For much of the American Idol season, and especially since Colton Dixon's elimination two weeks ago, Phillip Phillips has looked like the guy to beat. Since he first surprised everybody during the audition round with his take on Thriller, the singer from Leesburg, Ga., has successful marched to his own drummer, twisting the melodies of songs inside out, blithely ignoring the suggestions of the show's experts and instilling unexpected stirrings in grown women from Julianne Hough to my next-door neighbor.
But after last night, Phillip is looking as vulnerable as he ever has. First off, he's at the bottom of this week's Idol Meter, with his first single-digit score of the season. "It was gratifying that Phillip didn't do the tiresome Joe Cocker version of The Letter," Ken Barnes writes, "but his tuneless R&B thrash was little better. Nice faithful Zombies rendition (of Time of the Season), but his straining to reach the high notes was painful to hear and to watch."
That's not the only ominous sign for Phillip. Idol Chatter readers overwhelmingly named him the singer in the most trouble after last night's performances (his positive scores were among the lowest, too). The only song last night that got a worse What Not to Sing score than Phillips' solo performances was his duet with Joshua Ledet. Plus, Dial Idol has Phillip at the very bottom of its rankings from last night. Granted, three other singers also are listed as "in danger of being voted off" (Skylar Laine's the only one predicted to be safe), but the combination of indicators could spell trouble for him, especially in a season where apparent favorites have twice before suddenly fallen to the bottom of the pack.
So tonight's results show should be a good test of the strength of Phillip's fan base. If he doesn't go home tonight, he'll be awfully tough to beat. If he doesn't even rank in the Bottom Three after the job he did Wednesday, he'll be untouchable.
But if he does go home, then American Idol enters a new era. And, then, it really will be anybody's game.