‘American Idol’ Top Seven Sing Hits From ‘Now And Then’

Jessica Sanchez gives 'otherworldly' performance after near elimination last week and Hollie Cavanagh finally 'ruffled her feathers.'

“American Idol” opened Wednesday (April 18) with a recap of last week’s Jessica Sanchez near-elimination drama , but before the show could get down to the business of the top seven (round two), host Ryan Seacrest paid tribute to television legend and his mentor Dick Clark , who died Wednesday at age 82.

“Now we can’t begin tonight’s show without acknowledging the passing of a television pioneer and my dear friend, Dick Clark,” said a somber Seacrest. “Without Dick, a show like this would not exist. He will be missed greatly; our thoughts and our prayers go out to his family. I know he’s in a better place saying, ‘Hey, let’s get on with the show, OK?’ You got it, boss.”

The contestants sang two songs each, the first a #1 hit from 2000 to today, the second an old-school soul classic. After nearly being booted last week, Sanchez fought back on the “Idol” stage, first with Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’ ” and later with a spunky version of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”

“Your talent is so otherworldly to me,” Randy Jackson told Sanchez — or was it BB Chez? — after “Fallin’.” “I don’t even know if you know how good you really are, and how even greater you can be. I love it.” Following “Tenderness,” the judges praised her ability to connect emotionally to songs, and urged her to push it even further going forward.

Joshua Ledet, who for the first time last week landed in the bottom three, also came back strong, earning standing ovations from the judges for both his songs, first Fantasia’s “I Believe” and later for Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

“You have stretched your voice to the limits of soul!” Steven Tyler beamed after “Change.” Praising the restraint he showed early before building to a robust climax, Jennifer Lopez made a plea to viewers: “Please, America, don’t send this boy home! Please!”

All around cool dude Phillip Phillips took on Usher’s “U Got It Bad” early before tackling Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” in the second half of the show. Lopez called “U Got It Bad” “sexy” while Tyler exclaimed, “no chump love, sucka!” — a comment we’re still trying to decode. But overall, the feedback for Phillip Squared was positive. “You are Phillip Phillips and dude, you are the bomb!” said Jackson.

After receiving harsh criticism the past few weeks — or at least what passes for harsh criticism on this rather tame, gentle season of “Idol”— Hollie Cavanagh came back big on Wednesday, first by belting out Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” perhaps the biggest song any of the contestants took on all night, and later with “Son of a Preacher Man.” “You finally came out of your shell and ruffled your feathers a little,” Tyler told her, while Lopez told the 18-year-old Liverpudlian she showed a new composure in her performance.

Country-rock boot stomper Skylar Laine continued her hot streak, first with Lady Gaga’s country-fried version of “Born This Way” and later with a down-home version of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” “Every time you’re on stage it’s a party. It’s the Skylar Laine Rock and Roll Country Party!” Jackson exclaimed, while Tyler said she’s “like a wild horse that refused to be tamed.” Lopez complimented Laine on the “spunkiness” of her performance.

Colton Dixon also got his Gaga on, doing a goth-lite version of “Bad Romance,” even though the song technically never hit #1 in America (it peaked at #2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100). He later put an emo spin on Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” a performance that got him some negative feedback from the judges. “I think your voice is a lot more powerful than that song,” Tyler told him, while Jackson said the song was out of his comfort zone. Dixon, who generally gets good marks from the judges, looked a bit surprised but took his dings in stride.

Elise Testone, who Jimmy Iovine snarked “has a vacation home in the bottom three,” was also criticized for performing what the judges deemed an odd fit for her voice when she did Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Earlier, her version of Alicia Keys’ “No One” gave Lopez her “first goosies of the night,” while Tyler got a little weird when he told her, “You sang your little tushie off tonight, it was delish.” Testone also revealed that back home her dog is sick and might not pull through, which could earn her some sympathy votes from the masses.

Since the judges’ one and only save was used up last week, someone will be sent home Thursday, which is also set to feature performances by LMFAO and season 8 “Idol” champ Kris Allen.

What did you think of “Idol” Wednesday? Let us know in the comments!

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