‘American Idol’s’ top 8: In defense of Elise Testone, Hollie Cavanagh

How was the top 8?

American Idol” is really a rather interesting beast as far as performance shows go — for a show that complains routinely about not having a female winner since Jordin Sparks, the judges don’t do a very good job at making things easier on the remaining ladies in the competition.

If the criticism was even, we wouldn’t have a problem with that — but watching Elise Testone get dogpiled for a subpar performance was shocking when Phillip Phillips was given oodles of praise for his, and Hollie Cavanagh was someone given a finger wag for doing the first interesting thing she has done in weeks. At least Jessica Sanchez and Skylar Laine were given some love here.

DeAndre Brackensick – Is the show trying to bury DeAndre? This is the second time in two weeks that the guy has been forced into the starting position of the show.

As for the song choice, we think that DeAndre at least picked a song that allowed him the opportunity to alternate between the falsetto and his normal voice. We’re still just baffled about why no one ever criticizes him, though, for his persistent control is.

Elise Testone – In choosing Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Elise chose a song that Randy Jackson was ready to criticize from the moment she started performing — and with that, the Haley Reinhart comparisons become even more obvious.

If Elise does somehow land in the bottom, we hope that the judges actually do decide to use the save (since it could happen after this) — we just don’t know how you can criticize Elise for her pitch and never do the same to DeAndre.

Phillip Phillips – The judges came (sort of) close to criticize Phillip this week, and it’s time that he does get a few marks here and there. Why? He gets “individual” for a critique no matter what he does, even when the performance is not really that good.

Not only was Phillip having some serious breath control issues for the entirety of this performance, but there were also some major tuning issues that were happening from beginning to end here. Why aren’t the judges saying anything? Sadly, “That’s All” may be Phillip’s worse performance on the show — even if his brother seemed to have fun on stage with him.

Joshua Ledet – Was Joshua fantastic with “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”? Yes, but we are all about comparisons here — and we really preferred Stefano Langone’s rendition of the song last year, which we thought was the best thing he did on the show all season.

Of course, the judges didn’t even mention Stefano as they poured on endless praise here for someone who may not have full deserved every inch of it … even though it was good.

Jessica Sanchez – Now, the issue of song choice really is worth talking about. While we are completely over Jessica giving herself an alter ego name, we love her voice — even with her picking a Whitney Houston song that should have been sped up a bit.

By the time Jessica wrapped up the performance, we were feeling that this night was going to have some redemption to it. However, haven’t all of the acts so far been a bit of a letdown?

Hollie Cavanagh – Somebody taught Hollie to have fun! Maybe it’s just that we got so tired of ballads on this show that this felt fantastic, or really it just was that good.

While it’s obvious that Hollie really don’t know how to actually perform a song just yet, we could really tell that she was trying out there to do something new. In another note to the judges (and as we’ve said at least three times already), why are the ladies the only ones getting major criticism here? We actually enjoyed this performance far more than what Phillip and DeAndre brought to the stage.

Colton Dixon – Colton did a great job with “Time After Time,” even if he needs to learn how to enunciate the word “Time” a little bit better than he did during this performance. (We also found it funny that the judges nearly praised Colton’s drummer as much as Colton himself.)

Now, Colton put himself in a weird position when it came to the arrangement. We knew he ripped off Quietdrive with it, and if he hadn’t mentioned it there would probably be bloggers everywhere bashing him for it. However, he did bring it up, and we wonder whether that could hurt his voting (even though it shouldn’t, since Jessica’s “Sweet Dreams” from last week was ripped off from Beyonce’s live version of the song).

Skylar Laine – During the montage, we saw guns! That’s right — “Idol” won’t address sexuality on their show, but they will address guns.

On a different note, Skylar did a nice job closing the show with “Wind Beneath My Wings.” She didn’t really look comfortable with the staging at first, and the song was (to unfortunately quote Randy Jackson) a little bit sleepy during the first twelve bars. At least Skylar picked it up at the end, hit some big notes, and proved that she has the range of everybody else in the competition. By the end, Skylar managed to turn this around completely. Way to end the show!

Duets

Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine – Outside of this being pretty solid vocally, we have two major observations. First, why do the country singers always get preferential treatment when it comes to whoever picks these songs? Second, why was Colton the only person here who knew to follow the camera?

Hollie Cavanagh and DeAndre Brackensick – Hooray for Hollie! Someone told her to have some fun with a fast song, and she started to. While DeAndre was completely in his element here, Hollie still was a little timid. That being said, this is a vast improvement over what we have seen in the past.

Phillip Phillips and Elise Testone – Easily, this was the best duet of the night. These two had some great on-screen chemistry, and it was also nice to the judges offer some redemption to Elise after completely throwing her under the bus earlier in the competition.

Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet – Okay, so this may have trumped what Phillip and Elise did — what a piece of vocal art. We really don’t even know what to say about this, though we would suggest in the future that these two should go for a more subdued performance to mix things up.

Photo: Fox

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