Awards Show

With season eleven in the can, it’s time to hand out some awards. I wanted to get Kelly Clarkson to host the show, but I couldn’t get past the restraining order and get her signed up. I’ll just hand them out myself. The teleprompter app on my android doesn’t work, so I’m going to wing it.

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Public Awards

The first bank of awards is based on the results from the public voting, from the semifinals to the Nokia:

Idol: Phil Phillips

Top Male: Phil Phillips

Top Female: Jessica Sanchez

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Private Awards

This bank of awards is all based on my own personal opinion, not tied to the voting.

Most valuable contestant: Jessica Sanchez

Jessie received (by far) the most youtube hits, and she was the most nationally discussed contestant on the gadfly sites; also by a wide margin. THR (Hollywood Reporter) noted in their final netcast that articles with her name on them received more hits than everyone else combined.

Past winners:

Season 7- David Archuleta

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Season 10- Scotty McCreery

Most controversial contestant: Jermaine Jones

Not just the expulsion, but also becoming the first ever 25th contestant in the semifinals. He wasn’t announced officially until he came out on stage to sing at the end of the show. Honorable mention to tent girl, who was patient zero when everyone got sick on group night after being outed for her own lengthy rap sheet.

Season 7- Carly Smithson

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus

Season 10- Lauren Alaina

Most polarizing contestant– Phillip Phillips

There were quite a few of these; Phil gets the nod because he finished the highest, and as such was polarizing the longest. Honorable mention to just about everyone else in the top 13. It was a polarizing year.

Season 7- Jason Castro

Season 8- Danny Gokey

Season 9- Tim Urban

Season 10- Lauren Alaina

Best looking contestant (male)- Phillip Phillips

I’m pretty confident that I have the right guy, based on what I read on the internet. Honorable mention to Deandre’s dreadlocks andColton’s creepy serial killer/new age televangelist look.

Season 7- Jason Castro

Season 8- Kris Allen

Season 9- Casey James

Season 10- Scotty McCreery

Best looking contestant (female)- Baylie Brown

She looks like a movie star (Denise Richards), or a pageant queen (most of them). Too bad she didn’t sing better. Honorable mention to everyone else; Idol was very attractive this year.

Season 7- Brooke White

Season 8- Kristen McNamara

Season 9- Didi Benami

Season 10- Pia Toscano

Best pure voice (male)- Joshua Ledet

Not close; he ranks with Adam and JD among the best pure voices the show has ever had.

Season 7- David Archuleta

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Lee Dewyze

Season 10- James Durbin

Best pure voice (female)- Skylar Laine

Range, power, and a sweet, thick tone; honorable mention to Hollie’s pure belter’s tone and Jessica’s all around versatility. Erika would have contended for this award had she not developed vocal problems.

Season 7- Carly Smithson

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Season 10- Pia Toscano

Most entertaining also-ran (male)- Reed Grimm

Say what you want to about his weirdness, but he was the driving force behind the best group in Hollywood as well as in Vegas, and he became the first Idol to play drums during a performance.

Most entertaining also-ran (female)- Lauren Gray

Most of the entertaining female contestants made the finals, so there weren’t many to choose from. Most people would probably pick Jen Hirsch, and she deserves it, but I was more entertained by Lauren’s sweet, smoky tone.

I didn’t list “past award winners” for the last few awards. I don’t remember enough from the early shows to have a clue who to pick.

Survivor Award- Hollie Cavanagh

Obvious choice; Hollie was in the bottom two more times than anyone in Idol history, and survived all the way to the final four. Honorable mention to Elise Testone, who made it to the final six despite several appearances in the bottom three.

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Performance Awards

This bank of awards is all based on live performances, aired on the show or on the show’s website.

Most creative– Phil Phillips

Honorable mention to Reed Grimm and Skylar Laine, with a nod to Heejun Han and Elise Testone. Phil pulled away with this award late, when he put together a string of his best performances of the season – when it counted the most.

Season 7- David Cook

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus

Season 10- Casey Abrams

Most thrilling early peak– Skylar Laine

There were times when she looked like she would win it all, but she faded a bit late and finished fifth.

