The old met the new on Wednesday night's (Apr. 18) "American Idol," and if the juxtaposition between the performances of soul classics and post-millenium No. 1 hits indicate anything, it's that old-time soul does not fit in some of the top seven's vocabularies, while others may be in fact stuck in times of yore.
The seven stabs at soul finished off what was a grueling episode of "Idol." Two hours, seven performers, two songs each -- it felt like two separate episodes shown back-to-back. If you got through this without A.D.D. kicking in once, I commend you.
Lackluster performances didn't help. With the exception of a few ovation-worthy vocals, the "Idol" hopefuls were "eh" at best -- certainly not bad, but nothing that really gets one excited to blog about it. Of course, Joshua Ledet and Skylar Laine had a little to say about that, turning in solid showings in both hours while playing to their individual stranges of fire-and-brimstone wailing and country swagger, respectively. Conversely, Elise Testone seemed more sure she'll be going home than ever. Where's the fire of her "Whole Lotta Love" performance? I miss it.
Hey, at least those infernal duets are gone this week, right?
We've got a lot to cover tonight, y'all. Let's waste no more time and rank the performances.
1. Skylar Laine - "Born This Way"
For better or for worse, Skylar's always been about putting country twists on songs, though she didn't have as much work to do this week, since Lady Gaga's megahit has already been given the southern treatment in the past. The verdict? Home run, maybe even out of the ballpark. Skylar continues to string together strong performances every week, and the performance, perhaps a love letter to her favorite genre, soared above the rest from sheer character. I can envision hearing this version on country radio already.
2. Joshua Ledet - "A Change is Gonna Come"
As one might expect, Joshua was the class of the field during the second hour. The Sam Cooke classic was the song he was born to sing on the show, the type that accentuates his wide range and powerful, soulful voice -- all while making it seem effortless. The proof is in the vocal run he displays at song's end. He got a standing ovation for this, and rightfully so.
3. Joshua Ledet - "I Believe"
Yes, two straight from Joshua... come at me, bro. The song that Fantasia slayed after winning season three was put to good use in Joshua's able hands, becoming one of the first song choices the 20-year-old's made this year that I felt could actually be his own, on the radio or otherwise. It lacked that 'wow' moment that I'd've loved to have seen, but he did his idol proud. By performance alone, Joshua simply should not be going home Thursday.
4. Skylar Laine - "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"
Got an idea of which two singers I loved yet? The country vibe didn't work as well here as it did on "Born This Way," but it held up well. Then again, maybe I'm just a sucker for a good fiddle. Regardless, Skylar brought a formidable stage presence, which is what sent it over the top. Look out, Phillip and Colton -- Skylar looks like she's mounting a real charge at victory.
5. Jessica Sanchez - "Fallin'"
Jessica's proving to me that she's most at home with modern songs. Her rendition of Alicia Keys' breakthrough hit was one of those "Oh, duh!" moments, a song that you just expected her to sing if she ever got the opportunity. That voice! Those runs! America, this is what we almost let go of last week. After a performance like this, do we really want that to be the case? That question excludes her second performance, of course, which we'll get to much later.