Back to LA, sports fans! Remind me to tell you all about the medical emergency that caused my 5:50 a.m. flight from Boston to be redirected through Denver. 

But not tonight. Tonight, we celebrate this season's Top 7 and mourn a world without DeAndre Brackensick. In his absence, who will sing with a squeaky falsetto? Who will make the teenage girls squeal? Who will toss his hair with reckless abandon? 

Sniffle.

Based on song spoilers, it appears that Wednesday's (April 11) "American Idol" theme is Current Songs or Songs From The Past Three Years or maybe just Songs Dan Has Never Heard Before.

This could be a disaster... Click through!

Singer: Skylar Laine
Song: "Don't Know How Much I Loved You"
My Take: I've never heard this song before. Apparently it comes to us from Kellie Pickler. Skylar comes out strumming a gui-tar, which is pretty admirable. I don't care if the gui-tar is mic-ed at all. At least she's trying. Also, I don't know the original, but I can guarantee you that Skylar performs this song better live than Kellie Pickler does, because she simply has a better voice than Kellie Pickler does. "Admirable" aside, Skylar's overall performance doesn't really come alive until she stops playing. When she's playing, there's an awkward, scrunched-necked internal side to her singing that's not completely ideal. When she takes her hands off of the instrument and holds the microphone, she elongates and her voice opens up to match. It's a very good country vocal and, as with last week's "Beaches" joint, it's a reminder that when she wants to, Skylar has a lot of range.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "Skylar, you are definitely back," says Randy, who may have felt that last week's performance was a vocal highlight. "That was crazy hot and crazy good," Randy says. J-Lo calls it a perfect way to start the show and says we felt Skylar in her soul. Steven's all, "The crows may crow, but the hens deliver the goods." That's his way of saying that a woman should win this thing.

Singer: Colton Dixon
Song: "Love The Way You Lie"
My Take: Hmmm... I actually have heard this song before. Weird. Colton's going full-on Christian Liberace with a white piano, a string section submerged in fog and what is probably a maroon, pinstriped hoodie, but ought to be a smoking jacket. Colton's determined to offer DeAndre fans a refuge if all they crave is nasal tones and soaring falsetto? He's also doing a very job with a song that is comfortably in his Coldplayification wheelhouse. I have no real complaints about that, other than its one-note earnestness. I mean, the song itself, in both its original form and this interpretation, is basically the same progression over and over and over again. Colton captures the song's yearning natural, but it's not all that dynamic, is it? Oh well. Some performances are meant to be dynamic and some aren't.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "You always surprise me with your approach to the notes," J-Lo says. "Colton still hasn't found his top yet," Tyler says, raving about this and eagerly awaiting Colton originals. Both Steven and Randy love the jacket. Randy thought that the performance was subtle and stellar.

Singer: Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips
Song:"Somebody I Used To Know"
My Take: Musically, this is a good partnership. It's also a fantastic partnership for Phillip Phillips, because it gives him the chance to show an iota of personality beyond, "I yam who I yam." I'm glad they haven't mixed up the duet partnerships, because these two are meant to be together and pairing either of them with somebody else might cause problems. Phil-Phil with Jessica, for example, might be creepy. I'm WAY too tired to process the Salvador Dali "Spellbound"-style dreamscape swirling behind the two singers. Anyway, that was perfectly pleasant.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Steven Tyler loves the song and he thinks they nailed it. Apparently that song is changing music right now. J-Lo feels like Elise won the duet, which Phil-Phil had admitted in advance. Randy also says Elise won. That's OK, because Elise needs to win things like this much more than Phil-Phil does.

Singer: Jessica Sanchez
Song: "Stuttering"
My Take: Nope. No clue what this song is. They aren't putting much effort into choreography, are they? It's Jessica sitting on a piano and doing her thing. Jessica has put miles of distance between herself and the competition within her wheelhouse. You can like Elise more if you want to, but they're not doing the same thing. Skylar's not doing the same thing. Hollie's trying to do the same thing, but she can't come close. Check out those jazzy, nuanced grace notes at the end. Only Jessica can do that. Do I like this song? Yawn. Do I like this performance? Yes. Absolutely. Girl's got crazy range and almost effortless precision and touch.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Randy explains that this was a different arrangement and calls it "superb." "You slayed the biggest fish of the night," Randy says. Who slays fish? J-Lo thinks that Jessica has the opportunity to take America on a ride, but she's hoping to see Jessica deliver a Josh-like ride. "Every time I hear you sing, I forget where I am," Tyler says, also referencing slayage. Randy continues, suggesting that Jessica took down a whale. DUDE. WHALES AREN'T FISH.

Singer: Joshua Ledet
Song: "Runaway Baby"
My Take: It was extraordinarily sweet that Fantasia sent birthday wishes to Josh, but a tiny bit odd that she had to identify herself to her biggest fan. Joshua's making a smart choice here, showing his contemporary side by singing a song from a throwback singer. This ought to work. Right? Joshua can't begin to replicate Bruno Mars' stage presence and his moves, so he's happy to be upstaged by a background dancer and a brass backing ensemble. Vocally, though, he has no trouble at all capturing the tone and cadences of this song. He also hits some massive notes that Bruno Mars knows better than to attempt. It's a nice change of pace performance from Joshua and it gets the judges on their feet for the first standing ovation of the evening. I like Josh. A lot.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "You can sell a song like a work of art," Tyler says, telling Joshua to go bang the background dance. J-Lo loves the energy of a Josh-type performance. "This was an unbelievable performance," Randy enthuses. Randy tries, for the first time tonight, to make "He's gotta have it" or "He wants to have it" happen. Once again, I salute Joshua Ledet's Dad's Mustache, the true American Idol.

