And then there were five

The show, quickly:

Elise Testone
Elise Testone

The lead singer of the Queen tribute group… is it me or did he look (and sound) like a cross between Freddy Mercury and George Thorogood? That song is bad to the bone… Brian May and Roger Taylor are still really, really good; maybe as good as they were at their peak. Not all rockers age poorly.

Stefano….. I was impressed. Not so much with the song (it was alright, commercial stuff, not for guys like me but it could certainly be a hit) but with Stefano himself. Usually, when songs like this are performed on Idol, everything is lip synched. Stefano sang live, and it still sounded so slick that the internet Idol sites are arguing about whether he was live or not. Also, I have to be impressed that last year’s 7th place finisher was able to get his act together in time to make the appearance. Casey finished 6th, and he’s going to be on Idol eventually, but he’s not ready yet. I’m not sure any 7th place or lower Idol since Jennifer Hudson (also 7th) has ever appeared on the show with an original song, and none of them made the show the very next season. That’s partly a tribute to Stefano putting together a quality release, and partly a tribute to the depth of talent from last season. Well done, Stef. Now go get that song in the top 40.

Where would Katy Perry finish if she had started out as an Idol contestant? My guess is that she would make the finals, but be touch and go for the tour. She’s pretty good, not a joke as a real singer, but she ain’t exactly in the diva class. She has other talents, and she is obviously very popular. I give her props for singing live (well, taped live) instead of mailing it in. She is an Idol fan, and she even guest judged last year. She might be in line to be a judge in a few years, and she might take the job. Would she be good? I didn’t like her last year, but thinking about it she might be really good. She’s blunt, and she can be funny. She sure as hell wouldn’t be a shill like J-Lo, or a soft touch like Steven.

Jimmy talked briefly about Phil being under the weather last night, before moving on to the performances. I hammered Phil mercilessly last night, and part of why I did was because I felt like he was sort of mailing it in. Knowing that he was sick changes my perspective quite a bit. If it matters, I am going to give Phil a pass for last night when I move forward to next week’s shows. He was pretty bad, but he had a reasonable excuse. The issue now is that his sickness isn’t the type that will just go away. He’s going to have to work with it, deal with it, and do what he can.

I took a second to stare at the faces of Elise and Hollie, holding each other as Ryan did his dramatic pause, then I suddenly had to rewind it a couple of times to try and catch what Elise said to Hollie right before the result was announced. She said something that made Hollie almost giggle against her will. I think she said “it’s me”, paused for a second, then turned back to bump her and whisper “you shit” in her ear, and then she smiled down at Hollie, then up to the heavens. Hollie sort of crossed her eyes and stifled a giggle, then turned her head back to the floor and went back to the “I’m SO gone” face she had on since they came back from commercial, getting ready to smile and not burst into tears when Ryan chopped her head off.

As it turned out Elise was sent home this week, leaving Hollie to plan her exit next week (barring another shocker). Elise showed a lot more grace about it than the show did; singing and kissing the judges, while Idol cut her off before she was done. That didn’t seem right to me. Elise wasn’t going to win, but she was a dammed good contestant. She deserved maybe a little bit more love from the producers. It seemed callous.

Anyway, once Hollie gracefully exits next week after blowing up “The Climb” or “Rolling in the Deep” Idol will be down to what might be the closest, and most diverse, final four they have ever had:

Skylar Laine, 18 year old country singer from Mississippi. Her bottom three appearance tonight doesn’t look good, but I kind of toss it out. She might have been the one contestant whose fan base got complacent this week. If she’s there again next week we’ll know she’s probably not going to make the finale, but I don’t expect her to be there next week.

Country artists have traditionally done extremely well post-Idol, even the ones who don’t win. Kelly Pickler (6th), Josh Gracin (4th), Bucky Covington (8th), Christy Leigh Cook (7th), Danny Gokey (3rd), Michael Sarver (10th), Casey James (3rd) and Lauren Alaina (2nd) have all charted hits inNashville. Add in Carrie Underwood and Scotty McCreery, and it seems like going on Idol is the best way to get signed byNashville. Skylar could go home next week and the first thing she’ll see is a raft of contracts shoved in her face. She’s going to be in the top 40 by spring.

