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Another "Front-runner" Falls

At the top of the elimination episode for "Now and Then Week" (a.k.a. Current Songs and Soul Songs Week) on "American Idol," we saw video of the Top 7 contestants getting ready for the previous night's performances, as well as some quotes from them about how they did.

According to host Ryan Seacrest, the show received 53 million votes this week, the highest of the season.

Colton gets hugs
Colton Dixon gets hugs from his fellow contestants.

For their group song, the Top 7 sang Martha and the Vandellas song "Dancing in the Street." Someone missed a mike cue for Jessica, and she wasn't audible for most of her solo, which at least proves once more that it's live. The group sang portions of the song in the same pairings they used when they did duets a couple weeks ago. At the end, a bunch of brightly colored balloons dropped from the ceiling. [TOP 7 GROUP PERFORMANCE]

For this week's Ford video, the Top 7 went stargazing and spotted themselves in the constellations, in the Zodiac. Some fabulous hair and makeup in that one. There's a contest being run for winners to appear in a Ford video with the contestants.

First up, best friends Hollie and Joshua Ledet were called down for results. In taped comments, music mentor Jimmy Iovine said of Joshua that he stayed in his sweet spot and was very comfortable. He also thought that Hollie came out of her shell last night, but he didn't think she'd stay out of the bottom three. He said that she took a giant step this week, but it would be a tough road for her to the finale. Joshua, however, merely needs to stay consistent and he could make it to the finale.

To Joshua, Ryan said, "Last week, you faced elimination. This week, you didn't get the right number of votes... to put you in the bottom three. You're safe." To Hollie, Ryan didn't draw it out but told her she was the first person in the bottom three. She headed to the tulip chairs.

Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks helped introduce Kris Allen, the season 8 winner, took the stage to sing his single, "The Vision of Love." He played a distressed upright piano on a revolving stage; I didn't know he played the piano in addition to the guitar. Then he got up and walked around, working the crowd. Nice vocals, and the song was catchy. He's grown a lot.

Next to be called to center stage were Skylar Laine and Elise Testone. Jimmy pointed out they had both sung Marvin Gaye songs, and while he felt Skylar delivered, he said Elise fell flat. Because of that song choice, he predicted that Elise would spend some time in "her vacation home, the bottom three, if not going home." He said that, if she stays around, song choice wouldis the only thing that be could help her pull things off. By contrast, he compared Skylar to the Little Engine That Could and said she's getting better and better.

Ryan asked Elise if she thought the judges are tougher on her than on everyone else. Elise said she thought they were and that perhaps it was because she was older, and they thought she could take it. She admitted she finds it disheartening. Ryan told Elise she was in the bottom three, and she bit her lip. Cutaway to her mom in the audience, who looks a lot like Elise. Skylar was sent to the couches, since she was safe.

Next up was video package paying tribute to the late Dick Clark, narrated by Ryan. It included lots of vintage footage of America's oldest teenager, showing him introducing tons of big acts.

LMFAO performed their song "Sorry for Party Rocking" next. They are just ridiculous, but I'm pretty sure they know it. Definitely not a group whose strength is vocals, but at least they weren't Autotuned. A lot of their song had to be bleeped out, though. Trying to be bad on "American Idol"? Wow, we're really impressed here. [LMFAO'S PERFORMANCE; NOTE: The video/audio quality is poor, but it was the only version I could find.]

Then Phillip Phillips, Colton Dixon and Jessica Sanchez were called to center stage for their results. Jimmy said he'd finally realized that Jessica has been singing songs that are too old for her, and that the audience can't relate. He apologized and said that he should have caught that and given her songs more appropriate for her age. He thought Phillip did a great job with the Usher song, but he could take or leave the Wilson Pickett song. He thought that Colton's version of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" was all wrong: from the look to the performance. He thought Colton had looked like a blend between the 1980s or Spider-Man on Broadway. Colton needs to regroup to get in the finale and find better songs. He said that Phillip is doing a good job of choosing songs, but Jessica could use more help with that.

Ryan asked the judges if they agreed with Jimmy's assessment. Jennifer Lopez said that she does, but maybe she doesn't, and she doesn't know.

Then, Ryan told Jessica, that tonight, "Unfortunately, there's no saving you... from the stress of this competition. You're safe." He reminded the audience that neither Colton nor Phillip had been in the bottom three before. "Tonight, that's about to change. The person at risk of leaving our stage tonight is Colton." Phillip was safe. Wow.

Ryan called, Hollie and Elise out as well to stand with Colton as the bottom three. He asked Randy if America had gotten it right. Randy conceded that it hadn't been one of Colton's best nights.

After the judges' comments, Ryan put an arm around Elise and drew her aside. "It was rough for you last week. Tonight, it's going to be rough for you again." As he was leading her over to the tulip chairs, he told her, "You're going to have to watch one of your friends go home." He spun her back towards the couches and told her she was safe.

After the commercial break, it was time for the final results. "The person whose 'Idol' journey ends tonight is Colton." Hollie was safe. Shot of Colton's sister, Schyler, in the audience looking bummed. Ryan asked Colton what the problem had been, and he alluded to the "Bad Romance" song while saying, "I apologize. I wasn't myself last night." He told the judges he would learn from their advice when he's making records.

As Colton sang his good-bye, a Christian anthem, Lifehouse's "Everything," he knelt on the stage in a prayerful pose and reached up towards the heavens. His emotions got the best of him, and he almost cried. Phillip wouldn't even look up for the first half of the song, apparently feeling bad for Colton. So much for the predictions of a Phillip-Colton final.

With both the judges and Jimmy predicting throughout the season that Colton could be in the finals, why didn't Colton even make the Top 5? First, let's look at his strengths.

