American Idol recap: No Escape From Reality
The Top 6 hover between real life and fantasy on Queen Night; a sick Ryan says the show must go on
Since Queen’s “Somebody to Love” was somehow left out of a Queen-themed American Idol, I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing Ryan Seacrest’s internal monologue moments before showtime.
I just can’t get no relief, Lord!
Somebody (somebody) somebody (Nigel)
Can anybody find me some bucket to puke in?
It’s true, y’all — after missing rehearsal and being hooked up to an IV with a nasty stomach bug yesterday, our heroic host nearly had to bow out for the first time in 11 seasons. Nigel Lythgoe was ready to replace him! The horror!
Luckily Ryan decided to dip his face in a bowl of makeup at the last minute and just wing it. He’ll keep on fighting ’til the end. Brian May, Roger Taylor, and Ryan Seacrest are the champions of the world.
Jessica Sanchez is no rocker, but she bravely took on “Bohemian Rhapsody” with lightning bolt earrings, hi-top sneakers, and three copies of her own face projected in the Great Idol Oval behind her. (You know, just like Queen…and the Dancing With the Stars judges.) J. Lo wanted more “running around” and “hair throwing” during the hard-rocking segment in the middle of the terribly chopped-up classic rock masterpiece, but I have to imagine that would look and feel more ridiculous than what Jessica did. Her first and last verses sounded sublime.
Randy — now a living, breathing self-parody wearing a “YO” pin — suggested that Jessica channel a little Tina Turner. “She’s that rock-singing big voice, in the female form,” Randy explained. “Explained” is probably the wrong word there.
I see a little silhouetto of a man. Mr. Sanchez! Mr. Sanchez! Will you do the fandango? For the contestant’s choice round, Jessica dedicated Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father” to her dad, who’s about to be deployed to Singapore. (Don’t worry, he’ll be in the audience for tonight’s results show so we can cry about it. I’m honestly pretty excited. Not about his fate, but about the Idol moment.)
This was a perfectly lovely rendition and Jessica’s frothy yellow gown was stunning. The judges could find no fault. J. Lo thought it was the best she’d ever heard the song sung. R. Yo called Jessica’s natural vocal tendencies “truly amazing.” As for those distracting silhouettes behind Jessica during the performance, I’d been thinking “Rafiki lifting Simba,” but reader @jennmilazzo suggested they looked more like Dr. Evil raising Mini Me up into the air. She’s right; I must still be missing DeAndre.
NEXT: Joshua Ledet’s gotta be cool, relax…. When I realized 18-year-old Skylar Laine was singing “The Show Must Go On” — the only Queen song ever written about Freddie Mercury’s battle against AIDS — I got nervous. Would the material be too heavy for her? But there’s really no need to worry about anything like that with Skylar, who somehow sang it from the very first note as if the song had been her own for years. I love this Queen song but amazingly I stopped thinking about Queen while she was up there. For me (not a country fan), this is when Skylar is the most exciting — when she does songs I actually know with her own twang and perfect pitch.
When Skylar does country songs I’ve never heard, on the other hand, I sort of tune out. I could tell her rendition of Jason Aldean’s “Tattoos On This Town” was technically fine, but I felt no connection with it. I’m guessing Skylar’s country fans felt the exact opposite regarding her two performances this week. Either way, the judges are seated (not standing — it’s not like she’s Joshua) firmly in Skylar’s corner. “Yo, Ryan, this girl right here, she’s gotta have it!” cried Randy. “She wants the finish line and I love it! Well done, finish liner!”
For “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Joshua Ledet went with a vintage microphone, so it kind of looked like he was about to eat an apple the whole time. This was the busiest onstage spectacle of the night, with Joshua slithering around the stage in all black as a rainbow of concentric circles attempted to hypnotize us. I have to say I was not a huge fan of all the shouting. I appreciate the energy he brought and the old-school vibe Joshua was going for here, but it was a little too wild compared to the original. BIG STANDING O from the judges, because it’s Joshua after all. “Is it bad to say that Joshua is my favorite part of the show?” wondered J. Lo. She wasn’t the only one.
New Idol Friend: Aaron!
Joshua’s crazy little antics had inspired executive producer Nigel Lythgoe’s normally no-nonsense bodyguard to dance in his seat! Special thanks to tiny headed mentor Jimmy Iovine for providing the illusion that Aaron was wearing a floating, sideways baseball cap. (And helloooooo, Silvio!)
I wonder if the judges started standing as soon as Joshua has risen from his stool during his second-round song, India.Arie’s “Ready For Love.” I would have levitated myself if I weren’t so lazy. This was my favorite performance from Joshua so far in that it showed tremendous restraint. I couldn’t believe he didn’t throw in some extra runs on that final note — you know he wanted to! I’d definitely been waiting for a stripped-down performance like this from him.
Just watched it again. Oh, wow. I’d already loved this song but Joshua just made me love it more. And for me — for you? — that’s the whole damn point of American Idol.
NEXT: J. Lo sticks up for E. Testo I can’t believe Randy missed an opportunity to announce that Elise Testone WANTS IT, RYAN after her cover of Queen’s “I Want It All.” The words were plastered all over the oval! Randy loves redundancy; you’d think he plaster his verbal vomit all over this. I guess it wasn’t in the script. Elise had a believable classic rock vibe here with her freewheeling growl, sassy red tambourine, and a floor-length rainbow caftan from the Steven Tyler Collection. The fashion muse thought Elise’s version might have been better than the original, and J. Lo said she “murdered” it. “Who would have thunk it?” asked buzzkill Randy.
