Recap: 'American Idol' Top 6 Performances - The Music of Queen
It isn't easy to sing the music of Queen. It's not enough to be a talented singer. Remember when the mentors from "The Voice" did that awful Queen medley last season? Exactly. All four of them could sing, but being able to sing isn't the same as being able to sing a song specifically tailored for the voice of Freddie Mercury.
I'd say that all six of our remaining "American Idol" contestants can sing. But none of them have a Freddie Mercury-style voice. In fact, the guy who seemed most likely to be able to sing a Queen song, albeit with Coldplay-style affectations, was Colton Dixon and America sent him home last Thursday.
Sorry about that, Colton. But what you did to "September" wasn't kind.
Anyway, Wednesday's (April 25) "Idol" will feature one Queen song apiece, plus one seemingly random selection from the bottomless "Idol" catalogue.
Let's see how things go...
There were rumors that Ryan Seacrest might be too sick to host tonight, but there he is, hugging everybody and patting them on the back and touching them and spreading his germs.
Like Ryan Seacrest, I've never missed an "Idol" recap due to sickness. Nobody's throwing me a parade...
The show, meanwhile, begins with Roger Taylor and Brian May joining the Top 6 in a special Group Sing.
Sigh. It feels like Thursday, in that I'm going to go check in on the Bruins. I'll be back.
Singer: Jessica Sanchez
Song: "Bohemian Rhapsody"
My Take: Seriously, y'all. Seacrest is on a stool. He's a trooper. ACK! THERE THERE'S A JESSICA SANCHEZ CERBERUS SINGING BACK-UP! We also begin in black and white. This is so very weird. Lemme tell you, though, this is much better than Constantine Maroulis' "Idol" cover, though it's not especially terrific and I can assure you that Jessica has absolutely no clue what she's singing about. I give her credit for note-hitting and for surviving the three-headed Jessica Sanchez monster behind her. But otherwise? Meh. Gotta get through these first six performances.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "I think Freddie Mercury would have been proud to hear that," Steven Tyler says, though he acknowledges that rock isn't really her thing. Jennifer Lopez loved the vocal, but wanted more "rock" attitude. Randy Jackson, however, loved it, because Jessica sang no runs. Randy recommends that next time she sings rock, Jessica should check out a little Tina Turner. DON'T BARF ON JESSICA, RYAN! AND STOP HUGGING HER, YOU "OUTBREAK" MONKEY!
Singer: Skylar Laine
Song: "The Show Must Go On"
My Take: Skylar's singing the Ryan Seacrest Anthem tonight. Seacrest totally looks like death warmed over. He can't seem to process thoughts. His interview with Skylar is painful. But the show must go on and Seacrest isn't about to let Dunkleman win. That low-energy interview sets Skylar up for a very, very strong performance. She's just standing at the mic belting, but there's so much going on around her that the entire thing seems much more dynamic than it is, an illusion she sells expertly. There are flames and and fiddle players and despite all of the stuff around her, Skylar's voice stands out and never gets lost in the chaos. It makes a mockery of Jessica's total confusion and failure to connect. The teenage female baton has been passed.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "That was fabulous," raves Steven. GOOSIES!!! J-Lo got GOOSIES! She also calls it "powerful." You know what? "That was incredible, dude," Randy says. STOP HUGGING THE CONTESTANTS, OUTBREAK RYAN! They'll understand.
Singer: Joshua Ledet
Song: "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
My Take: It's interesting that Joshua, perhaps the only "Idol" singer with the range to do Freddie Mercury justice is going with an up-tempo song that requires much less of his upper register than one might have expected. On the other hand, up-tempo lets Joshua contain some of his over-singing tendencies. He's he's able to just hold the stage and he does it like an absolutely and consummate pro. He's moving, dancing and working the crowd like an expert. Steven and Randy stand for him quickly, while J-Lo is pleased.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Randy gives Joshua "Four checks" for many things. I have no clue what that means. Randy also compares him to Wilson Pickett. J-Lo loves everybody, but she says that the Joshua part of the show is her favorite. Tyler calls it fantastic and swears Freddie would love his two-step. Ryan coughs and then shakes Joshua's hand. And the disease is spread.
