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Current Sounds

At the top of "American Idol," host Ryan Seacrest reminded everyone that the finale is only a month away. Then he introduced the Top 7, who entered to the cheers of the audience.
This week, Tommy Hilfiger stopped by the mansion to try to take them to the next level with their stylistic choices. From the videotaped segment, though, it didn't look like he was pushing too many of them to leave their comfort zone.

The Top 7 chose songs from this decade, and the videotaped segments showed the fan support from their hometowns (though they didn't get a chance to visit over the weekend, except via videoconferencing). Guest mentor Akon contributed very little to the rehearsals, it seems.

The Top 7
The Top 7

1) Skylar Laine chose a Kellie Pickler song, "Didn't Know How Much I Loved You," and Jimmy was concerned it wasn't big enough, but when Skylar sang it, "she owned it." Jimmy told her she didn't need to take a guitar up onstage, because she should concentrate on singing. For her performance, she opted to take the guitar up anyway. She wore a black and white dress with an uneven hem, and she was surrounded by four barrels with fire in them. Throughout the song, she pretty much belted it, and there were some pitchy parts. The pyrotechnics did not save it.

Randy Jackson said that she was in her wheelhouse and could have a hit with a song like that. He thought the pitch was almost picture perfect. Jennifer Lopez also thought it was perfect pitch. She thought it was a perfect way to start the show. Steven Tyler said he's enamored by the women on the show this year: "The crows may crow, but the hens deliver the goods." [SKYLAR'S PERFORMANCE]

2) Colton Dixon was doing "Love the Way You Lie" by Skylar Grey. Jimmy challenged him on it, telling him that he needed to stand out. Colton agreed with Jimmy's assessment that it will come down to him and Phillip at the end. Do you? You have heard that "Idol" voters like humility, right? Colton predicted that this song might be his game-changer. He performed at a white Steinway on a stage covered with smoke, wearing a red jacket with black stripes and a black hood. A group of violinists in chairs accompanied him. It was one of his best efforts: focusing on the melody, which was difficult with a lot of shifts up and down the scale. The lighting was strange: not sure why they kept his face in darkness.

Jennifer said that she's always surprised by his approach to the notes. She likes that he makes every song his own. She wished it would have been "more of a song," though. Steven loved his jacket. He said that he's so good that, when he's recording, he won't have to do overdubs (translation, please?) Randy said the jacket is "crazy fly." He liked the subtle performance, which he felt was stellar and showed sensitivity. In addition, he liked how it started almost like a lullaby. [COLTON'S PERFORMANCE]

3) Elise Testone and Phllip Phillips did a duet, "Someone I Used to Know" by Gotye. There was a cute video opening where the two of them were mock complaining about working together. Phillip started out the song, wearing a gray oxford shirt and black pants. There was a black and white op-art background on the screens. Elise wore a sparkly tank minidress with a gold and black striped skirt. Her performance was at odds with the meaning of the song, smiling at him as she sang about him screwing her over. "Glee" just did this song in this week's episode, and it was much more emotionally intense.

Steven said he has that song looped in his iPod, listening to it for hours. He said that Phillip should sing with her more often. Jennifer liked the feel that they brought to the song as a duet. She acknowledged there was a bit of an imbalance in the song, with Elise singing "the mess out of it" and Phillip a bit less of a good fit. Randy said that he would give it to Elise, that she'd outsung Phillip. So he said that next time they do a duet, Phillip should choose a song he wants to do. [ELISE AND PHILLIP'S DUET]

4) Jessica Sanchez was next with "Stuttering" by Jazmine Sullivan. Jimmy said that she has a lot of power, and Akon praised her control. Jimmy predicted that, with the right song, there's no stopping her. For her performance, Jessica sat on a piano while an accompanist in shadow played. There was a small flight of steps that rose to her, which made it easier in the middle where she stood up and moved around. She wore a silver and white striped fitted jacket with big shoulders. As she sang, she told the story of the lyrics, channeling the emotion, not smiling until the very last moment. Her nuanced performance was masterful.

Randy liked the arrangement. He found the performance "superb" and "at the highest degree." He said that "you slayed the biggest fish of the night." Jennifer said that Jessica was digging deeper emotionally with the song. In the next few weeks, she wants to see "some Joshua-type performance" in terms of impact. Steven said that every time he hears her sing, "I forget where I am." He pointed out that Jessica was wearing the same shoes as Jennifer. Jennifer quipped, "She's got good taste. What do you want?" [JESSICA'S PERFORMANCE]

5) Joshua Ledet has just turned 20, and there was a special surprise for him: a videotaped message from Fantasia. Alluding to the nickname bestowed upon him by fans, she said, "From Fantasia to Mantasia, happy birthday" and threw him a kiss. He was thrilled. Jimmy observed that one of the most difficult things to find with talent is humility, and if Joshua can do that, "he could be king some day." Wearing a white jacket with hot pink button down, black pants with pink socks and black shoes, he sang a sort of updated soul song, "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars. The best part of it was that, even with all of his moving around the stage, he didn't lose track of either the lyrics or the melody. Nicely done. The judges gave him a standing o.

