Of course, host Ryan Seacrest took a moment to pay tribute to his mentor, Dick Clark, a longtime TV personality and producer who was known for running his shows on time, as well as for introducing many musicians to the public.
The Top 7 came out, and of them all, Jessica looked the most nervous. They would each sing two songs: a current song and a soul song from "back in the day."
The Top 7, once again
1) For her current song, Hollie Cavanaugh had chosen "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele, and mentor Jimmy Iovine thought it sounded great. He liked that she was powerful, but he pointed out that she gets "robotic" on stage. He advised her to focus and think about what she did when she was rehearsing. She kicked off the song a capella, starting out with the chorus. That's an interesting choice. She wore a black sequined pants suit and large dangly earrings, and she was pointing with her finger a lot, probably because she was feeling more comfortable than previous weeks. Clearly her best to date.
Steven Tyler said that she'd finally "come out of your shell and ruffled your feathers a little." He said it was so good "I can't judge it." Jennifer Lopez said that's what they meant when they told her "no thinking." Randy Jackson said it wasn't perfect but close to perfect (there were a couple pitchy notes). For the first time, he felt the feeling and emotion. [HOLLIE'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
2) Colton Dixon, before his performance, got an interview with Ryan, who pointed out that his sister, Schyler, who had been the one who originally wanted to audition this year, watches from the audience every week. Ryan brought her up and asked her what it's like for her. She said it was surreal and adjusted her top a bunch of times (not around cameras much, I'm guessing). Colton had chosen "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. Jimmy said that Colton would need to start low in order to hit the high notes -on the chorus and also advised him to watch the tempo, because if it's too fast "you're dead." He also advised him to look in the camera": "when you look in the camera, they vote."
For his performance, Colton, who now has a red streak in his bangs (where before he had a blonde streak) wore red pleather pants, a black V-neck and a black pinstriped jacket with super long tails. He put sort of a goth spin on it. When he got to the chorus, he hit it the way Jimmy had advised, then lost a little of that energy before ending the song stronger. All the time, pyrotechnics were going off, and a small band was onstage with him, dressed rocker style like him.
Randy didn't know if it was his greatest performance, but he loved Colton's interpretation of Gaga. Jennifer also found it exciting, although she said there were points where it was a little low for him. Steven observed, "You've got to get low to get high." He wasn't sure if he loved more the outfit, the band, or the set (hmm, not the singing?). He told him to keep taking risks. [COLTON'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
3) Elise Testone, Jimmy said, "has a vacation home in the bottom three." He said that she must be aware of the fact that she goes up and down. Jimmy said that she doesn't benefit as much from a massive fan base, and he doesn't know why because she's a great singer. Elise was singing "No One" by Alicia Keys. For her performance, she wore an orange evening dress with a short skirt and gauzy, floor-length overskirt that began to make sense when a fan kicked in and added some drama (it looked a little Mariah Carey). She put her all into it, imbuing the song with emotion, and hitting every note.
Jennifer said that she lets go when she sings naturally. Elise had given her the first "goosies" of the night. Steven told her that he loves her but was wishing that she had a better chorus to sing. Still, he said, "You sang your little tushie off." Randy thought it was a great song and she sang it great. He liked that she didn't take so many liberties with the melody.
Ryan said that her fans love her voice, her candor. He asked her about the hard time she's been having, and she admitted that she's not feeling great and that her dog is sick and might not make it. Aww. [ELISE'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
4) Phillip Phillips, as Jimmy pointed out, hadn't been in the bottom three yet, so Jimmy told him, "Keep doing what you're doing." Phillip brought over his guitar during the rehearsal for an Usher song, "U Got It Bad." Phillip sat on a stool for his performance, wearing a nondescript gray shirt, with a saxophonist, guitarist and bongo player onstage. As resistant as I was to the acoustic arrangement initially, I have to admit I really liked it. Standing O. from the judges.