Singer: Elise Testone
Song: "I Want It All"
My Take: Elise knows how to rock and she's even playing the tambourine! She's probably wishing this show was reversed, with the Queen performance last, because this is a better Elise showcase than she's had for several weeks. J-Lo is clapping with authority, as the words "I" "Want" "It" "All" [and "Now"] flash on the board behind Elise. The vocals are a little shout-y, but Elise sounds good and she looks right in this milieu.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Elise gets Steven's second "over-the-top" of the night. J-Lo calls it "natural" and "sexy" and says that Elise murdered the song. "Wow, what a night so far!" says the over-enthusiastic Randy. Ryan can't even figure out how to talk into the mic. He barely makes it through his chat with Elise, who shakes her tambourine through her call-in number. Ryan doesn't touch her. The fix is in! Ryan is trying to take out Elise's competition with his super-germs. And surely a disease that makes Ryan Seacrest wobbly would kill a lesser person, right? Uh-oh.
Singer: Phillip Phillips
Song: "Fat Bottomed Girls"
My Take: Phil-Phil doesn't have the voice to sing the chorus of Queen songs, but the chanting verses are perfect for his growl. Plus with his twisted, guitar-free sneer, he really makes you believe that he's a fan of the fat-bottomed girls. Phil-Phil's got chorus problems and he doesn't seem to be connecting with his ear-piece. I wish he got to do more than one verse, because the choruses are just Phil-Phil holding on for dear life. That was... OK. I think he probably could have dug up a song from that catalogue that he could have truly sung, but he did fine with standing his ground and not shaming himself.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "The bigger the cushion..." Tyler says. "Why are you looking at me?" J-Lo purrs. Tyler loves the character of Phil-Phil's voice. J-Lo loves Phil-Phil, particularly the different flavors he shows each week, specifically saying that that performance didn't remind her of Dave Matthews Band at all. Randy, however, liked it, but he wasn't jumping up and down. Ryan briefly touches Phil-Phil's arm and pats him on the back, but there's no hug or hand-shake.
Singer: Hollie Cavanagh
Song: "Save Me"
My Take: Hmmm... Not a fan of the red pants-suit and the giant past jewelry. But I give Hollie credit for finding a deep-ish cut that didn't require her to rock in the slightest. If only Jessica had been as smart. The suit and garish necklace made this look weirdly like a televangelist revival meeting. There are some *really* rough patches -- broken notes, missed notes, the works -- in the middle, but Hollie guides the song in by the end. I don't care for the energy, but that was OK. I'm pretty much only judging Hollie on a curve.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Tyler thought Hollie did a really good job. J-Lo felt Hollie get emotional and -- Wow! -- J-Lo actually points out the notes that didn't land. J-Lo gives confusing advice from her own career. Something about enjoying herself more. "Well said," Randy says. No. It was not. Randy thought the performance was good, but he wanted Holie to take more chances. Hollie gets a Germy Seacrest Hug.
Singer: Jessica Sanchez
Song: "Dance with my Father"
My Take: Jessica plays the "My dad's in the military and I'm going to miss him" card. This is, at the very least, the triumphant return of The Jessica Sanchez We Like. It's been easy to forget for a month or so, but Jessica has a ballad-ready voice that nobody else this season can match. The pitch and grasp of melody are flawless and the runs are expectly executed. It's not jaw-dropping, but she's still utterly believable. I wonder if this will be too little too late, but it's still a welcome confirmation of why the judges saved her without hesitation.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "That may have been the best I've ever heard that song sang," J-Lo gushes. Tyler compares Jessica to Whitney Houston, but says she does her own thing, calling it an honor to watch her spread her wings. "I think all of you are ready to jump on the charts," Randy says, before praising Jessica to the heavens. Jessica's father's going to be here tomorrow before shipping out to Singapore. Here that America? You can't send Jessica home tomorrow. That would be tragic.
