At this point in the competition, are obscure songs still an "American Idol" no-no?
I asked that question during Wednesday's episode of "Idol," when the top six singers each performed two songs: one Queen song, and one tune of their choice.
We heard plenty of well-known songs, everything from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" to Miley Cyrus' "The Climb."
But Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips were criticized for choosing obscure, arguably "artsy," songs during the free-choice round.
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Elise opted for "Bold as Love" by Jimi Hendrix, while Phillip sang "The Stone" by Dave Matthews Band. To some extent, the judges' advice didn't add up.
For example, Randy Jackson told Elise she made a bad decision "for this time in the competition," but praised Phillip Phillips for showing his "artist side."
Confused? Join the club. Either way, I think Elise could be in trouble this week. But what do I know? I said the same thing last week.
Wednesday's episode was pretty solid overall, even amid Ryan Seacrest's pre-show drama.
Were the judges a little too excessive with their praise at points? Yes.
I'd put Skylar at No. 1 for the night, but all the performances had strong moments. Even Hollie Cavanagh got a standing ovation from the judges when she closed the night with "The Climb."
Here's a full recap of the show.
Things kick off with a group medley of nearly every major Queen song. Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen accompany the top six. It's good, but isn't this kind of thing better suited for the results show? Not sure if I needed this medley right before an hour of Queen covers.
Now, the individual performances:
Jessica Sanchez, "Bohemian Rhapsody": Hmm. Not my favorite song choice for Jessica. This is a hard song to perform on "Idol" simply due to time constraints. You end up cutting it in a way that detracts from the original appeal of the song. Jessica doesn't have any major vocal problems, but she could use a little more "edge" on this one. The arrangement doesn't do her any favors. The song gets too big too quickly.
Steven: "Rock isn't your forte, I wouldn't say it was at all."
Jennifer: "You sounded beautiful singing the song...It needed to have a little bit more of that rock performance."
Randy: "I actually loved it."
Skylar Laine, "The Show Must Go On": It's not an "Idol" party until we have fire on stage. Or, um, lights resembling fire. Either way, we get some quasi-pyrotechnics during this performance. Special effects aside, Skylar surprises me. It's a solid, entertaining performance that shows a good amount of personality and attitude. Skylar really takes command of the stage tonight and hooks my attention. Very nice overall.
Steven: "Skylar, that was over the top."
Jennifer: "It was powerful. It was great."
Randy: "That was incredible, dude."
Joshua Ledet, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love": Wow, Joshua is TOTALLY being Mantasia tonight. Remember, Fantasia sang this song on "Idol." Joshua delivers a good, soulful performance that's predictably packed with lots of his signature big notes. I enjoy it, though I feel like Joshua over-sings some portions of the song. I'm glad he chose a fast song again. The judges give him a standing ovation.
Randy: Loved it
Jennifer: Says Joshua's part is her favorite portion of "Idol."
Steven: Loved it
(Sorry for the lack of exact comments on this one, a cat stepped on my computer and deleted my file.)
Elise Testone, "I Want It All": Can Elise escape her "vacation home" in the bottom three? Well, she at least seems on the right track by sticking with the rock route. It's a pretty good performance, but I wonder if the song choice will hurt Elise at all. The younger "Idol" viewers aren't likely to know this song as well as, say, "Bohemian Rhapsody." That aside, Elise seems comfortable tonight and I enjoy her tambourine.
Steven: "You found your stride...I really enjoyed that."
Jennifer: "To me, that was you in your element."
Randy: "That was unbelievable as well."
Phillip Phillips, "Fat Bottomed Girls": Of course Phillip chose this song. Of course. Hey, I'll give him props. I appreciate the song choice. Vocally, I'd classify it as "fun." Phillip takes the stage sans guitar. His limitations are a little more apparent, given the big notes that contestants hit in earlier performances. Not my favorite performance from Phillip, but not my least favorite, either. And I still love the song choice.