Singer: Colton Dixon & Skylar Laine
Song: "Don't You Wanna Stay"
My Take: I want to reassure Skylar and Colton that I don't believe for a second that they're dating and that they actually don't have an iota of chemistry. Part of the problem is that Colton is pathologically incapable of singing a song to another person. He looks right through Skylar. They don't have any connection whatsoever and it translates, once again, to an entirely mediocre vocal. Seriously, he only looks on diagonals just past Skylar. This is completely sterile and neutered, but the "Idol" producers are going to try to push this fake couple because it's a tremendous boon to Colton's desirability and it helps feminize gun-toting Skylar.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "You just made love singing to each other," says the idiotic Steven Tyler. Randy only thought it was "OK." Even that's generous, but good for Randy.

Singer: Hollie Cavanagh
Song: "Perfect"
My Take: Pink has a good voice, but her songs are still 90 percent attitude. Hollie Cavanagh, while a sweet and talented girl, has all of the attitude of a bologna sandwich with mayo on Wonder bread. Dressed practically in a Bjork swan dress and sitting on a stool next to a hipster on an acoustic guitar, Hollie is solid enough hitting the notes -- she still shouts absolutely everything -- but there's no energy at all. This is actually one of Hollie's best performances in a week, but we've simply reached the point in the competition where it's her time to head home. That's no insult. But I'm reasonably sure that Hollie's the only singer who could be voted out tomorrow night without the Judges' Save being used. Yes, that's a big last note she hits, but it's a blunt tool, not a subtle instrument.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "You look beautiful tonight," J-Lo says, before saying that she can feel Hollie fighting and that Hollie sang beautifully. "We'll see how it all pans out," J-Lo says. "It kinda laid there for me a bit tonight," Tyler says with a resigned shrug. Randy says it was a lot better than she was last week.

Singer: Phillip Phillips
Song: "Give a Little More"
My Take: I like Jimmy messing with Phil-Phil and Colton's heads. I also like the results of Jimmy's couching this week, which is a stripped down arrangement that's mostly Phil-Phil on his guitar and a sexy saxophone player. I also sense that Phil-Phil is attempting to tone down the growling for this performance, doing a little more pure singing. It's definitely advantageous. Some of the sameness that began to set in for me with last week's Phil-Phil performance is pushed aside. This is just a fun little show he's putting on when he wants to. It is not, however, one of the best performances we've seen tonight.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Tyler loves the way that Phil-Phil has evolved, comparing him to Steve McQueen and Johnny Cash. J-Lo, however, thought it was just a little bit underwhelming, saying she's seen this performance a couple times previously. "I don't know if it was that 'Wow' kind of a moment," adds a skeptical Randy.

Singer: Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Hollie Cavanagh
Song: "Stronger"
My Take: Poor Jessica. The third wheel in this trio. Apparently. Those are some REALLY pink pants Hollie is wearing. Anyway, this is an inadequate trio. Jessica may have felt like the third wheel in prep, but Hollie's the third wheel when they get on stage. Jessica and Joshua are a great duo. They go back and forth in a duel of the season's preeminent vocal standouts. Hollie's just kinda there.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: Seeing the three of them up there makes J-Lo proud. Tyler calls it beautiful. Like EVERYTHING. Randy thinks it was dope, giving the edge to Josh.

Singer: Elise Testone
Song: "You and I"
My Take: Jason Segel's an Elise fan. That's kinda amusing. Also amusing? Remember how when Haley Reinhart sang this song last season, the judges all took her to task for singing an "obscure" Lady Gaga song? Yeah. That was funny. And the last amusing thing? Jimmy and Elise over-intellectualizing the circumstances that have occasionally put her in the Bottom Three. I'm still gonna give Haley the advantage on this track, but Elise is bouncing back well from last week's disconnected zombie performance. Elise had one requirement tonight: Do well enough to make sure the judges will use the Save on her if she slips below Hollie. I think she succeeds in that goal almost entirely on the strength of her stage craft. She's vastly more at ease in the spotlight. She looks like a pro and sounds pretty good. Elise will get Saved if viewers reject her. I'm pretty confident of that.
Steven, J-Lo and Randy Say: "America, Elise is back," Randy crows, calling it a perfect song for her. "You did exactly what you wanted to do," J-Lo adds. Tyler's happy.

 

TONIGHT'S BEST: It was a sturdy night overall. I don't know that we *really* had any "moments," but there was some decent singing. Joshua and Skylar were the standouts, with Jessica lagging only because of her placid stage presence.

TONIGHT'S WORST: Hollie. 

IN DANGER: Your Bottom Three will be Hollie, Elise and a "surprise." The judges will use the Save on anybody other than Hollie.

 

Agree? Disagree?