Top 7 goes Gaga, and Jessica Sanchez is still around, but probably won't be past tonight

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Last night's episode of American Idol saw the Top 7 tackle a new set of songs -- one produced between now and the turn of the century and one school classic. Some performances worked, some didn't, but there was certainly a lot of Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys for one episode.

Elise Testone soared with "Let's Get It On," but she was mismatched with Alicia Keys' "No One." Despite her voice being similarly gruff to Keys', it wasn't strong enough to handle the higher notes and stil sound good. Also taking on Alicia Keys, Jessica Sanchez didn't let the demands of "Fallin'" get the best of her. However, while Sanchez may be a strong technical singer, she is still struggling to open up on stage -- and that's enough to cost her the competition.

Skylar Laine performed the Country Road version of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." Even more country-sounding than Gaga's own country version, Laine did a memorable job of making "Born This Way" her own, in her own genre. The final notes on her performance, reminiscent of a live Gaga performance, really showed a more assertive side to Laine's personality.

Colton Dixon also did Gaga, also performing a genre-respective song. His take on "Bad Romance" was an unexpected one: rocky and punky but simultaneously very accessibly pop-oriented. It reminded us of the heavy glamor of Adam Lambert from his Idol days. The performance itself, textbook Dixon, left us with no surprises. It was his moody cover of Earth Wind & Fire's "September" that snagged our vote this week, though -- a strong vocal, a stronger connection and even a new statement of color in his hair.

Phillip Phillips, in taking a big risk with Usher, turned the R&B of "U Got It Bad" into a sensual acoustic rock jam, leading a cellist, guitarist, bongo player and saxophonist through a version of the song that was radio-ready. He did even better with "In The Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett. For the first time this season, it actually looked like the guy was having fun on stage.

Bottom three tonight: Joshua Ledet played it a little too safe this week, and his lack of risk-taking is going to hurt him bad in the results show tonight, when he'll appear in the bottom three. Hollie Cavangh will place in the bottom three too; though her performance of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" was a strong one, her ice-queen on-stage persona overcomes her ability. Especially on a song like "Rolling In The Deep," brimming with emotion, Cavanagh came off too one-dimensional. Jessica Sanchez will suffer a similar fate this week, but this it could end her walking.

Who will go? Check out American Idol tonight at 7 p.m. on FOX 31.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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