'Idol' Down to 5: Who Will Go to Top?

Ryan Seacrest Reacts to Dick Clark's Death
ABCNEWS.com

After 11 season, there are still some surprises left on "American Idol."

Elise Testone was eliminated on "American Idol" Thursday night and sang Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" as her farewell song.

"Her luck had to run out eventually," USA Today writer and critic Brian Mansfield said about Testone.

Mansfield also predicted that Hollie Cavanagh, who was in the bottom three along with Skylar, would be safe.

"Almost nobody goes home when they close the show," he said.

But he doesn't think Cavanagh will go the distance to the final.

"Holly is the only one who has recurring intonation problems. It also, takes her a while to get comfortable with a new song and that's a problem on a show like 'Idol,'" Mansfield said.

It's been something of a roller coaster ride lately, after presumed front-runner Colton Dixon got the boot last week and Jessica Sanchez was saved from elimination by the judges the week before. What these weeks have in common, USA Today's Brian Mansfield said, is the singers making questionable song choices.

"Jessica did a song a lot of people didn't know, and Colton did a song a large part of his audience wouldn't have liked," Mansfield told ABCNews.com.

After he was eliminated, Dixon told Mansfield that he emphasized to the remaining finalists how important song choice is.

"Apparently, nobody paid a lick of attention," Mansfield said, noting that three of the six singers, Joshua Ledet, Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips, sang relatively obscure songs during the latter half of the show when they could chose a song they felt suited them.

With Dixon, Mansfield's predicted winner, out of the running, the USA Today writer said, "The road to the finale goes through Phillip Phillips. Phillip is the guy to beat."

He said everyone else seems to be holding steady, with the exception of Skylar Laine, who, he said, "looks a little bit stronger every week."

"Skylar is the remaining singer whose future career is most assured," said Mansfield, whose heard from Nashville producers that they will be seeing a lot of her in that town.

Click through to see how the field stacks up.

PHOTO: American Idol contestant Phillip Phillips is seen here.
Nino Munoz/FOX
Front-Runner: Phillip Phillips

"American Idol" has not always awarded originality, but this year Phillip Phillips, a 21-year-old pawnshop employee from Leesburg, Ga., has scored high marks with the judges and the audience precisely because he's unique. Before he made the top 13, Iovine said, "We desperately need originality on this show. I would sign this guy on the spot."

Phillips is the only finalist left who has never been in the bottom three, though judge Jennifer Lopez warned that the song he chose Wednesday, Dave Matthews' "The Stone," was too "obscure" and "too artsy" and could cost Phillips a win.

"Phillip doesn't listen to anybody and he's shown he's willing to die on the battlefield over a gray shirt," Mansfield said, referring to Phillips decision to wear not one, but two, gray shirts against designer Tommy Hilfiger's advice. "Eventually someone with an attitude like that is going to make a fatal mistake and there's going to be no one there to help him."

If Phillips ends up in the bottom three, Mansfield said, "It's anybody's game."

Spoiler: Jessica Sanchez

It has been a long time since a woman claimed the "American Idol" crown, but 16-year-old singing prodigy Jessica Sanchez has the best shot this year. The San Diego native, who is Filipina and Mexican-American, could become the first Asian and Hispanic 'Idol.'

"I think Jessica Sanchez stole the show from day one," Haley Reinhart, who placed third last season, told Ryan Seacrest Wednesday. "So, I really don't think anything is going to be able to stop her now. She's fantastic."

Since performing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and receiving a standing ovation from the judges, Sanchez has consistently delivered. From the start, "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine declared Sanchez "has talent from A to Z" and called her "the one to beat."

PHOTO: American Idol contestant Skylar Laine is seen here.
Nino Munoz/FOX
The Spoiler: Skylar Laine

When she made the Top 13, Iovine declared 18-year-old Skylar Laine from Brandon, Miss., "the country singer for season 11." Laine, who has been compared to a young Reba McEntire, has proven she's more than just a country girl, however. The turning point for her might have been two weeks ago when she chose Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" over Dolly Parton's "9 to 5." Iovine compared her to powerhouse Sanchez. "She went from the bottom to the top," he said. "If she continues this, she can win the whole thing." Laine was still on a roll this week, with her country-flavored Lady Gaga hit "Born This Way."

Mansfield said he's not sure Laine can win, but he could see her going far for "most improved" and, with some seasoning, become a big country star. "It's a little like watching Miranda Lambert in the first season of 'Nashville Star,'" he said. "She's got tons of potential, but it make take her a little longer to realize it."

PHOTO: American Idol contestant Joshua Ledet is seen here.
Nino Munoz/FOX
Return of Soul: Joshua Ledet

Iovine has called Joshua Ledet, the 19-year-old gospel singer from Westlake, La., "the real deal." Mansfield agrees that Ledet is one of the best singers in the competition, but his style isn't for everyone. Ledet doesn't fit into the smooth R&B crooner mold of past winner Ruben Studdard. He's more of a shouter like Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson. "Joshua is a very polarizing person," he said. "You either like the gospel shouting thing that he does or you don't." Just like voters were split over Deandre Brackensick's falsetto, Ledet's spirited singing might not take him all the way.

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