New Releases For January 29th, 2013

Of Vice & Virtue

Humble Beast
Buy: Amazon

Colton Dixon

Sparrow Records
Buy: Amazon

More Than You Know
The Ember Days

Buy: Amazon

Fiction Family Reunion
Fiction Family

Rock Ridge Music
Folk/Sunshine Pop
Buy: Amazon

Christopher Collabo

Available for free at Playdough’s website

Rend Collective Experiment

Integrity Records
Indie Folk
Buy: Amazon

So JAmerican Idol Season 11 Top 4 Live Performances

Game is on.  American Idol Season 11 is down to its final four.  Will the hard charging Hollie Cavanagh overtake season long favorite Jessica Sanchez?  Will Joshua Ledet’s incredible run of performances be enough to get a full throated gospel/soul singer to the finale?  Can the rapidly fading Phil Phillips ride his tremendous popularity to the title?  Many believe that the finale and the winner are pretty much decided.  I think all of this will be decided by the performances over the next two weeks.

Tonight the American Idol Season 11 Top 4 will sing two songs.  They will sing songs that “they wish they had written”.  That could be anything.  The other song selections should be of the “California Sound”. Don’t know what that means. I hope everyone is amazing and we get each performers best shot tonight.  Join me now as I live blog the American Idol Season 11 top 4 performance show.

The first theme is California Dreamin.

Phil Phillips is up first with “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”.  This is one of the first rock songs of my youth.  Phil performs without his trusty guitar and interprets this as a light hearted summer song.  I doubt Phil knows this is a war lament song, like many of CCR’s songs.  He sang it pretty well, but I did not not like his cheery, light hearted interpretation. J-Lo says his vocal quality was perfectly chosen.  Randy thinks he started off pitch but quickly recovered.  The judges seemed to like that much more than me.

Hollie Cavanagh goes big ballad again with Journey’s “Faithfully”  I am not sure this is going to help Hollie’s quest to make it into the American Idol Season 11 top 3.  Watching her strut across the stage, there is just a new cockiness in Hollie’s entire demeanor.  I am not sure this was the best song to show off her big voice.  She fought through most of the song in her lower register.  She hit some big notes at the end but we needed more of that than we got.  Randy loved what she did with his band’s song.  J-Lo hits it with her comment about how laid back Hollie has become.  Stephen loved her choice of song and her performance.  Maybe I am just in a bad mood tonight but the judges are loving these performances much more than me.

I am just not understanding these song choices.  On a night when Joshua Ledet needs to show his modern relevance as a pop artist, he chooses Josh Grobin’s “You Lift Me Up”.  Okay, Joshua Ledet is dedicating this song to his father. Didn’t know that was a gospel song. That was another vocal tour de force by Joshua. I loved those breaks in the middle of the song.  That was a great interpretation of a song I did not think could be interpreted.  All of the judges are in awe of Joshua Ledet and his future.

Jessica Sanchez makes the most interesting song choice of the night with Etta James’ “Steal Away”. Jessica picked a song that allowed her to let loose with her big vocals and she did just that.  Fantastic performance.  She romped and stomped all over that song.  J-Lo says she is one of the best female singers on the scene today.  Randy loved how she tapped into the blues.  That was my favorite performance of the night so far.

Finally, Phil Phillips gets to sing a duet in his wheelhouse. He and Joshua Ledet do a good job with Maroon 5′s “This Time”.

American Idol is wasting a lot of time tonight with duets, group numbers and videos.  Let’s get on with it.

Phil Phillips wishes he had written “Volcano” which was written by Damien Rice. Back with his guitar Phil Phillip is accompanied by a cello. This was brilliant choice by Phil Phillips.  The song is contemporary but not well known and it is a perfect song for his voice.  This dark, simple, haunting performance marks the re-emergence of Phil Phillips. Stephen says he has never heard Phillip sing like that.  J-Lo says very few people could have pulled that off.  She called it one of the most beautiful, most poignant moments in the history of American Idol.  Randy says it was one of his best performances of Season 11.  We loved that performance.

Hollie Cavanagh wants to write “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. Let’s see if she can. Beautiful singing with a beautiful voice but I think the production was a little over the top.  Hollie just got caught up in the production.  Stephen thought the song came up a little short.  J-Lo just does not think she connected with the emotion.  Randy did not think the song fit her talent.  He said the song had nowhere for her to go with the song. Unfortunately, this was not the night of great performances that Hollie Cavanagh needed.

So Joshua Ledet is doing James Brown, “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”.  He is singing it to honor his mother’s role as the backbone of their family. This kid is the real deal.  Soul just oozes from this performance.  What a showcase.  The growls, the grunts, the screams. OH MY GOODNESS. Joshua Ledet just set American Idol on fire.  Anyone not amazed at this moment does not understand soul music.  Stephen says no one has ever sang that good on this show, ever.  Stephen says he has never seen anything like that at.  J-Lo had to turn to spanish to express herself. Randy says it is one of the greatest performances of any singing show ever. With that atomic performance, Joshua Ledet just said to America, “any questions”?

Now time to finish the American Idol Top 4 with Jessica Sanchez singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls. This is Jessica’s response to the judge’s save.  This is the perfect song for a singer like Jessica Sanchez. That was some crazy good singing, but I think it was too much too soon.  She went big and crazy right from the beginning and she sort of lost me.  The rest of the performance was sort of muddled for me.  I would have liked a little more emotional development and dynamics in the song.  The judges do not agree and give her a standing ovation. The judges said it all with their standing O.

