There was very little fluff (and not a single Jimmy Iovine sighting! *tear*), so let’s get right to the performances.
Skylar Laine first performed Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” an excellent choice because she was able to manipulate the melody to give it that earnest country feel she’s so good at. And then, holy s*** she channeled the “goosie” power. The song was the judges’ unanimous favorite for Round 1, and it proved she is GAME READY. Her second song, Jason Aldean‘s “Tattoos On This Town” was generic country fare, but Skylar’s combination of vocal power, poise and charisma made the performance entertaining.
Joshua Ledet wowed us with his tender second performance, a cover of “Ready For Love” by India.Arie. He held back just enough to keep from Pacino-ing the song by going into screech mode.
Josh Ledet, “Ready For Love”
For the Queen round, Josh performed “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and gave it a nice neo-soul vibe. Both performances received a standing ovation from the judges because, ya know, death and taxes and all that. We loved Josh tonight, but there’s still something lost in translation over the airwaves based on how the judges squeal every time he graces the stage.
For her second song, Jessica Sanchez did a beautiful, understated rendition of Luther Vandross‘s “Dance With My Father.” The judges have been doubting her ability to make a song connect with the listener emotionally, and this silenced them. Jennifer Lopez said it may have been the best she’s ever heard someone sing that song.
Hollie Cavanagh gave a “meh” first performance, but with her second song — “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus — she redeemed herself, earning her the rare Not-Josh Standing Ovation. Graceful and near-perfect.
Elise Testone started off with Queen’s “I Want It All.” And with tambourine in hand, the season’s most inconsistent performer turned in another enthralling performance. Her voice was made to sing bluesy rock anthems that offer space to improvise.
Man, it pains us to put both Phillip Phillips performances here, but we have to because of bad song choice. First he gave us Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” which is a very fun song, but his take sounded unexciting and monotonous, partly because the vocals in this song are literally (and purposely) monotonous at points. Works when you’re in Queen, not when you’re on Idol.
Next, Phil gave us Idol‘s first Dave Matthews Band song with “The Stone,” which is near and dear to this one-time DMB obsessive’s heart. While it was a very faithful cover, he chose one of the few DMB songs with no singalong “moment” for the listener to grasp onto. In that sense, he left you wanting more — but not in the “don’t stop!” way, more like the “that’s it?” way. Also, JLo said the choice was “too obscure and artsy,” which has to be the first time since 1993 anyone has described Dave as “obscure.”
Phillip Phillips, “The Stone”
Jessica’s first song was the legendary “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and while she didn’t perform it in the back of an AMC Pacer, she did give us this (why in black-and-white, we’re not sure):
The rocking “spit in my eye-eee-eye” bridge was buttressed by two slower parts for her mini version, demonstrating great agility. But she didn’t “let go” during the rock part. It was a good vocal performance, but a mediocre rock performance.
Hollie is familiar with the good vocal/boring performance conundrum, and that’s what she gave us with Queen’s “Save Me.” It was just so obviously a Hollie song: uplifting, choir-backed, traditional. It was begging for a moment, but Hollie never cashed in on it. Her problem is that she performs like a talented but old and boring singer. The fact that she’s so young only underscores the point.
For Elise’s second outing, she performed Jimi Hendrix‘s “Bold As Love.” Sooo, about that “bluesy rock anthems with space to improvise” thing. Yeah she went a little overboard here. Elise somehow managed to make Hendrix sound like Pink at times which, while sacrilegious, was sort of impressive from an artistic standpoint. But we agree with Randy Jackson: It felt like she was trying to beat the song into submission. When you don’t deliver on a song that pretty much defines your wheelhouse, you’re probably going to see yourself in the bottom three.
It was a rollercoaster night, but nobody flew off the tracks.
Best of the night: With her cover of “The Show Must Go On,” Skylar Laine was last night’s queen. (See what we did there?)
Worst of the night: JLo was digging it, but Elise’s rough “Bold As Love” cover steamrolled the groovy blues of the original.
Tonight: Katy Perry and Season 10′s Stefano Langone on the live elimination show.