After the torture I went through two nights ago immediately following the announcement of The Voice winner (America, why?!), it’s such a pleasure knowing I can jump back into the warm and embracing arms of my favorite reality show, American Idol, and know that all will be better once the top four singers blow my brains out like a Tarantino bloodbath with their talent. Yes, last night on American Idol might have topped itself for delivering some of the most beautiful covers of classic songs known to man (and woman…got that Randy?). This may have been “California Dreamin’” week, but three of the four Idols managed to show themselves in the best light possible in the second-half’s “Songs I Wish I Had Written” theme. My god, where do I even start? Well, it always begins with the overall worst contestant of the evening, so let’s get right to it…
4. Phillip Phillips (California Dreamin’: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” & Songs I Wish I Had Written: “Volcano”) — Despite delivering my second favorite performance of the night with “Volcano,” Phillip should still be sent home tonight for his horrifically malnourished rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Phillip could not ride the melody whatsoever. His voice was in full marathon mode, trying to catch up with those notes, but never hitting a single one. There were moments where Phillip was even straining his voice to reach those notes. Let’s just say I’ve had more fun waiting at a doctor’s office. To make matters worse, Phillip OPENLY ADMITTED to screwing up some of the lyrics. If the deaf-ass judges foolishly fail to point that important tidbit out, it’s probably best to keep your mouth shut. Thank god Phillip redeemed himself with his strongest vocal — and performance — of the season, Damien Rice’s hauntingly beautiful “Volcano.” I’ve always said that when Phillip sticks to his narrative endowment, he will go places. With that song and those surprisingly concentrated and crisp vocals, Phillip may have guaranteed himself a spot in the Top 3. Taking his time with a song that he truly cared about and felt wholeheartedly paid off in dividends. Phillip, maybe you’ve got true talent after all. It’s just a shame it has taken us this long to see it.
Performance Reviews: (California Dreamin’: *1/2, Songs I Wish I Had Written: ****)
One great performance doesn’t make up for weeks of massacring countless innocent songs:
3. Hollie Cavanagh (California Dreamin’: “Faithfully” & Songs I Wish I Had Written: “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) — Just when Hollie thought she was out…THEY PULLED HER BACK IN AND STOMPED ON HER SPIRIT! Yep, the judge’s couldn’t wait to get back on the “Hollie Hate” Train when given the opportunity. I find it absolutely hilarious how they go on a diatribe about how bad Hollie is — you’d think they were Catholic school teachers who were inches away from jumping on stage to give Hollie a ruler lashing — but fail to even pinpoint Phillip’s destruction of the melody and missed lyrics. Why am I not surprised? This kind of behavior is why it has been so easy for a man to win Idol these past five years. Men can get away with murder while the girls get a verbal smackdown over a few minor bumps in their performances. Hollie’s Journey song started off a tad shaky, but once she hit the chorus it was as blissfully booming as ever. Hollie’s confidence is so transparent on stage that she seems to be taking it easy like an artist performing at their sold-out concert. Perhaps her laid-back approach wasn’t the smartest thing to do on such a crucial evening, but at least the girl has completely lost her “deer in the headlights” expression that plagued her the first four or five weeks of the live rounds. For Hollie’s second song, I had a difficult time understanding why the judges were so furious — Hollie has had many performances worse than “I Can’t Make You Love Me” — but I’ll make sense of it as best I can. What happened in this performance was Hollie’s questionable decision to sacrifice her technique for emotional abandon didn’t pay off. She wanted to throw aside her control for a minute and a half and let the song’s emotion envelop her completely. Unfortunately, Hollie is an untrained vocalist so she wasn’t able to properly handle her pitch when she let her emotions run the performance instead of her technique. The ability to balance technique with emotional abandon will come to Hollie the more experience she gets, but it was too much of a risky play at this stage in the competition. Still, her genuine emotion and passion pulled me into the song, more so than I believed it would be able to. I just feel that the right song and a better approach to singing would have given Hollie the boost she needs to land in the Top 3. Now, I remain unsure whether she’s done enough to survive last night’s crucial show.