Joshua Ledet had the best performance of the night. Phil Phillip defined his identity as an artist.  Jessica Sanchez showed off her voice.  I am afraid the Hollie Cavanagh did not raise her game enough to hang with these other three performers.  Joins us tomorrow night as we find out how our American Idol Season 11 top 3.



American Idol Season 11 Top 10 Performances

We are approaching the end of American Idol Season 11 and so I thought I would take a moment to share with you our favorite performances of the season.  Season 11 has been one of the best in American Idol history.  The top 12 was solid and the top 10 has no weaknesses. If you have read our coverage of American Idol Season 11 you know it will be heavy with some Joshua Ledet.  Here are the One21music top 1o performances of American Idol Season 11.

1) “Everything” by Colton Dixon

This performance started off the night when the American Idol top 9 were allowed to select their favorite song.  Christian musician Colton Dixon set the entire show on its ear that night in one of the most emotional American Idol shows I have ever seen. Here is Colton Dixon singing the definition of his Christian faith.

2)”To Love Somebody” by Joshua Ledet

Everyone already knew Christian musician Joshua Ledet was unique singer, but when he took this song he had never heard and did this with it, all of the professionals associated with American Idol knew they were in the presence of a special talent. Here is Joshua Ledet stealing the show on American Idol Season 11 top 5.

3)”Without You” by Joshua Ledet

This was when it dawned on me what kind of voice Joshua Ledet possesses. This song is virtually impossible to sing and Joshua performed it effortlessly. Every other perfromance I have ever heard of this song you got the feeling the singer was fighting to control “Without You”. Joshua Ledet just mauled this song on the American Idol Season 11 top 9.

4)”Whole Lotta Love” by Elise Testone

The highlight of Elise Testone‘s run on American Idol Season11 came when she closed the top 9 show with this Led Zeppelin classic.  This showed Elise at her most joyful, confident, rocking self.  That was something we did not see enough of from her.

5)”Still Raining” by Phil Phillips

The American Idol Season 11 top 9 show was something special. Four of my top 5 songs come from that night. With “Still Raining” we see Phil Phillips in his full glory. He growls and scats and stomps his way through this Johnny Lang song and takes us to the future with his own mini Phil Phillips concert. This is what got Phil into the top4.

6)”The Show Must Go On” by Skylar Laine

This is just a singing clinic put on by Skylar Laine.  She delivers a perfect vocal performance and a riveting visual performance of this lesser known Queen song.  This is one of the numbers that showed America that country girl Skylar Laine is also big time singer Skylar Laine.

7)”Stuttering” by Jessica Sanchez

This is Jessica Sanchez‘s most complete, mature performance of the entire season. This song is big enough for her voice and has plenty of room for all of the runs she loves to do. Rather than just sing the song she embraces and engulfs the song and delivers a stellar moment for her and for us. Watch Jessica Sanchez perform “Stuttering” on American Idol Season 11 top 7 show.

8)”River Deep Mountain High” by Hollie Cavanagh

Hollie Cavanagh had been hinting at this for several weeks. She flipped the switch a few weeks ago and finally, in the American Idol Season 11 top 5 show, she embraces her artistry and delivers a great performance of one of pop music’s best songs ever. Watch how she holds her head so defiantly. Watch how she effortlessly moves around the stage. See Hollie Cavanagh as the star in front of this big band.

9)”When A Man Loves A Woman” by Joshua Ledet

Sometimes you just gotta SING a soul song.  On the American Idol Season 11 top 11 show we did not know that Joshua Ledet would become the king of standing ovations.  But by the time he had finished wringing every ounce of soul out of this iconic soul song we knew Joshua Ledet was something special. The judges leapt to their feet halfway through the song and were jumping up and down and cheering through the entire second half of Joshua’s performance.  This was the first of many command performances on American Idol Season 11 by Joshua Ledet.

10)”September” by Colton Dixon

I know that many people did not like Colton Dixon’s interpretation of “September”. I loved it and I thought it was overlooked. Look for this on Colton Dixon’s first album.

And I could just keep going until this article never loads on anyone’s computer.  American Idol Season 11 has been my favorite so far.  The performers are fantastic, Jimmy Iovine has found his rhythm as a mentor and there have been so many great performances.  Here are few that fell outside my top 10:

“Bleeding Love” by Hollie Cavanagh
“Supersition” by Phil Phillips
“You Are So Beautiful” by Jessica Sanchez
“Let’s Stay Together” by Elise Testone
“Ready for Love” by Joshua Ledet
“Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Skylar Laine
“A Song For You” by Heejun Han
“All The Man I Need” by Hollie Cavanagh
“Sometimes I Cry” by DeAndre Brakensick
“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Joshua Ledet
“Son of A Preacher Man” by Hollie Cavanagh
“U Got It Bad” by Phil Phillips
“I Will Always Love You” by Jessica Sanchez
“Don’t You Know How Much I Love You” by Skylar Laine

Three more weeks to the finale.  If the final four can keep up this pace, American Idol Season 11 will go down as maybe the best ever. Join us next week for our top 4 power rankings and our live blogs of the performances and the results.

