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'American Idol' recap: Phillip Phillips charms

Phillip Phillips did Maroon 5's "Give a Little

Phillip Phillips did Maroon 5's "Give a Little More." Was it enough? (April 11, 2012) (Credit: Fox)

After all the manipulation from last week, Ryan Seacrest promises the most music ever in an “Idol” show – two songs each from the seven finalists.

With all those performances would there still be time for manufactured drama? Come on now, dawg. Let's not get crazy. There's always time for manufactured drama here.

Before we move forward, we have to look back at last week's “VERY SHOCKING” bottom three: Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet and Elise Testone. The two most-praised singers of the season and, well, Elise. The Internet is filled with conspiracy theories about how this was all a ploy by producers to help secure votes for The Chosen Two. That's a pretty good guess, especially considering how Jennifer Hudson was a performer and how every time she has performed on the show since she was unceremoniously booted in her season the person voted off by America was saved by the judges. (Casey Abrams last season, Matt Giraud two years earlier, and now, Jessica Sanchez.)

But could it be that the vote totals were actually real and “Idol” voters simply weren't supporting The Chosen Two and, well, Elise?

Last night's performances suggest yes.

Jessica has a fantastic voice and incredible presence and could certainly win the show if “Idol” was a singing competition and not, you know, a popularity contest. Her decision to take on Alicia Keys' “Fallin',” though, was a sign of panic. It's a popular song that's been sung to death and doesn't really offer her a chance to show off her unique talent. It shows how she can mimic great singers quite well, not how she can be a great singer herself. Her “Try a Little Tenderness,” on the other hand, found her trying too hard to show how good she can be instead of actually being good. She was fantastic last week with the little-known “Stuttering.” This week, she seems spooked. Even though her near-elimination will scare up lots of votes for her this week, it won't last if she doesn't snap out of it.

Joshua also has a great voice and powerful presence and could win the competition. However, his style is becoming increasingly over-indulgent, despite what the judges say about him “holding back.” Sometimes, it works, as it did in “A Change is Gonna Come,” but “I Believe” isn't that strong of a song or melody and it folded under the weight of his histrionics. His over-singing can be off-putting, almost as much as the judges' odd standing-o love for him.

And, well, Elise. If she doesn't go home tonight after a bland version of “No One” and yet another disaster on “Let's Get It On,” well, it is time to consider the fix being in.

The real revelation last night was Phillip Phillips having the time of his life smiling like a goofball on “In the Midnight Hour” and showing a bit of artistry by converting Usher's “U Got It Bad” into something Dave Matthewsy. Sure, that's his method, but he does it so well that you know what his concerts will be like and it seems like they could be fun. (“Brilliantly awkward,” Steven Tyler said.)

You know what a Skylar Laine concert is going to sound like too – all country and spunky and well-crafted. Skylar didn't light up “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” as she has in recent weeks and “Born This Way” was a little ill-advised, but she was still pretty solid.

A Colton Dixon concert seems pretty well-defined too, though he stretched that definition with a metallic version of Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance” that kind of missed the mark. He was back on track, though, with an emotional version of the disco track “September” from Earth, Wind & Fire.

What would a Hollie Cavanagh concert sound like? No idea. She's still trying to find herself and work out who she is as a singer. There's nothing wrong with that for an 18-year-old girl, except when she's doing it on national TV, especially when she's trying to match Adele.


Phillip Phillips, “In the Midnight Hour”
Joshua Ledet, “A Change Is Gonna Come”
Jessica Sanchez, “Fallin'”
Phillip Phillips, “U Got It Bad”
Colton Dixon, “September”
Skylar Laine, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Joshua Ledet, “I Believe”
Jessica Sanchez, “Try a Little Tenderness”
Colton Dixon, “Bad Romance”
Skylar Laine, “Born This Way”
Hollie Cavanagh, “Rolling in the Deep”
Hollie Cavanagh, “Son of a Preacher Man”
Elise Testone, “No One”
Elise Testone, “Let's Get It On”

BOTTOM THREE: Elise, Hollie, Colton

Tags: American Idol , Phillip Phillips , Jessica Sanchez , Skylar Laine , Hollie Cavanagh , Joshua Ledet , Elise Testone , Colton Dixon , Jennifer Lopez , Steven Tyler , Randy Jackson

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