‘American Idol’ Recap: Underdogs Have Their Day

Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine on American Idol (Michael Becker / FOX)

It was the week of the comeback, the rise of the underdog on “American Idol.” The weakest contestants, the ones who always find themselves in or near the bottom three, gave performances that should either keep them in the game or at least let them leave with some dignity. The others who didn’t have as much to prove still took some interesting chances (mostly). All in all, “2010 till today” week was a good week for “American Idol.” And finally, it was a week where the theme didn’t lead to complaints from Jessica Sanchez about how entire decades of music don’t fit her voice.

The Comebacks

Skylar Laine opened the show, and as predicted, sang a Kellie Pickler song. She played guitar this week, which was a nice breakout from her usual stomp-around-the-stage-in-cowgirl-boots angry bit she usually does. She’s probably the least memorable of all the contestants because of her consistency, so I’m glad she at least tried to add a little spice to her performance for once. That and jets of fire all around her on the stage. Skylar is literally trying to singe herself onto our minds. Randy Jackson tells her she’s “definitely back” and Jennifer Lopez says she had perfect pitch. Steven Tyler, however, takes Skylar’s achievement as a reflection on the female gender. “The crows may crow but the hens deliver the goods.”

It’s no secret that I kind of can’t stand Colton Dixon. But I will admit this was his best week, playing piano on “Love the Way You Lie.” The pretty arrangement was probably the best part, but Colton adjusted a little bit of his nasally emo-boy thing and instead of whining through notes, went into a falsetto on some of them, which was a good change. The judges love it almost as much as they love Colton’s red and black ringmaster jacket.

Watch: “Idol” Contestant Has a Celebrity Crush:

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You could call what Hollie Cavanagh did tonight a comeback, considering she didn’t have to travel far to come back from the awful depths of last week’s “What a Feeling.” She sang Pink’s “Perfect” and was kind of obsessed with the whole idea of perfection, which the judges quickly pointed out isn’t really what matters on this show. And then begs the judgment that it “wasn’t perfect.” But it was better than last week, as Ryan Seacrest repeats about seven times. Guess he watches the show, too.

Finally, Elise Testone, perennial bottom-dweller, sang Lady Gaga’s “You and I” and got declarations of “Elise is back” from Randy. Steven told her she turned the song into genius. Welllllll….it was just as good as most of Elise’s performances, but it was no Led Zeppelin, to be sure. But let’s back up for a moment—tonight’s intro videos showed footage from the Idols’ hometowns, which they zoomed into from a map that, for Elise, pointed to Kinnelon, New Jersey. But apparently the footage was from her current home, Charleston, South Carolina. I’ll ignore that insensitive shafting of New Jersey, however, because I like Elise’s friend Derek, who made this helpful video.

The Obvious Top Three

Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips had no reason to “come back” tonight because they’re so entirely at the top, we might as well just skip ahead to the finals now. Jessica and Phillip were both predictable as always: Jessica did some crazy vocal exercising on “Stuttering,” a ballad (of course) no one but Randy seems to have ever even heard of; and Phillip sang Maroon 5’s “Give a Little More,” in which he plays guitar, growls, squints like he’s in pain and is his usual boring self (although that saxophone lady in his number was amazing). Despite these two still being totally untouchable, they did get some thoughtful feedback from J. Lo. She told Jessica she needs to do more than show off her vocal skills, by having impact a la Joshua. And she (finally, someone!) pointed out that we’ve seen Phillip’s exact performance a couple of times before.

Joshua was the winner of the night, doing something radically different than past weeks, but doing it just as well. He sang Bruno Mars’s “Runaway Baby,” complete with a six-foot-tall go-go girl and a big band. And apparently, it was believably “urban,” according to Jimmy Iovine. During the rehearsal, he asked guest mentor Akon for his opinion, “as an urban artist,” whether Joshua was believable. And Akon said yes. So there you have it.


The same pairs as last week teamed up for the most part. Elise and Phillip sang "Somebody I Used to Know," which Elise totally should have just done for her solo because she was fantastic while at the same time pointed out how stupid it is that Phillip can't do anything if he's not holding a guitar.

Ryan tried to play up a fake love affair between Skylar and Colton, but Colton rebuffed it by saying they're not dating because Skylar owns a gun. Oh, and also, because they have absolutely no chemistry together! They sang "Don't You Wanna Stay," and it sounded fine, but the J. Lo just kept comparing it to Kelly Clarkson's original, of which, of course, there is no comparison.

The killer duo of Joshua and Jessica was joined by Hollie tonight, and they sang "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)." Hope Kelly's still getting those royalty checks. They were a cute trio, but Jessica and Hollie should never be side by side. It just makes Hollie look that much less experienced and/or interesting. Luckily, the two cancelled each other out, and Joshua swept the night for best performer.

Bottom Three

Skylar is trying to break out of her box, but it's too late. She's forgettable.

Elise improved over last week, but there’s no more room for her outside the Bottom Three.

Hollie also improved, but only enough to be sent home with just a little dignity.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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