The season got a little less interesting when ball-of-fire Skylar Laine was sent home, but with a fervent soul singer, two mega-voiced miniatures and however you want to describe Phillip Phillips remaining, we're assured of a torrid and unpredictable battle. Idol Meter shows Joshua Ledet crushing the competition last week, so let's examine the Other Three:
Jessica Sanchez: Multiple songs aren't helping
There were a number of musical reasons Proud Mary was a bad idea for Jessica, and Jimmy Iovine, the label boss who's usually the show's only voice of candor, added another concern, saying her outfit was age-inappropriate. And You Are So Beautiful, for a singer targeting youth appeal, was more suitable for a retirement-home recital. The remedy for Jessica is to balance up- and down-tempo songs (as she did) but make them as current or recent as the theme allows.
Hollie Cavanagh: Multiple songs are helping
Hollie still makes bad choices. If there were 100 songs on the British-music clearance list last week, Bleeding Love was likely about the 98th best. But given more than one song to sing, she's starting to pick some good ones, too. River Deep, Mountain High was just the kind of storm-tossed thrill ride she needed to show she could handle. Nothing will stop her from singing sappy ballads, but if she makes one or more of her other songs an upbeat number, she just may be able to continue her underdog assault on the crown.
Phillip Phillips: Multiple songs make no difference
It's pretty clear by now that Phillip is going to stick to his guns, churning out the same hoarse, melody-deficient chuggers we've seen all season. The theme doesn't matter — he'll find the songs that suit his style most closely, and if the original tune doesn't fit the formula, he'll change it (as with The Letter last week) to something more comfortable (and less appealing). Having been chastised for his most interesting choice (Dave Matthews' The Stone), he'll likely play it safe, coasting on the combination of teen appeal, charm and voter sympathy for his ill health that has made him, thus far, bulletproof.
About Ken Barnes: Seattle-based music journalist Ken Barnes has written Idol Meter since 2009. He reports on American Idol and other TV talent competitions at msn.com.