Last night's performances by the American Idol top eight were all over the place. The theme, '80s songs, proved difficult for some, while other contestants chose just the right song for their voices and their personalities.
The group performances were the most off-putting. "I'm So Excited" by Hollie Cavanaugh and DeAndre Brackensick fell flat. It was an odd pairing, as Cavanaugh's vocals matched the song, but Brackensick couldn't keep up. His personality carried him through instead, outshining Cavanaugh's dull stage presence.
Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet's "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)," originally by Aretha Franklin and George Michael, felt much more cohesive. The two even danced ever so briefly together. Somehow, Ledet also managed to coerce a stronger a stage presence out of Sanchez, and that's no easy feat.
Surprisingly Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine's "Islands In The Stream," originally by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, made sense, given their respective vocal strengths and weaknesses. Dixon couldn't take his eyes off the camera, which made for an awkward thirty-plus seconds of the song. Moreover, they didn't work the duet as much as they could have -- "Islands In The Stream" felt much more like two singers trying to outstage each other than anything else.
Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips' "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" was the only duet that actually felt like a duet. The two have a great chemistry -- not a Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks-sized chemistry, but an energy good for the song -- and they know how to blend their voices. Testone may make it through to the top seven if only for this performance, since her solo didn't quite take off.
The standout solo performance last night was by Skylar Laine. Laine took on Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" and left everyone wondering, where did that performance come from? Where has the girl been up until now with Idol? Before, Laine was one of two lady country crooners. Her song choices were interesting, if a little safe. Her "Wind Beneath My Wings" blew everyone else out of the water, and, if Laine keeps it up, could very well fly through to the top five.
Joshua Ledet's take on "If You Don't Know Me By Now" rivaled Laine's performance for best of the night. Ledet did the classic song complete justice.
Jessica Sanchez tackled Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know," going note for note with Houston. While Sanchez didn't add anything to the song beyond a consistent delivery and a contagious smile, she did do justice to a demanding song.
Phillip Phillip's version of "That's All" by Genesis was a unique take. Phillips delivered again, as he does week after week, and -- of all the contestsants -- he seems to be the surefire top two finalist at this point in the game. Phillips will need to come out from behind his guitar one of these weeks to prove he can perform outside of his comfort zone, but we're glad it wasn't this week. The rocker take of "That's All" was refreshing.
Colton Dixon did Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" -- rather, the Quietdrive arrangement of the song. Dixon's vocal was good, but the whole angst pop-rocker vibe just didn't complement the song or his comfort with it. Following his performance last week, we expected more from him this week. No matter, it was good enough that he won't need to worry about falling to the bottom three tonight.
Unlike Dixon's go-to angsty routine, DeAndre Brackensick's falsetto-jam performances are growing tired. Last night Brackensick did DeBarge's "I Like It." Fine. Technically, it was a good a performance. Was it memorable? Not at all.
Expect to see Brackensick in the bottom three tonight, joined by Hollie Cavanaugh who took on Irene Cara's "Flashdance... What A Feeling". Cavanaugh's biggest struggle was not the notes but the way she failed to connect with the song.
Elise Testone will join Cavanaugh in the bottom three, as her version of Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is" was equally forgettable. No risks taken, no strong vocal, she even struggled with her adlibs -- towards the end, they sounded like a jumbled mess.
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