Season 7- Chekeze Eze

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus

Season 10- Pia Toscano

Most consistent– Jessica Sanchez

By far. Honorable mention to Joshua; who might have done better had he been a little less consistent.

Season 7- David Archuleta

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Season 10- Scotty McCreery

Most entertaining live performer (male)- Phil Phillips

No offense to Joshua, but Phil brought the seat of your pants anticipation every time, while Josh tended to be too predictable.

Season 7- David Cook

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Casey James

Season 10- James Durbin

Most entertaining live performer (female)- Skylar Laine

With a nod to Elise Testone’s creativity, and Jessica’s consistency.

Season 7- Carly Smithson

Season 8- Allison Iraheta

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Season 10- Haley Reinhart

Flameout award (male)-Adam Brock

I expected him to cruise to the tour, but the producers and the judges gave him what might have been the worst edit in the history of the show during Hollywood Week and the Vegas rounds. He didn’t even get a wild card shot. I don’t blame the show completely, though. Adam said what he said, and he reacted like he reacted. Honorable mention to Heejun, who didn’t seem comfortable once he made the finals.

Season 7- David Hernandez

Season 8- Jorge Nunez

Season 9- Andrew Garcia

Season 10- Robbie Rosen

Flameout award (female)- Baylie Brown

She was an internet favorite who could have cruised to the tour had she sang even reasonably well, but she was horrible in her first live performance. Honorable mention to Haley Johnson, who trainwrecked so badly in the semifinals that she posted a video on youtube of the same song, to prove that she could sing it.

Season 7- Amanda Overmeyer

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Ashley Rodriguez

Season 10-ParisTassin

Best audition (male)- Jairon Jackson

His original song went viral on the internet. Honorable mention to Phil’s second song (“Superstition”, with the guitar), and the formerly perfect Johnny Keyser.

Season 7- no clue

Season 8- Danny Gokey

Season 9- Andrew Garcia

Season 10- Casey Abrams

Best audition (female)- Ashley Robles

She blew up “I Will Always Love You” on the Aircraft Carrier, but stumbled in Vegas. She would be a decent flameout award candidate, actually, but she had problems with her voice so I excuse her. Honorable mention to Shannon Magrane and Jane Carrey.

Season 7- No idea

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Didi Benami

Season 10-ParisTassin

Best Hollywood performer (male): Reed Grimm

Weirdly, an easy choice even though he didn’t make the finals. His two groups were standouts, and as I said earlier he played the drums during an individual performance. Honorable mention to Joshua Ledet, and those two towered over everyone else.

Season 7- David Hernandez

Season 8- Danny Gokey

Season 9- Andrew Garcia

Season 10- Casey Abrams

Best Hollywood performer (female)- Skylar Laine

Not only did she sing great; she was the only contestant who got sick and survived the cuts to make the semifinals. Honorable mention to Lauren Gray and Elise Testone.

Season 7- Carly Smithson

Season 8- Lil Rounds

Season 9- Lilly Scott

Season 10- Lauren Turner

Best live performance (male)- Phillip Phillips, “We’ve Got Tonight”

It probably won him the crown. I still don’t know what the heck he was doing with his hand. Honorable mention to Joshua, for several songs which were amazing, dynamic – and impossible to tell apart.

Season 7- David Cook, “Billy Jean”

Season 8- Adam Lambert, “Born to be Wild”

Season 9- Casey James “Jealous Guy”

Season 10- James Durbin, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”

Best live show single performance (female)- Jessica Sanchez, “You Are So Beautiful”

Honorable mention to Hollie (“Bleeding Love”, “River Deep”) and Skylar (several songs) as well as Jessica herself (several songs). Elise had a couple that should be mentioned as well, including “Vienna” and “Whole Lotta Love” (which I ranked second overall).

Season 7- Carly Smithson “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Season 8- Allison Iraheta “Someone to watch over me”

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox “Up to the Mountain”

Season 10- Haley Reinhart, “House of the Rising Sun”

Best Judge– Steven Tyler

By default, but I did sort of think he gave some honest criticism at times, not that it mattered. Tweedle Abs and Tweedle Dawg just kept drowning him out, almost angry that he tried to give some actual honest criticism. It was a horrible year for the judges. Jimmy’s Thursday critiques were the saving grace this year.

