Sunday, July 15, 2012

Top 20 Best American Idol Performances - Season 11



20. Philip Philips - "U Got It Bad" (Top 7 Redux)
Original Grade: A-
April 18, 2012 

Seductive and subversive.
"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."



19. Philip Philips - "Give A Little More" (Top 7)
Original Grade: A-
April 11, 2012

"I was glad to see that Philip looked like he was having FUN FOR ONCE! He brings an angry energy to each song, even when the lyrics don't demand it. I thought he brought a better, sexier tone to the song than the original. One of my favorite performances from Philip, whose consistency is turning into complacency quickly. If Philip wants to follow in the footsteps of Kris, Lee, and Scotty, I think he needs a true Idol Moment that sets him apart from HIMSELF."



18. Hollie Cavanagh - "Son Of A Preacher Man" (Top 7 Redux)
Original Grade: A

April 18, 2012

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.



17. Jessica Sanchez - "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (Top 4)
Original Grade: A+
May 9, 2012

"HOW ON EARTH DOES SHE SING LIKE THAT? She brought a world-weariness and intensity to this performance that was so unbelievably compelling. This was just insane!! I loved how overcome she was by emotion and I love that she infused that into her performance so believably."



16. Skylar Laine - "The Show Must Go On" (Top 6)
Original Grade: A/A-
April 25, 2012

"Skylar sang with so much passion and conviction. But in the back of my mind, I had Carly Smithson's unbelievable version from Season 7. The second half of the song improved on the first. Skylar has such a big voice and is so fierce. I would love to say that I think she's a lock for the finale, but at this point, I'm not sure what will happen. Regardless, what a tour-de-force performance! One I am sure I will play many times on iTunes."



15. Skylar Laine - "Heard It Through The Grapevine" (Top 7 Redux)
Original Grade: A
April 18, 2012

"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. Philip Philips - "Stand By Me" (Top 2)
Original Grade: A+
May 22, 2012

"I actually said out loud "this will be boring" when Ryan announced Philip's song title. I was stunned by the result. My notes: "This was insanely unbelievable. Oh good God, that was unbelievable." Perfect arrangement and staging. This was by far one of his best performances on the Idol stage. He sounded perfect. I loved the way he took his time with the song and really turned a simple song into a huge moment. I didn't want to like it, but I LOVED IT."



13. Philip Philips - "Volcano" (Top 4)
Original Grade: A/A-
May 9, 2012
"I have loved this song desperately since I first heard it in 2002. The second I heard Philip was going to sing Damien Rice's haunting ode to knowing your love could destroy someone else, I was a bit apprehensive. But I'd have to say this was one of Philip's best performances on the Idol stage, right up there with "Nice And Slow", "Give A Little More", and "U Got It Bad". I loved that they kept the duet style of the song intact with a female vocalist to accompany Philip. I also loved the abrupt ending to the song. Do yourself a favor and go listen to Damien Rice's unbelievable song."



12. Skylar Laine - "Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You" (Top 7)
Original Grade: A
April 11, 2012

"Skylar is a truly captivating performer, more than just a singer. I think that's what makes the difference between someone that has a good Idol run and someone that translates their Idol success into a real career. It was a little bizarre that Jimmy Iovine tried to dissuade Skylar from playing her guitar (imagine if they did that to Philip!), so I was glad that she stuck to her guns. She has a great way of interpreting the lyrics and telling a story. While that is a hallmark of country music, not every country performer has that ability (see: Lauren Alaina). Loved the guitar on the track. Overall, a great song choice for Skylar. Since this wasn't a big crossover hit, it's likely that Skylar's version is the one the audience will know and remember."



11. Jessica Sanchez - "The Prayer" (Top 2)
Original Grade: A+
May 22, 2012

"Gorgeous and thoughtful. Jessica made a great song choice in picking her Vegas solo (a song she did not perform on a live show). Seemed fresh in comparison to Philip's choice. It was an achingly beautiful, restrained, yet emotional vocal from Jessica  I loved it and thought she really picked the perfect song for this moment on the show. If any performance could win her the title, it would be this one. I only wish she had been able to close the show with this perfect performance!"



10. Hollie Cavanagh - "Bleeding Love" (Top 5)
Original Grade: A+
May 2, 2012

"Achingly gorgeous and sung with perfection. She took her time with the song and let each word land with resonance. Full disclosure: I absolutely hate this Leona Lewis song. I turn it off everytime it comes on the radio which thankfully is less and less often. But Hollie did the impossible - turned this awful Leona Lewis hit into something with emotion, pitch perfection, and overall beauty."




9. Hollie Cavanagh - "All The Man I Need" (Top 13)
Original Grade: A
March 7, 2012

"This was truly gorgeous. I love her delicate choices with the notes. I have a feeling this is a version of the song I will listen to over and over again and get something new out of it each time. I like it more each time I listen to it. She has a pretty voice but there's something a bit darker in it too."



