What do Haley Reinhart, Casey James, Danny Gokey, Syesha Mercado, Melinda Doolittle, Elliott Yamin, Vonzell Solomon, Jasmine Trias, Kimberly Locke, and Nikki McKibbin all have in common? They all left American Idol just shy of the goal, making it to the final night of competition, and getting the chance to be the person called the American Idol. At some point in their respective years, most were considered frontrunners, and a couple were thought to have a chance to bring the title home. Some were seen as underdogs, but yet stayed in to fight with their talent, wanting to win. This season, who will want it more, and put down the performance that assures them a spot in the final? Guess we will have to watch and see.
On Top 3 night at American Idol, the formula has stayed somewhat consistent over the years. The contestants get to choose a song themselves, the judges pick one for them, and the record executive, these days Jimmy Iovine, picks a song for each contestant. One was never sure how this would play out, for there were song choices by judges and executives that were at best confusing, and at worse seemed like sabotage. What will it be tonight? Can Randy, Jennifer, and Steven be trusted to choose the song that will work best for each singer? After weeks of complaining about song choices, can Jimmy I put his money where his mouth is? Will each contestant pick a new song, or will they just rerun a favorite they’ve already offered? After all the introductions, it is time to find out. We are reminded the remaining three went on trips to their hometowns, but no time to dawdle, for Randy, Jennifer and Steven are finding their way to the desk, and Crusty finds the spotlight…”This is American Idol.” We are reminded the final performance show will be next Tuesday, and the results on Wednesday night, but first, we must find out who will be competing. After the first break, Joshua will be the first to take the stage. Randy was there to chose for the preacher’s son, and had him sing “I’d Rather Go Blind,” with music by Ellington Jordan, who gave it to Etta James when she visited Jordan in prison. She later wrote the lyrics, but gave credit to Billy Foster for tax purposes – wink wink. This is better than many of his performances for me, with a nice dramatic arc to the song. But the use of the old-fashioned microphone and the 44-year-old song just emphasized the anachronism that is Joshua. Will he be able to sing something more current? I don’t know. Not surprising, the judges loved him, and gave him a standing ovation. They thought he sings this style so well. After Jennifer and Steven tell him he is wonderful, Randy mentions his hope that Joshua can bring his old-school stylings to modern R&B, which he feels is ailing. Ah, he is the savior for R&B. Stand back, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys, Randy is sending Joshua to save the day! Soon Jennifer is telling us that she thought of the perfect choice for Jessica, who will sing “My All,” written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff, performed by Mariah.
This is a lovely performance, but not much more for me. It is an odd song choice for a 16-year-old girl, and showed the amazing breath control of Carey, which Jessica wished she had about three quarters through. She gave it a lovely, sweet and ethereal treatment to a song that is about very real emotions. Randy starts it off by telling us that was the best a Mariah Carey song has ever been sung on television. Jennifer panicked when she heard Jessica struggle a bit, just realizing the song was hard – think you might have figured that out before assigning it to the 16-year-old? And Steven, well, he predicts Jessica will win. Wow. Speaking of Steven, he tells us he wants to hear Phillip sing the melody of a song again, so he picked “Beggin’” originally a hit in 1967 for The Four Seasons, featuring Frankie Valli. But Steven mentioned the cover by Madcon.
Pretty much right away, Phillip blows off the melody Steven wanted him to sing, and puts the song through the P2 processor. The song becomes a growl and a grind, with little to do with the original, like much of what he has delivered this season. The man with the gray on gray t-shirt and shirt blew them off completely, and the judges loved him for it. The audience loved him, too. When asked by Crusty who took the first round, Randy thought Joshua a hair ahead, while Jennifer thought it was Phillip, but Steven loved melody-challenged P2, but thought Jessica has the voice of an angel. To mark the beginning of the next round, we get some footage of Joshua returning home to Louisiana. People want to hug him, get his autograph, and have him kiss their babies. It is funny, for he seems to have a tough time processing the attention. But he still goes to church in a stretch limo…. But it is time for the contestant’s choice, and he sings “Imagine,” written and performed by John Lennon.