Steven told him, "You can sell a song like a work of art." Then he asked him how tall he was. He observed that the dancer who was with him was 6 foot tall. "Get her number," he advised. Jennifer said that it was dynamic and had energy. She feels that he's a great performer. Randy thought it was an unbelievable performance for him, and he loved the jacket. [JOSHUA'S PERFORMANCE]

6) Skylar and Colton would be singing another love song for their duet, "Don't You Wanna Stay" by Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean. Colton wanted to make it clear they were not dating: "And that is because she owns a gun." Wearing a black zippered jacket with high collar over a long white shirt, Colton began the song. Skylar wore a ruffled red sleeveless dress with uneven hem. Her portion of the song was a little harsh at times. They didn't have much chemistry, but that's partly because they kept closing their eyes instead of looking at each other as they sang.

Steven embarrassed them both by saying that they just made love singing to each other. He liked the harmonies. Jennifer liked the harmonies, too, and said they'd done a nice job. Randy said it was just OK for him. He pointed out that it was a little pitchy here and there. [SKYLAR AND COLTON'S DUET]

7) Hollie Cavanaugh, wearing a short white showgirl dress with a lace bodice and short feathered skirt, sat on a stool with a guitarist, the two of them surrounded by smoke and lit with gold light. Her performance of "Perfect" by Pink was less halting than her performance the previous week, but she still had some problems with enunciation. More important, she didn't connect emotionally to the song.

Jennifer said that she feels Hollie fighting and wanting to be perfect but "it's not always about that." She said that she's rooting for her. Steven agreed that it's not about being perfect and "it kind of lay there tonight for me" but "you look good tonight, girl." Randy said it wasn't perfect but a lot better than last week and helped to redeem her. [HOLLIE'S PERFORMANCE]

8) While working with Phillip Phillips this week, Jimmy urged him to take on Colton for the girl vote. But Phillip seemed willing to concede that Colton gets the girl vote because "he's a good-looking guy." He wore a black shirt and a gray jacket, playing an acoustic version of "Give a Little More" by Maroon 5. I don't know if he was really trying for that female vote, though, because he wasn't working either the camera or the audience. I don't know the original song that well, so I wasn't sure how much he'd changed it up.

Steven liked the performance and likened Phillip to Johnny Cash and Steve McQueen. Jennifer agreed that he looked like a love child of Steve McQueen and Johnny Cash but found the performance underwhelming. Randy agreed that it wasn't his greatest performance and that it wasn't a "wow" moment. [PHILLIP'S PERFORMANCE]

9) Hollie and Joshua, along with Jessica, were singing "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" by Kelly Clarkson. Joshua started out the song, strutting out in a blue button down with a black vest. Both Jessica and Hollie then joined him, each of them having some trouble with the melody. Jessica wore a white pants suit, and Hollie wore bright pink pants and a blousy white top and long blue feather earrings. While the song wasn't that strong at the beginning, it got stronger towards the end. Most of the time, Hollie was a mess, and it seemed like they were just trying to outsing each other.

Jennifer said that this season of "American Idol" is the season of the big voice. Seeing them up there makes her proud, she said. Steven said they should get together and call themselves the "Hollie-ock-olas." Randy thought they made a great trio but would give the edge to Josh. [JOSHUA, JESSICA & HOLLIE'S PERFORMANCE]

10) In an interview with Ryan, Elise said that she watched a Jason Segal movie with her mother over break. She's a fan, so Ryan surprised her with a taped message from Jason, wishing her luck. Doing a Lady Gaga song "You and I," Elise originally wanted to start out on the drums, but Jimmy and Akon talked her out of that. Instead, she started it at the piano, wearing a little black dress. Then she stood up and rocked it. The song choice was a great one for her, as she imbued it with a bluesy soul.

Randy announced, "Elise is back!" He thought it was the perfect song for her, adding, "America, please know, this girl is very talented." Jennifer said that Elise did exactly what she'd wanted to do: let go but maintained control. Steven said that she took a song that's simple and effortless and made it genius. [ELISE'S PERFORMANCE]

Kudos to Jessica, Joshua and Elise, with a nod to Phillip. The ones most in danger are Skylar, who is starting the reach the limits of her abilities; and Hollie, who has been unable to connect emotionally with her songs. Whoever else will be in the bottom three is likely to cause controversy, since the remaining contestants all have been receiving lots of praise from fans. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Phillip may find himself in the bottom three this week. If either Skylar or Hollie is sent home, the judges may or may not use the save, but they almost certainly would for Phillip.

Current songs give the contestants a chance to show what they'd do on the charts.

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Tags: american idol, music, television

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