“Save me!” Hollie Cavanagh wailed during her Queen selection on the first half of “American Idol” tonight, but there won’t be any saving, as Colton Dixon learned the hard way last week. And none of the remaining Idols are going to let Jessica Sanchez forget it. During videos in which the contestants talk about the others behind their backs, pretty much everyone complained about Jessica snatching up that judges’ save, now that there are only two weeks left to use it and a handful of contestants in dire need of it. Hollie probably the most.
Other things that people were complaining about: Elise Testone nervously giggling after everything she says; Phillip Phillips always singing like he’s in pain; Skylar Laine being “thick-boned”; and, of course, Hollie’s bizarre Liverpool-by-way-of-Texas accent.
The videos were cute, but no replacement for the always entertaining mentoring sessions with Jimmy Iovine, which were strangely absent tonight. For a moment it seemed like Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor were going to guest coach, but in fact they just came for a Q&A that showed many of the contestants to be self-aware—Elise asking how to deal with challenges, Hollie asking how to loosen up in front of an audience.
Everyone was pretty much on their game tonight, responding in their performances directly to all the criticism/advice they’ve been given, which tends to lead them deep inside their boxes (or, as the new vogue term goes, “wheelhouse”). It was so predictable, in fact, that Phillip Phillips, who always gets compared to Dave Matthews, actually sang Dave Matthews.
Anyway, after the Queen Q&A, we segued into a Queen medley, with Taylor and May playing. Elise definitely stood out as the best suited for Queen material on “Another One Bites the Dust.” Also: “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” So what’s left for the performers to tackle?
Watch: J. Lo and Randy Go Head to Head:
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Ah yes, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was Jessica’s choice. And rather than pay attention to the first half of it, I was busy checking that a cord wasn’t loose from the TV, because the picture was in black and white. But then it reverted to color, about the time that three floating Jessica-shaped bobble-heads exploded behind her on stage, and though I was disturbed by that, I was relieved that my new flat-screen wasn’t a lemon.
It wasn’t Jessica’s most interesting performance, and the judges admitted it. Jennifer Lopez (who looked like a life-version of an Oscar statuette in a gold foil bodysuit) noted that Jessica was wearing sneakers, so why didn’t she run around at all? Randy Jackson told her to watch some Tina Turner videos.
On Jessica’s second performance, which was contestants’ choice, she sang “Dance With My Father,” inspired by her own dad who is in the military and about to be deployed to Singapore. Her singing was beautiful and near flawless except for one thing I’ll point out: 16-year-olds should never open a song with the lyrics “Back when I was a child, before life removed all the innocence…” Jennifer told her it was the best she ever heard that song sung.
Skylar’s better performance came during the Queen half tonight, when she did “The Show Must Go On,” the song that Colton Dixon had said he was planning to do tonight. Wow, Skylar, harsh. Actually, though, she’s super lucky Colton was kicked off, because the song was perfect for her. It was incredibly dramatic and the judges loved it. Her second number, “Tattoos on this Town” was just another country song a la all the other country songs she does. Skylar’s definitely better singing pop songs country-style than just copying Nashville obscurities, I’ve decided.
There. Jennifer said it. Joshua is her favorite. Or to be more precise, “the Joshua part of the show is my favorite part of the show.” She wasn’t even sure she was allowed to be that strongly worded, but there you have it. On both songs, Joshua got standing ovations from the judges, and I haven’t kept track but he’s got to be about 1,999 standing o’s ahead of all the other contestants. His first number, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” inspired Randy to say that he’s “like a Wilson Pickett young dude in the making.” Even Nigel Lythgoe’s enormous bald security guard was bouncing, according to Ryan. Seriously, his stage presence is amazing, the way he holds the mic in his hand, moves around the stage, you almost don’t notice the cheap screen saver in the background. Joshua’s next number, India Arie’s “Ready for Love,” was beautiful. J. Lo called it “transcendent.” He’s gotta have it, Ryan!
Like the roller coaster she is, tonight was up and down for Elise. She was definitely on top for Queen’s “I Want It All,” playing tambourine and rocking it out ‘70s style. The judges loved it. But her next number was a little more self-conscious, probably because she just had to watch a video in which all the others made fun of her for her annoying giggle and the way she pokes at the notes in her runs with her hand. Seriously, Elise was not portrayed in the best light in that intro. So in the performance that’s all you could think about. She still sang great on Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold as Love,” but only Jennifer was happy. Steven Tyler told her she needed to choose a more recognizable song, and Randy felt like she attacked the song.
Always trying to be as predictable as possible, Phillip actually sang a song that was already sung tonight in the group medley: “Fat Bottomed Girls.” He did lose the guitar, but still did his whole red-faced and sweaty thing. J. Lo was happy though: “That didn’t remind me of Dave Matthews at all.” No? Well you know what did? Phillip singing Dave Matthews in the next number (according to Ryan, the first time Dave Matthews has ever been sung on the show—that can’t possibly be true, can it?). The song was “The Stone” and though Phillip didn’t have his usual blonde saxophonist with him, they gave him a cute brunette bari sax player. The background was an exposed red brick, because Dave Matthews is such an obscure coffeehouse type. Certainly not a stadium jam band that sold its artistic soul long ago. When the number ended, the judges all were just kind of sitting there. Seems exposed brick just doesn’t look right in Hollywood.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In her first number, “Save Me,” Hollie believed that she finally “connected” with the song. So much so, that, JLo pointed out, she went all over the place. Now that Hollie’s figured out how to be emotional, she also has to appear to actually like singing. “Enjoy yourself more,” said Jennifer. “It’ll make us enjoy it more.” A half an hour later, she was enjoying “The Climb” immensely, so much so that she got a standing ovation, and actually jumped up and down when she saw the judges’ reaction. “That’s the Hollie Cavanagh that we love,” said Randy.
Is there still a bottom three when there’s only six? If so, my guess is Elise, Hollie and Phillip. I’ve been wrongly predicting Hollie or Elise would go home for weeks now, so probably it’ll be someone totally random like Joshua.