Five remain on the 11th season of "American Idol," and the competition has rarely been this fierce.
Weeks ago, it seemed as though the show had its clear favorites. The Dave Matthews-loving Phillip Phillips was touted as a future star almost every week, as was alt-rocker Colton Dixon. Now, we're two weeks removed from Colton's elimination, and Phillip had arguably the most tepid evening of the "Idol" hopefuls.
In their place, Jessica Sanchez has remained a potential victor despite her near-elimination three weeks ago, but Joshua Ledet gains steam with each week, following last week's superb "Ready for Love" with a rendition of a Bee Gees tune that he'd never heard before he learned it for the show. Even Hollie Cavanagh, once thought of as an inconsistent also-ran by many, is turning in buzzworthy performances.
Unless Phillip's popularity with the ladies holds up, this could be anyone's game.
Wednesday night (May 2) saw the five finalists tackle '60s classics and Britpop staples. Along the way were two group performances, one with the two guys and the other with the three ladies, but it'd just be too easy to make fun of those.
1. Joshua Ledet - "To Love Somebody"
After coming to Jimmy Iovine and guest mentor Steven Van Zandt with a different song choice, the duo decided he'd be better off with a song he'd never heard by the Bee Gees. Sounds questionable, right? Well, within 15 minutes, Joshua had the song nailed down, and took to the stage last night sounding among the best he's sounded all year. Steven said it could be a hit record. I don't agree exactly (I'm still not convinced Joshua will have much radio appeal), but vocally, he was in a league of his own tonight -- yet again.
2. Jessica Sanchez - "You Are So Beautiful"
There seems to be two sides to Jessica Sanchez at this point -- the Jessica who shows restraint and maturity in her performance, and the Jessica who oversings the song to Kingdom Come. We saw both sides surface Wednesday night, with Jessica holding back enough to make her take on "You Are So Beautiful" quite pleasant indeed. A few points off for the performance itself being a bit boring, but vocally, she was flawless.
3. Hollie Cavanagh - "Bleeding Love"
If you had shown me the list of songs being performed prior to the episode, I would have guessed Jessica would take this Leona Lewis track, not Hollie. But where Jessica might have done a little too much with the song, Hollie sang it with the right amount of power but kept the performance itself intimate enough to showcase her voice sans too many distractions. Was this the best she's sounded all season? I think so. Hollie might have a horse in this race after all.
4. Hollie Cavanagh - "River Deep, Mountain High"
Speaking of Hollie... I was worried when the song started, as it happened to be Pia Toscano's kiss of death last season, but combined with her Leona Lewis rendition, Hollie should be fine. It was the first time all season that we really saw her take command of a song and its players, and guide it in whatever direction she chose. Regardless of whether or not her consistent bottom-three placing sends her home this week, America needed to see this side of Hollie, and I'm glad we did.
5. Joshua Ledet - "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
Though Hollie's '60s performance was my favorite, Joshua's was the most authentic. Coming in, one had to think he'd be in his element given the rich catalog of R&B and soul the decade had to offer, and he really delivered with his turn on the Temptations song. He sounded the part, which can be very important -- for instance, if you're singing soul without a soulful note whatsoever, you're going to falter. So the fact that Joshua excelled here is no real surprise, which kind of cuts down on his ranking for me.
6. Phillip Phillips - "The Letter"
Phillip took on The Box Tops' "The Letter" and decided to mess with the arrangement a bit -- big surprise, right? A recurring problem with Phillip is that there's rarely much of a melody with his performances, which I don't think is a great move on a competition such as "Idol," but hey, it's worked well for him so far. Otherwise it's a typical Phillip performance -- guitar-pickin', Wincing, and a decent vocal! If you're already a fan of his, you probably didn't need much else.
7. Skylar Laine - "Fortunate Son"
I'm usually a big Skylar fan, but this week didn't cut it for me. The country vocalist is always solid, this week being no different, but the rock arrangement on "Fortunate Son" didn't do her enough favors. It was high-energy, but Skylar toned down her twang a bit, which I don't really agree with. Stick to what people know and love you for -- in this case, that twang and personality.
8. Skylar Laine - "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"
Skylar started off the season well-known for her country twists on tunes or her solid renditions of songs already in the genre. Lately, she's been faltering a bit on the latter, which can't be a good sign for her. Rather than sounding effortlessly authentic, Skylar sounded as though she's trying too hard to be country, which results in performances with too much oomph. She needs to work on getting that balance she once had back, if she ends up staying for next week.
9. Jessica Sanchez - "Proud Mary"
Can we just retire Jessica from the up-tempo tunes for the time being? There may come a time when the 16-year-old is experienced enough to understand how such a song should be sung, but that time's certainly not now, as we've now seen quite a few times. Jessica often overexerts herself on the faster stuff, losing the pure tone in her voice and gaining a scratchy, rougher feel that doesn't suit her well. She should stick to ballads or modern R&B-style songs from here on out in the competition.
10. Phillip Phillips - "Time of the Season"
Can we agree that the chorus on this song was just not the right fit for Phillip? He sounded fine on the Zombies tune's verses, but the chorus's higher notes found him struggling, attempting to hit them with a thin falsetto that he could barely keep in tune. Vibe-wise, it could have been a cool performance. But those few high notes just ruined it and probably made it Phillip's worst overall performance so far.
Going home: I think Hollie's going to be able to survive yet another week, though she'll probably still hit the bottom two. Skylar, who nonetheless has a promising country career ahead of her, may very well be the one to get the boot after two fairly unspectacular efforts.
Who were the best and worst of the top five last night? Were the duets and trios really that bad? Who's going home tonight? Check out the comment section and tell us what you think!