Last night on American Idol, the remaining three idols sang three songs each. The first round they sang songs selected by the judges (my personal favorite part of this process). The second round they sang songs that they selected themselves (sometimes not the greatest of choices).
The third round was songs chosen by season long mentor Jimmy Iovine. We’ve seen years past where this round was songs selected by musical luminary Clive Davis, or Exec Producer Nigel Lythgoe, so someone who has been working with them all season actually makes some sense.
Joshua Ledet: Judge Randy Jackson selected Etta James’ I’d Rather Be Blind for Joshua. What an incredible song choice for him. While I would have loved to have seen Jessica sing this at any point during this competition, Joshua sang it just as well as she would have. He started very restrained, holding back, but in typical Joshua flair, he ramped it up to a bold crescendo. Hey, it’s what got him this far. Why stop now?
Jessica Sanchez: Jennifer selected Mariah’s My All for Jessica, and she did a great job with a very difficult song. Her voice went from lower to upper register with no problem, and got stronger as the song moved from the bridge to the chorus. It’s been said many times that people should never take on Mariah, Whitney, Ann Wilson, etc.. But this season we’ve had two or three contestants that have blown that rule out of the water.
Phillip Phillips: Steven Tyler chose Beggin by Madcon for Phil-Phil. He was as relaxed as ever and appeared to be enjoying himself. He continued to take songs and spin them into gold, with no appreciable melody and just a basic line to anchor him. Yet somehow, it works for him. Jennifer looked like she was enjoying herself as well, grooving to the music as the camera kept panning to her. Steven Tyler told him “When your face is in the sun, the shadows fall behind you.” Um, yeah. Where else would they be?? But then he told him that he could be the next New Age Springsteen, which is quite the compliment, even though it’s a bit “over the top”, to use Steven’s favorite phrase.
Joshua Ledet: Joshua kicked off round two with his own selection of John Lennon’s Imagine. This really comes as quite a surprise, because his bread and butter is the soul, R & B, take us to church, barn burners that has gotten him to the final three. Not this soul searching masterpiece of lyrical genius (Yeah, I’m a big time Beatles/Lennon/McCartney fan). However, Joshua threw enough of his customary jazz and Bluesy runs in there and changed the arrangement just enough to stay true the brilliant original, yet make it his own. And it was great.
Jessica Sanchez: Jessica sang the iconic Aerosmith classic I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing to the accompaniment of multiple violins and cellos. Her voice was much more restrained than normal in the first half, but she seemed to give it more room in the back half, using some runs and showing far more range, like we are accustomed to. It took certain bravado to sing that in front of Steven Tyler, so gets major props for that. It was still missing some of that connection that we felt last week when she sang Etta James, but it sounded like the right parts were all there.
Phillip Phillips: For his personal choice, Phil-Phil sang Disease, by Matchbox Twenty. I love this song, but one of the things that I love about it, and Rob Thomas in general, is his ability to blend a songs melody with the harmony. Sadly, Phil-Phil appears incapable of doing this. This song felt like I was listening to the song through only one ear bud. There was definitely something missing.
Joshua Ledet: For the third portion, Jimmy Iovine selected No More Drama by Mary J. Blige for Joshua. Once again, we saw him start off slow and restrained, then pick up the tempo to a frenzy. This has become his trademark and it works for him like nothing we have seen on this stage in years. He is a natural performer who knows exactly what he is doing up there. We rarely see him venture into today’s pop music, and to be honest, the reason why is because there are very few artists out there that he can probably sing well. Ms. Blige is one of a small sample. To win next week, he needs to go straight old-school Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, or someone in that realm. It’s where the money is for him and it is where he is at his absolute finest.
Jessica Sanchez: Jimmy chose Jackson Five’s I’ll Be There for Jessica. This was easily the best performance of the night. One word comes to mind, exquisite. Her tone was perfect, as was her pitch. She has to find a way to connect with the song and audience each time she hits the stage like she did with this song. She is so inconsistent with that. She nailed it, and stuck the landing with a nice run toward the end. If she wants to win this, and I think she still has a very slim chance if Joshua screws up, then she needs to sing something huge, like Mariah Carey’s Hero, or something with some real groove to it, like Stevie Wonder’s I Wish, and she needs to be perfect. And most importantly, she needs to connect with the audience.
Phillip Phillips: Jimmy sent Phil-Phil a real curve ball to handle with Bob Seger’s classic ballad We’ve Got Tonight. This song cannot be sung without melody. Phil-Phil has no choice but to dig deep and figure out how to sing it. And guess what? He can actually do it. He threw some very nice vibrato in there for good measure, something I didn’t even realize his voice was capable of, as he was tender and vulnerable. Almost in a Peter Criss, Beth sort of way. Being surrounded by a cadre of violins and cellos certainly helped set the mood. This could be his best performance. I really don’t think Phil-Phil is going to the finals, but just in case he does, if he wants to win this thing, he needs to sing songs that he can wrap his unique style around. Steven Tyler said he could be the next New Age Springsteen, so I wouldn’t mind hearing him sing some Springsteen. Maybe Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, or even Born to Run. Let’s see what he can do with that.
GOING HOME: PHILLIP PHILLIPS