Joshua Ledet, 20 year old gospel singer from Louisiana.Intuitively I can’t see him making it past two of the other three to makethe finale. His style and his ethnicity have been out of Idol style since text messaging was added. There hasn’t been a black finale performer since Jordin Sparks won in season six. Still, he’s maybe the best singer in the competition. That has to at least give him a puncher’s chance. I like him quite a bit as a person, his personality is fun, but I get really bored by all the vocal calisthenics. Will Americabe bored? Or thrilled? I would love him if he just sang a melody, but will he just sing a melody? Johnny Mathis didn’t always sing with the knob on ten. Joshua could be the new Johnny Mathis, he’s that good. He just needs to learn the difference between singing scales and singing a song. He can fit the scales in later.

Jessica Sanchez, 16 year old diva in training from San Diego by way of the Phillipines. Jessie is in an awkward position: She has to wait for either Skylar or Phil to misstep in order to nail down a spot in the finals, despite the trivial fact that she is better than they are. If she survives that, she has to deal with the 23 standing ovations that Joshua has received for basically singing scales in front of 20 million people. The weirdest part about it is that the judges just love her. They desperately want her to succeed, but they are killing her with the same kindness that they killed Elise with.

Small world stuff:

– Jessica is 3 days older than my daughter, who is also named Jessica.

– Her father and I were both in the Navy, and we both spent a lot of time in the city in thePhilippineswhere he met Jessica’s mother.

It was a fairly common practice in those days for Sailors to marry Pilipino women; Jessica is the product of just such a marriage. Her father is Mexican-American, so she has three countries to call home. Jessie is just a kid, but she has a fierce face, doesn’t she? I don’t really understand all the criticism about her stage presence. That face IS stage presence. She won’t learn how to move like an adult for several years, but that’s normal for a teenager. Her vocal prowess? That’s not normal for a teenager.

Phil Phillips, 21 year old blue eyed soul singer from Georgia. I hammer on Phil a lot, but don’t get me wrong. I like the kid, and I don’t root against him. If he wins I’ll hammer on him mercilessly, of course, but I’ll secretly be happy for him. It’s not his fault that the judges give him a pass for his singing because he’s an “artist”. He’s just doing his thing. Just remember that Phil has exactly as many original songs on Youtube as Jessica Sanchez. Actually that might not be true. Jessica has over 200 videos. Maybe one of them is an original song? I looked at all of Phil’s videos. None of them are original songs. I kind of expected that some of them would be. Stereotyping?

Power Rankings:

5: Hollie– Her fourth final two appearance is a new Idol record. There is, even without hearing them next week, an 95% chance that she’ll be there again, and if so a 95% chance that she will go home. For some reason I almost expect her to survive one more week anyway. Dread Pirate Roberts might be taking a liking to her… but she ain’t Haley. Haley was better than they (we) thought she was. Hollie is about as good as they think she is. Haley could blow us away. Hollie doesn’t have that in her yet. She needs more experience. What a voice, though….

4: Joshua- I honestly don’t know if he’s the top dog right now or barely above Hollie. It’s that close. I say, over and over, that he does nothing for me. I also say, over and over, that the dude can sing. I’m not sure where he would rank by pure singing ability in Idol history, but he’s probably in the top ten.

3: Jessica- As good a singer as Josh is, Jessica is better. Jessica is singing with a piston down, and still competing at a high level. One of the reasons the judges are so hard on her is probably because they intuitively sense that something is wrong. 16 year olds who node their vocal chords recover quickly, but Idol’s schedule doesn’t allow even that much time. Don’t be surprised if Jessie sounds a TON better in a year, once she gets the month or so that she needs to get rid of the injury. Let’s just hope she doesn’t need surgery. That takes more like three months, sometimes longer.

I’m a total sucker for the underdog. You all know me, so that’s no surprise. Jessica wasn’t an underdog all season, but with the nodeshe is. Hollie is still in, so I sort of root for her, but if you were to ask me who I am really rooting for now, it’s Jessie. 16 years old, dealing with a node, and getting dammed by faint praise from a panel that thinks Phil is an artist? I’ll give my heart to tiny little Jessie with the huge, yet injured voice.

2: Skylar- Her bottom three appearance was her second of the season. Only one Idol winner has ever been in the bottom three with more than five left.

1: Phil- He has to be the one to beat now, but its close enough that he could drop to fourth next week, or even go home. As I said above, it’s extremely rare for an Idol winner to land in the bottom three early in the show. Phil is the only one who hasn’t, if you assume Jessica was in the bottom three when they “announced” that she was.