American Idol squeezed a series-high 14 performances into two hours Wednesday, giving its seven remaining contestants the chance to sing songs from "Now and Then." First, they sang a song from this century -- for example, letting Skylar Laine turn Lady Gaga's Born This Way into a country-till-I-die manifesto and Phillip Phillips to bring a smoldering intensity to Usher's U Got It Bad.
Then, on the day that American Bandstand's Dick Clark died, Idol honored his R&B counterpart, Soul Train creator Don Cornelius, who passed away earlier this year. Several of the singers struggled with the soul tunes, simply shouting when they couldn't quite figure out how to sing them. But Joshua Ledet rose to the challenge with a gorgeous rendition of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come (even though it was his second soul ballad of the night, a questionable strategy). Hollie Cavanagh found the right balance of British and Southern soul by covering Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man.
Colton Dixon had the night's weakest moments. He took an interesting rock approach to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance; in retrospect, however, it didn't stack up against the other singer's performances. And his soft-rock take on Earth, Wind & Fire's September was his first serious misstep of the competition. His popularity will probably let him skate this time; any other singer in the same situation would be in serious trouble.
Which brings us to Elise Testone. After the judges raved over her version of Alicia Keys' No One, they lambasted her rendition of Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On. After they were done, Elise spent a good minute of the show critiquing her own performance for the audience, giving a group of people who already don't seem that interested in her plenty of reasons not to vote for her. This very well might be her last week in the Bottom Three.
Tune in Thursday to see who goes home and to see LMFAO and Season 8 winner Kris Allen perform.