American Idol Season 11 Top 5 Performance Live Blog

New news about the American Idol Season 11 Top 5.  Tonight they will sing one song from the British music scene and one song from the 60′s. As we said in the our season 11 top 5 power rankings, the race to the finale is close and everyone needs to be great on every performance.  Joshua Ledet needs to continue to stay rooted in his ballad power while demonstrating versatility with an upbeat soul or pop number.  Skylar Laine needs to demonstrate her versatility without losing her country foundation.  We would like to see a little more growth from Phil PhillipsJessica Sanchez needs to create deeper emotional connections with her performances and with the audience and Hollie Cavanagh needs to have four straight mind blowing performances.

Expect a lot of music from the 60′s because that was the height of British pop music and, well, the other half of the theme is “songs from the 60′s”.  Little Steven of the E Street band and The Sopranos is the celebrity mentor tonight and we expect him to be very good.  Let’s jump in and enjoy some good music on British Week.

Hollie Cavanagh starts the night off with “River Deep, Mountain High”.  Hollie is stepping out.  Little Steven gives her a little punk advice.  This is a new, sassy, aggressive Hollie Cavanagh.  She is dancing and prancing around the stage like she is Tina Turner.  Oh by the way, she is throwing that big voice around like a bully on the school yard.  I love this Hollie Cavanagh! Yes, yes, yes.  That was her best performance of the season.  Stephen says “Thank you Lord”.  J-Lo says she could really feel her attack the song. Randy makes it unanimous- he loved it.  I agree with Randy-She wore it out.  Is Hollie Cavanagh attacking American Idol Season 11? Everybody better watch out!

Phil Phillips is singing “The Letter”.  This is a great song for Phil Phillips. Steven talks Jimmy our of his advice for Phil. Phil leads a big funky arrangement of this 50 year old song. I like his syncopated rhythms.  Very good Phil Phillips! No highlights but a lot of fun. Randy loved that Phil made it new for him. J-Lo says the song lacked melody but he is compelling to watch. Stephen missed the melody but says Phil pulls it off.  Kind of mixed reviews.  I had fun with it but I was not blown away.

Skylar Laine brings CCR’s “Fortunate Son” to the stage. Not he rorignial choice but Jimmy convinced her to sing it. I don’t know. Skylar Laine is so good that I enjoy every minute of every performance but I don’t think she really embraced these lyrics.  J-Lo says she attacks every single song.  Stephen says it was fabulous.  Randy says Skylar is born on the stage. The judges love her so much that they do not discuss her performance.  It was entertaining but not earth shattering.

This should be interesting. Joshua Ledet and Phil Phillips are performing a duet of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”.  This should be interesting. I just lost a little respect for Joshua Ledet.  He had never heard of this song? Neither of them can sing the low parts of this duet. This is pretty bad. I will stop talking now.

Jessica Sanchez blows Little Stevens’ mind with “Proud Mary”. Feeling like I am in Vegas. She is singing the notes with aplomb but I just don’t feel the grit and raw energy of that song.  J-Lo loved her movement and her great voice.  Stephen is hearing the blues.  Randy thought Jessica’s performance was barely okay. I agree with Randy, but J-Lo does not.  I think Simon would have eviscerated Jessica Sanchez for that performance.

Now Joshua Ledet is looking for another standing ovation with “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”  I don’t know.  Is there enough in this song for Joshua Ledet to ride.  It is mid-tempo Motown song without many big notes. Okay, so I was wrong. Where does he pull those notes from?  This guy is a STAR! Amazing. Stephen just calls Joshua one of the top 2 Idols of all time. J-Lo calls Joshua sick. Randy pulls out a Terence Trent-D’Arby reference and says Joshua could launch an R&B renaissance.

Round one goes to Hollie Cavanagh and Joshua Ledet.

Can Hollie Cavanagh keep her momentum with “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis.  Little Steven says to just sing it to one person and think about the audience. Who is the girl and what did she do with Hollie Cavanagh.  Another great, engrossing performance. Perfect timing and great performance dynamics and a huuuge note to put an exclamation point on the performance.  Hollie Cavanagh is fighting her way back onto American Idol Season 11.  Stephen it was beautiful. J-Lo says she had a breathtaking run at the end of the song.  Randy says it was unbelievably good and she was two for two tonight.  I love me some Hollie Cavanagh tonight.  Randy says she is peaking and I agree.

Now Phil Phillips interprets The Zombies’ “Time of The Season”. This song was one of the highlights of Blake Lewis’ American Idol run a few years ago. Phil Phillips tries to sing the melody and we discover why he has developed his unique performing style.  This singing is really not good.  I think I will use the word bad. I feel bad for Phil Phillips. It is going to take all of his charisma to survive this performance.  Randy uses the word great? Did I hear a completely performance and then finally called in “nice”. J-Lo says it was relaxed. Stephen says he sang it well. I cannot disagree more vehemently with the judges.  I thought that was one of the worst performances of American Idol Season 11.

The girls now sing “Higher and Higher”. This is pretty good.  Three big voices just letting themselves wail.  That was fun.

