'American Idol' Recap: Jessica Shines & No One Flops
It's inevitable -- by the end of a season of "American Idol," it gets to the point where the remaining singers are good enough that there may very well be no performances that could be considered "bad."
Looks like season 11 has finally reached that point.
The final four of the 2012 season went onstage Wednesday night (May 9) with a purpose: make it through this week, and you get the chance to have the so-hallowed homecoming celebration in your hometown, complete with hundreds of adoring fans, and oftentimes something along the lines of a day named in the singer's honor, or a "key to the city" presentation.
But to get there, the Idols had to bring down the house over two solo performances, one of a song from a Californian artist/band (or a song explicitly about the Golden State), and another of a song they wish they had written.
I'll give you one guess as to which half of the evening was the better half.
Along the way, we were treated to two more excruciating duets (they paired Joshua and Phillip together again, and while it wasn't as bad as last week, I still think their chemistry deserves them their own buddy film a la "From Justin 2 Kelly") and a soulless group performance of Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You."
Because, apparently, we couldn't just shove all eight solos into one hour of TV.
Anyway, on to those aforementioned solo performances. Who stood out above the rest and who fell into good-but-not-great territory? Read on to find out my rankings.
1. Jessica Sanchez - "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
Jessica finally rises to the top of my ranking for the first time in weeks after positively killing the "Dreamgirls" song. Honestly, I'm surprised we didn't hear the song from her sooner -- it seemed like her destiny to pull off all those big notes at some point in the season. Jessica's voice occasionally flirted with becoming far too abrasive for her own good, but she mostly pulled it together, putting in a powerful vocal from start to finish. If there's any justice in this world, the song's title will hold true tonight.
2. Joshua Ledet - "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"
To call Jessica's performance the best of the night is saying quite a bit considering this performance that happened just before she went on. Joshua usually has one "meh" and one "ZOMG" performance each night, and like clockwork, he showed up in a big way on this James Brown standard. The dude sang the second half of the song with such fervor and passion that I seriously thought he was going to burst a blood vessel. Be glad he didn't as you watch this performance on repeat, like I know you will. Crazy.
3. Phillip Phillips - "Volcano"
Poor Phil. Poor, sweet Phil. Had it been any week, this Damien Rice cover might have gotten him to number one on my list, which would have felt gratifying, since I'm usually quite hard on the guy. But when you're up against what came later, it's tough to compare. Still, Phillip sounded his best all season here, showing vulnerability and restraint, keeping his voice in check while actually singing the melody of the song. And he sounded fantastic with the female backing voice.
4. Hollie Cavanagh - "Faithfully"
Hollie has come out strong these last few weeks, and she continued to show her second win singing some Journey. There were instances here when I thought she sounded her best ever. Otherwise, it was a very solid performance. I loved when she was able to let loose a bit at the end, because the vocal was a little too low at the beginning for her to really show off much. She also seemed at ease, which is something she's struggled with. One of her best.
5. Jessica Sanchez - "Steal Away"
I was a bit worried for Jessica when I heard she was singing Etta James, but she pulled through nicely. What worked with this performance? It wasn't flashy, and was certainly unmemorable, but it was still solid. I can't really find many faults with her, because she sang the song the way it should be sung. "Steal Away" is just not a song that you really wow folks with, especially at this point of the competition, which is why my feelings toward it are merely lukewarm.
6. Phillip Phillips - "Have You Ever Seen the Rain"
Am I the only one that's noticing a recurring trend with Phillip? When he's got his guitar, he tends to be at his best. Without it, he just seems so out-of-place and uncomfortable. It's kind of like Crystal Bowersox two years ago, although she pulled off the sans-guitar performances much more nicely. With Phillip, there's nothing to focus on but his voice, and there's rarely anything too flashy when that happens. He wasn't bad, but I also feel like I could have heard the same vocal at my local karaoke night.
7. Joshua Ledet - "You Raise Me Up"
Joshua singing a song that's gotten the gospel treatment a hundred times over already -- what could go wrong, right? I can't call this bad, but Joshua has shone quite a bit on slower-tempo songs, and this song's kind of in his wheelhouse, so the fact that he didn't slay it, like many would have expected, is troubling. By the end, I just wanted a little more, which I know he's more than capable of giving. Joshua's been anything but boring this year, but this song probably ranks as his closest to that distinction.
8. Hollie Cavanagh - "I Can't Make You Love Me"
Aside from the fact that she just got flat-out out-performed Wednesday night, this is the performance that might have been the nail in Hollie's coffin. The Bonnie Raitt tune was something she probably should have really owned, but Hollie made the mistake of focusing too much on showing emotion and passion, and too little on her overall vocal. In the end, she sacrificed vocal power bringing the song to the stage, and I think it'll cost her.
Elimination prediction: It's gotta be Hollie. Only pure luck can save you after being outdone by your peers like she was Wednesday night. She's had a great and unexpected run, but I think this will be the last week we see her.
Who was the best and worst of the top four? Who will be going home in the next elimination? Was the Joshua-Jessica one-two punch at show's end one of the best combos in "Idol" history? Sound off in the comments!