Joshua. Most of the time, at least.
Elise Testone – “Bold as Love” – Jimi Hendrix
An inspired, if not obscure, song choice. (To quote Steven Tyler: “You can’t pick cherries with your back to the tree.”) While the opening speak-sing lines came off as a bit uncomfortable, Elise powered through and came out on top. No one else this season could tackle a song of this complexity.
Phillip Phillips – “The Stone” – Dave Matthew’s Band
If Phillip’s preordained triumph wasn’t spelled out enough for you, the producers show us that footage of him waking up in bed shirtless. Again. “The Stone” is only memorable for the fact that Phillip Phillips just up and embraced his inner Dave Matthews Dave Matthews. Ridiculous, but not surprising. The more he performs dull, comfortable numbers like this one, the less and less I am okay with him.
Hollie Cavanagh – “The Climb” – Miley Cyrus
Yup. That was Colton in Hollie’s pre-package. I feel you, producers; I actually miss him and his energy too. As Hollie has already sung “The Climb” in her auditions, there’s no hesitation here that’s marred her past performances. This is a solid, age-appropriate song choice that’s simple enough to perform well, yet big enough to impress. And impress she does.
As the judges inexplicably gave Hollie a standing ovation for a song all-too familiar with teenage girls, I believe the time has come for Jessica “I got the first slot” Sanchez’s or Elise “I just can’t connect with the voting public” Testone’s elimination. With a contestant’s choice song, you pick “Dance with My Father” and “Ready for Love”?! That just won’t get you much further at this point.
Phillip “Randy says I’m an artist” Phillips picks an obscure DMB song, but who’s counting? Did you see him turn Ryan Seacrest’s “girlfriend,” Julianne Hough, into a giggly mess?! Ladies and gentlemen, your Eventual Winner.