Wednesday night (April 11) marked the night of the Top 7 on ‘American Idol,’ and first up to the stage was country crowd-pleaser Skylar Laine with Kellie Pickler’s hit Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You.’ 

Before she opened the night with her rockin’ country vocals, Laine was encouraged by a video montage of people back home in Mississippi cheering her on. She also joined the other ‘Idol’ six for a consultation with Tommy Hilfiger, who encouraged all contestants to find their own style and sport it — both onstage and off.

Bringing her Southern flare to the ‘Idol’ stage, Laine opened the night in keeping with the theme of songs recorded after 2010. Backstage with celebrity mentors Jimmy Iovine and Akon, Laine at first concerned the judges by telling them her song choice — Kellie Pickler‘s ‘Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You’ — a song neither mentor really knew. But as soon as she opened her mouth and let those powerhouse vocals loose, the redhead had them all convinced.

“When she sang it, she owned it,” said Iovine, to which Akon added, “When she sang, I was like, ‘Whoa!’ I couldn’t stop thinking about her voice.” With that praise under her belt, Laine took the stage holding her guitar and surrounded by pillars shooting fire. It was the first time we’ve ever really seen the songstress stand in one place since she was tied to an instrument, but it even added to how relaxed she seemed through the whole song.

“Yo, dude, let me just say,” Randy Jackson chimed in as soon as Laine finished. “Skylar you are definitely back. This is what you love. This is what you should do … And I felt you for the first time in a long time. That was crazy hot and crazy good, and Jennifer and I were saying it was almost like picture perfect with the pitch.”

”It sounded like it was in perfect pitch, and that’s not easy with a song like that,” Jennifer Lopez agreed enthusiastically. “It was a perfect way to start the show.” Perhaps summing up the whole performance and the entire competition, Steven Tyler concluded: “I’m enamored by the women on the show this year, and that just goes to prove that the crows may crow but the hens deliver the goods.”

Watch Skylar Laine Perform ’Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You’ on ‘American Idol’

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