At the top of the performance show on "American Idol," host Ryan Seacrest reminded everyone that there had been two shocking eliminations in a row. Everyone of your favorites is in danger, he told viewers, reminding them to vote.
This was Queen Week, with the Top 6 tackling some of the best-known songs in classic rock. They would also sing a second song of their choosing.
The Top 6
In a taped segment, original Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May gave the contestants advice, with some tips such as to just feel the music and to remember that the audience is on their side. So true.
Kicking off the show, in an unusual move, the Top 6 sang a medley of Queen songs with Roger and Brian, running through almost all of the top selections and giving a taste of what might come. The two who seemed the most out of water were Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanaugh. Elise Testone was absolutely feeding off the energy, especially when Brian launched into a solo near the end. [GROUP PERFORMANCE WITH QUEEN]
1) Jessica Sanchez started round one with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and was shot in black and white, to play off the famous video; in fact, after the intro, they used multiple close-up shots of her face on the screen, to mimic the video even further. She wore a white miniskirt with a Native American style pattern, paired with a black long-sleeved V-neck and a brown leather vest. Throughout, she did seem to be paying attention to the lyrics and emoting, and did surprisingly well, considering that rock is not her scene.
Steven Tyler said rock wasn't her forte, but he still loves her voice. Jennifer Lopez wanted to see more "rock performance," which seemed to mean running around, especially since she pointed out that Jessica was wearing sneakers. Randy Jackson noted that she hadn't sung any runs in this one, so he credited her with stepping outside her comfort zone. He also compared her to Tina Turner. [JESSICA'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
2) Before her performance of "The Show Must Go On," Skylar Laine got a sit-down interview with Ryan, where he asked her about her songwriting. The song wasn't as "countrified" as some of her other performances, except for a phalanx of violins who stood on the second stage throughout. She wore a sparkly minidress. She was a little shrill near the end, but it was a gutsy performance, and the girl has charisma.
Steven commented on the enhancement to her vocals, which he said added a little shine on her voice (interesting), and he liked her passion. Jennifer said that she got "goosies." She liked that Skylar articulated the entire story. Randy thought it was incredible and one of her best to date. Oh, and "she's got to have it." Sigh. [SKYLAR'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
3) Joshua Ledet did "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," and it was sort of a doo wop/soul version. He wore all black, including leather lapels on his jacket, and he had a black and red microphone that looked like a hairbrush. He had a lot of energy, but it ended up being a little odd. His stagecraft is masterful, but he pushed so hard on the vocals that it ended up sounding forced. The judges liked it enough to give him a standing o.
Randy said that Joshua reminds him of Sam Cooke or Wilson Pickett in the making. Jennifer said that the "Joshua part of the show is my favorite part of the show" because of his inspired vocals and great performance. Steven said he has a classic style and sounds like nobody else. [JOSHUA'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
4) Elise Testone performed "I Want it All" in a short black minidress with a flowing red and white vest that fell all the way to the floor. She got plenty of backing support from the backup vocalists, but it was her raspy rocker voice that sold the song. Definitely the best of the night so far.
Steven said she'd found her stride and that "you sang that like the classic song it was." Jennifer thought she'd been in her element and that she looked great and sounded great. Randy thought it was brilliant and that it was one of her best performances to date. [ELISE'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
5) Phillip Phillips did "Fat Bottomed Girls" at the mike with a full band behind him, and it was a good choice, rather than hiding behind his guitar. He wore a tan button-down shirt over a teal V-neck (color!). He was chained to his mike stand, though, and didn't bring much that was new to the vocals.
Steven said, "It only goes to prove, the bigger the cushion... the bigger the cushion." He said he likes watching Phillip run out of breath (and that's good?). Jennifer answered people who compare him to Dave Matthews saying that this wasn't like Dave Matthews. Randy said that he wasn't "jumping out of his chair," but it was good. Ryan teased Randy that he'd never actually seen him jump out of his chair, but he's probably forgotten all the standing ovations the judges are delivering this season. Remember when those used to mean something? [PHILLIP'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
6) Hollie Cavanaugh finished off the Queen round with "Save Me," wearing a red satin jacket suit over a black scoop-neck shirt. This song was not a surprising choice for her, since it is a traditional ballad. But she stripped all the emotion and passion out of the original. Again, the question becomes how much can she really identify with the lyrics (unless she's asking America to save her with their votes).
