Mississippi teenager Skylar Laine provided Season 11 of American Idol with a big percentage of its charm and collective stage presence. But even though she was the only country artist to make the final 13 – country as a genre produced both finalists a year ago – the loyalty of those fans could only take her so far. Skylar was voted out on Thursday, leaving in fourth place. Hollie Cavanagh, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips, and Jessica Sanchez remain.
The 18-year-old was something a little different for this show. Unlike last season’s Lauren Alaina, who enjoyed looking glamorous and always appeared older than her real age, Skylar seemed more like a regular kid who had gotten a break. She did not have a model’s build or the traditional Idol female belter’s voice or inclination, preferring to go uptempo and rock out. Acting as if every part of the Idol experience was fun for her bought her a lot of good will.
So what went wrong? She had two straight weeks with performances that fell under the heading of, as Randy Jackson would say, “just OK” – not good enough to deserve massive praise, but also not bad enough to act as extra motivation for her fans to vote to keep her safe. One of her song choices Wednesday, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” is a Vietnam-era blast against a system that allowed young men of privilege to avoid military service – possibly not the best song to rally the voters any country artist needs in order to succeed on this show (it also didn’t help that Skylar clearly didn’t understand what she was singing about).
But the biggest strike against her was simply that it is late in the season, and it’s hard to win new fans. Thursday’s bottom two were Skylar and Hollie – the survivors of last week’s bottom three which sent home Elise Testone. The other singers had more fans that weren’t going to budge at this point, and Hollie keeps doing a little bit better every week, which is enabling her to keep squeaking by.
As to why Phillip, who (as Jimmy Iovine keeps pointing out) hasn’t been well physically and had as bad a night Wednesday as anyone has had all season, is able to stay bulletproof – that’s just the nature of Idol and who votes. There doesn’t seem to be any possible way he can lose, but we’ll spend the next three weeks acting as if that result isn’t a foregone conclusion. Hopefully the other three will realize they have nothing to lose, and will be able to use the lack of pressure to bring forth some great performances.
Next week: a California theme. I promise 100 votes to anyone who does something by Snoop Dogg.