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THE BIG FIVE AWARDS

Enough preamble; it’s time to give out my five major awards for Idol’s eleventh season: The Chekeze, the Casey, the Allie, the Adam and the Carrie.

I’ll talk about them as if they are important, mainstream awards; but I’m just making them up. Some day, if they catch on, you read it here first. I added two new ones this year; the Casey and the Carrie. I redefined a couple of the others as well, to get rid of some redundancy from the minor awards and clarify what I’m trying to honor.

The Chekeze

The Chekeze award is for the single most electrifying early season live show performance. I didn’t define it as “early season” last year, but all of my previous picks came in performances before the show pared down to ten, and set the tour roster. Past winners:

Season 7- Chekeze, “She’s a Woman”

Season 8- Adam Lambert- “Satisfaction”

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus- “Paint it Black”

Season 10- Pia Toscano, “All in Love is Fair”

Drum roll…….

THE SEASON ELEVEN CHEKEZE AWARD GOES TO….

Skylar Laine

“Stay With Me”

Honorable mention to Joshua for “When a Man Loves a Woman” and, of course, Jessica for “I Will Always Love You”.

The Casey

Loosely defined, the “Casey” is for the best all around musician of the season. I picked Casey as the title for obvious reasons, as you will see when you look at the list of winners.

Season 7- Brooke White

Season 8- Matt Giraud

Season 9- Casey James

Season 10- Casey Abrams

Drum Roll….

THE SEASON ELEVEN CASEY AWARD GOES TO….

Reed Grimm

I hesitate to give a major award to someone who didn’t even make the finals, but his overall musicianship towered over everyone who made the finals. He was the driving force behind the best group in Hollywood, and he was the driving force behind the best group in Vegas. Honorable mention to Elise; who plays piano, guitar and drums and teaches advanced students. I’d give the award to her, but she was in Reed’s Vegas group and it was obvious that she deferred to him about musical decisions.

The Allie

I didn’t specifically define it last year, but I think of the Allie as a female contestant and the previous winners were all female; so the Allie Award is officially a female award. Here are the “Allie” award winners from season 7 to season 10:

Season 7- Brooke White

Season 8- Allison Iraheta

Season 9- Siobhan Magnus

Season 10- Haley Reinhart

Drum roll…..

THE SEASON ELEVEN ALLIE AWARD GOES TO….

Hollie Cavanagh

Skylar could have won in many years, but she wasn’t going to win over the little wood sprite blonde engine that could this year.

The Adam

The Adam award is for the “moment-maker” of the season. Think of it as the “entertainer of the year” equivalent.

Season 7- David Cook

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Season 10- Haley Reinhart

Drum roll…..

THE SEASON ELEVEN ADAM AWARD GOES TO….

Joshua Ledet

While I can’t say I was personally invested in Josh, he was easily the best live performer of the season. Phil’s body of work wasn’t as consistent, so he is relegated to second place here. Skylar would be my third choice, with Jessica and Elise right below her.

The Carrie

I added it this year, as the “most likely to succeed” award. I’ll add the previous years, not in hindsight, but as I would have picked them at the time:

Season 7- David Cook

Season 8- Adam Lambert

Season 9- Crystal Bowersox

Season 10- Scotty McCreery

Drum roll…

THE SEASON ELEVEN CARRIE AWARD GOES TO….

Phil Phillips

I seriously considered Skylar and Jessica, but at this moment Phil not only holds the crown, but he has about a dozen songs on the I-tune charts. His Idol single is at number one.

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That’s the show, folks. Be patient as you file out, and drive safely.

Final result and a little speculation

Phil Phillips is the new American Idol!!!

Congratulations, Phil; I’ll have more about his win when I recap the season as a whole.

Some quick futures speculation on the top 13:

13- Jeremy Rosado: Coming to an Idol reunion show near you

12- Jermaine Jones: Just stay off the police blotter, my man

11- Shannon Magrane: Future Senator fromMissouri

10- Erika Van Pelt: Coming to a nightclub near you

9- Heejun Han: Movies or TV, maybe the stand-up circuit

8- Deandre Brackensick: Several years before we’ll know

7- Colton Dixon: Christian Rock career, probably a good one

6- Elise Testone: Indy artist

5- Skylar Laine: Nashville hitmaker

4- Hollie Cavanagh: High powered collegiate arts program

3- Joshua Ledet: Male diva, respected, will he be loved?

