‘American Idol’ top 7 review: Phillip Phillips and Skylar Laine have a party

Who really stood out?

Emotion. Vulnerability. These were the buzz words on “American Idol” this week, and we really started to understand now why the votes are coming out as they are.

This week, we had a pair of performers (most notably Phillip and Hollie) who stepped it up versus what we have seen from them in the past — but we also were a bit surprised with some of the songs that Jessica decided to perform right after getting the save.

Since we have both modern and retro numbers to talk about, let’s get to it!

The modern songs

Hollie Cavanagh – Finally! Despite having to go first (which is always a curse for any contestant), Hollie came out and performed what was by far her best performance of the live rounds. Not only did she seem confident during her take of “Rolling in the Deep,” but there were some nice little twists to the melody here and there that made it feel less like pageant karaoke.

Colton Dixon – Colton’s interpretation of “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga wasn’t perfect, but we (like Hollie) have to give him credit for doing something with a song rather than just making it more of the same. We’re not sure if he should win, but this is yet another reminder that we want more Colton for at least a few more weeks.

Elise Testone – When it comes to her vocals, we weren’t sure at first whether or not Elise was trying to pull too many tricks out of her bag — but by the end, we loved it. Not only does Elise have to battle when it comes to staying out of the bottom three, she also had to battle a fan that looked like it was about to blow her over at any given moment.

Phillip Phillips – Accompanied by the female saxophone player who is slowly becoming the newest star of the show (fourth judge?), Phillip took the advice of us and many other people out there in actually taking on a ballad in “U Got It Bad.” The only thing he really has to work on here are the facial expressions, which make him look like he is smiling during what is supposed to be a song about heartbreak. If you ignore that, this was a great job and his best performance in weeks. (Saxophone lady hugged Phillip! Someone start a romance rumor!)

Jessica Sanchez – For Jessica’s comeback performance, she chose “Fallin'” by Alicia Keys. Why? We’re not really sure, since this may officially be the least exciting song in the entire history of “American Idol.” It’s just been covered so many times that the mere mention of it incites groans. The great news is that Jessica may have one of the best rendition ever for the song, but we’re not sure this sort of performance will get her new fans.

Skylar Laine – With this country performance of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” we have to smile. Why? Despite few people in the press talking about her, Skylar has delivered consistently strong vocals throughout the entire competition, and this really was one of her best performances in a competition chock full of great numbers.

Joshua Ledet – We know Joshua loves Fantasia, but at the same time we were a little bit confused by his choice of a song (in “I Believe”) that really did not have much of a melody to it at all. We’ve heard this song a few times, but we still don’t have any idea how it goes — and this could be major trouble for him down the road.

Round Two – the “then performances”

Hollie Cavanagh – The moment we heard “Son of a Preacher Man,” the first thing that entered our mind here was “car wreck.” The good news? She proved us wrong! While she still doesn’t have any real idea how to move around on the stage, she at least gave a strong vocal that proved that she is not going to shrivel up and hide from her critics.

Colton Dixon – While we think that Colton is a stellar performer, we also have an issue of personal taste that comes into play from time to time. We really enjoy “September” more when it is an uptempo dance song than an emo ballad. We do feel somewhat bad for him, though — he’s still the only guy without a standing ovation, and he had his first seriously negative feedback in the competition.

Elise Testone – In this week’s edition of “ridiculous criticism by the judges,” what was with that? While we’re not sure about “Let’s Get It On” as a choice for a family show, there was a certain point during the feedback where we literally muted the judges while they shot arrows at what we thought was a flawless and fun vocal. Apparently, we also learned that Jennifer Lopez wanted to see Elise cry on stage.

Phillip Phillips – The saxophone player was back! Most importantly for Phillip, he finished his night with another performance that proved that the guy is still a force to be reckoned with. Is he still only mediocre at expressing his emotions? Sure, but the guy can really jam, and would probably provide one of the best concerts out of any of these people.

Jessica Sanchez – First, we want to sob after J.Lo decided to bring up Jessica’s alter ego (which we will not name here for the purposes of our sanity). Then, we want to praise her yet again for a nice cover of “Try a Little Tenderness.” Unfortunately, we actually felt like Jessica could have done more with her song choice this week to show a vulnerable side. (See: Casey Abrams the week after he got the save.)

Skylar Laine – Yes, this was a bit of a mess, but we give Skylar credit for even going on stage and trying to do something after getting saddled with a theme that does absolutely nothing for her voice at all. This may be the first cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” that we’ve heard in a while that did anything for us, and that is after we thought Andrew Garcia had destroyed it for us forever.

Joshua Ledet – Such a tease! He started out restrained, making us think that he was not going to go big with “A Change is Gonna Come.” Then, he exploded with some crazy notes at the end that reminded us why this kid is so special, and needs to make it to the end of the season if there is any justice in the world.

Based on what we saw this week, we would probably say that the bottom three is probably going to be the first three singers who performed on the night — Hollie, Colton (making his first appearance), and Elise (who will probably go home). Is this the right bottom three? While we didn’t necessary love Jessica’s song choices this week, probably — though we would have to send home Hollie, mostly because her body of work is simply not as strong as some of the others.

Who was your favorite this week on the show, and do you think the people in the bottom 3 last time did enough to save themselves?

Photo: Fox

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