8. Colton Dixon - "Love The Way You Lie" (Top 7)
Original Grade: A
April 11, 2012

"I was glad to see that Colton covered the original song, with its beautiful and poignant lyrics. This was gorgeous and haunting and cemented Colton as a more consistently original contestant that Philip. I find it a bit disturbing that Jimmy Iovine feels the need to pit contestants against each other (ie: Jessica vs. Hollie last week and Philip vs. Colton this week). The arrangement with just the strings section and the piano was absolutely perfect in the creation of an "Idol Moment" for Colton. It is crazy that the judges gave a standing ovation to Joshua this week but not Colton. Maybe the producers told them that giving 5 standing ovations in one night (2 weeks ago) is overkill."



7. Elise Testone - "Vienna" (Top 10)
Original Grade: A
March 20, 2012

"What an unbelievably gorgeous tone Elise showcases on every note that she sings. I love the breaks in her voice, the grit and the growl, the devastation she can put into a chord. In what has become a bit of a teen pageant more and more with each passing year, it is refreshing to see an adult put a bit of her heart and soul into the music she sings. Also, how on earth could Jimmy Iovine think that "Vienna" is a song that America would not recognize? It's certainly one of Billy Joel's most popular."



6. Joshua Ledet - "When A Man Loves A Woman" (Top 11)
Original Grade: A+
March 14, 2012

"This was so unbelievable I am not sure I have the words for it, but I'll try. I'm not sure I have loved a performance on this season of American Idol so much (with the notable exception of Skylar's phenomenal A+ worthy "Stay With Me" during Top 24 week). The first performance of the night that truly woke me up and had me singing along with all the words. The vocal theatrics were pitch perfect and beyond that, fit emotionally with the song in a way that enhanced the lyrics. I think that is a point worth emphasizing. So often when singers do vocal runs, it is just to show off their voice and has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics or emotional content of the song. Joshua nailed it tonight in a way that stunned me."



5. Joshua Ledet - "To Love Somebody" (Top 5)
Original Grade: A+
May 2, 2012

"I got closer to my TV as Joshua began this song. I was expecting great things. And I got them. I was expecting a bit more of dramatic instrumentation when Joshua began the first "you don't know what it's like", but I can get over that. Sort of. Joshua inhabited this song so amazingly I forgot about everything else. This was a revelation."


4. Joshua Ledet - "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World" (Top 4)
Original Grade: A
May 9, 2012

How did I not give this an A+ originally?

"What a tour-de-force performance. WOW. I love the emotion he threw in here so effortlessly. I loved when he let his voice go deep and then brought it back up. I loved the cry in his voice. I loved the ominous tone to the performance like it was going to go off the rails at any moment. I loved the grit. DUDE! YO! (OK, that's enough quoting Randy Jackson.) I also love that the performance was allowed to be 3 minutes and 10 seconds, when most of them are condensed."



3. Jessica Sanchez - "Steal Away" (Top 4)
Original Grade: A+
May 9, 2012

"Jessica dug deep within herself here and really inhabited this song. I was INSANELY impressed. I've never fully understood judges' criticisms that young contestants can't possibly have the life experience or past relationship experience to really understand/relate to/connect to certain songs. COME ON. Being in high school has got to be the most dramatic, overwrought time of one's life. You fall in love with every drop of blood in your being, your triumphs are mystical, your failures are life-threatening.
The lyrics of this song are all about sneaking out in the middle of the night to see a lover your parents don't approve of. I think the absolute right person to sing this song is a 16 year old! Anyway, back to Jessica's performance: It was gritty. Amazing. Captivating. An absolute must download!"



2. Skylar Laine - "Stay With Me" (Top 25)
Original Grade: A+
February 29, 2012

I don't start blogging about American Idol until the Top 13 or 12 so I missed my chance to write about Skylar's explosive entrance onto the American Idol stage. But here, finally, is my review. Much to my intense dismay, American Idol's official YouTube has taken down their video of this awesome performance so I've embedded a more blurry version of it below. This was an amazingly unorthodox song choice - a 1971 classic rock song by The Faces, a band that included Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. Skylar took this song and so effortlessly made it her own, made it a one-hundred percent country song, and delivered it with ferocity and conviction. This was a freaking fun performance.



1. Elise Testone - "Whole Lotta Love" (Top 9)
Original Grade: A+
March 28, 2012

"This performance literally got me off the couch to stand closer to the TV. When I heard Elise was going to sing Led Zeppelin, I was expecting something epic. After all, Haley Reinhart singing "What Is And What Should Never Be" was one of the best moments of Season 10. I can not say enough about the passion and intensity that Elise sang with. She seemed to be having an amazing time and just every ounce of her breathed rock 'n roll music. As a lifetime rock 'n roll believer, I could just feel how genuinely she had this song pound through her veins. I could listen to this over and over again and I suspect I will. I've already listened to it 3 times since I downloaded it approximately 20 minutes ago. I am headed to iTunes right now to see if the studio version of this track is available for download. I am not exaggerating at all when I say this performance made me believe in rock 'n roll again (as if there was ever a moment where I could not)."



Well, that's it for another season of American Idol, my friends. If you're interested, check out my favorite Idol blogger Michael Slezak and his list of the Top 21 Season 11 Idol performances over at TVLine.