Time for Skylar Laine to make her mark tonight. She chooses “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”. That was perfect.  Skylae Laine wrang every bit of power and emotion out that song.  I love the way she tells the story of the song. Randy says it was perfect. J-Lo says Skylar Laine is winning the audience over and raves over her performance skills. Stephen says she brought that 60′s song into the 21st century.  No reason to send Skylar Laine home after that performance.

Jessica Sanchez is doing Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”.  The judges worry that the song is too and pretty.  Jessica Sanchez just proved she can sing a song without making a run out of every verse and it was beautiful.  That was so restrained and controlled and quiet that it pulled us all onto the stage with her.  This was maybe her best performance of the season. The judges just loved it.  I just loved it too. That was amazing.

Joshua Ledet finishes the evening with “To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees.  I am without words to describe the joy of watching the birth of this great singing talent and superstar performer.  Joshua Ledet just put every other performance tonight in it place– behind him.  Of course the judges leap to their feet.  Randy says wow.  Randy says you have to be born to do what Joshua Ledet just did.  Randy says Joshua Ledet is one of the best singers ever on American idol.  J-Lo says he is one of the best singer of the past 50 years.  Stephen says that would be a hit record today.

Join us tomorrow night to watch the crime of sending someone home after a night like this.


American Idol Season 11 Top 5 Power Rankings

We are making the turn to the American Idol Season 11 finale.  Twenty-three days until we know who captures the Season 11 American Idol crown.  For One21music, Joshua Ledet and Skylar Laine have distinguished themselves as the class of Season 11.  However, Phil Phillips has shown tremendous popularity and is a real contender.  Jessica Sanchez seems to be a few years away from turning her tremendous talent into the full package.  Hollie Cavanagh has mounted a mini comeback to recover from the brink of elimination.

American Idol Season 11 Top 5 Power Rankings

1) Joshua Ledet- The most consistent performer of American Idol Season 11 is clearly Joshua Ledet.  The most spectacular performer of American Idol Season 11 is arguably Joshua LedetJoshua Ledet is the best male singer in the past three seasons of American Idol. As Skylar Laine pointed out on American Idol Top 6 performance show, Joshua Ledet has received 12 standing ovations from the judges this year, including two last week.  And what a revelation last week was.  Joshua’s second song “I Am Ready for Love” was a season highlight.  However, it is his performance of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” that was the revelation.  As Jimmy Iovine pointed out, thar Queen song revealed his tremendous cross-over potential.  Last week was the final judgement for us, Joshua Ledet deserves to win American Idol Season 11.

2) Skylar Laine- She was in the bottom three last week, which was a disappointment, but if anyone has the talent to beat Joshua Ledet, it is Skylar Laine.  She has as big a voice as any of the three reamaining females.  She owns a strong American Idol demographic, the country voters.  Skylar Laine‘s commanding stage presence, riveting confidence and fearless performance style sets her apart from everyone else on American Idol Season 11.  Skylar Laine’s biggest asset, her clear country roots and style, is also her biggest weakness.  When Skylar avoids modern country pop music, she soars.  However, at every opportunity she selects a popular country song that does not demonstrate her talents.  Her version of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” is a perfect example.  This song allows her to demonstrate the full range of her vocal, interpretive and performance skills in a way that few modern country songs can handle. She needs to be very careful with song selection the rest of this season. The right songs will land her in the finale but if she forces the country on us, she could go home prematurely.

3) Phil Phillips- He has yet to land in the bottom three and I don’t get that.  I enjoy Phil Phillips but I don’t get why everyone thinks he is so special.  I live in Austin, Texas and I can see twenty guys just like Phil Phillips every night of the week.  One of the secrets of winning American Idol is that you grow and develop every week and show new sides of your talent as the season progresses.  That is how David Cook and Kris Allen won.  I have not seen that from Phil Phillips.  We could interchange his performances from any point in the season and they will be the same.  Consistency is important, but I have not seen Phil Phillips develop under the watchful eye of Jimmy Iovine, the mentors and these judges.  I think he deserves to be here and I think he deserves to reach the top 3, but if American Idol Season 11 develops as it has so far, I will disappointed with Phil Phillips in the finale.

4) Jessica Sanchez- At the beginning, I thought American Idol Season 11 was going to be the coronation of Jessica Sanchez.  She clearly has the voice and the singing talent.  However, in this season of great singers she is not so far ahead of Joshua Ledet, Skylar Laine or even Hollie Cavanagh that we can overlook her shortcomings.  For me, she just needs more maturity and life experience.  Many of her performances seem to be just that–performances.  I do not believe her and I do not think she can connect with most of the lyrics she sings.  There have been exceptions and they have been stunning.  “Stuttering” and “Dance With My Father” are two examples of what she can become.  I just don’t think she is there yet. Her 16 years maybe been too focused on her career and I think she just needs to live in the world a little more to find her emotional voice. When Jessica Sanchez does, I will be there with my credit card in hand.


5) Hollie Cavanagh-  It happens every year. Someone who looks lost for much of the season finds their voice and then makes a deep run on American IdolHayle Reinhart and Syesha Mercado are two shining examples.  On American Idol Season 11, that person is Hollie Cavanagh. A few weeks ago Akon told her that someday she would flip the switch from amateur to professional.  Hollie flipped that switch almost immediately and, since then, her performances have been strikingly deeper and more connected.  Her voice has always been great but she has really stretched herself since she met with Akon.  She still tends to favor big pop ballads and has not shown enough versatitility.  This week is British week and with the right song she could make a big statement.  Remember Jordan Spark‘s and “I Who Have Nothing”? However, it feels like her comeback is too little too late to surpass the others in this American Idol Season 11 top 5.