Performance Reviews: (California Dreamin’: ***1/2, Songs I Wish I Had Written: **1/2)
Hollie schooled everyone on “California Dreamin’,” but her voice couldn’t keep it together on her second song. Let’s hope all the Holliepops voted hard:
2. Jessica Sanchez (California Dreamin’: “Steal Away” & Songs I Wish I Had Written: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”) — Would that I could, I would absolutely place Jessica Sanchez at the top of the rankings this week. Her performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is barely under Elise’s “Whole Lotta Love” for the best performance of Season 11. Never have I seen such passion, conviction, and gut-wrenching showmanship displayed on the Idol stage. If someone asked me what singing for your life looked like, I would direct them straight to this performance. I was expecting to dislike the rendition, fearing it would be another copycat vocal of Jessica’s without an ounce of genuine emotion. Jessica’s Etta James song bordered on mimicry. There wasn’t a shred of Jessica in that performance other than the exterior body we saw on stage. I never believed a single lyric Jessica expressed, and again I felt like the stylists and stage managers sexed up this performance far too much for a girl still in her teenage years. Nothing about the performance felt authentic to me, and so I regret to say it was the one thing that brought down Jessica for the evening. As for her second song, perfection itself managed to elevate its standards. Jessica must have watched The Avengers this week, because nothing about her rendition felt like something a mortal human would be capable of doing.
Performance Reviews: (California Dreamin’: **1/2, Songs I Wish I Had Written: ****)
Jessica’s second performance might very well go in the Idol hall of fame:
1. Joshua Ledet (California Dreamin’: “You Raise Me Up” & Songs I Wish I Had Written: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”) — Phillip’s “Volcano” and Jessica’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” were superior to both of Joshua’s performances last night, but my objectivity has to always remain intact. Taking both performances and giving a sum total leaves Joshua as the best of Top 4 week. His Josh Groban cover was unsurprisingly stronger than Chris Mann’s version this past week on The Voice, but I still felt like the choice itself was a bit mystifying. Just like Jessica Sanchez a few weeks back, is now really a necessary time to be choosing songs to dedicate to a family member? Tell them how much you love them after you have won the show — don’t jeopardize your Idol journey when you lose focus on what’s best for you to sing. Joshua’s soulfulness provided a unique coloring to the song that I haven’t heard before, but sometimes his vocal acrobatics distracted from the poignant emotion at hand. Still, a very solid effort. For Joshua’s James Brown song, it was technically superb, no more no less. Do I feel that Juliet Simms’ version on The Voice was grittier and more authentic? Absolutely. That’s not to diminish the incredible job Joshua did with the song, but his youth still has me second-guessing his interpretive skills. That ending though…gosh darn, was that not amazing or what?
Performance Reviews: (California Dreamin’: ***, Songs I Wish I Had Written: ****)
Sorry if I don’t sound as enthused about Joshua as the rest, but objectivity will always determine my rankings:
How does Joshua’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” compare to Juliet Simms’ version on The Voice? Here’s your comparison video to help determine the answer:
Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips, “This Love” (Maroon 5) — Joshua (***1/2), Philip (***):
Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh, “Eternal Flame” (The Bangles) — Jessica (***), Hollie (****):
Predicted To Be Safe: Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips
Bottom Two: Joshua Ledet and Hollie Cavanagh
Going Home: Hollie Cavanagh (Please God, let me be wrong!)
That is all for the review session, folks. Remember one all-important piece of history: tonight is the night for a potential shocker to go down. Top 4 week is notorious for sending home frontrunner candidates like Tamyra Gray, Latoya London, Chris Daughtry, and James Durbin. I’m not convinced it will happen, but brace yourself for J. Lo to start throwing her high heels at Hollie if Joshua ends up getting the axe. Who is going home tonight? Who performed the best on Top 4 night? And most importantly, when will Idol stop being a “Man’s Man’s Man’s World”? As usual, sound off below!
Tags: american idol, american idol california dreamin, American Idol Season 11, american idol top 4, Hollie Cavanagh, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips, Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, Steven Tyler