Backstage Pass

Music, concerts, musicians and more.

Jessica Sanchez rules Queen Week on 'American Idol'

The judges keep telling 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez she

The judges keep telling 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez she has to keep growing. Here, she performs Alicia Keys' "Fallin'." (April 18, 2012) (Credit: Fox)

So, “American Idol” was a repeat this week ... What?! They don't do repeats?!

But it all seemed so familiar. The judges run down Jessica Sanchez after a good performance with talk about how she's not as exciting as Joshua Ledet. They wait until Joshua gives an overwhelmingly showy performance and then give him a standing ovation. Then they talk about how Elise Testone is such a “rocker” and praise her powerful voice. Then they heap love on how spunky and country Skylar Laine is and how much of an artist Phillip Phillips is. Ah! Hollie Cavanagh, that's where this week was different. (Oh, and the great Brian May and Roger Taylor were there for Queen Week.)

Young Miss Hollie had quite the evening. First, she seemingly unironically delivered a bland version of Queen's “Save Me” that seemed to seal her fate to sublet Elise's Bottom Three Condo. However, her taped piece was delightful, explaining her unique accent by saying that she didn't have a speech impediment. She's British y'all! She followed that with a powerful version of Miley Cyrus' “The Climb” that showed why she's still around. It was warm and charming and ended with a note as big as anything Joshua or Jessica could muster. It turns out that Hollie doesn't really need all the how-to-perform notes and the “enjoy yourself” advice that she keeps getting. She just needs a lot of practice to look comfortable — not a terrible problem for a real singer, just an issue for a singer on a reality show. Congrats, Hollie! You'll probably have a perfectly fine career, even if you're cut from the show soon.

Young Miss Jessica should have had an even better evening, except the judges truly seem bored with her for some reason. She tackled Queen's difficult “Bohemian Rhapsody” and made it work — changing her style by singing the classic straight with no runs, as Randy Jackson pointed out. However, Steven Tyler declared that “rock isn't your forte” and Jennifer Lopez pointed out that Jessica was wearing sneakers but didn't run around the stage. She also didn't whip her hair around. (Um, fail?) Jessica's second song was a gorgeous, heartfelt version of Luther Vandross' “Dance With My Father” that she dedicated to her military father about to be redeployed away from her family. All the judges praised it, but they kept their butts in their seats, regardless.

They only get on their feet for Joshua, natch. And they did it twice last night. (Maybe they couldn't figure out how to stand for his taped piece?) The standing ovation may have been merited for his beautiful, restrained (for him) version of India.Arie's “Ready for Love.” However, his version of Queen's “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was far from ovation-worthy. He hit some great notes, but the net result was only OK, especially after his vocal tics got the best of him. This-uh thing-uh called love-uh was-uh over-uh enunciated-uh to the point-uh of annoyance-uh.

“Is it bad for me to say that the Joshua part of the show is my favorite part of the show?” Lopez asked. Yeah, actually it is. You're supposed to be judging what the contestants do, not how much you like them.

That kind of goes for Elise, too. I'm not really sure what J.Lo was listening to, but Elise's version of Jimi Hendrix's “Bold As Love” was horrifying and the judges backed into criticism for their beloved Elise.

“You can't pick cherries with your back to tree,” Steven Tyler said about the unusual song choice, while Randy Jackson hit the nail on the head, “He sang about 1/25th of what you just sang.” Yes, Elise, maybe that was a bit too much. (Memo to Steven Tyler: “Over the top” doesn't mean what you think it does.)

And now for a bit of real talk. While there were better performances last night, the only songs that I'd want to hear again were Skylar Laine's moving take on Jason Aldean's “Tattoos on This Town” and Phillip Phillips' wild version of Dave Matthews' “The Stone.” Skylar also had the best Queen interpretation last night, with a determined “The Show Must Go On,” while Phillip had the most enjoyable one with “Fat Bottomed Girls.” (After “Fat Bottomed Girls,” Lopez helpfully remarked, “That didn't remind me of Dave Matthews at all!”)

I think “Idol” voters will agree, keeping these two safe. I think Hollie's Big Night will keep her safe, as well. That means that the judges' Beloved Joshua and Beloved Elise will end up in the Bottom Three, along with Flat Jessica — flattened from being thrown under the judges' bus yet again. I hope that Elise will finally go home and that Jessica won't be eliminated in front of her father, but you never know.

THE RANKINGS

Jessica Sanchez, “Dance With My Father”
Hollie Cavanagh, “The Climb”
Joshua Ledet, “Ready for Love”
Skylar Laine, “Tattoos on This Town”
Phillip Phillips, “The Stone”
Skylar Laine, “The Show Must Go On”
Jessica Sanchez, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Phillip Phillips, “Fat Bottomed Girls”
Joshua Ledet, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
Hollie Cavanagh, “Save Me”
Elise Testone, “I Want It All”
Elise Testone, “Bold As Love”

BOTTOM THREE: Elise, Jessica, Joshua
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Elise
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Elise
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: ???

Tags: American Idol , Phillip Phillips , Jessica Sanchez , Skylar Laine , Hollie Cavanagh , Joshua Ledet , Elise Testone , Jennifer Lopez , Steven Tyler , Randy Jackson , Queen , Luther Vandross , Jason Aldean

advertisement | advertise on newsday

@ndmusic

Follow Newsday music writer Glenn Gamboa for the latest from pop's biggest voices.
Twitter | Blog

Follow Newsday Entertainment

advertisement | advertise on newsday