Last night we reached the semi-finals of this year’s ‘American Idol’ contest, with only the Top 3 left to perform. They are (in no particular order, because you’ll see that last night’s performances kind of messed around with my expected order or merit): Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet.
The contestants had to perform three songs in the semi-finals; could they being their ‘A’ game along for all of those? Would a favorite slip up at the (almost) final hurdle?
The three songs each contestant performed were one the ‘American Idol’ judges chose for them, one that mentor Jimmy Iovine picked for them and one selected by the contestants themselves. It was sure to bring out some amazing classics, but how did our Idol contestants cope with them?
The first round was the judges’ choice of songs.
First up was Joshua Ledet singing ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ by Etta James. Now I know Etta James was great and all that but this doesn’t rate on my Top 100 Favorite Songs, so I was kind of with Randy’s unspoken criticism here when he said, “I hope you can bring your touch to modern times.” Yes he’s a “throwback” as Jennifer said, but he has an amazing voice and I really hope he stays current. “This [was] another Joshua moment,” as Steven pointed out, but I’d rather have heard him sing something current, or at least a better ‘classic’ than this one.
Next, Jessica Sanchez sang ‘My All’ by Mariah Carey which had Steven predicting a Jessica win. “That was absolutely beautiful, the right song for you, excellent,” said Randy and Jennifer complimented her for putting her own spin on the song. It was a strong performance on an emotional song. The stuff of which ‘American Idol’ winners are made.
Phillip Phillips completed our trio with ‘Begging’ by Mankind, not a song I know well but I appreciated Phillip doing his own thing on it. “We were just at the Phil Phillips concert,” said Randy. “You are in the zone, you have a good time, another incredible performance by you, you are who you are and we love it.” Jennifer said he caught the groove in the song. I was most excited by Steven saying that he hopes Phillip will write his own songs “because you could be the new Springsteen.” Squeal!
Then there came some confusing discussion about which of our three remaining contestants won that round. Phillip was the only one to get a standing ovation from the judges, so you’d expect them all to choose Phillip, right? Wrong! Jennifer got with the program and picked Phillip, and at least Steven didn’t commit, but Randy preferred Joshua. So why wasn’t he on his feet for the guy earlier? Anyway – important point – no one picked Jessica, who has so far been the darling of the show in the judges’ eyes.
The contestants got to choose their own songs for round two and this is often where things can go wrong. But I couldn’t wait to see what Phillip chose for himself. But first up was Joshua, after some footage of his hometown visit to Westlake, Louisiana. He made me laugh saying that the very excited fans thought he was Barack Obama. He took his beautiful little niece Chloe with him in the limo for the parade, at which Joshua acted like a politician! He was waving and kissing babies all over the place. After a stop at his school to meet more adoring fans, Joshua played a concert at Burton Coliseum. The concert began in style with “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and ended in fireworks.
Back in the studio, Joshua Ledet performed his own choice of ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. Now this really is one of my favorite songs of all time and I find it very emotional, so I was a little perturbed by Randy asking Joshua, “Why did you choose this song?” Surely he wasn’t going to criticize it! My heart sank a little further as Joshua replied that he heard it on the way to the show. I was getting worried when Randy continued, “Everything you sing should touch you,” but no, we were OK; he was building up to a compliment: “You dig deep into the lyric and the performance, another stellar performance, I love that, Brilliant dude.” Jennifer called it “beautiful,” and she told Joshua he was special for the vulnerability and courage he shows in his performances. Steven said, “It was beautiful, another ‘thank you, God’ moment, every time you take it over the top because you are so fine.” I love Steven… I mean…Joshua.
Next we saw Jessica Sanchez’ home town visit to Chula Vista, California, where she travels by helicopter, landing in the football field where it all began with her audition. Jessica promises to win the competition for her family. A bold statement from the youngster, although she had to be riding pretty high knowing that the judges used their one and only save on her. She has to hope the American public has fallen back in love with her, though, because only they can make her ‘American Idol’ winner, or keep her in until the final. She got a day named after her, though. Her concert was at USS Midway Museum, where Jessica sang ‘Dance With My Father’ for her dad that is overseas. I’m trying not to be unkind but the song doesn’t carry anywhere near as much gravitas when the father in question isn’t dead.
