'American Idol' recap: Top six channel Queen for a day
Who would have imagined the songs of Queen would inspire better performances from the "American Idol" contestants than songs of their own choosing? But, with a notable exception or two, that proved to be the case Wednesday night, when the six remaining "Idol" hopefuls tackled the music of Queen and then sang a second song they felt suited them.
I have to admit, I had my doubts, and the contestants seemed to initially have had doubts too. Meeting with Queen's Roger Taylor and Brian May, Phillip Phillips asked about tackling such big songs. Freddie Mercury, they assured him, "was very shy" and the songs of Queen quite human, "very personal." Just feel the songs, Taylor and May told the contestants, and they would do fine.
The advice seemed to pay off. It was apparent from the moment the top six took the stage, backed by Taylor and May, to sing a medley of Queen anthems that they were having fun with the material.
In the end, the judges said, the candidates had nearly all turned in at least one top-notch performance. Then again, in a rare show of judge discord, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler didn't agree in every case about which songs worked and which didn't. They did, however, continue to agree that Joshua Ledet warrants a standing ovation every time he opens his mouth to sing. Ledet racked up two more standing O's from the judges Wednesday. We'd say he now had too many to count, but apparently Skylar Laine has been keeping track: According to her calculations, Ledet now has had 12 standing ovations from the judges. Wow.
Here's how the rest of the night played out:
Queen song: "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Sanchez delivered impressive vocals on this haunting song snippet, prompting Tyler to say Mercury would have been proud. Yet Tyler and Lopez were left wishing Sanchez had rocked out more. Jackson was more effusive. "I loved it," he said.
Second song: Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father"
Dedicating the song to her father, who has been deployed to Iraq and will soon head to Singapore, Sanchez earned high praise from Lopez, who said it was the "most beautiful" version she'd ever heard. "I don't think you could sing a song bad," Tyler gushed, comparing Sanchez to Whitney Houston but adding, "you've got your own thing going on." Jackson said, "Every time you get up there and sing, you know what's wrong with it? Absolutely nothing."
Queen song: "The Show Must Go On"
Laine, who has emerged in recent weeks as a judge favorite, gave Lopez "goosies" and made Tyler exclaim "Oh my god, that was fabulous." Jackson called her performance "effortless," "incredible, dude" and one of her best to date. "This girl right here, she's gotta have it, dude," Jackson said in Jacksonspeak. "That was phenomenal." He then added, "She wants the finish line, and I love it."
Second song: Jason Aldean's "Tattoos on This Town"
Tyler didn't think Laine took us where she usually takes us with this song, but Lopez felt she ultimately hit her stride. Jackson declared himself to be "a ginormous fan" and said because Laine has a good time when she performs, the audience does too.
Queen song: "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
Ledet had fun with this upbeat song, but perhaps not quite as much fun as the judges, who were up on their feet. Lopez admitted Ledet's performances are her favorite parts of performance shows, but Jackson may be Ledet's biggest fan. "That was unbelievable," he said. "Vocals, four checks, Performance, four checks, Character, charisma, four checks." Jackson compared Ledet to a young Wilson Pickett, but Tyler said Ledet's "classic style" sounds "like nobody else."
Second song: India.Arie's "Ready for Love"
Ledet left the judges speechless. "I don't even know what to say anymore," Jackson and Lopez both said. Tyler noted Ledet took him to "another place," adding that with good songs from his presumed future label, the soulful singer will be "off to the moon."
Queen song: "I Want It All"
Testone commanded attention with this demanding rock anthem, with Tyler noting she'd found her stride and calling the performance "over the top," which is high praise from him. Lopez thought she murdered it. And Jackson enthused that it was one of Testone's "best performances to date."
Second song: Jimi Hendrix's "Bold as Love"
Testone was less successful with her Hendrix song, on which she was accompanied by a guitar-playing pal. Tyler didn't think the song was familiar enough to audiences. Lopez disagreed, saying she thought Testone "slayed that song so hard that it didn't even matter." Jackson agreed with Tyler, saying it was the wrong song choice for that point in the competition and that it sounded like she was "boxing" with the song. Lopez summed up the discord: "He didn't like it. I did."
Queen song: "Fat Bottomed Girls"
Tyler took the opportunity to trot out the old "the bigger the cushion" line, but didn't have the appetite to finish it. Lopez seemed to think he was talking about her, but managed to commend Phillips on giving them "different flavors," noting, "That didn't remind me of Dave Matthews at all." Jackson was (rightly, sadly) unimpressed, saying he liked it OK, but didn't love it, and didn't feel like jumping up and down. "I don't know if it was like 'Oh my god,' " he said, "but it was good."
Second song: Dave Matthews' "The Stone"
In what may have been a real misstep for Phillips, he chose a song that showed remarkably little vocal range. Lopez and Jackson again disagreed. She found the song "obscure" and "too artsy" and thought it could cost Phillips a win. Jackson thought it showed Phillips' "true colors" as "an artist." Ryan Seacrest got in the choicest dig at Phillips. The host shared that his girlfriend, Julianne Hough, apparently finds Phillips "yummy." Backstage, Phillips reassured Seacrest he's not trying to steal his girl.
Queen song: "Save Me"
The judges' response was mixed to Cavanagh's performance. Tyler said she did a "really good job," but Lopez heard some pitch issues and said she still felt as if Cavanagh was overthinking her performances. Jackson called the performance "solid" but said Cavanagh needed to have a bigger moment to have a shot at the win.
Second song: Miley Cyrus' "The Climb"
Cavanagh definitely had a big moment here, singing with pitch perfection and passion and rousing the judges to their feet. "That's the Hollie Cavanagh that we love," Jackson said, deeming it to have been the "perfect" song for her. Lopez said she'd stepped it up and nailed the notes and the emotion behind them. Tyler said she sang the song "like it's going out of style."
It's a tough call, but who do you think is in danger tonight? Could Phillip Phillips go the way of Colton Dixon?
"American Idol" vs. "The Voice"
Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, "American Idol's" Phillip Phillips came out on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Use the poll below to vote. Check out last week's performances and see what our judges had to say at latimes.com/idol-voice.
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Queen's Roger Taylor and Brian May perform with the top six on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox