Elise Testone performs.
Before it was time for results, the Queen tribute band Queen Extravaganza performed "Someone to Love." This group which has been personally endorsed by original Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, possibly in part because the lead singer does such a good job of channeling Freddie Mercury. Near the end of the song, Brian and Roger came out to play with the band, wearing white to be distinguished from the black worn by the rest of the group. [QUEEN EXTRAVAGANZA PERFORMANCE]
In this week's Ford video, the Top 6 encountered magic everywhere they went: including an origami frog that comes to life and goldfish in a tank between "besties" Joshua and Hollie forming a heart. Aww.
In a taped segment, the Idols were sent to TMZ to "thicken their skin," with Harvey Levin and the rest of the TMZ staff giving them advice about dealing with the media. One guy suggested to Phillip Phillips that if Jennifer Lopez tells him that he's hot, he should own it. They teased Skylar about whether she was actually dating Colton. They also shared indoor shots of the mansion (messy!). Elise asked how to look like she's not angry when she isn't smiling without looking fake, and they pointed out that one of the staffers at TMZ has the same problem. "You figure it out, let me know," she told Elise. One of the staffers also advised Jessica that if she has any videos on YouTube she's embarrassed about, she ought to remove them. [TMZ VIDEO PACKAGE]
First for results were Jessica Sanchez and Elise Testone. In taped comments, music mentor Jimmy Iovine said of Jessica, "Singing Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was just a plain old mistake." He also hated the staging of it (with the three faces of Jessica on the screen). But he loved her performance of "Dancing with My Father," where he said she really felt the performance. After that segment, Ryan pointed out that Jessica's dad was in the audience for the results. About Elise, Jimmy said that she picked the wrong Queen song, that it was like a monotone and came off "clubby." He thought the second song, a lesser known Jimi Hendrix tune, was also a bad choice: "It's a guitar genius with a very integrated blues vocal. One without the other, it falls apart." He said that Elise is a great singer who makes bad choices.
Hearing that, Elise said, "I just can't win." Ryan pointed out that Jessica looked nervous watching Elise's tape, and Jessica said, "Yes, I'm scared for both of us."
Ryan, after saying that one would be safe and one in the bottom three, revealed that Jessica was safe in the top three, meaning that Elise was in the bottom three. [RESULTS FOR JESSICA AND ELISE]
Casey Abrams was brought out onstage to talk about the Idol tour. When asked for advice, he told the contestants to "watch out for pranks."
Next, Stefano Langone sang his new single, "I'm on a Roll." Wearing a gray V-neck, black jacket, black pants, his ubiquitous cross necklace, and red sneakers, he launched into a club anthem that started out a little weak with just a series of "Ooo-oos." The chorus, "I'm on a roll," was catchy.
Then it was time for Hollie Cavanaugh and Joshua Ledet to hear their results. About Hollie, Jimmy said that choosing the song "Save Me" by Queen might have been a self-conscious plea to the audience, but she tripped up at the end and went slightly out of tune. "Technically, she was a B+." He loved her version of "The Climb" and said it was "as well as Hollie can do. I just hope it's not too little, too late." About Joshua, Jimmy said that Joshua had showed him that he knows how to interpret and can cross over to pop. He liked that "Ready for Love" was emotional and restrained. He predicted that if he keeps delivering like that, it could take him to the final. "If Joshua gets voted off tonight, there is something wrong with the competition, competition, the voting, the entire ball of wax."
Ryan shared a text from India.Arie, who loved Joshua's performance: "Come onnnnn! Sing it BOY. Yes. Whoo hoo hoo hoooooooo!!! I got chills all over. Thanks Joshua. Call me."
