He was right. After several weeks of uneven performances, the contestants collectively brought their strongest showings in weeks for the two-hour show.
For the first half, the remaining six performed the music of Queen, whose members kicked off the night with an explosive medley of hits, including – fittingly for the unpredictable competition – "Another One Bites the Dust."
Jessica Sanchez, who earned the only judges' save, was back in top form, nailing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and turning out an emotional performance of Luther Vandross's "Dance With My Father," which she dedicated to her own military dad.
"You're so natural," Randy Jackson said. "You know what was wrong with it? Absolutely nothing!"
Joshua Ledet also dominated with killer covers of Queen's rockabilly-tinged "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and India.Arie's sultry ballad "Ready for Love," earning yet another standing ovation from the judges.
"Joshua's part of the show is my favorite part," Jennifer Lopez said. Steven Tyler had more enthusiastic praise: "I smell the finish line for you, my friend."
Skylar Laine and Elise Testone also delivered strong performances – shout out to Testone for her risky choice of the relatively obscure "Axis: Bold As Love" by Jimi Hendrix – but Hollie Cavanagh and Phillip Phillips were the only two to have missteps.
Lopez worried that Phillips's choice of the Dave Matthews Band rarity "The Stone" would jeopardize his chances. And Cavanagh's performance of Queen's "Save Me" didn't resonate with the entire panel.
"I just feel like I want to see you enjoy it more," Lopez told Cavanagh. "I want to see you smile for real. I want to see you get upset for real ... I still feel like you're thinking [too much]."
Despite Cavanagh's slip-up, she bounced back in the second round with a soaring take on Miley Cyrus's "The Cimb." "That's the Hollie we love!" Jackson shouted. "Hollie's back!"
The contestants were great but Tyler got big laughs when he poked fun at Lopez about her most famous physical asset. After Phillips's cover of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls," he said, "You know what they say, the bigger the cushion ..."
Lopez shot back: "Why are you looking at me?"
"'Cus you were looking at me," Tyler retorted. "Don't you start with me now!"
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