Wednesday, May 9th 2012
Who's In It To Win It?
by The AI Insider
It was a fight to the finish on Wednesday, as the Top 2 guys and the Top 2 girls vied for the coveted last three spots in the American Idol competition.
With just two weeks left until our next Idol is named, the contestants were asked to sing two songs: a "California Dreamin'" tune — meaning a song from a California artist or about the Golden State — and a song they wish they had written.
Phillip started the show with CCR's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" The former pawn shop employee admitted that even though he likes to have fun, he's trying to push himself "to go as far as I can."
The judges enjoyed the performance, even though Phillip said he had cotton mouth. "You're living proof that the road to success is always under construction," Steven said. "You sang like that with cotton mouth?"
"It sounded pretty good to me!" Jennifer added. "I felt you had this new kind of Joe Cocker quality that we haven't heard before. I think you did a great job."
Randy thought it "started off a little rough," but Phillip made up for it later. "By the time you hit the first chorus, your whole vibe lightened up, then you were right on the money. The pitch was there. It was sensational from that moment on out."
Hollie followed with Journey's "Faithfully." She also admitted that she was encouraged by her Season 10 audition, when Jennifer urged her to come back in a year or two. "When I saw how much belief Jennifer had in me, it really inspired me," she said.
The judges loved the performance. "Wow, Hollie, you're peaking at the right time in this competition," Randy said. "You came back, you've been slaying us every week," he continued, adding that Journey's Steve Perry would be proud. "Hollie wants to take this thing!" he shouted. "Jennifer, Hollie wants to have the whole thing!"
Jennifer agreed. "I got a little bit emotional to see how far you've come," she told Hollie. "You had such confidence about you. I've been waiting to see that from you. It was really very beautiful."
Steven told Hollie, "I've watched you blossom . . . your choice of song tonight was over-the-top again. Beautiful."
For his first song, Joshua chose Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up," and he dedicated it to his father (the whole family overcame a fear of flying for Joshua's Idol journey). He also reflected on how Randy urged him to come back after he failed to make it through the Season 10 auditions.
The judges were impressed with his performance. "I think the whole world knows what I think of Joshua already," Jennifer said. "It was another great performance for you — I love the drama. Really good job. Keep it consistent till the end. You could wind up right there!"
"I'm really glad you got on that plane," Steven said. "You sang your little tush off again; I can't tell you how much I love the way you sing. Courage is fear that's said its prayers, and you have said your prayers, and the world is accepting you right now like nobody's business."
"I too am extremely happy that you came back," Randy added. "I think you're an amazing artist with a ginormous career ahead of you."
As the first round came to a close, Jessica chose to sing Etta James' "Steal Away." Jessica looked back on how she's been singing since she was two. "I literally can't do anything but sing," she joked, adding that the competition has made her "open up a lot more."
Jennifer loved the growl in Jessica's performance, saying, "I'm happy to see that the growl was there from beginning — it was in full effect today. That was crazy, one of the best I've seen in such a long time. When I think of all the great female singers out there who would be your contemporaries, you're just one of the best."
Steven said, "I loved it. That showed the other side of your voice. You're shaking off the old you . . . that's a beautiful thing."
Randy loved the "vibe" of the performance. "She's 16, and she's singing Etta James," he said. "The blues have so much soul and so much heart in it. It's about all that pain, and for you to be able to tap into that . . . I mean, your vocals are ridiculous — you can sing anything. That girl right there could sing the phone book! Amazing again."
Next, Phillip and Joshua took the stage for a duet of Maroon 5's "This Love," and Steven called it "perfect." Jennifer also enjoyed it, noting that it was like an "unexpected treat" from Adam Levine and Usher.
Hollie and Jessica followed with their own duet, singing The Bangles' "Eternal Flame" on a couple of white swings, and they didn't quite nail it according to the judges.
"That was a little strange for me," Randy said. "What's going on with these swings? I just didn't like that, I thought it was weird. I didn't get the best of either of you."
