The American Idol 11 Top 6 sing the songs of Queen in the first half of the show and a tune of their own choosing in the second half. Plus, the whole gang performs a group number with Queen’s Roger Taylor and Brian May.
At the end of the broadcast, download studio versions of the performances.
I’ll be live blogging all the action at Entertainment Weekly. Join me there, will you? After, I’ll be back with a recap. Watch this space for photos and videos.
I’m not sure how down I am with Queen week. The songs are notoriously hard to sing. I remember Season 5–another really talented cast of singers–having a tough time with the songs. Elise and Skylar won round one, I think. Elise also won round two, and was the best overall.
The second half of the show fared a little better, with the contestants choosing their own songs. Elise was absolutely fabulous. Hollie was greatly improved. I think the thing with these two–they aren’t quick studies. Elise and Hollie’s best performances have been with tunes they learned pre-Idol.
At this point, I have to comment on the double standard at work here. Somebody has got to explain to me what makes Phil Phillips an artist, but Elise and Skylar not. How does Steven and Randy give a pass to Phil to do what he wants, because he’s EARNED it, and Elise smacked down, because she dared to go off the beaten path a bit. In my opinion, Elise exhibits way more “artistry” than Phil does. She can sing her face off and she uses her voice as an instrument. Phil either sings a tune straight up, or takes disparate pop tunes and makes them all sound the same. This is total bullcrap.
Having said that, Jlo telling Phil to play it safe is terrible advice. This is the time when zigging instead of zagging can win a contestant the whole thing. I can imagine Jlo telling Kris Allen that “Heartless” was a stupid idea. Phil needs to ignore that piece of advice.
I’m surprised the judges don’t give Skylar more credit. Especially since the judges seem to have abandoned Jessica as their favorite. They are pimping Skylar hard. Not that she doesn’t deserve it. But early in the competition they barely gave her the time of day. She’ll probably be the last girl standing. But at this point, I hate to make predictions. I truly believe that anything could happen tomorrow.
SEACREST IS IN THE HOUSE. The judges and Ryan came through the back of the studio instead of down the stairs. Ryan looks like death warmed over. But he’s a trouper! Jimmy Iovine is in the audience tonight, but he’ll be taking a break from mentoring this week. E Street Band’s Steve Van Zandt is sitting next to Jimmy.
Ryan is hugging and kissing Jennifer. Whatever he’s got, it must not be contagious.
Roger Taylor and Brian May video package kicks off the show. They give the kids a pep talk, telling them to approach the songs as “just human” rather than worrying about being bigger than life. The two join the Top 6 for a big Queen medley of their favorite anthems, including “Fat Bottom Girls”, “Another One Bites The Dust”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”.
Compared to some of this season’s other group performances, this one isn’t bad, considering all the different voices tackling difficult songs. Having Roger and Brian performing with the group elevated the result.
Jessica Sanchez – “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Jessica’s staging is elaborate. She gets black and white photography and a 70’s style montage of her face flashed on the screen behind her. The performance gives her a chance to show off her tremendous pipes, but she’s not a rock singer. She sings the song like a diva, which is OK, but I wish it had been fiercer. Steven: Freddie Mercury would be proud of that. Rock isn’t your forte. But I still love your voice, no matter what. Jlo: You sounded beautiful singing the song…but it needed to have more of that rock performance. Randy: I loved it. You used great restraint. I thought it was great. When you sing rock, channel a little Tina Turner. 1-866-436-5701, 1-866-436-5707
Skylar Laine – “The Show Must Go On” – Skylar gets a little sitdown with Ryan where she is presented as a singer/songwriter and asked about her original songs. Interesting. This song is a little odd with a twang, and there were a few pitch things here and there, but overall, a good job. Skyler continues to show us that she’s more than just a tough talking country girl. This chick is confident, and she’s fierce, performing the last verse and chorus with dramatic flair. Great finish. Steven: He tells the audience that her vocals were enhanced, unlike the other contestants. That almost sounds like sabotage. Then he tells her she sings real good. Hm. Jlo: I got goosies on that one. You articulate every part of the story. Powerful. Randy: That was incredible. One of your best performances to date. This girl right here–she’s got to have it. Randy thinks she has a shot to win.- 1-866-436-5702, 1-866-436-5708
Joshua Ledet – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Joshua’s performance of this song–the way he works the stage and handles his vintage mic is fabulous. But he pushes his vocals through the whole tune, producing a shrill, unpleasant sound. He needs to learn to relax his throat on some of these uptempos. Judges give him a standing ovation. Don’t think he earned it. Randy: Dude you are so ready, I love you. You remind me of Sam and Dave. It’s like a young Wilson Pickett. Jlo: Joshua part of the show is my favorite. Steven: You have such a classic style. You sound like nobody else. Freddie would love the way you do the two step.- 1-866-436-5703, 1-866-436-5709
Skylar’s been counting. Joshua has had 12 standing Os.