Her song choice of ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ by Aerosmith surprised me. In a good way. It was a tough hill to climb, as Randy pointed out but as he said, she certainly delivered. Jennifer said, “You don’t know what a big deal that is, he has never said a good thing about someone who sang his songs, really good job baby.” Steven said, “You just took a great song and made it greater, beautiful.” That was a massive leap up from her first song and now she’s given me an earrworm.
Phillip Phillips was the last one to perform his choice of song, but first we saw his hometown visit home to Leesburg, Georgia. He went to the pawn shop to visit his very, very proud dad and then they went home to his mom and sisters. This is just a beautiful, loving family. I’m not saying the others aren’t, but I was truly touched by how affectionate and proud of Phillip these people are. I’m trying not to cry even now as I write about it. He was still clearly overwhelmed by the fans’ support at his concert.
Aaannddd then we crashed. I knew how this was going to go as soon as Phillip said his choice of song was ‘Disease’ by Matchbox 20. The judges were clearly underwhelmed and I was left staring at my TV screen mourning a lost opportunity. “It was such a subdued moment, you can do that in your sleep, it was just ok,” said Randy. Jennifer said it was an easy performance too and it was. Not “the wow performance that we are needing right now.” Steven agreed and for a moment I didn’t want to watch the rest of the show.
But of course I did! It was Jimmy Iovine’s choice next and this was bound to be fun, even though we didn’t get to see him sabotage Hollie Cavanagh or Skylar Laine because we all know how much he loved them.
Joshua Ledet was given ‘No More Drama’ by Mary J. Blige and I was sighing and wishing he could get a man’s song again. But Randy said, “At this point it doesn’t matter what you do or what you sing, people should just vote for you. The natural performer that you are, I don’t care, that is what being an artist is all about.” Soooooo… we don’t need performances on ‘American Idol’? Is that what he’s saying? It’s a popularity contest at the end? I hope TV bosses aren’t watching, Randy. Steven again said it was “beautiful.” He seems to have run out of other comments to make. Jennifer said, “You have this perfect marriage of knowing what you are doing and knowing when to do it, the thing that is exciting about you is the spontaneity.”
Jimmy Iovine chose “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson Five because he wanted to show how young Jessica is and to keep her youth. I had mixed feeling about that: about the song and about the intention. So did Randy, who I tend to think has the most integrity and honesty among the judges. He said, “I liked it ok, I didn’t love it, once again we are at the end here, there was never a moment, it was ok but it wasn’t like oh my God.” But Jennifer praised Jimmy’s choice and of course Jennifer’s “perfect tone.” Steven said, “That song was perfect, perfect voice, over the top.” Things were maybe looking up for Jennifer if we ignore Mr. Grumpy in the corner.
Next, Phillip Phillps sang ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ by Bob Seger, chosen by Jimmy because he wanted to find a song that addressed both Phillip’s male and female fans. It was a brilliant choice, if the judges’ comments are to be believed. Randy called it “the perfect song at the perfect time, your best ever. Finally when you need a moment, you had a giant moment. We wanted you to sing a melody, you got it dude, you got it, you are in it to win it, he is ready.” Jennifer said, “it was like a lullaby, “perfect” and I snapped out of my trance when she pointed out that there were about a million girls wishing they were singing it with Phillip. No, no, no – I will not get another ‘Idol’ crush. I’m still loyal, Scottyyyyy! Anyway, I have to figure out what Steven meant when he said “You sang like you didn’t care,” closely followed by “you have all that passion wrapped up in you.” Now, those two things don’t fit together in my head so I am confused, but I think he liked it.
That was some semi-final, and not necessarily what I expected to happen. But what did you think to the ‘American Idol’ semi-final performances? I think the night belonged to the guys and underdog Phillip Phillips may just have stolen it for me. We’ll find out tonight, of course, as we return for the cruelest cut of all as someone pretty phenomenal won’t make the final.