Steven said it's an old-fashioned song with strong melody, and she did a good job. Jennifer thought she got emotional in the middle of it. She wants to see her enjoy it more and still accused her of overthinking her performance. Randy said that the song didn't have a "moment," and that she really needed that. [HOLLIE'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
When asked who won round one, Jennifer declared, "Skylar." (Not Elise???) When asked who needed to step it up, Randy said that Hollie did. He added that Elise and Joshua were great.
7) Jessica chose "Dance with My Father" by Luther Vandross for her second song in honor of her father, who would be deployed overseas again soon, in Singapore. In a videotaped segment, the other idols talked about Jessica, in a very cute, funny segment. The others picked on her because she has to attend classes during the competition, since she's still in school. For her performance, she wore a lemon yellow knee-length dress and sat on a bank of three steps while silhouettes of fathers with children projected on the back screen. She clearly connected with the lyrics of this one.
Jennifer said that might have been the best she'd ever heard that song sung. Steven also liked it, and Randy said that she's a natural. He agreed with Jessica about the feeling. "You know what's wrong with it? Absolutely nothing." [JESSICA'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
8) Skylar, according to the other contestants, is a firecracker and a "tough girl." She sang a country song, Jason Aldean's "Tattoos on This Town," wearing an off-white sleeveless dress and playing her guitar. She was in her wheelhouse, but that also meant that it might have seemed too easy and safe to some voters.
Randy called it another great performance. Jennifer said she's hit her stride. Steven missed the "flair" but thought she can do no wrong. He advised her to look for better songs. [SKYLAR'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
9) Joshua sang "I'm Ready for Love" by India.Arie, wearing a white T-shirt, brown leather jacket and jeans, with a black scarf draped around his neck. He ought to consider dressing this way more often: it seems more natural for him. This was one of his best performances: both subtle and evocative.
Randy said that he's beyond his age in singing and talent. Jennifer found it transcendent. "You snap us right into reality." This meant, she explained, that his voice pulls people out of their daydreams and forces them to listen. Steven agreed, adding that after the song snaps him into reality, it takes him on a musical journey. [JOSHUA'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
10) For her second number, Elise sang a Jimi Hendrix song, "Bold as Love," wearing a blue tube dress with a yellow tie dyed scarf that extended from her wrist to the hem. Now, while Jimi wasn't know for his vocals, he wrote some very complicated melodies that are notoriously hard to sing, and she knocked it out of the park. Incredible.
Steven told her "you can't pick the cherries with your back to the tree" and schooled her, saying she has to pick a familiar song. Jennifer said that she slayed that song "so hard that it didn't even matter" about the song choice. Randy is both a huge Hendrix fan and a huge Elise fan. He felt like she was "attacking" the song, though, that she was fighting with it. [ELISE'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
11) According to his peers, Phillip is sarcastic and is "not attractive" when he sings. He made a weird song choice, "The Stone" by Dave Matthews Band. Obviously, he's a fan of the Dave Matthews Band, but he could have opted for a song that people know better. It was a very labored, plodding arrangement at the beginning. He played his guitar, with a saxophonist and violinist onstage with him. He wore a short-sleeved black shirt (because this song showed his darker side, maybe?)
Steven found it entertaining and loves that Phillip takes chances (whereas, Elise was counseled to choose a familiar song? Hmm). Jennifer found it "a little bit too artsy." Randy liked that he showed his true colors and declared "You’re an artist." [PHILLIP'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
12) For her second song, Hollie did "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus, a song she knows extremely well, leading to a lot of confidence. She wore a knee-length dress with a fitted gold halter top and a black flared skirt with gold edging. She got dry ice for a lot of atmosphere. Randy declared that "Hollie is back!" Jennifer praised her for "stepping it up." Steven said, "You sing a song like it’s going out of style. Beautiful."
In an interview with Ryan afterwards, she reminded viewers that she sang this tune at her audition and that it also got her into the Top 40 last season. So I guess that's why she knows it so well. [HOLLIE'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
Kudos to Elise and a nod to Joshua and Jessica. With only six contestants left, no one is safe from elimination. The most likely to end up in the bottom three are Hollie, Phillip and Skylar. Hollie could be there just because she seems to end up in the bottom three even on weeks where she has stronger performances. Jessica is probably safe, but if people vote for Hollie over her, she could end up in the bottom instead. Joshua was probably saved from the bottom three from his second performance. Phillip, however, had a weaker first-round performance and then did a song few people recognize. Plus, there could be a backlash against him because the judges keep praising him. Skylar could also suffer from such a backlash, but since country tends to get a lot of support, she's probably safe.
That means that it could be Hollie headed home, at last.
Queen really love "Idol," and this show demonstrates why.