The American Idol 11 Top 5 sing British pop and song of the 60s. Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band will be lending mentor Jimmy Iovine a hand tonight.
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Most seasons, by the Top 5, I have a pretty good idea of who could win the competition, or at least have it narrowed down to 2. Right now? I couldn’t tell you who could win this thing. The game changes constantly. A few weeks ago, if you had told me that Hollie Cavanagh would turn into a dark horse, I would not have believed it. And as Ive said in past blogs, I felt she had problems that could not be fixed in time to make a difference. But look at her! I don’t know what’s been going on with her, but something inside her head has fundamentally shifted. She’s suddenly singing from her heart rather than her head and is miraculously fulfilling the potential we all suspected she had. She could totally sneak into the top 3. But if she does, it will be at the expense of either Skylar or Jessica.
Personally, I think Jessica has been plateauing for awhile now. A few weeks after the judges saved her, she could be in danger again. While Hollie and Skylar stepped it up, Jessica’s song choices were too safe. Hollie especially is peaking at just the right time. The momentum for Skylar continues to build with two dynamic song choices tonight. Jessica is the weakest of the three girls at this point, just in terms of her performances on the Idol stage. But it’s still going to be hard to call who of the 3 will hit bottom tomorrow night.
If the world were fair, Phil Phillips would at least hit bottom. He’s the weakest of all 5 singers and had the worst performances of the night. His first was a tuneless flip of a classic 60’s song, the conded was a total vocal mess. Really he should be eliminated.
Josh ranks behind Hollie and Skylar tonight, mostly because his first song was a safe and boring choice. Skylar gets that she’s got to be bold, and that song choice is EVERYTHING. All of the remaining Idols have to be aware that they can’t coast at this point.
Little Stevie’s musical knowledge was on full display tonight. I thought he had some good advice to give to the Idols. It was, generally, a very good night of performances.
Steven Van Zandt, this week’s Idol guest mentor, is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, producer, songwriter and radio DJ. He also starred as Silvio Dante in the Sopranos. Ha ha…Ryan refers to Jimmy Iovine as the “Idol Godfather”. Jimmy and Steven go way back to the 70s when Jimmy was the recording engineer on Bruce’s early albums.
The 60s are first!
Hollie Cavanagh – “River Deep Mountain High” by Ike and Tina Turner – Stevie calls this song one of the most exciting records of all time and is very skeptical of Hollie singing it. He advises her to get rid of trying to please people. Act like you don’t care what anyone thinks, he says. Holy cow. Is this the invasion of the body snatchers? What has happened to deer-in-the-headlights Hollie? Her body has been overtaken by this newly confident person. Hollie is finally losing the self-conscious over thinking that has hamstrung her past performances. Her new ease is allowing that pure, beautiful crystal clear tone to emerge, with a little bit of soul. She’s working the stage with background singers and musicians following her from the audience. Hollie is the perfect 60s chanteuse in a shimmery mini-dress. She ends the song with a little head toss as if to say: “I’m here bitches!” We’ve got ourselves a contender. Randy gives her a standing ovation. They all should have stood up. It’s all positive from the judges. Steven says it’s the first time he’s heard her step out and use her blues. Jlo liked that she could be in the middle of a production and “really lead that.” “That second verse..you wore it out,” says Randy. 1-866-436-5701, 1-866-436-5706
Phil Phillips – “The Letter” by The Box Tops – Oh. So Phil wasn’t crazy for the original version of the song (so why are you singing it?) He decides to change it up. Jimmy and Steven disagree over the changes. Jimmy hates the bridge, Stevie thinks Phil should be left to do his thing. I’m with Jimmy on this one. Phil excises all the melody out of the tune, and replacing it with Phil-er. That is, he’s re-worked the song to the point that renders it tuneless and boring. Ugh. I really do not like Phil’s re-arrangements. This one is especially irksome, because I am a big fan of the original (ICU turning in your grave, Alex Chilton. RIP). Do. Not. Want. Even the Joe Cocker version has more melody. Randy loved it. Jlo doesn’t know the original song. She notes the lack of melody, but says it’s OK because he’s compelling. Steven says he misses the melody, but he gets away with it, the way the Stones got away with it. Huh? Randy says, “At least he strives to be original.” Oh geez. Ryan introduces Phil’s pretty girlfriend, who is sitting in the audience. Ryan is glad Phil is into brunettes. Heh. The girlfriend might cost Phil a few votes. 1-866-436-5702, 1-866-436-5707
