‘American Idol’ Report Card: Joshua Ledet Soars, Phillip Phillips Scores

The top seven sang for their lives on 'Now and Then' night; here's how they all fared.

“American Idol” gave us the best of both worlds on Wednesday night, as the top seven sang something old and something new . That meant dusting off some classic soul tunes and coupling them with the current crop of shiny pop hits, and though you might not believe it, the results were actually pretty good.

Yes, no doubt due to last week’s shocking near elimination of presumed front-runner Jessica Sanchez , the remaining “Idol” hopefuls were singing for their lives last night, and delivered a handful of genuinely great performances. Of course, a few tried to go outside the box, and the results… well, they were mixed.

Still, a memorable show all around, and not just because of Colton Dixon’s Lady Gaga get-up. So who earned the night’s highest marks? Who should consider hiring a tutor? Read on for our “American Idol” report card!

Joshua Ledet: Of course he did Fantasia. And, of course, his version of “I Believe” was amazing: lithe and limber, full of range and emotion, he’s the best male singer by a mile. Ledet also delivered big time with Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which got off to an unintentionally hilarious start — Seacrest introduced it as “an emotional civil-rights anthem, coming to you live, from Joshua,” which was followed by a shot of Joshua holding a wind-up toy, grinning like a goofball — but no one was laughing by the end. He straight-up murdered it, with jaw-dropping power and prowess that earned him a standing ovation and some overtly sexual critique from Steven Tyler. Randy followed that up by taking shots at “The Voice,” only not overtly at all. Settle down, dawg. A

Phillip Phillips: Let’s give a shout-out to Double P, who got out of the grouting business for one week only, first with a soft-core Skinemax take on Usher’s “U Got It Bad” and then a smooth (for him at least) spin through Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.” Both were perfect choices, playing to his strengths — he is handsome — both left the ladies wanting more, and both had Steven Tyler talking like detective John Shaft (“No chump love, sucka”). Game on, Colton Dixon. B+

Jessica Sanchez: Her version of Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” was yet another powerhouse, as she set her intensity level on “simmer” and just let things cook. (Though for a minute, we were worried one of those umbrellas was going to fall on her.) We weren’t as crazy about her take on Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” — sure, it was big and brassy, but also kinda growly, and seemed like a cruise ship performance. And could there be trouble brewing on the high seas for the formerly indestructible Sanchez? She got the dreaded “you need to connect” advice from Randy et. al, and J.Lo almost forgot the name of her alter ego, which might not bode well for her down the stretch. B

Skylar Laine: Wait, she did a Lady Gaga tune?!? Yep. Breaking free of her country container (it’s like Tupperware), Laine took on “Born This Way,” and we loved it. She’s got spark and attitude for days, and when you get the feeling she’s really pushing herself (like Wednesday or “Wind Beneath My Wings” a few weeks back) there might not be a better performer in the competition. On the flipside, her version of Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” wasn’t exactly great, and perhaps Laine needs to learn that just because you’re jumping around on the stage, it doesn’t mean you’re connecting with the song. Still, another strong week. She’s the dark horse from here on out. B

Hollie Cavanagh: “No thinking, just singing” seemed to be her mantra this week, and it worked. She completed her manifest destiny by doing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” which was not only perhaps the biggest moment of the night, but had Steven Tyler talking about her tail feathers. Her version of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” was pretty much what you’d expect — faux swagger, some horns, a few nice notes — though the jury’s still out on whether Cavanagh actually connects with any of the voters. B

Colton Dixon: For the second week in a row, he surprised with a song choice, taking Gaga’s “Bad Romance” down to the mall for a Hot Topic makeover. It didn’t necessarily work, but the girls loved it, so who cares? Though he needs to stop crouching like Spider-Man when he’s “rocking” out. Meanwhile, his version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” got lost in an autumnal haze (maybe it had something to do with all the fallen leaves strewn atop his piano?) Not the strongest night for C. Dix… though we suspect he thought it went great. C-

Elise Testone: A tale of two Testones tonight. She did Alicia Keys’ “No One” (we almost called it! ) and blew it out the box, with a performance that was restrained in all the right ways, big and booming in the best spots. But her gruff, kinda-goofy version of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” just never got on track and seemed like the worst possible song for her to sing. We love her, but we suspect this might be the week that does her in. C-

Do you agree with our “American Idol” report card? Leave your comment below!

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