Join us tonight as we watch the American Idol Season 11 top 5 perform from the very broad theme- British Week.  No time for mediocrity now- it is either be great or go home.

American Idol Season 11 Top 6 Results

On American Idol 2012 last night, we watched our 6 contestants rock out with selections by Queen and then a “free choice” song.  It was a memorable night for some and a disappointing night for others.  We watched as our Christian performers Skylar Laine and Joshua Ledet seemed to carry the night.  And we are not just saying that because they are in our top 3!  We thoroughly enjoyed Skylar’s huge performance with “The Show Must Go On” and “Tattoos on this Town”and dropped our jaws when Joshua  sang “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Ready for Love”. Both of these young singers are so talented and we find ourselves wanting them to sing the songs in their entirety each time they perform.  After some of the shocking eliminations this season, the outcome should be exciting.  Who will go home tonight?

This is the final stretch and all 6 want to make the final cut.  Ryan Seacrest tells us that 58 million votes were cast last night, 10 million more than last year.  Wow.  I hope everyone voted for Joshua and Skylar.  (By the way, this is Debbie writing tonight, so if it gets sappy, forgive me.)  Katy Perry, Stefano and the Queen Extravaganza are performing tonight.

So here we go with the results.  Ryan will be calling everyone out in pairs.  First up, Jessica Sanchez and Elise Testone.  Jessica’s Dad is visiting and in the audience tonight.  He deploys out soon.  Jimmy was not impressed with Elise’s choice of songs and doesn’t feel she is safe.  And  after the nation wide vote, he is correct,  Elise is in the bottom 3.

Next pair up is Hollie Cavanagh and Joshua Ledet.  Jimmy felt Hollie’s last song was her best but thought it might be too little, too late. Jimmy was impressed with Joshua and thought he should be in the finals.  Jimmy is right again.   Hollie is in the bottom 3.  Joshua is in the top group.

So we are down to the final pair of Phillip Phillips and Skylar Laine.  Jimmy felt Skylar was competent with her first song but her second song knocked her out.  He felt that Phillip was missing something this week.  The audience is booing at both assessments.  The person in the bottom 3 is Skylar.  Three ladies in the bottom 3 and quickly Ryan tells us Skylar is safe.

So will it be Hollie or Elise??   The person leaving tonight is Elise Testone.  I have to say this wasn’t a huge surprise.  Elise has been in the bottom 3 so many weeks that she had to somewhat expect this.  We wish her well and know that her music career is not over and her unique style will bring her the success that she desires.  Best wishes and prayers Elise.




American Idol Season 11 Top 6 Power Rankings

Christian musician Colton Dixon is gone from American Idol Season 11.  I am shocked and disappointed. It tells me that American Idol, like all pop music, rewards familiarity over experimentation.  No one took as many risks as Colton Dixon did on American Idol Season 11.  No one demonstrated the musicianship Colton Dixon displayed week in and week out.  No one challenged us with obscure songs and edgy arrangements like Colton Dixon.  I hope he puts his version of “September” on his first album.  Losing Colton Dixon took some of the flavor out of American Idol Season 11.  However, I as thrilled to watch him glorify his Lord during his exit.  Whether or not you agree with his beliefs, please join me in applauding Colton Dixon’s conviction.

Last week in our American Idol Top 7 Power Rankings we put out our first predictions.  Of course, we predicted a Skylar Laine and Colton Dixon in the finale. Last week, Phil Phillips made a nice comeback from a two week slide, Skylar Laine continued building her case toward the American Idol Season 11 and Hollie Cavanagh looked like she may have flipped the switch from amateur to professional.

American Idol Season 11 Top Power Rankings

1) Joshua Ledet did it again.  Mantasi’s version “I Believe” drew another standing ovation from the judges and then he closed the show with “A Change Is Gonna Come”. With that song, Joshua Ledet brought the house down.  We thought the performance needed another minute to develop but it seems we are in the minority.  Reviewers around the country went wild, calling it one of the best performances of the year.  There is a good chance that this old school gospel/R&B singer will not win American Idol Season 11 but few performers in the history of American Idol have put together such consistent body of mind blowing performances.

2) Skylar Laine brought the country to soul night with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and just established herself more firmly as the best performer on American Idol Season 11.  I was not crazy about “Born This Way” , but, my gosh, this girl does have stage presence.  With her perfect singing, great stage presence and concentrated voting block, it looks like her spot in the finale is hers to lose.

3) Phil Phillips is baaack.  First he takes ownership of Usher’s “U Got It Bad” and then he charms the theater with his Commitment’s like take on “In The Midnight Hour”.  So charming, quirky Phil Phillips has returned to American Idol Season 11 and that makes him a dangerous competitor for the finale.

4) Jessica Sanchez, despite the judges desparate accolades, if being more and more exposed every week.  Her song selections of “Fallin” and “Try A Little Tenderness” both were much too mature for this sixteen year-old and it showed in her performances.  With the right material, Jessica Sanchez can be spectacular but she needs more emotional depth to deliver on her promise.  We will be surprised if we see Jessica Sanchez in the finale.