Well, this was interesting for me. There were some nice parts to the rendition, showing a sweet spot in his voice. There were a couple of times when he just exploded on the song, making for awkward transitions, a few “wet” catches in his voice. Of course, the judges loved it, with Steven suggested it was brought by a touch of God, and Jennifer thought it almost preaching. Randy thought it was very special. After a break, we visit Chula Vista, California, the home of Jessica. Her journey begins with a helicopter, and landing in the stadium she auditioned for the show. Soon she is on the radio, and there is a a huge crowd cheering for her. But she heads home, to see the family, and is quickly surrounded by fans at the local high school, and to the cheering members of the US Navy. Back on the stage, she is about to sing “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” written by Diane Warren and performed by Aerosmith.
This must be odd, with Steven Tyler as a judge. It is interesting, for it certainly isn’t as muscular as the Aerosmith version, but it does have touching moments. She is greeted by a standing ovation from Steven, and he tells her he loved it. Jennifer also loved it, and thought the final note was heavenly. Randy loved it too, and I am shocked we have yet to be put though any random verbal hand grenades. After we suffer through yet another Steven Tyler Burger King commercial, we visit Leesburg, Georgia, home of Phillip and the pawn shop he worked in. First thing I noticed is that Phillip is wearing a muted brown shirt, not gray! He seems surprisingly cool with the attention of the masses, and is seen wearing a purple t-shirt, and then a blue one. There is a beautiful moment with his Dad, and security pushing girls away… Back on the stage, we find out he will be singing “Disease,” written by Rob Thomas and Mick Jagger (of Rolling Stones fame), and performed by Matchbox 20.
This is a nice acoustic arrangement, but even the laid-back version is swallowing his vocals. It totally lacked the sexy charge of the original. For the record, he once again muddles the distinctive melody of the original song, putting it through that processor that is P2. I thought this ended up being a bit on the anemic side, just a pale performance. Jennifer thought it was was okay, and Steven agreed with her. To make a totally strange moment, Randy agreed, although making a production of it. Well, with that over with, it is time for the picks made by Jimmy Iovine, the man in charge of Interscope Records, the home of the Idol winner. For the final performance by Joshua tonight, he picked “No More Drama,” using samples from a soap opera theme song, and performed by Mary J Blige.
While I am not minding the opening of the song, the sudden and constant bouncing is distracting. Soon, he is peeling off the jacket, and tossing it aside. Not long after, I lost the song in the performance, a problem I have repeatedly had with Joshua. Mary J sang a song about the distractions of detours of life, and Joshua took it to the same place he goes with every song. I didn’t feel the build, it seemed to be a leap over the moon from a stand still. Of course, the judges loved it, and thought it was going to church, laying it all out there. You know, the same thing they say every week. Jimmy I gives a thumbs up, and we can move forward again. Back in Chula Vista, we see Jessica get a text message, and find out Jimmy I picked “I’ll Be There,” was written by Motown’s Berry Gordy, Bob West, Willie Hutch, and Hal Davis, and performed by the Jackson 5.
Jimmy thinks this can help her relate to the cougars in the audience, and still keep a youthful feel. I think this could be the best choice of the night, and Jimmy I should be commended. Jessica does a great job with it, and it was fantastic to not feel uncomfortable about her youth. She sounded beautiful, showing her beautiful tone. Steven loved it, as did Jennifer. However, Randy thought it was just okay, and would rather she took on the Mariah version, rather than one more true to Jessica. I have to wonder if Randy has any daughters… For the final song of the evening, Jimmy I selects “We’ve Got Tonight,” written and performed by Bob Seger. This should be a good choice for Phillip, as it doesn’t have a huge range, and allows for a lot of character in the voice. Jimmy I also hopes that Phillip will stick to the melody of the song, something he is hesitant to do. Well, what do you know, he is keeping with the original melody, and with just he and the piano, it is lovely. Soon he is joined by the orchestra, and it starts to spin wheels for me. The reedy and paper-thin quality of his voice is evident, and I was saddened. However, at the end of the song, he is greeted by at standing ovation by the judges, and all the stupid sayings that he has tortured us with for years. Jennifer let her hormones show, and Steven cursed as he said it didn’t matter if the notes were hit or not, he sang the melody. Off key. Oh well. During the recap, I am reminded that this show has been about the boys in the last few years, so I suspect it will be Phillip and Joshua in the finals, no matter what the performances were tonight, for Jessica is missing the vital equipment. Even the judges seem to cheer off-key performances over the in-tune ones. As I had feared, the judges should not be trusted to pick songs ever again. I think Jimmy was good with 2 out of 3, better than the 0 for 3 of the judges. Tune in Thursday night at 8PM to your local Fox station for the results, or check back in to this blog to see who will be singing in the finals next week.