April 11, 2012 at 11:29 PM ET
On a night where the “American Idol” judges were again inclined to be kind, the trio of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler sent a message to the audience at home: “Do we really need to bring Hollie Cavanagh back next week?”
First of all, kudos to “Idol” for making it easy for the contestants to succeed this week. The theme was songs from the current decade, so everyone sang something that had been released in the past three years. It sure beats hearing them take on songs from a generation or two ago and try to make them relevant.
Hollie was looking to send a message by choosing to perform Pink's "Perfect," and while she may never feel like she’s less than perfect, the reaction from the judges was tepid at best. J.Lo told her she sang beautifully but “we'll see how it all pans out,” which is hardly a ringing endorsement. And she was the most positive of the three.
It was revealing when host Ryan Seacrest asked Hollie what she was thinking just before taking the stage, and she replied, “Don’t mess up.” Like many a teenager before her, the criticism she’s gotten has totally messed with her head, and she looks like she’s overthinking every note. On a night when most of the performances were top notch, hers stood out as the one that didn’t belong.
The rest of the bottom three is tougher to predict. Skylar Laine may be in trouble because she opened the show, but “Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You” by Kellie Pickler was a good illustration of the type of song she could take to the top of the charts right now, which the judges all noted. Particularly in the short term, Skylar would be one of the easiest of the finalists to get onto the radio and sell records, which has to help her chances.
Elise Testone may be in the bottom three again because she usually is. She likewise won raves closing the show with Lady Gaga’s “You and I,” but the idea was better than the execution, and it'll be interesting to see what everyone has to say about it on Thursday. However, Elise's endorsement from Jason Segel won’t hurt, and we're sure he appreciated the plug for his film “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” If anyone wondered what the "Idol" hopefuls do on their rare days off, apparently "seeing comedies" is a popular choice.
The other woman remaining, Jessica Sanchez, is in no danger. On the off chance that the audience didn’t get what she was trying to do with Jazmine Sullivan’s “Stuttering,” the judges will surely save her.
Kudos also go to Jimmy Iovine for his attempts to create a rivalry among the guys, telling both Colton Dixon and Phillip Phillips that they were competing against each other and the other was winning. Were this seventh-grade gym class, that would probably have had a better shot at success, but it was worth the attempt.
Also kudos to both Jimmy and the judges for trying to browbeat Phillip into taking some chances, or at least give an indication that he cares about winning. When Phillip is actually singing, he looks like a professional, but when he’s not, he’s so laid back he makes Jason Castro look intense. (Shout-out to those who watched season seven!)
Colton, meanwhile, did fine but lost the chance for a true show-stopping moment. He covered the Skylar Grey version of “Love the Way You Lie,” but who wouldn’t have jumped out of their seats had he broken character and started rapping the Eminem lyrics from his duet with Rihanna? It would have been completely over the top and ridiculous ... and probably would have won him votes. But certainly it would've been better than the “We’re not dating, and nobody really cares anyway” thing he has going with Skylar.
But Joshua Ledet may have been the big mover of the night, in part by being unpredictable. Who would have though he’d sing something by Bruno Mars? Nobody. He was very good with “Runaway Baby,” perhaps inspired by the pre-performance birthday greetings from season three winner Fantasia Barrino.
Criticize “Idol” all you want, but nobody does a better job at bringing back former cast members. And if you don't believe that, tune in Thursday to see both Jennifer Hudson and James Durbin take the stage before somebody (likely Hollie) gets sent packing.
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