After last week’s Judges’ Save spared Jessica Sanchez, American Idol returns tonight with Top 7: Part Deux, featuring a “Then & Now” theme of contestants covering a contemporary track (2000-2010) and an old soul ditty.
Who has momentum heading into the live show, and who can already see cracks in the ice forming under their feet? Check out my contestant rankings, then take our poll and vote for your own favorite!
7. Hollie Cavanagh (Previously No. 7) | Charming teenager managed to escape the Bottom 3 last week despite a slightly sleepy rendition of Pink’s “Perfect.” But while the judges’ rough comments probably earned her a one-week sympathy reprieve, she’ll need a Major Idol Moment during Top 7 Redux Week to avoid elimination.
6. Elise Testone (Previously No. 3) | Unlike some of her rivals, Elise’s voting support seems to be only as solid as her most recent performance. So while “Vienna” and “Whole Lotta Love” still rank as some of the season’s strongest performances, she’s landed in the Bottom 3 the last two weeks thanks to a strained “I Want to Know What Love Is” and a good-if-not-spectacular “You and I.” Needs to get fans on her bandwagon — and keep them there — if she wants a Top 5 finish.
5. Phillip Phillips (Previously No. 1) | One of only two contestants this season to never land in the Bottom 3, and while he fits the guitar-slingin’, song-rearrangin’ hottie profile that’s been very successful in recent Idol seasons, his last couple of efforts (“That’s All” and “Give a Little More”) have felt like watered-down renditions of his superior prior performances. Needs to embrace the idea of challenging himself (maybe reworking an R&B or country track?) and growing as an artist, or he could face a surprise early exit.
4. Joshua Ledet (Previously No. 4) | Whether or not you enjoy his over-the-top soul style, you can’t say he’s missed many notes during seven weeks of live performances. White-hot Top 7 take on “Runaway Baby” may have landed him in the Bottom 3, but it proved he can handle contemporary uptempo material with style and sex appeal to spare. Needs to consider a stripped down, intimate performance — think Fantasia’s “Summertime,” or Bo Bice’s “In a Dream” — to solidify his position as the season heads toward hometown visits.
3. Jessica Sanchez (Previously No. 2) | Scored the first “Idol Moment” of the season delivering a pitch-perfect “I Will Always Love You” on Top 13 night, but the judges now seem to hold her to a superhigh standard when it comes to doling out praise. And yet while unrealistic expectations may have led to her near-exit (stopped by the Judges’ Save) last week, there’s still a feeling that she hasn’t tapped into the gut-busting brand of soul she unleashed in her Vegas week performances. In any event, her brush with elimination should only serve to rally her fan base out of any kind of complacency. Seems like a Top 5 lock.
2. Skylar Laine (Previously No. 6) | Country firecracker has mixed uptempo rockers with big diva ballads that punctuate both her performance energy and serious pipes.Plus, she’s managed to communicate more about her persona in pre-performance clips than most of her competitors. Bringing out the guitar — and a storyteller vibe — for “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” was a smart move, too. If Lauren Alaina could make it all the way to No. 2 without Skylar’s breezy confidence, then the latter gal might be able to go the distance.
1. Colton Dixon (Previously No. 5) | Aside from occasional hiccups in the pitch and pronunciation departments, Colton has marched through seven weeks of live shows without a serious misstep, and last week’s intimate, piano-driven “Love the Way You Lie” was his strongest performance yet. He’s changed up tempo, lyrical content, and gender association in his song choices — and takes the competition seriously while still exhibiting a sense of humor. Plus, he might be peaking at just the right time.
Who is your Season 11 favorite? Vote in the poll below, then explain your picks in the comments!