Colton was a good-looking young guy who appealed to a lot of female viewers as a result. He was also original: consistently putting his own singer-songwriter spin on the songs he performed. In addition, he had a loyal fan base which included not only younger viewers, presumably, but also fans of Christian music.

Of course, like any contestant, Colton had his faults, as well. While he seldom got anything but praise from the judges, his performances could be uneven from week to week. While his loyal fans were willing to overlook a sub-par performance, it failed to attract new voters.

A bigger factor was probably song choice, as this week Colton chose a song, "Bad Romance," that may have alienated his Christian fan base. His second song, Earth, Wind and Fire's "September," was so heavily stylized that it barely resembled the original song. No doubt, that also cost him votes.

The final possible factor was simply that people were voting hard to rescue the contestants they wanted to save: such as last week's bottom three of Jessica, Joshua and Elise. It's always possible that they considered him safe and voted for others, as well.

There's little doubt that "Idol" has given Colton's music career a valuable boost. While he won't have confetti falling on him at the finale, he's likely to find himself fielding offers from Christian music labels, interested in exactly the sort of good-looking, sincere, contemporary artist that Colton represents.

All bets are off: anything can still happen this season.

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 20th, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
It's funny because while I expected him to be safe based on prior performances, he was absolutely the weakest of the bunch this week. So America voted correctly, if you're going on week-to-week performances. Hollie was next weakest, followed by Elise, so I think that was about right.
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
I was surprised, too, if only because I assumed he had such a loyal fan base.

Of course, if Jimmy is right that he was splitting votes with Phillip, it should be said that Phillip had a much stronger night.
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
I think the problem was twofold - yes, he did Gaga BUT it was a horrible version, so that backfired (if the Christian base turned away because of that, they're not very Christian IMHO), and then he messed with MY song (I adopted "September" as mine after watching EW&F perform it at the Music For Unicef Concert in the late '70s, because it was the first time there was a song about the month of my birth) to the point of no recognition. Sad, really, but he'll do well.
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
I'm not a frequenter of the Colton boards, but the comments on his swan song video at AmericanIdol.com had a lot of Christian folks praising him for testifying on a national stage. That performance, though, was an outlier in that it was arguably more sexual than anything he'd done all season. I don't think that's the whole story, but I suppose it could have cost him some of his loyal votes.

"September," though, that was unforgivable. I'll agree with you there. Doing a creative arrangement is one thing; wrenching all the melody out of a song is another.

It's also possible that there was some pushback against him because of all the praise he'd been getting. Much like with Jessica Sanchez, viewers could have been telling TBTB, "I'LL choose my finalists, thank you!"
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:40 pm (UTC)
had a lot of Christian folks praising him for testifying on a national stage

Here's where I have a problem with the whole "I wasn't myself last night." Please follow the logic:

1. The contestants are given a list of songs to choose from.

2. Obviously they choose a song they already know. Or they have to learn it, right? Two possible outcomes here:

A. Colton CHOSE the song in the best case scenario, which means he ALREADY KNEW "Bad Romance" and what it was about; or

B. Colton CHOSE to learn the song and subsequently perform it. He was not replaced by one of the pod people Wednesday night. It was all his doing.

(This is coming from a Catholic who, despite praying every night and going to church only on the high holidays, likes Gaga and does a lot of things the Bible frowns upon, like having tattoos.)

Edited at 2012-04-20 06:43 pm (UTC)
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
You're preaching to the choir here! Believe me, I don't think there's anything inherently "sinful" about singing a Lady Gaga song. It's possible, though, that some of his fans do.

When Colton apologized for not being himself, I read that as meaning that he wasn't the version of himself that he's been trying to project. We also don't know what kind of feedback he personally was receiving: it's possible that he fielded some very negative comments that made him question his instincts. He's a young guy; it's hard not to be impacted by such things.

What I wish for him, truly, is that he gets to a point where he's comfortable owning all aspects of himself. After all, U-2 often include Christian messages in their songs, but they also write about politics and love/heartbreak. That's what broadens their appeal beyond just Christian music fans.

Ultimately, it's going to come down to exactly what sort of artist Colton wants to be. I just hope he doesn't get talked into pigeonholing himself too much. He could probably serve his goals more fully by sticking to a broad-based appeal.
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
My husband wondered why Phillip seemed so upset. I said it's because he's lost his last friend. He's obviously not going to be buddies with Joshua, and he's not that close with any of the girls. First he loses his best bro HeeJun, and then his second-best bro Colton...

...maybe his next pick should be "All By Myself?"
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
It must be hard on him. From backstage videos and such, though, I'd guess he's fairly close to his duet partner Elise. It's not the same as a male friend, though, no doubt.

At this stage in the competition, they're not losing competitors; they're losing friends. I don't envy them.

Hey, at least they'll all be together for the tour!
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's true.
He does seem closer to Elise than to anyone else, but I wonder if that isn't more the way they're being presented to us? I mean, you could tell that HeeJun and Phil genuinely liked each other - they were together since the very beginning group-making. And I suspect that, despite their different appearances and styles, Phil and Colton have a lot in common (same age, both from the South, both passionate about music, both play an instrument - does Joshua?).

I think it's kind of neat that Phillip - who seems like he's kind of gruff for some reason, just looking at him and listening to him - actually wears his heart on his sleeve and can't hide the way he's feeling.
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:50 pm (UTC)
Phillip is who he is; I totally believe there's no pretense there.
But you're right that he probably had a lot more in common with Colton than with Joshua. Also, if Joshua already has a "bestie," he's not exactly looking for another BFF.

To me, Phillip is a classic blues guy: while they tend to be hardy and outwardly tough, they are very in touch with their emotions, too.
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
I personally liked the fact that Elise kept comforting him by rubbing his shoulder. I've done that with my friends many times.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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