Spending an hour backstage at Nassau Coliseum with the “American Idol” Season 11 Top 10 and another two hours watching them perform yesterday answered plenty of questions. (Yes, Phillip Phillips is laid back. No, Erika Van Pelt didn't change the haircut Tommy Hilfiger recommended she get.) But all that time also led to a whole other set of questions. Here's the Top 5:
1. Why does Phillip Phillips sing sweetly and then talk to the audience like he's an old Mississippi bluesman from a cartoon? I guess the answer to this is “Because he wants to,” but it's truly a weird development. His normal speaking voice is as charming as his singing voice, not sure why he wants to distort it and make himself hard to understand.
2, What label signed Colton Dixon? Colton told me backstage that he was nearly done with a Christian rock album and that he had signed a deal, but couldn't talk about it until next week. Then he told the entire Nassau Coliseum essentially the same thing and then played a new song “Never Gone,” the only original from the Idols the entire night. “Never Gone” is a potent piano-driven ballad that could easily crossover to pop radio, something Colton told me he would totally be happy about. He'd also really be happy about working with 30 Seconds to Mars. You hear that, Jared Leto?
3. Why won't someone sign Skylar Laine? Seriously, country music labels, what is wrong with you? Skylar told me backstage that it's been a bit of a struggle finding a deal, though she's not giving up and plans to move there after the tour. Her performances were among the best of the night, especially the memorable high note at the end of “Stay With Me.” Is country music overflowing with sassy young ladies who are steeped in the music's tradition and can belt out a wide range of country styles? No, it is not. Wake up, Nashville.
4. What does Joshua Ledet have against Broadway? He brought the house down with a powerful version of James Brown's “It's a Man's, Man's World,” filling the relatively spare arrangement with all the vocal runs and emotional twists that his big voice could muster. It's a kind of singing that's frankly more suited to the musical stage than the current pop charts. But when asked if he'd consider making that move, Ledet made a face and added, “That's not really my thing.” After hearing the way he and Jessica Sanchez tripped over each other to vocally take over “I Knew You Were Waiting,” maybe it should be. Some Broadway discipline could go a long way toward fulfilling his amazing potential.
5. Do the “Idols” think they would fare better under the incoming crew of judges? Hollie Cavanagh says she definitely wouldn't, seeing as Mariah Carey is her idol. While constructive criticism is certainly part of the show, Hollie said she wouldn't be able to bear it coming from the woman who inspired her to be a singer and heavily influences the choices she makes in songs. “I wouldn't have been able to bear it,” she said.
SETLIST: All (except Phillip Phillips) - “Sing” / DeAndre Brackensick - “Master Blaster”/ Skylar Laine and Hollie Cavanagh - “Undo It” / Erika Van Pelt - “Glitter in the Air” / Erika, Hollie, Colton Dixon and Joshua Ledet - “Moves Like Jagger” / Heejun Han - “Green Light” / Heejun, DeAndre, Jessica Sanchez - “Party Rock Anthem” / Heejun, DeAndre, Colton, Joshua - “Everybody Talks” / Elise Testone - “Whole Lotta Love” / Elise with Erika and DeAndre - “Rumour Has It” / Colton - “Meant To Live” / Colton - “Never Gone” / Colton - “Piano Man” / All (except Phillip) - “Just the Way You Are/What Makes You Beautiful” // INTERMISSION // Jessica - “Best Thing I Never Had” / Jessica with DeAndre and Joshua - “How Come You Don’t Call Me Any More” / Jessica with DeAndre and Joshua - “Proud Mary” / Skylar - “Gunpowder and Lead” / Skylar - “Stay With Me” / Hollie with Elise and Erika - “Rolling in the Deep” / Hollie - “Give Your Heart a Break” / Joshua with Elise, DeAndre, and Erika - “Runaway Baby” / Joshua - “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” / Joshua and Jessica - “I Knew You Were Waiting” / Phillip - “Superstition” / Phillip - “Nice and Slow/Gangsta's Paradise” / Phillip and Elise - “Somebody That I Used to Know” / Phillip and Jessica - “Volcano” / Phillip with Colton and DeAndre - “Home” / Jessica, Hollie, Skylar, Elise, Erika - “Raise Your Glass” / All - “Glad You Came”
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