You know J. Lo’s feelin’ it if she looks like she’s about to slap you! (Thanks to reader @sloanlynn for the heads up.)
I also want to mention that Elise dominated the opening group number with Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor — if it weren’t for her and Skylar, and Elise in particular, I think that medley would have been embarrassingly lifeless on the part of the contestants. It was so smart to throw those two girls in the middle and have them interact with the Queen of Hair. If I’d landed on Fox right at this moment having never seen American Idol, I would have assumed Elise was hands-down the star of the season.
By the way, Elise and New Idol Friend Wallace should definitely be dating, right?
Ryan was seethingly jealous of their love (and health).
After announcing that she’d realized over her time on Idol that classic rock was her true wheelhouse, Elise took a leap of faith and a long toke of purple haze and picked “Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix for the second round. I love that she boldly went there — it seems like Elise has come to terms with the fact that she’s not the judges’ chosen one, so why not just go nuts, do a largely spoken-word song, and attach an orange scarf to her “melisma hand” so it will look crazier than ever?
Randy and Steven pooh-poohed the song choice. Randy accused Elise of “boxing with the song,” and Steven claimed that no one knew it. If he was talking about the tiny teens, he was right. Elise clearly doesn’t give a crap whether or not the kiddies like her. That’s great if you just want to sing your band’s favorite cover songs on national TV, but it’s not smart if you want new fans to vote for you in a competition. I think that’s where Steven’s frustration is coming from. He recognizes that Elise can really rock and it pains him, the rocker judge, that the rocker lady is not optimizing her chances here. His facial expression after this performance was one of sheer disappointment, and it had nothing to do with how she’d sung.
If Elise picks an obscure song, she’s clueless, but if Davematthews Davematthews, Jr. does it, he’s an artist. Isn’t American Idol an “off-the-wall” place? Phillip Phillips chose “The Stone” by Dave Matthews Band, and his cover was basically a carbon copy of the original. Ugh, why? If people are already accusing you of being a carbon copy of Dave Matthews and you bizarrely choose to do a Dave Matthews song, why wouldn’t you at least twist it around somehow to suggest what only you could bring to the genre?
When J. Lo teased that Phillip would be doing a DMB song later in the show, I had such high hopes that he’d be somewhat self-aware and ironic about it. Hell, after making bedroom eyes at the camera on “Fat Bottomed Girls” during the Queen round, Phillip could have cheekily over-pandered to the female audience with another women-worshipping song, the much more popular “Crash Into Me.” He’d have earned the love of women with big butts and women who like to be crashed into. That’s, like, all women! What a missed opportunity.
NEXT: Sometimes Hollie’s gonna have to lose J. Lo was worried for Phillip much like Steven was worried for Elise. She called the song “a little too artsy” and said “there will be a time and place where you can do that — that time is not now.” Randy then babbled endlessly about how “Phillip Phillips will always be Phillip Phillips” and “Phillip Phillips stands behind who he is.” So Phillip Phillips should remain planted in Phillip Phillips’ wheelhouse, but Elise Testone should kindly tiptoe out of hers…. That’s it….keep going….yep, now you’re just out of frame. Perfect. Got it.
Julianne Hough — long-lost dance pro, acclaimed rocker of ages, and Ryan Seacrest’s girlfriend (I always need a few extra seconds to let that sink in…and then bobble back up to the surface) — thinks Phillip Phillips is “yummy.”
Was she Patient Zero? Unlikely.
Hollie Cavanagh connected more than anyone would expect with her Queen song, “Save Me.” Perhaps this was a metaphor for Hollie begging the Queen of England to save her from the relentless teasing by her fellow contestants re: her Liverpool accent. (Obviously everyone was kidding, because who doesn’t love Hollie as a pehr-son? She’s pehhhhr-fect.)
I liked the way she drew out the murmured “mmmmm” after the majestic “Save Me” at the end of the song. J. Lo noticed that Hollie had looked more emotional than usual, to which Hollie replied that yes, she’d grown to really love the song having just learned it this week. J. Lo then launched into a lengthy and annoying rehash of why Hollie needs to connect to the song. The judges do this all the time — compliment someone and then ramble on about how what he or she just did was so imperative for two more minutes so that it ends up feeling more like a lecture than a compliment. Clearly they are running out of things to say.
Hollie had no choice but to kill it on “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus to close out the show. She’s the season 11 comeback kid, it’s a song about an uphill battle containing potential powerhouse high notes, and it’s in the pimp spot? Such a no-brainer for Hollie. I love myself a big Idol moment and this was it for her. She even got a STANDING O from the judges, which inspired an adorable little jig that I’m pretty sure knocked her giant green earrings out of her tiny ears. (I was about to call them “ginormous,” but Randy just invented that word last night and I wouldn’t want to steal his thunder.)
Esteemed Colleague Email Interlude:
, Kristen. Leave Randy alone! He’s a ginormous success!
It’ll be hard to say goodbye to any of these six tonight. But there’s no escape from reality TV.
Who’s it gonna be?
Ask Annie anything about ‘Idol’ (or whatever) in the video player below. To see her answers to previous questions, click on the text links below the picture. This is *not live*; she updates a few times a week.
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.