"It's an insane amount of pressure for these guys to endure," Ryan Seacrest said about the Top 11 contestants in season 10 at the beginning of the two-hour "American Idol" episode tonight (Mar. 30). The host couldn't have been more right: the singers stepped onto the "Idol" stage tonight knowing that two of them would be departing tomorrow night, and that the judges were out of saves from now on. And after Casey Abrams, the perennial fan and judge favorite, hung onto his spot in the competition by the skin of his beard last week, no contestant could have felt safe six days later.
Those high stakes obviously pushed the contestants in this Elton John-themed episode, and although last week's Motown showdown was delightful fun, the performances on tonight's "American Idol" felt more immediate, and often more rewarding. Some contestants (Naima, James) took dicey risks while reinterpreting Sir Elton's classics, while others (Stefano, and especially Haley) seemed to establish their stage identities -- hopefully for them, before it is too late.