Skylar Laine – “Fortunate Son” by Creedance Clearwater Revival – Skylar planned to sing “Knock on Wood” but the team talked her into singing Creedence. I’m glad Skylar took Stevie and Jimmy’s advice, because her original choice was unimaginative. Creedence gives Skylar the opportunity to tap into her inner rock chick, which is always a good thing. Man. Skylar RIPS into this song with gusto. She has no fear, singing with total conviction. Jlo remarks on her incredible energy. Steven loves when she “boot skoots” out there and takes a risk. Randy says Fogerty would be proud, and she’s born to be on the stage. Hm. I wonder if our gun-totin southern gal realizes this song was an anti-war song back in the day? 1-866-436-5703, 1-866-436-5708
Phil Phillips and Joshua Ledet – “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers Now…for the comedy portion of the show. This performance is SO awkward, with Phil looking super uncomfortable and on the verge of embarrassed laughter throughout the performance. There’s NO chemistry between these two at all. Josh had never heard of the song, and Phil claims they learned it at the last minute. Their voices blend like ass, not to mention the fact that Joshua stomps all over Phil vocally. Favorite moment: Phil singing, “Baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you” while barely keeping a straight face. Super awkward moment: As the song finishes, Phil puts his arm around Joshua, who pushes him away. The performance is such a trainwreck, it’s actually kind of funny. Steven thought the two should have embraced each other and gotten over it. A match made in heaven, he says. Jlo said they should have sung to the girls. Duh.
Jessica Sanchez – “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner – Stevie tried really really hard to talk Jessica out of this song choice. It’s so played SO PLAYED. And really, only the fierce Tina Turner can pull off this song without looking hopelessly cheesy. Jessica growls her way through the song with the backup singers/dancers and the major hairography except…she’s not Tina. The performance comes off like a highly competent lounge act. No Jessica. At this point in the game you gotta be BOLD. Hollie and Skylar have just passed you in the fast lane. Jennifer calls her a cross between Tina and Beyonce and is glad she moved around the stage. Steven liked the blues in her voice. Randy says the performance was barely OK. He argues with Jlo, who thinks Jessica should be graded on a curve. Randy thinks comparisons to Tina are inevitable. 1-866-436-5704, 1-866-436-5709
Joshua Ledet – “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by Temptations – Jimmy and Stevie really enjoyed his performance. Jimmy says he has a gift. That may be, but this song choice was super safe. Sure, Joshua sang it well, but it was nothing special. This is a Top 13th performance. Yes, Josh, we know you have soul chops and are a wonderful performer and snazzy dresser. At top 5, only shock and surprise will do. A solid, but predictable performance. Steven lays on the hyperbole: “You’ve got to be one of the Top 2 Idols of all time,” he says. Randy compares him to Terrance Trent D’Arby and thinks he could bring back old school R&B. 1-866-436-5705, 1-866-436-5710
Round 1 assessment: Randy: Hollie Skyler and Joshua. Jennifer: Joshua and Holllie Steven: Joshua, Skylar and Hollie.
Hollie Cavanagh – “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis- Stevie tells Hollie to keep it intimate. Don’t sing it to the world, sing it to just one person, he says. She takes Stevie’s advice to heart, realizing that the song won’t work if she doesn’t connect. Something has flipped in Hollie’s brain, because she is singing this song with a subtly and feeling she didn’t have before–and frankly, I never thought she’d find. This is a beautiful arrangement, too. Sitting atop a piano, she’s bleeding love, and I believe her. Steven doesn’t know this song. Hm. Jennifer says she delivered some beautiful notes. Randy schools Steven on the origins of the song. “We put you through the ringer last year,” says Jlo, “but we always believed in you.”