Singer: Skylar Laine
Song: "Tattoos on this Town"
My Take: Jessica's a tough act to follow, but Skylar holds her own for a second time, aided by her handy guitar and a Jason Aldean song that I've never heard before. It is, as we're prone to say, like being at a Skylar Laine concert. I would never actually go to a Skylar Laine concert, but I imagine it would have a lot of spirit and some decent country vocals. That wasn't as good as Skylar's "The Show Must Go On," but it wasn't put to shame by what Jessica did seconds earlier, which is the best Skylar really could have hoped for.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Randy is "a ginormous fan." He decides to take credit for the word "ginormous." Ummm... No, Randy. Goosies? All J-Lo. Smize? All Tyra. Ginormous? Not you, Randy. J-Lo loves how comfortable Skylar is. Tyler missed Skylar's flair, but still thinks she can do no wrong.
Singer: Joshua Ledet
Song: "Ready For Love"
My Take: This is a great song for Joshua's voice, but it's not such a great song for audiences, who may or may not know this India Arie track. This is so completely different from his "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and there's one run at the end, the very closing of the performance, which is utterly breathtaking.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Randy calls Josh "way beyond his age" and calls it "crazy good." J-Lo calls it "transcendent." Tyler, who tried urging the crowd to his feet. "I hope the label finds you a bunch of good songs," he says. I hope audiences aren't confused by a song they don't know.
Singer: Elise Testone
Song: "Bold as Love"
My Take: This is not a good song choice. Why would you do a guitar showcase when you need a vocal showcase and you don't play the guitar? I don't mind the very Joplin-y vocals, which are a nice counterpoint to the two guitarists necessary to simulate a single Jimi, but she's being upstaged by Wallace the Guitarist. Really... I just don't like this as a song choice for a woman with zero margin for error. Great song. Wrong song.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "You've gotta remember: You've gotta do songs people know," Tyler says. And he's correct. He also says you can't pick cherries with his back to the tree. J-Lo understands, but she also things Elise slayed the song. Randy didn't think it was the right song for this time in the competition. He thought she was boxing with the song and over-singing. Elise rolls her eyes and mouthes "I don't agree." Hmmm.
Singer: Phillip Phillips
Song: "The Stone"
My Take: Finally! Phil-Phil just embraces his inner Dave Matthews with a Dave Matthews Band song, though he's doing one of the least affected DMB songs he could find. It's oddly understated, with Phil-Phil giving the spotlight to both a mad fiddle player and to a crazy sax soloist. It's very, very muted. This is another song that feels competitively "off" at this point in the game. You've gotta give the kids what they want and there were five or 10 DMB songs he could have chosen that would have given the kids more of what they want.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "Very entertaining. Very off-the-wall," Tyler says, praising the fiddle player. J-Lo thought the song was too obscure and too artsy. "I get a little bit scared when you do stuff like that," J-Lo worries. "You showed your true colors once again," Randy says.
Singer: Hollie Cavanagh
Song: "The Climb"
My Take: This is going to keep Hollie in the competition. She's giving the teenage girls a song that they actually know and a song that she previously did in her auditions. She knows this song cold and it a lot of the uncertainty that you sense when she's experiencing new songs is missing. It's a good song for her because it sounds big, but it was already contained for Miley's vocal limitations. It's a very sturdy performance and since I'm pretty sure Elise took herself out of the competition, this will only help Hollie's survival chances. The judges all stand.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "That's the Hollie Cavanagh that we love. That's the one!" Randy says. J-Lo thought it was perfect. "You sing a song like it's going out of style," Tyler says.
TONIGHT'S BEST: I think in terms of average score, Joshua was my winner for the night, with Skylar right behind. Jessica had one great performance. Elise had one very good performance. Hollie had one good performance and one not-bad performance.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Jessica's show-opener was probably the night's worst performance. Hollie's Queen performance was pretty weak, albeit not-bad. Elise and Phil-Phil both made bad song choices.
IN DANGER: I think Elise is done. But I've said that before, haven't I? I might guess Phil-Phil and Jessica joining her in the Bottom Three? Maybe?
What do you think?