'American Idol' Recap: Finalists Take on Queen, With Mixed Results
SPOILER ALERT: Skylar Laine and Joshua Ledet shine on Wednesday's performance show, while Hollie Cavanagh - struggling to break out of her shell -- stumbles, prompting a lecture from Jennifer Lopez.
On Wednesday's American Idol, the remaining six were given two assignments: a song from Queen, and one of their choice.
Some contestants won perfect scores in the first and second rounds, and others missed the mark at least once on a stage solo. All in all, like Jennifer Lopez said, "Everybody had one good performance. It's about who America loves."
If you've not yet seen the episode, and you don't want to know what happens, read no further; if you can't help yourself, read on!
[Clears throat.] Without further ado, we begin with Jessica Sanchez:
The Idol standout, struggling to regain her footing after her near-elimination two weeks ago, kicked off the show with "Bohemian Rhapsody," a presumably perfect song for her operatic power voice. Her delivery was melodic and Beyonce-cabaret, albeit less thunderously show-stopping than the approach of the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, patron saint of Adam Lambert.
"Rock isn't your forte, I wouldn't say it was at all, but I still love your voice ... and you were good today," said Steven Tyler, in prickly form. Meanwhile, Randy Jackson, human catchphrase generator (his latest stroke of genius: "Gotta have it!"), saw no problem with the cover and Lopez wished Sanchez would bring more oomph.
For her personal pick, Sanchez selected Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father," and nailed its velvety tenderness, prompting Tyler to liken the 16-year-old to Whitney Houston and Lopez to dub Sanchez's version of the weepy ballad the finest of the many, many versions that have existed on the Fox franchise.
Skylar Laine sang "The Show Must Go On" -- a plaintive, emo ballad -- with all the professionalism and pluck we've come to expect from the self-assured, Missouri-born firecracker. "It is crazy that you're 18 years old," gushed Lopez, who said she got "goosies" (J-Lo slang for goosebumps), praising Laine's ability to genuinely feel what she's singing (the judge is a sucker for public displays of emotion).
In the second round, Laine -- shock -- picked country crooner Jason Aldean's "Tattoos on this Town," winning three thumbs up from the judges' panel. (It also would not be shocking if Laine were to end up in the grand finale alongside Sanchez, or Phillip Phillips. Maybe Joshua Ledet. Maybe it's too soon, given 2012's talent.
Moving on: As for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," that classic seemed tailor-made for a showman like Ledet, who again slayed the panel with his passionate, throwback vibe.
"Every time you come up, you remind me of Sam Cooke," declared Jackson, to which Lopez replied: "Is it bad for me to say that the Joshua part of the show is my favorite part of the show?"
The Ledet lovefest continued after the Lousiana soul singer's effortless interpretation of Indie Arie's "Ready for Love," which had Tyler saying the 20-year-old was destined for "the finish line."
Elise Testone played the tambourines -- the tambourines! -- on "I Want It All," in one of the South Carolina songstress' strongest covers since Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." As mentor Jimmy Iovine astutely (and harshly) pointed out last week, the 29-year-old is somewhat of an underdog this season, owing to a lack of fans compared with her fellow finalists. She shines, however, when she's in her element: bluesy rock with a '70s flavor.
And in that same vein, Testone took on Jimi Hendrix's semi-obscure, eternally-awesome "Bold as Love," and while it was raw and cool and gritty, Tyler and Jackson were less then thrilled. "You gotta do songs that people know," warned Tyler, in an oddly practical, contrarian bit of advice from a 1970s icon. Lopez argued in Testone's favor, saying: "I just feel like you slayed that song so hard it didn't even matter!"
Season 11's resident dreamboat -- Phillips, now that Colton Dixon is out of the running -- made a innuendo-laden choice with "Fat Bottomed Girls" following Lopez's flirty feedback the week before, when she called him "sexy." (Hey, Stevie Nicks also made a pass at the 20-year-old Georgia rocker.)
"People say you remind (them) of David Matthews," said Lopez, she of the famously ample rear, noting that Phillips put his own original, non-DMB spin on the track. All told, the performance was decent but snooze-y in comparison to Phillips' swoon-worthy "You Got It Bad." [Insert inappropriate comment here.]
For his follow-up, Phillips performed "The Stone" by Matthews, and since it's been a long time since college, we barely remembered the moody track. (Excuse us while we pilfer our closet for our North Face, circa 2000, and Doc Martens, circa 1998.)
"Very entertaning, very off the wall, typical Phillip Phillips," barked Tyler, while Lopez judged the cover as "too artsy" and "too obscure."
Today in Tough-Love Criticism, Hollie Cavanagh got a mouthful from Lopez following her staid, national anthem-y take on "Save Me." But the judge was right on the money, calling out Cavanagh's consistently awkward, inoffensive (read: boring) stage presence.
"When you start thinking of people watching you, that's when you get caught up," she cautioned. "Just go up there and have a good time." (Backstage, Cavanagh -- perpetually polite -- happily accepted the negative feedback. As Lopez suggested, it would be a refreshing change to see the Texas goody-two-shoes get angry. For once.)
Cavanagh managed to redeem herself in the end with Miley Cyrus' "The Climb," which received a standing ovation from Lopez and company. Quoth Jackson: "Now that's the Hollie Cavanagh that we love! Hollie is back!"
In cruelly timed footage, Idol aired a highlight reel of contestants' opinions of one other. Phillips, showing a thus-hidden mean streak, sniped of Cavanagh, "Hollie is just weird. She's just a little mouse."
The finalists sang a medley of Queen hits with Roger Taylor and Brian May, leading a rousing rendition of "We Are the Champions."
Questions, Idol-Worshippers: Who wowed you Wednesday, and who should go home Thursday? Do you consider any particular finalist overrated? Was Phillips too harsh in his insult toward Cavanagh? Talk about kicking someone when they're down.