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American Idol goes modern: How the top 7 handled current music (+video)

American Idol: The top 7 contestants (finally) chose songs from the current decade.  Look for American Idol voters to put Hollie Cavanagh, Elise Testone, and Skylar Laine in the bottom three.

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American Idol moved into the current decade!  This is big news and the producers weren't about to let the contestants take on such a momentous occasion without support.  This week, Tommy Hilfiger returned to his role as the contestants' image consultant to give them some pointers on style.  Namely that they should have it.  Both on and off the stage.  Of course, when edited as a voice over, set to catchy music as contestants frolic in a field of fabric, Tommy's advice at least manages to sound exciting, even if its not exactly profound.

The contestants also had the guidance of the steadfast Jimmy Iovine – who was joined this week by Akon, the support of their biggest fans, the judges (who, based on their wardrobe choices, must have had either a funeral or a Johnny Cash memorial to attend immediately after the show), and as an extra boost of morale, video montages of their hometown supporters.  

All this, plus a duet of duets, a trio, and seven performances wasn't enough to fill the 120 minutes of air time.  Ryan Seacrest, did what Ryan usually does best; stalling for time with ad-lib discourse, a task that is infinitely easier when having it with people who have something interesting or meaningful to say.  That is to say, people other than the judges.  

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Skylar Laine: Last week, Skylar had an Idol moment with Bette Midler's, "Wing Beneath my Wings;" a fact that seemed all but forgotten by Randy Jackson who lauded this week's performance of Kellie Pickler's, "You Don't Know How Much I Loved You," as a comeback for Skylar.  Steven Tyler, then weighed in with his position on the perceived versus actual talent of the contestants broken down by gender.  OK, to the untrained ear, he really just stumbled over a statement about crows and hens but that's why you turn to this blog - for in depth analysis.  The judges' confusion aside, they were right about Skylar's strong performance and almost perfect pitch tonight.  The song was predictable but believable.  B+

Colton Dixon:  Jimmy told Colton that he needed to find a way to pass Phillip Phillip and encouraged Colton to push himself.  Colton performed Skylar Grey's "Love the Way you Lie," seated at a white Steinway in a sea of white mist and accompanied by an orchestra of violinists.  The arrangement of the song, while good for Colton's voice - especially the impressive note mid-song - felt a little sleepy and didn't quite build to enough of a crescendo.  JLo seemed to agree when she stated that she wished Colton picked "more of a song," but she still loved his performance.  B+

Phil and Elise Testone's duet of Gotye's enormously popular, "Somebody That I Used to Know," was prefaced by an amusing clip of Phil and Elise weighing in on the song and their upcoming duet.  There seems to be a real chemistry between the two, strictly platonic, but a chemistry nonetheless.  Last week, this article stated that the duet format was a boon to Phillip and though Elise hogged a disproportionate amount of the lyrics this time, the energy of the pairing revitalizes Phillip and brings to the forefront a charisma that is not often captured by the camera.  Overall the pairing was successful, though the decision to switch off between the first verse and the chorus weakened the power of the song somewhat.

Jessica Sanchez:  Akon proved himself to be a huge believer in Jessica (although he needs to get in line behind Jimmy and the judges) when he declared that she is going to be a legend someday. It's easy to agree with Akon when Jessica takes to the stage and sings with such effortless beauty. Despite Jimmy's apprehension about the unfamiliar song "Stuttering," by Jazmine Sulivan, Jessica insisted she was confident with her choice and she executed it flawlessly. Jessica's performance, however was one that makes a listener sit back and marvel at her vocal abilities.  Technically she was superb, but it would behoove her to take the audience on an emotional journey in which they aren't focused on how great she can sing but on how much she can move them. A-

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Joshua Ledet:  On Wednesday night, the sometimes subdued Joshua seemed to have a sparkle in his eye and a fire in his belly.  By choosing Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby," Joshua freed himself from the power ballad screech and gave us the cool swag that hasn't been seen in many weeks.  It was unfortunate that he never implemented the break in the orchestra that Jimmy and Akon recommended but it was still an exciting performance.  A standing ovation by the judges combined with a video message from Fantasia were a good start to Joshua's 20th year.  B+

Skylar and Colton then took to the stage to perform the duet of Jason Aldean's, "Don't you Wanna Stay."  A song that isn't going to help quell the rumors of a romance between the two of them.  But as the old saying goes, opposites attract and in this song, their vocals were indeed opposites; hers were sharp and his were dull.  

Hollie Cavanagh:  This was one the rare weeks that Hollie's song choice was spot on.  Hollie chose to sing Pink's, "Perfect," and she couldn't have picked a better song to tell the story of her Idol journey, especially over the last few weeks.  This week Hollie escaped the thing that has been holding her back week after week; she got out of her own way and let the lyrics of the song drive the performance.  It was the best performance of hers in weeks but one would never know it by listening to the judges. JLo, who earned her honorary doctorate in blatant favoritism last week, gave the most tongue-in-cheek feedback ever when she told Hollie that she sang beautifully but she could hear her fighting to be perfect, which she then followed up by stating, "We'll see how it all pans out." Apparently Jennifer used up all of her enthusiasm when she was begging the public to vote for DeAndre.  B+

Phillip Phillips:  After being overshadowed by Elise in the duet, Phillip needed to come out and remind American Idol watchers why they should vote for him.  Aside from his twinkling eyes and captivating smile, of course. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts by Jimmy and Akon to enhance his performance, Phillip once again stepped into the trap that will ultimately be his undoing - the trap of stagnation and predictability.  Jennifer said it best when she stated, "I've seen this performance now a couple of times."  Though it was his first time performing Maroon 5, the song, "Give a Little More," only gave a little more of the same. B-

A trio by Joshua, Jessica and Hollie of Clarkson's "Stronger," demonstrated how the lack of harmonies can destroy a group performance.  But the video clip to introduce the performance showed an endearing bond between Hollie and Joshua.  It's good to know Hollie's had a friend to rely on throughout these past few weeks of tough criticism.

Elise Testone: Elise closed the show with a performance of Lady Gaga's, "You and I."  Thankfully the song choice was infinitely more flattering than her nightmare of a dress and Elise redeemed herself after a less than stellar performance last week.  Surprisingly, Jennifer Lopez was able to put aside any hard feelings over Elise beating out her beloved DeAndre last week, and agreed with Randy and Steven's praise of Elise's performance saying, "There's nobody who can sing like you."  A-

Predictions:

This week is a tough call with no real obvious choices for the bottom three aside from Hollie, who probably started mentally going over her checklist for packing after JLo's comment.  

  1. Hollie Cavanagh
  2. Elise Testone
  3. Skylar Laine

As much as it hurts to write, Phillip should be in this week's bottom three, perhaps it would serve as a wake up call, though in the end I think the girl vote will save him from the bottom.

Without the girl vote and without the support of the judges, Hollie will likely be the next elimination.  It will be sad to see her go, but this country isn't going to go for an English American Idol, anyway.  We're still trying to get over the role of America's most famous heroine, Scarlett O'Hara going to Viviane Leigh.

Who do you think deserves to go home tonight?

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