'American Idol': Queen and the Damned

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Last night's Top Six episode of American Singing Competition began what I fear are the two or three most languid weeks of the season (other than auditions, naturally): The Top Six Creep really doesn't end until there are about three people left and the show starts to get exciting again. So we'll just have to endure it together. We'll have to keep calm and... eh, you know the rest.

The episode was half a tribute to Queen, the great British flamboyance factory that is still somehow beloved by both the bent and the insistently straight alike. Because really who can resist the wailing charms of Freddie Mercury and, y'know, the other... guys. Sadly the other guys are all that remain, now jolly grey-haired old geezers who look as though they, one in particular, could be the Steven Tyler witch's witchy cousins. Nicer cousins from down the country road, further out of the village, but cousins nonetheless. Surrounded by family last night the Tyler witch did seem in good spirits. At one point, just before Phil Phillips sang, the witch turned to the camera and mouthed something while lifting one crooked finger and wiggling it. It was a spell for sure, but it was a cheery, smiling spell, so I'm sure nothing really bad happened. Maybe a cat turned into a human boy somewhere or a willow tree began to talk. Nothing serious, just a little magic. The witch's happy spells are nothing to be afraid of. So thank you for putting Steven Tyler in a good mood, Queen.

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Everyone, in fact, seemed to be in a good mood. Or were at least pretending. Ryan gushed over how good everyone was singing, keeping a rubbery smile plastered onto his face. But of course inside he is roiling, barely rested, tormented every night by the thing in the dark back at his house, the still remaining spirit of Colton Dixon, which teases him cruelly. "Demon!" Ryan will call out. "Just give me back Tim! Tim Urban! You know his name!" But the specter will only laugh in the dark, hiss strange things to Ryan that will sound as if they are coming from inside his head. Colton, no longer corporeal, is now an angry, vengeful spirit. And he will have his fun.

But yes, otherwise, sure, people seemed in high spirits. And why not. They got to sing one round of fun Queen music and then the next round could just pick any old song. Something that meant something to them, whatever. Let's see how they did.


Gotta give it the heck up once again for Ms. Skylar Laine, who just keeps blasting out sweet song syrup with remarkable consistency. She's really good at picking songs for herself, which is a skill that certainly not every contestant has, and it really gives her a leg up. Her Queen song was "The Show Must Go On," which is that big ridiculous boomer that can be very silly, and in some ways would almost have to be silly when sung by a cute country sprite, but in fact she really sold it, darkening her face into a glower, staring out directly ahead, firm and serious, and busting out notes like fireworks. It's fun watching someone become a better singer over the course of an Idol season. They should change the title to Sing School. People learn so much!

Skylar's second song was not, alas, an original ditty that she talked to Ryan about called "Diamond-Studded Pistol," which dear god please let Skylar sing that, I know they're not supposed to be able to sing songs they wrote, but don't you want to hear "Diamond-Studded Pistol" so bad? C'mon, Nigel. You know you do. I bet Jimmy Iodine's already heard it, been humming it for weeks now, and when people ask him in the hallway what he's humming he just smiles that worm smile of his and says "You'll see..." Please Idol, pleeease? Please let us hear this Skylar Laine song about a bejeweled gun. Fingers crossed. In the meantime we heard Skylar do a perfect country nostalgia song called "Tattoos On This Town" by Jason Aldean (three names for the price of two!), a nice little tune about how we were wildin' kids once and let's never forget, and that has a really unnecessarily sad music video. Well chosen again, Skylar. Well done indeed. When Ryan asked Randy if Skylar might make it to the top two, Randy was a little cagey, didn't want to say yes or no, but I'm saying YES. I know I was terribly wrong about Colton, so who knows maybe Elise will win this whole stupid thing, but I think Skylar isn't going anywhere for a while. That is if people remember to vote.

Joshua sang well but here's where I'm talking about the top six creep. He's good and all and sings well and everything but aren't you just the slightest bit bored of him? Maybe that's actually a failing of his and I shouldn't put him in the good category, but I don't know. He's still technically good. His Queen song was "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" because that was the safest most doo-woppy Queen song he could sing, but man I wish he'd stretched a little and did something else. Imagine how fun and silly it would have been to watch him scream "We Are The Champions," just for the F of it. Or if he'd gotten "Bohemian Rhapsody" instead of Jessica Sanchez. Man he could have turned that into a story. But instead he just, y'know, did his thing. It was good! It's always good. But, I'm tired. For his random song he chose an India.Arie jam which was an interesting choice, I guess, but not that rousing. The judges aren't always wrong about choosing popular songs. In fact they're often right about it. Take heed, children. Pick something many, most even, people know.

Elise is also competent but not terribly inspiring. She did a good rock-out to Queen's "I Want It All," big and blaring and not self-conscious like a lot of her "I'm an artist" stuff can be. J.Lo was pretty fiercely into it, doing hilarious rock claps that the camera cut to only for a second, likely before the camera guy remembered what happened to the last cameraman who filmed J.Lo doing something embarrassing. Adding to the silliness was the big screen behind Elise which flashed, in huge letters, "I WANT IT ALL" every time Elise said she wanted it all, but then was just the letters of that phrase floating around willy-nilly like a screensaver when she was singing the verses. Whoever is doing all this video stuff this year needs a vacation, I think. A long, long vacation. After the performance, when Ryan was calling out Elise's numbers, Elise basically rattled her tambourine in his face and Ryan's smile got even bigger, which means he was getting angrier, and afterward he turned to her and said, a little too loudly, "You did well!!!" which means he hates her and is going to send J.Lo a mean text message about her later. "did u see her wit that fukin tambereen wtf shes a betch lol." (J.Lo writes back: "Who is this?") Elise's second song was a poorly chosen Jimi Hendrix tune that, like Joshua's choice, was just not contemporary or known enough. But, y'know, she sang it well.