Steven said, "With you, I never know what we're going to get. I feel like a chump up here." He liked the melody. Jennifer said, "That was so sexy." She liked the arrangement and the fact that he shows his versatility. Randy said he smiles every week when he sees him, because he loves it that "this year, guys, we have a true artist on the stage." He likes that Phillip is both original and himself. [PHILLIP'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
5) About Jessica Sanchez, Jimmy said that "Jessica doesn't deserve to be in the bottom three if she sang 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.'" He advised her that she might need to work on opening up. Jessica was singing the Alicia Keys song "Fallin'." He told her to have a little fun with it and told her she needs a big moment. Wearing a sleeveless white pantsuit with harem pants and a pink belt, along with a chunky big gold necklace, she delivered a soulful version of the song. Just as Jimmy had advised her, she seemed to open up with the vocals, turning in a very skillful performance.
Steven said that, "with talent like yours, you have a right to get mad at a song." He liked the passion of the song. Jennifer said that she's very vulnerable until she opens her mouth and starts singing. She was glad they had a save and used it on her. Randy said he hopes America steps up and supports her, because her talent is "otherworldly."
Ryan asked Jessica what she thought about the moment when the judges stormed the stage and stopped her last week. She said that she thought it was because they didn't like her and were there to tell her "just go home." [JESSICA'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
6) Skylar Laine had chosen to do Lady Gaga's country version of "Born This Way." Jimmy liked it and told her that last week she'd looked like a frontrunner. Skylar wore a white dress with short skirt and a filmy overskirt in the back, as well as a black sequined vest and black leggings. She jammed to the country beat and had some great moments interacting with a fiddler. This song showed her potential to be a real crossover artist. She wins the Lady Gaga showdown for the first round against Colton!
Jennifer found the song to be "perfect for you." Steven said, "I'm so glad you were born that way." He said that she was giving the other girls a run for their money. "A lot of people vote country and western." Randy noted she has crossover appeal and "you are so beyond ready to me." [SKYLAR'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
7) Joshua Ledet was singing one of Fantasia's biggest hits, "I Believe," which was her winning single the year she won. Jimmy asked him to think about how he ended up in the bottom three and told him he needs to think about "What could I do different?" Wearing a red blazer with black lapels and pockets, Joshua stood at the microphone at the beginning, just accompanied by a piano. On the chorus, he was joined by background singers on stage, along with some heavenly spotlights. As a Fantasia fan, I'm not sure his version matched the original, although if you just listen to it, it's very good. Did he have enough of a moment? The judges thought so, and gave him a standing ovation.
Randy liked that he picked a song he believed in and called him one of the most gifted singers they've ever seen on this show. He liked the restraint on the song, and he felt the feeling in the song was touched the audience. Jennifer praised him for "leaving it all on the stage every time." She feels blessed to be able to watch him. Steven told him that he could sing the phone book, he's so good: "There's just nothing to say any more."
Afterward, Ryan pointed out that song had been Fantasia's victory song and asked Joshua if that was "foreshadowing." Joshua looked awkward and couldn't come up with an answer, so Ryan finally moved on. [JOSHUA'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
8) Before Hollie's second song, Ryan interviewed her about her fondness for soccer (which she, being British by heritage, calls football). He showed her a good-luck message from the Liverpool Football Club, and she was absolutely giddy.
The second selections would be soul songs from previous decades, and Tom Cornelius, son of Don Cornelius, the host of "Soul Train," helped Ryan introduce it from the audience.
For her second number, Hollie wore a tight hot pink mini dress with matching shoes, as she sang "Son of a Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield. She had a couple strange enunciation issues, and at one point she looked like she almost fell backwards. Throughout the song she basically just belted it. It was good, but I'm not sure it will be remembered.
Randy had been worried about her doing this song but said that she dug in and "you worked it out." He liked it better than her round one song. Jennifer agreed and liked that she's showing "a new composure." Steven liked it but told her to "take it over the top." [HOLLIE'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
9) Colton's rendition of Earth, Wind and Fire's "September," accompanying himself on a red piano, was much more like what he normally does. The melody felt off throughout the song, and it was barely recognizable, but I'm predicting his fans will love it.