5) Hollie Cavanagh has arrived.  We saw a completely new Hollie last week. Even between performances she seemed more comfortable and even happy for the first time this season, and it showed in her performances.  She found the right avenue with songs by two blue-eyed British soul singers.  First took the risk of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” and pulled it off completely.  This song was perfect for this song and her delivery was stellar.  But the breakthrough was Hollie Cavanagh‘s take on “Son of A Preacher Man”. She was loose, passionate and engaging. It is probably too little, too late but we are happy to welcome Hollie Cavanagh to the competition.

6) Elise Testone survived two forced, unhappy performances last week.  She has all but said she is miserable.  She has admitted to be frustrated by her frequent residence in the bottom two.  It seems time for Elise Testone to go home.

The Top 6 will perform songs by Queen this week.  Queen has some spectacular songs but much of their catalog is just silly.  This will be a minefield for Joshua Ledet and Skylar LaineElise Testone should do well, this is a theme made for her.  Please join us as we live blog American Idol Season 11 doing Queen.




American Idol Season 11 Top 7 Performances, Again

Time to see how Jessica Sanchez responds to being saved by the judges last week on American Idol Season 11.  And then there is the standing ovation competition to watch.  Colton Dixon was angling for his first in last week’s results show and it seems Joshua Ledet receives a standing o form the judges every week. Can Phil Phillips, Hollie Cavanagh and Elise Testone reverse their negative momentum and can Skylar Laine keep her American Idol freight train rolling?

American Idol Season 11 brings us “songs from now and then” tonight.  That means the performers will sing a Billboard #1 hit from this century and then a soul song from a previous decade.  As we said in our American Idol Season 11 Top 7 Power Rankings, this theme should favor Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez and Elise Testone.  However, the expectations can backfire on these three and, there may be some backlash if they are not spectacular.

At least we won’t have any more of the meaningless duets because each Idol will perform twice this week.  It should make for a fast paced show so let’s jump right in and watch this show together.

By the look on his face, Kris Allen is trying to figure out what Jennifer Lopez is wearing.

Ryan starts the show with an acknowledgement of Dick Clark and the news of his death.  Dick Clark was a mentor to Ryan Seacrest.

We get going right away with Hollie Cavanagh singing “Rollin’ In The Deep”. No mentoring partner for Jimmy Iovine tonight.  Hollie Cavanagh is channeling Adele all the way down to the hair. Hollie’s big voice can just out power this song. Very good performance, perfect song choice, odd ending.  The judges are giving Hollie a sitting smile. Stephen gives her the “I can’t judge it.  It was so beautiful.”  J-Lo loved her tonight.  Purple Randy says it was close to perfect and for the first time ever he felt her emotion.  Nice opening for Hollie Cavanagh.

Colton Dixon is doing Lady Gaga? I never expected to hear “Bad Romance” from Colton Dixon. Colton looks great in his rock star red leather pants.  I don’t know.  He certainly pulled off the big rock music moment.  I don’t think he felt the song so it was not special, but it was big and flashy.  Randy and J-lo thought it was up and down but loved the overall performance.  Stephen loved that he is taking chances and loved it. I appreciate the chance he took, I think he made a Colton statement.

Elise Testone jumps back on the roller coaster with Alicia Keys’ “No One”. Jimmy and Elise dive right into her frustrations at her lack of fan support. There just seems to be a dark cloud around Elise Testone. Elise seems very discouraged.  I don’t love the tempo of the arrangement.  I did not love that performance.  The phrasing took some of the emotion from the song.  J-Lo got her first “gooseys”. Stephen did not seem to like it but said he loved it.  Randy says she sang a great song very well.  He loved her restraint.  I think she may be in trouble.

This is turning out to be an odd night.  First Colton sings Gaga and now Phil Phillips is singing “U Got It Bad” by Usher. Very nice.  It looks like happy Phil is back.  Nice arrangement, intimate performance and a standing ovation from the judges.  J-Lo says that was great.  She loved the re-interpretation of the song.  Randy calls Phil Phillips a true artist, original and true to himelf.  I don’t know if I am as crazy about that as the judges, but I liked it.

Jessica Sanchez now starts her comeback with Alicia Keys’ “Fallin”.  Jimmy tells us she needs to blow our mind tonight.  This is a great song, but a bad selection song for her.  The lyrics are very mature so it feels like she is putting on a show.  That is exactly what she does not need to do.  The singing was great but the performance  felt contrived. Stephen says she sang like she was mad at the song. J-Lo loved that she just plays with songs (in a good way). randy says she does not know how good she is.  Brilliant singing but empty performance for me.

Now it is country time with Skylar Laine. Now we get a country version of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”. What a night of twists and turns.  We now have Skylar Laine rapping.  The Idols have decided to take the familiar and make it strange.  The opening verse was kind of a low register challenge for Skylar.I didn’t really like that.  I think the arrangement held her back.  J-Lo loved it, saying a more perfect song for Skylar does not exist. Stephen just claps and Randy says it was amazing.  The judges are loving a lot of music I am not feeling.

Now Joshua Ledet is performing his idol, Fantasia, with “I Believe”. There has not been a song written that is more perfect for Joshua Ledet and his ability to throw down the gospel.  Wish we could hear more of that.  Once again the judges give him a standing ovation.  Randy says he is one of the most talented singers Idol has ever experienced.  Randy says he made us feel every note of that song.  J-Lo says she feels blessed to watch him sing.  Another tremendous performance by Joshua Ledet.