Jessica Sanchez sang "Bohemian Rhapsody" and it was just like snooooooooze. Putting anyone in the bad category at this point doesn't mean that much because mostly everyone is singing really well (so rare for this point in the season!) but c'mon, Sanchy. That song? Really? You couldn't leave that for Joshua and sing, I don't know, "You're My Best Friend"? No, apparently not. Apparently she had to teen her way through "Bohemian Rhapsody" while, hilariously, the video screen behind her showed three of her heads floating in black and white space. Very dramatic! Even more dramatic when you think about how no one decided to nix that during rehearsal. Yeah, the whole thing was deeply silly. I mean, this is a more convincing "Bohemian Rhapsody." C'mon, Jessica. Just c'mon.

For her second song Jessica went for the emotions jugular, invoking her just-deployed father in her pre-song intro and then launching into Luther Vanrdoss' "Dance With My Father." So basically nobody could say nothin' that wasn't "That was so amazing and sweet god bless you forever." You just can't tell a sixteen-year-old girl, the youngest person in the competition, that she sang a song about dancing with her Army daddy badly. You just can't do that. And Jessica, that sly minx, she knew. Oh you'd better believe she knew. She's no dummy. She knows what she's doing. "I learned it from watching you!" she yells at a video of Kristy Lee Cook singing "Proud To Be An American." (Haaaa, remember that? I mean, do you remember that? That was the devil's work, pure and simple.) So J. Sanch has probably saved herself this time, wrapping herself up in a thick American flag/daddy blanket and no one can touch her.

Which leaves poor little cricket whippet Hollie Cavanaugh out in the cold. Everyone was making fun of her accent in a little video segment last night which was too bad. Her accent is great! Don't be such weird xenophobe meanies, guys. Stop it. If you want to make fun of Hollie for anything make fun of her for probably going home tonight. Yoooops. I mean that's what's going to happen, right? It's her time? Although, she did sing for her second song (her first barely matters, it was Queen, who cares) "The Climb" by Milly Styrus which can get certain voting fingers aflutter. People do like that song, all about shoulda woulda another mountain, maybe gonna another stream, kinda sorta catch my dream, etc. That's how that song goes. "Tryin'a make'a past the treetops, somethin' comin' wishing well..." Isn't it? For the whole song, that's pretty much it, I think. Hollie likes that song and sang it last year and it took her to the Top 40 I guess, so there it was again last night. And the judges gave it a standing ovation! Maybe it was a standing O of goodbye? They were saluting her, confident that she will go home tonight? Whatever the reason, it didn't feel that earned. I mean, it's that song. It's that cheesy thing. "Climbin' dreamin' oooh the stars, wishin' hopin' American cars." Just a whole song of that.

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Haha. Phillip really turned it on last night, didn't he? He sang "Fat Bottom Girls" for goodness sake. J.Lo could barely contain herself. "I have goosies!" she said. And then, quieter, "Down there..." J.Lo has it bad for Phil Phillips. I wonder if she's hit that up yet. Do you think? I bet she's doing some sort of tantra delay thing and she will just motherf-cking pounce on him at the finale party. Just a flurry of extensions and gold jewelry, flying at him with sonic speed. That'll be fun for him. For now it's all foreplay and he knows it. He deeply knows it. She knows it. "Was that song for me?" she of the famous rump asked, mock offended. Phil just grinned his country grin, trying to act cool, trying to think about his grandma's legs and baseball and whatever else would cool him down. "He's always faking sick to get out of going to shoots and stuff," one of the other contestants said about Phil in a video segment. MhHm. Suuure. That's why he wants to stay back at the mansion alone. To avoid photoshoots. Riiiight.

Phil's second song was, finally, a Dave Matthews song. It was not, like, "Crash Into Me" or "Ants Marching" or anything you remember from summertime cargo short days, it was "The Stone," and was a strange fiddle/violin jam that Phil Phillips funked out. People liked it though, people were into it. Randy was like "Yo dawg that was weird I don't know what happened but I liked it whoa we just went to outerspace what WAS that whoa dawg," and just kept spluttering away. He was very impressed. The Tyler witch nodded in approval and whispered something and Phil Phillips felt a kind tingle in his groin. He nodded back at the witch in thanks. J.Lo meanwhile was smoking a cigarette and leaning back with her eyes closed. "Jen?" Ryan asked. "Jen, you OK?" J.Lo lolled her head up, barely opened her eyes, and said "That was good... that was good... that was... y'know... Jesus, I'm sleepy." So he did well, basically, Phil Phillips did well.

Might he wins this thing? Now that handsome demon Colton has been killed (only corporeally, of course) he might be the favorite choice of lady voters the nation over. Or they might rally behind their little lightning bug Skylar. Or Elise could win! Haha, no, no she could not. I think it's Hollie's turn tonight, but if it isn't, it's Elise's. Though, in the wake of last week's tragedy, I'm just not sure I trust myself to ever predict this show ever again. We're all just fumbling through the dark, aren't we. All is chaos, all is unknowable. Out here in the top six swamp. Just muddling through, somehow.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.