American Idol: Top 7 (Part 2) - April 18, 2012

Top 7 (Part II) - Now & Then - April 18, 2012

The most music in a regular American Idol telecast ever! 14 songs in 2 hours. I was highly impressed by Ryan Seacrest's tribute to Dick Clark at the top of the show. Ryan honored someone who had clearly had a huge influence on him both personally and professionally in a succinct and classy manner.

1. Hollie Cavanagh - "Rolling In The Deep" A-

I was worried for Hollie when I heard she had chosen the done-to-death Adele hit. But I loved it despite myself. The acapella intro and more dramatic instrumentation gave it a feel of a fighter in the ring. She had a nice anger (oxymoron?) throughout this and threw in a few different inflections to change it up from the Adele version ever-so-slightly.

2. Colton Dixon - "Bad Romance" A

What a risky song choice which completely paid off for Colton! I could see Colton making music like this after Idol - and he should. There was a touch of the theatricality of Adam Lambert and the rocker edge of James Durbin. Everything about this performance was perfect - from the staging, the all-female backing band dressed in white, the costuming, the arrangement, and the vocal. The thing that stopped me from giving this performance an A+ was the inclusion of the "oh la la roma roma" section which seemed like a silly way to end the performance.

3. Elise Testone - "No One" B

Let's be clear. I have never liked this song since it came out and was a monster hit my senior year of college. Elise's voice sounded so pretty throughout this song and I liked it (of course) better than the original. But I can't love this song in any incarnation. It seemed to me like Elise was trying to pick a happier, bouncier song that she could smile through. The reasons why the judges loved this performance were probably the reasons I didn't like it as much as her other performances.

4. Philip Philips - "U Got It Bad" A-

He pushed himself on parts and drew back on other parts - the perfect give-and-take for this performance. The way he dropped his voice on "messed around" expressed the shame and desperation of the lyrics. It definitely felt like an interlude at his concert. With the right material, I think Philip has a great touring career ahead of him.

5. Jessica Sanchez - "Fallin'" B+

I liked the liberties Jessica took with this song. She really brought a world-weariness to it that I wasn't expecting from her. My biggest issue with Jessica overall is that it always seems like she is imitating Beyonce, from her intonations to her physicality.

6. Skylar Laine - "Born This Way" A-

I loved the country lyrics Skylar infused into this version. This girl has a huge country career ahead of her because she can perform live, has an amazing voice, and can tell a story with the songs she chooses to sing. She has amazing energy. Skylar is beyond ready for primetime. A fun, well-done performance.

7. Joshua Ledet - "I Believe" A

A real love letter to us long time Idol fans. To those who don't know, "I Believe" was Fantasia's Idol single and "winner's song" way back in 2004's Season 3. I didn't want it to end. And I must admit, like I do with almost any Idol coronation song, I got a bit teary-eyed. What a powerhouse vocal. I was beyond impressed.

8. Hollie Cavanagh - "Son Of A Preacher Man" A

This was the kind of performance I have been waiting for from Hollie since her sublime cover of "All The Man I Need" back during Whitney Houston week. She seriously looked like she was having a good time. A great vocal and a wonderfully fun performance. Sure to be one of my most played on iTunes.

9. Colton Dixon - "September" A/A-

I was bizarrely captivated by this performance and I have to say that's a compliment of the highest order. I think the music drowned out his vocals at points, but overall, it was just so spot-on. This was so different and interesting.

10. Elise Testone - "Let's Get It On" A-

For me, the definitive version of "Let's Get It On" will have to be by one of my favorite Idol contestants ever, Matt Giraud. I devoted an entire blog post to his American Idol run back in 2009, the only time I've ever done that for any Idol contestant.

But, back to Elise - who is my favorite Idol contestant this season, ya know, if you couldn't tell by now. This performance dripped with sex appeal in a way that no other Idol contestant has been able to master this season. The growls were perfect. Overall, a great rendition of the song but I probably would have liked it more if Matt's version wasn't in the back of my head.

11. Philip Philips - "In The Midnight Hour" B/B-

One of my favorite 60's soul songs - just a perfect ode to half romance, half lust. I liked that Philip chose to perform without his guitar on this song and got a bit more crazy with it overall. I liked the song overall, but felt it was probably one of Philip's less memorable performances. Pretty average for me.

12. Jessica Sanchez - "Try A Little Tenderness" B-

There was something off about the arrangement from the beginning to my ears. This is the kind of song you need to get a bit ugly with and the arrangement sounded way too bouncy and poppy. This song has a lot of raw soul and bleeding passion in it and I never felt the true grit in Jessica's performance. Everything seemed way too affected and forced.

13. Skylar Laine - "Heard It Through The Grapevine" A

If I didn't already think that someday I might go to my first country concert to go see Skylar Laine, this performance solidified it for me. This was such an awesomely fun version of a song I have loved for a lifetime. My only critique on this one was that a few of her words turned more into shouting than singing.

14. Joshua Ledet - "A Change Is Gonna Come" A/A-

This was a perfect song choice for Joshua who has stuck pretty firmly in a soul/gospel lane with a few uptempo exceptions. So much emotion and flair in this performance. I'd still have to say Joshua's signature performance so far has been "When A Man Loves A Woman". In fact, I think I'm going to go listen to that one again. And you should too.