"I don't think it was bad as all that," Jennifer interjected. "You both have sweetness, and you both have power, and I think it showed off both of those things in this song."
Steven didn't really like it either, but joked that after "four months in L.A., you turned into our favorite swingers."
After a sneak peek at next month's star-studded blockbuster "Rock of Ages," Phillip kicked off Round 2 with Damien Rice's "Volcano." Jimmy admitted that he was "really nervous" about Phillip last week, but not this week.
"This week, he came in with his voice in a different place and found a song like a bull's eye," Jimmy said. "'Volcano' sent a message that [Phillip] could record something like this and not sound like anybody else. I'm thrilled for him and thrilled for us."
The judges were also thrilled by the performance. "I agree with Jimmy. I heard the musician that time," Steven said. "You just sang like you really dug the way you sung to yourself. I never heard you sing like that — that was just beautiful."
"Very few people could have pulled that off on a competition show like this," Jennifer added. "It is a real testament to who you are and who you wanna be as an artist. For me, it was one of the most beautiful, poignant moments a contestant has ever had. It was really, really lovely."
Randy agreed that it was one of Phillip's "best performances on the whole season — amazing, so great."
Hollie went next with Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," and Jimmy had some advice. "You cannot get a girl with more soul and more feel than Bonnie Raitt," he said, noting that Hollie's "problem" is "she comes without emotion." He offered the following suggestion: "On a song like this, you really have to get into the words. Don't over-sing." As the "dark horse," he added that Hollie has to "come from behind and do magnificent. She can't just do OK, no chance."
The judges didn't think she quite pulled it off. "I think Jimmy was right: you have to have gone through a bunch of things to feel that," Steven said. "I thought it fell a little short as far as a dynamic range of how you can sing. I'm sorry, baby."
"You're trying to make America love you," Jennifer said. "You should have been saying to America, I can't make you love me. Maybe you knew it had to be emotional, so you brought emotion, and it made your vocal go off."
Randy thought that the problem was the song choice, saying, "You need moments — you're a different kind of singer than Bonnie Raitt. You got this ginormous big voice . . . there were no moments for me. To me, that was the wrong song at the wrong time."
Joshua followed with James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," dedicating it to his mom, who is "the background in the family." Jimmy called the performance "incredible," and the judges gave him a standing ovation.
"Neither man nor woman has ever sang that good with that much compassion on this show, ever. I could go home right now — I never heard anything like that in my life," Steven said.
"I think people at home maybe thought, like I did, that they had seen everything you had to give and how you can interpret a song. We hadn't. That was sickening!" Jennifer said, adding that she understood the phrase "take you to church" when she saw the performance. "I found religion . . . I saw the Lord," she joked.
"Everybody who saw this got something tonight from this," Randy said. "I think it's the greatest song for you. I think it's one of the best performances in the history of any singing show, including ours. Yo, if you wanna know what singing is really about, please watch Joshua Ledet!"
Jessica closed the show with the "Dreamgirls" hit, Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," a reference to how she's "pushed even harder" since the judges saved her. "I don't want to go home, and I'm telling you I'm not going!" she joked.
"I was disappointed when Jessica sang 'Proud Mary,' last week, so much so that I put her in my bottom two, but when you challenge her, she comes back ferocious," Jimmy said. "It was every bit as powerful as you could possibly sing this song. I will remember this moment for sure. If audiences and the judges see what I saw, it could be game over!"
The judges gave her a standing ovation. "Another winning performance, just over-the-top. Tell me how you really feel!" Steven joked.
"Seems like it's gonna be a real race to the finish," Jennifer said. "I don't know who's gonna win. This is crazy. With a performance like that, there's nothing to say . . . your vocal ability is not something you see all the time," she added, as Jessica started crying. "It was a real moment. That was amazing."
"I don't know what's going on tonight," Randy told her. "Joshua, you, Phillip — you guys are now in it to really win it. This is one of the hardest songs in the world to sing. You got up there and slayed it. You are phenomenal!"
So whose Idol journey is coming to an end? You'll find out on Thursday night, when David Cook and Jennifer Lopez perform!