Elise Testone – “I Want It All” – Queen Elise is totally back, y’all. This is a perfect song choice for her. So glad she’s rocking out-it’s where she shines. No more mid-tempo clunkers, OK Elise? Love her raspy vocals. Steven: You’ve found your stride, with a just right song. Jlo: that was you in your element. Natural, sexy. Randy: What a night tonight. That style of song is so right for you. Brilliant. One of your best performances to date. Elise realizes that rock is her wheelhouse, and she just wants to do Freddie justice. 1-866-436-5704, 1-866-436-5710
Phillip Phillips – “Fat Bottomed Girls” – In the hands of Freddie Mercury, this song is total camp. I would have preferred Skyler or Joshua take it on with their tongues in their cheeks, but it wouldn’t have helped either very much. As it is, Phil turns the tune into a perfectly acceptable sh*t kicker. Steven: The bigger the cushion…the bigger the cushion. I love watching you sing. I love watching you run out of breath. Great choice of song. Jlo: Wants to know why Steven is looking at her. Says Phil brings us different flavors. I would not agree with that. Randy: I liked it. If I’m being real honest, I wasn’t jumping up and down. 1-866-436-5705, 1-866-436-5711
Hollie Cavanagh – “Save Me” – A strong vocal from Hollie, despite some little wiggly pitch things here and there. She’s got to learn to sing properly. Bending at the waist while she goes for the power notes can’t help her breath control. I’m feeling Hollie connect to her songs better the last couple of weeks. Probably because she’s less nervous. Steven: I love the way you sing a Queen song that’s an old fashioned song with a strong melody. Jlo: I felt you get emotional in the middle of it. It went off a tiny little bit I want to see you enjoy it more. I still feel like you’re thinking. Randy: You don’t have to pull back as much in this song. Take more chances. You need to have a moment. 1-866-436-5706, 1-866-436-5712
Jennifer thought the winner of round one was Skylar. Randy thinks Hollie has to step it up. Joshua and Hollie were great. Steven is also a big Skylar fan.
Contestant’s free choice is next! Each performance is proceeded by an adorable clip of the singer’s fellow contestants affectionately snarking on them.
Jessica Sanchez – “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross – Jessica is dedicating her song to her dad who is deploying to Singapore with the military soon. Phil snarks that the save ruined everyone else. I don’t like this song at all, but Jessica sings it beautifully. But for God sakes, Jessica. You probably aren’t going to win. Why not step out and take a few risks with your song choices? Jlo: That may have been the best I’ve ever heard that song sang. Steven: I don’t think you can sing a song bad. Randy: I’m so amazed at the talent this year. You are truly amazing to me. Now you got the feeling in there. That’s what was always missing a little bit. Jessica’s dad is going to be here tomorrow.
Skylar Laine – ” Tattoos on this Town” by Jason Aldean- Skylar goes country for her second song, and it’s not nearly as interesting as her Queen offering. But its solid. We know that type of artist Skylar will be. Randy: You hit that big note at the end. I am a ginormous fan. You are fearless. You go after notes. Effortless. Jl0: You’re very comfortable up there. You’ve hit your stride. You slayed it. Steven: I kind of missed the flair, but you can do no wrong. Be careful, get a song that takes your voice to that place. Skylar says she sang the songs for all the folks back in Mississippi. She also happens to have a tattoo–of a butterfly.
Joshua Ledet – ” Ready For Love” by India Arie – A beautifully restrained vocal and lovely phrasing. When Joshua is on, he’s totally on. The judges give him another standing ovation. I wish they would quit doing that. The over-pimping could hurt him. Randy: Another unbelievable performance. You’re so spot on way beyond your age. Jlo: That was transcendent. You snap us right into reality. It’s such a gift. Steven: I go off into another place. I hope the label finds you a bunch of good songs. I smell the finishing line with you.
Elise Testone – “Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix – Holy cow. This song is really hard to sing, and Elise is killing it dead. QUEEN ELISE I BOW TO THEE. Unreal. Fantastic. So much ease and an impressive command of the tune. One of her best performances yet. Steven: You touched my heart. You gotta do songs that people know. But I loved it. Jl0: I feel like you slayed that song so hard, it didn’t even matter. You’re one of the best singers in this competition. Randy: For me it wasn’t the right song for this time. You were boxing with the song. There was so much information. Maybe if it was sung simple, people would have got it. Jlo argues back, “She made it exciting.” Jlo is so right. Randy is so wrong. Elise’s guitar player, Wallace sat on stage and played with her.
Phil Phillips – “The Stone” – Dave Matthews Band – Phil has been compared to Dave Matthews so much, it was about time he just went ahead and did one of his songs. Apparently, this is the first ever DMB song done on Idol. Phil covered it well. Flanked by females on either side, playing the electric fiddle and saxophone, Phil delivered a compelling performance. Steven: Very entertaining, very off the wall. I love that you take chances like that. Jlo: It was a pretty song, it was a little bit too artsy. Each one of you have a shot to win. I get a little bit scared when you do stuff like that. Randy: I have to disagree. You showed your true colors. You’re an artist. Phil Phillips will always be Phil Phillips. So…it’s OK that Phil does an obscure song because he’s an “artist” but it’s not OK for Elise? Ugh such a stupid double standard. Elise is an artist too. We get a shot of Ryan’s girlfriend, Julianne, backstage stanning over Phillip. “Yummy,” she says. Ryan might be a little jealous!
Hollie Cavanagh – “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus – Hollie pulls this old chestnut out of her back pocket just when she needs it. She’s been singing this song for awhile, and it shows. A powerful, confident vocal that gets the judges up on their feet. Randy: Now that’s the Hollie Cavanagh. That we love. Hollie is back! Perfect. Jlo: That was stepping it up. Steven: You sing a song like it’s going out of style. Beautiful. She sang this tune at her audition. It also got her into the Top 40 last season.
There’s time to kill at the end of the show. The judges spend it arguing about Phil. Jlo thinks he needs to play it safe now. Steven thinks he’s earned his right to go off the beaten path. I guess that sort of consideration is reserved only for those with a penis. Randy begs America to vote. Nobody will namecheck a finalist who might be in trouble. Steven is most impressed with Skylar.