Hollie Cavanagh is back with an “old” song.  We now understand that the “old” songs are paying homage to “Soul Train”. We are on the American Idol stop on the Soul train line.

Hollie Cavanagh is now singing “Son of A Preacher Man”, made famous by blond, British soul singer, Dusty Springfield. This is Hollie’s most passionate, engaging performance of Season 11.  That was fantastic!  Randy says she worked it out.  Both Randy and J-Lo liked this better than her first performance.  That was great, has Hollie flipped the switch. Everybody better watch out, Hollie Cavanagh could be climbing up from the bottom.

We now get Colton Dixon‘s interpretation of “September”.  Oh wow, I think I am hearing a radio hit.  Ryan Seascrest will be playing this in his radio show this fall.  Colton has turned this funk-soul into an alt-rock ballad.  Stephen thought the song did not show off his voice. J-Lo and Randy agreed with Stephen.  I disagree with the judges, I thought that was great.

Elise Testone is now singing “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye. We are now seeing the limits of Elise’s soul. She is over singing the song and missing the deep soul of the song.  This is really just falling flat.  There is no intimacy or honesty to this performance.  Rather than singing to a person, which is what this song is about, she sang to a crowd. J-Lo tried to criticize her without saying bad things.  J-Lo says she is struggling to connect. Randy thinks the song was not right for her voice.  Randy agrees with me that she over sang every chorus.  That did not work. Elise admits she is over thinking her performances.

Phil Phillips is now singing “In The Midnight Hour”.  This is a perfect choice for his voice.  If you have not seen the movie “The Commitments” get it now.  Yep Phil Phillips has found himself.  He just slayed that song.  He had fun, he had runs and he danced.  So good.  Randy says “exactly what you need is what you always have’.  J-Lo wants to dance with Phil.  J-Lo loves Phil Phillip’s spontaneity.

Jessica Sanchez is making another bad song choice with Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” and completely over sings the opening verse. I am sorry, you completely missed the angst and longing of this song.  If Simon were here he would say that it was a cruise ship performance. Of course the judges loved the performance. J-Lo said America needs to start connecting with her in their heart.  That performance did not connect with me at all.  I am greatly disappointed with Jessica’s two perofrmances tonight.

We go immediately to Skylar Laine with a country interpretation of “Heard It Through The Grapevine”. I liked this better than I thought I would.  However, once again, the performance does not seem to connect with the mood of the song.  Randy said it was brilliant.  J-Lo loves her spunkiness.  Stephen says Skylar Laine is like a wild horse that refuses to be tamed.  That was a fun performance sung perfectly.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Joshua Ledet.  This has the opportunity to be special. It was not, but the judges leap to their feet again. I think he needed more time to build that song.  Stephen loved the restraint but I thought it was a little subdued.  Randy says the song was perfect, it was stellar.  I could have used a little less restraint in that arrangement.  Joshua Ledet is now up to six standing ovations on American Idol Season 11.

Phil Phillips and Hollie Cavanagh had the best nights.  I thought Colton Dixon was better than the judges gave him credit for.  Joshua Ledet was great compared to everyone else but himself.  I think Elise Testone failed tonight and may go home tomorrow night.




American Idol Season 11 Top 7 Power Rankings, Pt. 2

I called it in last week’s American Idol Season 11 Top 7 Power Rankings, sort of. I said Jessica Sanchez could be in trouble in the next few weeks, I just did not think she would be eliminated last week. I certainly thought she would be safe after last week’s performances.  Neither Elise Testone or Hollie Cavanagh made a big statement and Jessica Sanchez delivered probably her best performance of the season.  No one has ever won American Idol after being saved by the judges.

The other surprise was Joshua Ledet in the bottom three, which does not bode well for his chances.  That leads me to step back and take a shot at a few predictions.  I simply do not understand the support for Hollie Cavanagh at this point in American Idol Season 11, so I think she will be gone in the next few weeks.  Elise Testone has been too inconsistent and does not fit the profile of an American Idol winner.  We saw last week how tenuous Jessica Sanchez‘s place is on American Idol Season 11.  It seems Phil Phillips is starting to lose momentum in his performances and we saw that Joshua Ledet may not have the following to support his tremendous talent.  That leaves us with finale of Christian musicians Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine. That does not line up with my power rankings but we would not mind this as a finale.

American Idol Season 11 Top 7 Power Rankings, Pt 2

1)Joshua Ledet- Christian musician Joshua Ledet received another standing ovation from the judges last and week and he remains atop our power rankings.  I don’t care that Joshua Ledet was in the bottom three last week.  He just has an instinctive performing style and an other worldly voice.  I intially thought his vocal style was a little outdated but last week he proved he belongs in the middle of the exploding “retro-soul” movement led by Raphael Saadiq, Sharon Jones, Bruno Mars and The Alabama Shakes.  As long as he continues to deliver performances like last week’s “Runaway Baby” Joshua Ledet will continue to lead our power rankings.