Steven: "It was great, beautiful."
Jennifer: Loved it
Randy: "Was I jumping up and down? No...It was good."
Hollie Cavanagh, "Save Me": Forget about my criticism of Elise's song choice. Hollie really went with an obscure song this week. It's not the wisest move, since her fan base already seems a little shaky. I think Hollie has a great voice...her song choices are just a little off. This is not the best choice for a week when you're coming off a stint in the bottom three. Summary? Pretty forgettable, though I think Hollie deserves more credit than she usually gets from the judges.
Steven: "I think you did a really good job with it."
Jennifer: "I want to see you enjoy it more."
Randy: "I think it was a good performance."
Jessica Sanchez, "Dance With My Father": Jessica dedicates this song to her dad, who's been deployed and is scheduled to deploy again. This tune is on my list of songs that have been overdone on "Idol," but Jessica does a nice job with it. It's a calmer, more restrained vocal compared to the big notes she usually delivers. I like it, but I also think Jessica is at risk of being overlooked this week.
Jennifer: "That may have been the best I've ever heard that song sang."
Steven: "I don't think you could sing a song bad."
Randy: "You are truly amazing to me."
Skylar Laine, "Tattoos on this Town": Wow, Skylar has really upped her game. This Jason Aldean tune is a great match for her. Skylar takes the stage with her guitar and delivers a performance that shows she could easily become a contemporary country music star. Even without elaborate vocal gymnastics, Skylar hooks my attention throughout the entire performance. Really great job.
Randy: "You are fearless. You go after notes...Another great performance."
Jennifer: "You're very comfortable up there."
Steven: "I kind of missed the flair...but I enjoyed it."
Joshua Ledet, "Ready for Love": Wow, Joshua. This is an awesome performance. Much like Jessica's earlier effort, Joshua showcases more restrained vocals during the second round. The result is pretty amazing. He pours tons of emotion into this tune, originally performed by India.Arie. We get raw, emotional vocals without gimmicks or fireworks. Very impressive. The judges give him a standing ovation.
Randy: "Another unbelievable performance."
Jennifer: "That was transcendent."
Steven: "You're off to the moon."
Elise Testone, "Bold as Love": I'm a little divided on Elise's cover of this Jimi Hendrix tune. On one hand, it's the most comfortable Elise has seemed on stage for a very long time. It's also the most I've liked Elise in a very long time. She seems genuinely confident and relaxed on stage...and sounds great. But on the other hand, I'm not sure her song choice will connect with "Idol" voters. That could put her in trouble.
Steven: "You've gotta do songs that people know...You can't pick the cherries with your back to the trees."
Jennifer: "You slayed that song so hard that it didn't even matter."
Randy: "For me, it wasn't the right song for this time in the competition."
Phillip Phillips, "The Stone": Did Phillip Phillips make a good choice in covering a Dave Matthews Band song? Again, I'm divided. Part of me thinks he should have stayed away from it, since some people criticize him as a Dave Matthews wannabe. Another part of me says, "Hey, if you got it, flaunt it." It's a quirky performance of a tune that will likely fall on the "obscure" end of the "Idol" spectrum. Yet somehow I like it. And I'm not even a Dave Matthews fan.
Steven: "Very entertaining, very off the wall."
Jennifer: "It was just a little bit obscure, and a little too artsy."
Randy: "You showed your true colors once again...I love that you showed this artist side."
Hollie Cavanagh, "The Climb": Remember, Hollie sang this song when she auditioned for "Idol" last year. Maybe she's channeling those memories during this performance. Either way, it's one of Hollie's strongest efforts. She's spot-on vocally, and also has the confidence and stage presence that her performances have lacked in recent weeks. I'm not sure it guarantees she'll last another week in the competition, but it's a great way to close the show. The judges give her a standing ovation.
Randy: "Now that's the Hollie Cavanagh that we love."
Jennifer: "It was perfect."
Steven: "It's just so beautiful...good for you."