American Idol Top 6: The song by song grades

When American Idol’s Top 6 take the stage tonight, we’ll be witnessing something we haven’t seen for years.

For the first time since Season 3, the Top 6 will include four girls.

It’s quite a turn-around for a show where males have prevailed for four straight years. You’d have to go all the way back to Season 7 to find even three girls in the Top 7.

So, is it really a girl’s year on Idol?

Well, let’s look at what Jimmy Iovine has been saying about the final six, since his opinion should matter more than any of the judges.

He says Elise Testone and Hollie Cavanagh will have an uphill round to make the finals. He says Jessica Sanchez needs to pick younger songs in order to connect with the audience. He says rising star Skylar Laine is the “little engine who could make the finals.”

As for the remaining guys … well, he’s already proclaimed Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet as finals worthy.

Girl’s year on Idol? Well, let’s not jump to that conclusion yet.

Tonight the top six take on the songs of Queen and, if I’m reading Nigel’s tweets correctly, they’ll get to take on a second song of their choosing.

Check back when the show begins. I’ll be grading each performance as it happens.

Wow, Jennifer shows up in gold.  Steven is covered in sparkles.  Hope the contestants aren’t blinded looking at them.

But someone clearly forgot to give Randy Jackson the we-must-sparkle tonight memo.

Odd opening to tonight’s show.  Ryan doesn’t narrate the opening Queen segment.  Now we have a performance show group number.

 Jessica Sanchez:  Last week, Jimmy said Jessica had to start singing younger songs.  So tonight she starts with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  Not sure that’s young. Ugh!  What the heck?  Jessica heads in the background.  Come on, Idol. OK, besides the giant heads, that was another solid performance from Jessica.  Not great.  But solid.  She didn’t have the moment  some other Idols have had with that song.  Remember Constantine Maroulis slaying it in Season 4?  And how about Kellie Pickler’s it-should-have-been-horrible-but-wasn’t rendition in Season 5?  Grade: B-.

Skylar Laine:  Ryan points out that Skylar is a singer-songwriter.  Wasn’t aware she wrote her own music.  She’ll sing “The Show Must Go On.”  This isn’t a high energy performance like the two we saw last week, and that’s when Skylar’s at her best.  She’s doing great on the big chorus, but doesn’t sound nearly as good on the verses.  But she sure finished with a flourish, didn’t she?  So, I’m seeing lots of tweets that Ryan is sick.  Hope he doesn’t make the cast members sick.  Skylar gave Jennifer “goosies.”  Really?  Randy calls it one of her best performances to date.  Not to mention “phenomenal.”  Grade: B-.

Joshua Ledet:  Idol’s “soul man” will sing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”  Love it when Joshua goes up-tempo.  It proves he can do more than sing power ballads.  He looks perfectly comfortable with these songs, too.  And he’s always spot on vocally.  What’s crazy is this guy’s voice.  Oh, my.  That was a high energy performance and a great vocal.  Favorite of the night so far.  High praise from the judges.  And Jennifer admits the Joshua portion of the show is her favorite.  Grade: A-

Elise Testone:  She’s going to sing Brian May’s “I Want It All.”  Why this song?  Of all the Queen songs?  Elise started out a little slow, but about 30 seconds in, she found her groove.  And what a groove.  Sorry, Skylar fans, but when Elise is on, she can sings rings around Idol’s country darling.  Oh, the things she can do with that voice of hers.  And she absolutely blasted through the end of that song.  Well-deserved praise from the judges.  Grade B+

Phillip Phillips:  He’s going to sing “Fat Bottomed Girls.”  Didn’t we hear this in the opening number?  Phillip’s going to try to do his best to growl his way through this song.  I was really hoping he’d take a Queen song and do something special and unique with it.  He didn’t.  And this is far from one of his best efforts.  In fact, it’s the weakest performance of the night so far.  Someone must have “must love Phillip” written into this week’s script, because Steve and Jennifer are spouting nonsense.  Thankfully, Randy Jackson offered a bit of reality.  Did I just type that?  Grade: C.

Hollie Cavanagh:  Looks like Hollie gets the pimp spot tonight.  Little surprised by that.  She’s going to sing “Save Me.”  Just when you’re about to count this gal out, she finds her stride.  Wow, she wasn’t too technical tonight.  She seemed to feel every note of that song.  And it offered a wonderful chance for her to display that big voice of hers.  Again, no idea what the judges are talking about.  The script must say, “‘let’s get rid of Hollie.”  Grade:  B.

Contestants’ Song Choices

Jessica Sanchez:  She’s singing “Dance With My Father,” dedicated to her dad, who’s been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and is going to be deployed again sometime soon, off to Singapore.  Jessica might be feeling this song a little too much.  There was one spot in the middle where she seemed to lose control of her voice a bit.  Other than that, she turned in another very good vocal.  And, hey, there’s nothing wrong with showing a little emotion.  No, Idol gang, she’s not an alien.  Just an incredibly fine singer.  Grade: B+.

Skylar Laine:  She’s back to country, singing “Tattoos on This Town.”  Sorry, for me, Skylar goes shrill too often. But suddenly she’s the contestant everyone loves.  So go ahead and shout to your heart’s content, Skylar.  I’m sure the judges will love it.  I will give Skylar this — she is a very solid performer. Randy says he’s a “gi-normous” fan, which is bigger than “giant.”  Grade: C+

Joshua Ledet:  He’s going to sing “I’m Ready for Love,” and you can tell right away, this is going to be special. Love the way he’s building and picking his spots to unleash that amazing vocal talent of his.  There have been times this year when I thought Joshua has oversang.  Tonight, I thought he showed amazing restraint. And wonderful control over that song.  Such wonderful control, he’s rendered the judges speechless.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  Grade: A-

Elise Testone:  She sings Jimmy Hendrix, “Bold As Love,” and gets a lecture from Steven on singing songs everyone knows. But Jennifer calls her “one of the best singers” in the competition and says she sang it so well it didn’t matter. But Randy said it seemed like she was “boxing with the song.”  Honestly, I thought she tried to impress us a little too much with vocal hijinks.  Not my favorite Elise performance, but I’m still a huge fan of her voice.  Grade: C+

Phillip Phillips:  He’ll sing Dave Matthews for the first time — “The Stone.”  Loved that intro from the other contestants noting how Phillip so often looking like he’s in dire pain during his performance.  OK, I did not like that performance at all.  Not the vocal.  Not the song choice.  And Jennifer gives him solid advice:  He needs to perform songs that will get him to the final.  Randy disagrees and applauds Phillip for sticking to his artistry.  Hm, would have been nice if the performance were enjoyable. Grade: C-

Hollie Cavanagh:  She’ll sing “The Climb” after getting lots of crap from her colleagues about her accent.  It’s a power ballad, which is right up Hollie’s alley.  And she’s singing it better than the crappy Miley Cyrus original. And Hollie is getting a standing ovation from the judges?  Randy calls it “beautiful,” “a perfect song for her.”  “Hollie’s back,” he says.  Personally, I though Hollie did pretty well tonight.  Grade: B

 

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