2) Colton Dixon- So Colton Dixon continues to charm the mentors and the judges with his song selection and arrangements.  This week he delivered another emotional, technically perfect, dynamically fascinating version of an obscure song “Love The Way You Lie.”  Colton Dixon seems to be an unusual combination of an artist who continues to grow throughout the American Idol season even though he arrived a fully developed artist. You could interchange any of his performances from Season 11 and they would all hold up to the competition of the Top 7.  I think it is because he came in fully confident of who he is as a person, artist and believer and yet humble to the process.

3) Skyar Laine- I do not like her style of country music but I have loved Skylar Laine from the moment shook her way through “Stay With Me” in the first week.  Skylar Laine is strong, confident, sure of herself as a performer and a tremendous vocal talent.  She asserted herself as a big voiced singer with “Wind Beneath My Wings” and now she is asserting herself to be considered the best female singer on American Idol Season 11.  That is a big statement in the company of Jessica, Elise and Hollie.  J-Lo said this performance was pitch perfect.  I agree. But watch her tremendous delivery of this song.  Skylar Laine, better than anyone on American Idol Season 11 can reach into the television and connect with the audience.

4) Jessica Sanchez- This is the only change from last week’s power rankings.  Jessica Sanchez gave us her best performance of the season with complex, thrilling performance of “Stuttering”.  She did not deserve the fate she experienced last Thursday night.  This is a real roller coaster ride in which Jessica Sanchez is in complete control of every dip, curve and climb.  The singing, of course, the phrasing, the tempo changes, the growling, the scatting it was all perfectly used and perfectly executed. If she can hang around a few more weeks and deliver a few more of these performances, Jessica Sanchez could surprise us all, but I don’t think Jessica has developed the powerful personality necessary to make history on American Idol.

5) Phil Phillips- The rebellious rocker has lost his momentum and seems to have lost his enthusiasm for American IdolPhil Phillips performance of “Give A Little More” was his second lackluster performance in a row.  He also seems to be losing patience with the coaching and criticism from the mentors and judges.  He increasingly dismisses them with comments like “I just play music”.  He has completely ignored Tommy Hilfiger’s advice.  I wonder if this change in attitude coincides with the departure of his best buddy Heejun Hahn? Regardless the reason, unless he picks up his game, Phil Phillips will be gone in the next three weeks.

6) Elise Testone- She needed to be great last week and “You & I” was only very good.  Very good won Elise Testone a place in the bottom two again. Elise seems to be frustrated by the results each week and too much of that angst carries over into each week’s performances.  The week she let go and just had fun with “Whole Lotta Love”, she looked like an American Idol winner.  The other weeks she seems to be trying to please the judges or the voters, with mixed results.  I will buy her album but I don’t think Elise Testone makes it into the top five.

7) Hollie Cavanagh- I am perplexed about who is voting for Hollie Cavanagh.  She was ahead of both Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez last week.  I like Hollie, I think she has killer voice and she is a Texas girl, sort of.  However, it is clear that she is not as polished as the other six performers.  It is hard to say this after last week’s results but I think she is gone this week or the next.

So, there you have it.  Feel free to comment, to agree or disagree with me.  I love the dialogue.

In any case join us on Wednesday night as the American Idol Season 11 does “Songs From Now and Then”.  The performers will be singing a Billboard #1 from this century and then a soul song from a previous decade.  That should set up well for Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez and Elise Testone.

American Idol Season 11 Top 7 Results

Another good night on American Idol Season 11 last night as the Idols performed “songs of this decade” beautifully.  Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez, Skylar Laine and Colton Dixon were amazing.  Elise Testone did well but did not have the standout moment she may need to make it into the top five.  Phil Phillips and Hollie Cavanagh were enjoyable but did not reach the bar set by Joshua.  Elise Testone and Hollie Cavanagh will probably be in the bottom two and either of them could go home tonight.

Christian musician Jennifer Hudson and Michael Durbin perform tonight so the entire hour should be entertaining, I guess in a gladiator sort of way.  Take the ride with us as they build the bottom three.  Remember, Jennifer Hudson was eliminated on this night several years ago and she has done all right.

So now American Idol starts building the bottom three with Hollie Cavanagh and Jessica Sanchez. Not much tension here. Hollie Cavanagh is starting a group but Ryan is not saying what the groups mean.  Hollie on one side of the stage and Jessica on the other side.  What could it mean?

James Durbin’s expression of his rock vision was pretty good and it sounds like it is popular too. Three weeks after release he has already sold 100,000 units. It is good to him doing well.  If you remember, he was financially crippled while pursuing his rock dream.

We continue to form the two group dance with Phil Phillips and Elise Testone. Ryan sends Phillip to Hollie’s group and Elise joins Jessica. Will one of our Christian musicians be in the bottom three this week?

Joshua Ledet and Colton Dixon are next for results. Joshua joins Jessica and Elise while Colton joins Hollie and Phillip. Skylar Laine is the first performer to be safe and Ryan is asking her to pick the group she belongs to.

Oh my gosh, Joshua Ledet, Elise Testone and Jessica Sanchez are in the bottom three.  Expect the judges to use their save tonight.  This is a shocking travesty.

The first one to safety is Joshua Ledet, so Elise and Jessica are the bottom two.  Jessica Sanchez is singing for her American Idol life.  I predicted something like this but that does not mean it is right.  The judges do not even let her finish her song before they save her.

Wow, tonight was shocking.

Check back this weekend for my revised power rankings.