Steven said that his voice was too powerful for this song. Jennifer liked that he did a different arrangement but thought it wasn't the best one for "who you are." Randy also knocked the song choice and thought maybe he should have flipped a L'il Wayne song or something instead (this isn't the current song round, dude). [COLTON'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
10) For her soul number, Elise chose Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." She started out reclining on a white couch, wearing a black pantsuit, which didn't seem so much sexy as casual. In the middle of the song, she got a little growly, and she scatted at the end. Very jazzy for a soul song, and that might be exactly the wrong thing for her, unfortunately.
Jennifer said that she always sounds so good and it's hard to critique her. She observed that she doesn't like to show emotion, but it comes out when she sings, and she'd like to see more of that. Steven thought the song showed her versatility and "you broke a few more hearts." But he said she needs to "take it up a notch." Randy agreed, saying that the song choice wasn't really right for her voice. He thought she oversang it (but he thought Al Green did the original, and the other judges corrected him). [ELISE'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
11) Phillip was doing the Wilson Pickett song "Midnight Hour," wearing a black blazer, charcoal V-neck, and black pants. A small ensemble was on stage with him, and the screens were lit with neon signs. He was in his comfort zone, and he did little awkward dance moves like a young Joe Cocker, just having a ton of fun with it. This was a great song for him, and he knocked it out of the park.
Randy liked it, and praised Phillip for doing what he is. Jennifer said she wants to do that little dance with him that he does. "It's the feeling, and it's the soul, and that's what it is." She also liked his spontaneity. Steven said, "Everybody loves you because of who you are... brilliantly awkward." [PHILLIP'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
12) Jessica sang "Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding, sort of a strange choice for a young girl, because the lyrics are all about how to seduce a young girl. She wore magenta pants, with a little black jacket, and some white fringe on the front of her top. Her voice is amazing coming out of that little body. She got down and dirty this time, got gritty and a bit angry. No one could accuse her of being "pageanty" tonight.
Steven said, "You've done it again" and liked that "you're stepping out." Jennifer said that it sounded like her alter ego, Bebe Chez. She advised her that she needs to think about how to connect with the audience, because "just the voice" is not going to do it. Randy told her to work on connecting with the emotion of the lyric. He liked that she seemed frustrated and disgusted at the end of the song (not sure what that has to do with the lyrics, though). [JESSICA'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
13) Skylar did a country version of Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine," with a background of moving white telephone poles (get it?). She wore a little dress with a silver top and a flouncy hot pink skirt. She just kind of shouted the song, and the arrangement was strange. Not her best.
Randy said that "you and Phillip have no problem connecting and feeling." He said that every time she's on stage, there's a party. Jennifer said she loves Skylar's spunkiness and that she's been doing a great job the last couple weeks. Steven compared her to "a wild horse that refuses to be tamed," whatever that means. [SKYLAR'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
14) Joshua sang "A Change is Going to Come" by Sam Cooke, wearing an all-black outfit that included a black leather vest. On the screen behind him was video of a swamp. He sang a gospel-infused version of the song, and it was a bit overdone. The judges, however, liked it enough to give him a standing o.
Steven said, "You've stretched your voice to the limits of soul." He said that's what made it so big. "Your voice just climbs inside of everybody and changes them for that moment." Jennifer said she still wanted more at the end: "Please, America, don't send this boy home. Please!" Randy thought the song was perfect for him. "You took your time. You let it marinate, and then you burst it open at the end." Randy thought the talent this season is better than any show on TV.
At the end of the show, Ryan asked the judges to sum up. Put on the spot, Randy refused to pick contestants and said that they don't want to lose any of them. Jennifer agreed. Steven also refused to pick out anyone. [JOSHUA'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
Kudos to Jessica and Phillip, and a nod to Hollie and Elise. The big question is: who's going to wind up in the bottom three this time? Obviously, anything can still happen, but last week was a big wake-up call, so I'm predicting that will keep Jessica safe. As Jimmy noted, however, Elise lives in the bottom three, and while her first performance was stellar, the jazzy interpretation of her second song may turn off some viewers (jazzy stylings have never gone over well on "Idol").
I'm predicting a bottom three of some combination of Elise, Skylar, Colton, and Joshua. Sadly, it may be Elise's time to go.
The judges like to find one term every episode (like "emotional") and hammer it into the ground.