One would be in the top three, one in the bottom. Tonight, Hollie was in the bottom three, and Joshua was safe. (Boos from the audience.) [HOLLIE AND JOSHUA RESULTS]
After a commercial break that featured commercials with both Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez in them, it was time for Katy Perry's performance of "Part of Me." She descended from the ceiling on a rope, along with dancers dressed like paratroopers. Very dramatic. Wearing camo shorts, an olive top, a utility belt and sporting bright purple long hair, she looked like an anime character. Of course, she's always a great performer, and the elaborate choreography added to that. The breakdown was lit green, to mimic night vision goggles. Fireworks dropping from the ceiling evoked being under fire at the battle lines (as did the copious smoke). She and her dancers saluted at the end, making me remember the quote from the beginning of the show, from the late Freddie Mercury, talking about how a live performance has to be theatrical. Katy knows that! [KATY PERRY'S PERFORMANCE]
Finally, Skylar Laine and Phillip Phillips came center stage to hear their highlights and Jimmy's comments. Of Skylar, Jimmy said that her Queen version was very good, but on the second song, it was "a little self-indulgent." He advised her that if you're going to do a song for one town (She'd said she sang her second song for her hometown), it has to be a strong enough song. About the judges saying that she won round one, he added, "She got knocked out in round two." About Phillip, Jimmy said that Phillip is having a rough time with not feeling well, and that's compromising his energy. He compared Phillip's performance of "Fat-Bottomed Girls" to the energetic performance of Jack Black and Casey Abrams last year. Jimmy thought it was a mistake to choose a song by Dave Matthews. He liked that the judges disagreed about the song choice, because when they agree all the time "I fall asleep." He thought last night left an opening for "someone other than Philip to be in the finale."
The person who takes the final spot in the bottom three, Ryan announced, is Skylar, meaning that Phillip was safe. The bottom three soon became a bottom two, with Skylar declared safe and sent off to the couches.
After the commercial break, all six were on the stage, to provide support, but Ryan sent everyone away except Hollie and Elise. The person leaving the competition, he announced, was Elise. Well, it was a long time coming: like Jimmy said, she'd practically had a time share in the bottom three. Elise hugged Hollie, and it seemed almost like Hollie was the one who needed comforting. Elise's mike was up, as they went to her tribute montage, and she told Ryan, "Now the good news. I get to sing 'Whole Lotta Love.'" [BOTTOM THREE RESULTS]
After the video, Ryan reminded her that Stevie Nicks had said she wanted to hire her. "Let's take her up on that," he advised. Of course, Elise wants to be a headliner, but touring with Stevie could give her some valuable experience, as well as vocal tips.
As Elise delivered her swan song, a blistering performance of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," the judges danced and sang along. She walked past the judges' table and gave them all a little love. Unfortunately, the performance was a little long, and so it was cut off as the show dipped to black. Fortunately, however, the full performance is on the official Web site (embedded below).
I've had a lot of time to contemplate why Elise, who was one of my favorites, didn't resonate with the majority of "American Idol" viewers, since she appeared in the bottom three on a regular basis. First, let's talk about what she did right.
She definitely had talent, which even her detractors had to concede. In addition, she stood out from the crowd by taking on a sort of '60s rock persona. (Remember, style mentor Tommy Hilfiger once tried to put her in bellbottoms, and she liked the idea.) From week to week, she took chances and didn't stagnate.
However, there were some big negatives, as well. As the judges pointed out last week, Elise seemed to have an emotional wall up, preventing her from truly relating to the audience. Whether it was an essential shyness or a fear of being hurt, she laughed nervously during interviews, gave very short answers when Ryan interviewed her, and more importantly, used performance techniques such as following her notes with her hands that are better received among more established performers. At her level, it could be interpreted as figuratively pushing the audience away with her hand. Before you dismiss that thought as off the wall, consider that the more successful contestants in this competition have, over the season, developed a more "open" body language, opening their arms and turning the palm up, or literally leaning forward. While it might seem strange, the truth is that the mind subconsciously processes body language instinctively, so someone who is continually "closed off" ends up seeming less appealing than someone who's open.
A less questionable reason for Elise's elimination came from Jimmy and the judges: song choice, song choice, song choice. Again and again, Elise chose more obscure songs because she either liked them or felt they would show off her artistry. The truth is, voters want to hear something familiar. It helps them to judge the performance by knowing how others have performed the song. She'll have plenty of time in her career to introduce new songs: this was the time to appeal to voters.
Of course, there's also the issue of Elise's age. While she's not old by any stretch of the imagination, she is in her late 20s, competing against fellow contestants who were up to a decade (or more) younger than her. With that in mind, she should have made more efforts to modernize her bohemian style, which tended to emphasize the age difference. It might have been as simple as an updated haircut and some lowlights to add dimension to her blonde hair, or opting for a fitted jacket one week, instead of another blousy tunic. Style alone wouldn't have saved her, but it could have helped her connect with younger viewers.
Although her fan base wasn't enough to win the show, Elise has enough admirers that she should do well in her future music career. Hopefully, the summer tour will help her to perfect her stagecraft. Maybe when the pressure's off, she'll finally feel safe enough to drop the wall.
There's no magic formula to stay alive in "Idol," but there are trends.