OMG. The horror of Ryan sitting in Nigel Lythgoe’s lap out in the audience as he announces Phillip. BRAIN BLEACH STAT.
Phil Phillips – “Time of the Season” by the Zombies – Stevie and Jimmy rib Phillip for sticking to the melody for once. (“It’s nice, but it might scare people,” says Stevie) But the thing is, this is an instance where Phil might have WANTED to change the melody. Phil’s 5 note range does NOT include a falsetto. When he reaches for the high note in the chorus he either squeaks out an off pitch note, or swallows it. Either way, it’s a really unpleasant sound he makes. And it’s too bad too, because, on paper, this is a great song choice. He gets the sultry vibe down pat. But once he hits those bad notes, the listener is jolted right out of the groove. Inexplicably, the judges love it. Not a one calls out his weak falsetto. “He really can sing the melody,” says Randy. No he can’t, Randy.
Jessica Sanchez, Skylar Laine and Hollie Cavanagh – “Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson – Aw. This trio of girls is adorable. Girl power, ya’ll. They make a solid girl group, each bringing their own special flavor to the performance. They are adorable, like comic book super heroes!
Skylar Laine – “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield – OMG at Jimmy and Stevie swearing up a storm in front of Skylar. It’ s a good thing she really doesn’t need their help here. She’s picked a great song. After kicking some sh*t at the top of the show, she closes it out with a big dramatic ballad, showing off that big ole voice of hers. The background singers doubling as actors cooing together on a park bench are a total crack up. Who stages this stuff? Skylar torches her way through this song beautifully, with just the right amount of twang. She nails a giant money note at the end. Randy calls it flawless. He’s transfixed on her performances. He also wants to know who those weird people were sitting on the bench. Jlo tells her she’s winning the hearts of America.
Skylar Laine 2nd song, Top 5 ~ American Idol 2012 by HumanSlinky
Jessica Sanchez – “You are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker – Jimmy warns that the song can’t sound like Muzak (that’s dating him!) But he’s right. It’s a predictable choice that could be a real snooze unless she brings something extra to it. The scene is set for a “moment.” Jessica is sitting down, barefoot, at the edge of the stage surrounded by lit candles. A fog machine is working overtime. As always, her vocal is beautiful, but there’s something missing. It’s a pretty rendition without any soul or bite–a Miss America performance. The candles and smoke only exacerbate the “sounds that sooth” vibe of the song. All that’s missing is Kenny G on tenor sax. “You’re going to be #1 girl,” says Steven. Not if she keeps putting people to sleep, Steven. Randy says Jessica is at the top of the leader board for part two.
Joshua Ledet – “To Love Somebody” by The Bee Gees – Jimmy and Stevie talk Josh out of singing Tom Jones. Instead, they suggest a classic Bee Gees song that, of course, young Josh has never heard. But, reportedly, he learned it in 15 minutes and proceeded to kill it. Josh isn’t always successful with unfamiliar material, but here, he must have connected to the song right away, because he sings it like he’s been rehearsing it all of his life. He nailed that one to the wall and then killed it dead. He oversang a little at the end, but that’s a quibble. He sang with so much passion, I thought he was going to explode right on stage. Josh gets yet ANOTHER standing ovation. I’m hearing it’s his ELEVENTH. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, but c’mon judges, can’t you spring to your feet for a few other people? Hollie and Skylar come to mind. Also the hyperbole here was out of control. Randy tells him he’s one of the best singers on the show. Ever. And Jlo, not to be outdone, calls him one of the best singers she’s seen in FIFTY YEARS. Never mind that she’s only in her 40s. Dial it back judges. Eventually you will do more harm than good with the overpraise.