2- Jessica Sanchez: Diva in training, will sell lots of albums

1- Phil Phillips: Will he be David Cook, or Lee Dewyze?

Final two perform

Tonight’s finale contestants are a study in opposites. A boy against a girl… A Caucasian against an “Amexipino”…A WGWG (white guy with guitar) and a Diva (Divette?)… Dave Matthews Jr. and Whitney Houston Jr… A growler and, well… a growler… Maybe the smallest voice to ever make the finale against one of the biggest… An “artist” and a “karaoke singer”… A post-grunge blue eyed soul/folk singer against a pure pop singer….In just about every way it’s a battle of opposites or near opposites. Just about the only thing they have in common beyond being carbon based is that they are on Idol.

Idol has had:

– A boy/girl matchup six times, with each gender winning three times.

– White versus non white three times, with the non white contestant winning two (David Cook won the battle of the Davids in season seven)

– WGWGs have made the finale six times, winning five times including the last four in a row.

– Divas have made the finale four times, winning three times but none since season six.

The best comparison to Phil-Phil and BeBeChez is probably Taylor Hicks versus Katherine McPhee in season five. Taylor won, becoming the first male to beat a female in the finale, even though Kat was considered the better singer. Kat had a similar reputation to Jessie; that of a great singer who didn’t really “feel” her songs. Taylorwasn’t so much an “artist” as he was an everyman who everyone thought was nice, fun and dynamic.

The Voice just completed its season, with a different voting system but a similar audience. They also had white versus non white, and male versus female. Pop versus rock. The non white male pop singer won over the white female rocker, in a mild upset.

Oh wait, they are singing tonight too, aren’t they? I guess that might make a difference, though I can’t see how unless the judges decide to shill for one or the other. I don’t expect it, honestly. They played favorites heavily towards Josh, but between Jessie and Phil they have been fairly neutral.

Three songs each tonight, including each of their respective first singles. Let’s have it, kiddies…

The Singers, the Songs:

Round One, Simon Fuller’s choice:

Jessica Sanchez, “I Have Nothing” (Whitney Houston)

Aside: It just occurred to me that the whole “Jessie doesn’t feel her songs” complaint is based almost one hundred percent on her age and the assumption that she is too young to feel her songs. Well, I’m almost fifty years old and I’ve been singing for decades. There are certainly songs that I feel emotional about, but in most cases what I feel is the need to sing it as well as I can.

A lead singer might feel a dozen songs, but that’s out of hundreds, if not thousands of songs a lead singer will sing over a long period of time, and the ones that are felt are ones the singer has been singing for a long time. I defy anyone to learn, memorize, block out and perform song after song, week after week like they do on Idol, and feel any of them. Phil is 21, so he is allowed to “feel” his songs, but Jessie is only 16, so how could she feel her songs? That’s the assumption. Am I right?

Jessie isn’t not feeling her songs because of some personal lack on her part. Jessie is feeling her songs as much as anyone would be feeling them under these conditions, and no more and no less than Phil feels his songs. The whole “Jessie isn’t feeling her songs” complaint, if you ask me, is rank prejudice and stereotyping based on her age. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before.

Did she sing her song great? This time she did. Her daring key change came off perfectly, and she didn’t miss a single note or rhythm. I’m pretty sick of this song since it’s been done to death on Idol, but Jessie nailed it. A-

Phil Phillips, “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King)

Phil had his eighth surgery this week for his kidney stones. His voice was really strong last week, but on this song he seemed to be missing some of his power. I won’t dun him for that, because he’s proven that he has at least a decent amount of power; enough for what he does, anyway. I liked his guitar picking, though he needs to be a little bit smoother to really have his guitar be a show-off part of his performances. He’ll get there. He had his signature style working, and while I didn’t much like the sleepy arrangement he hit what he was aiming for. A-

Round One Scorecard:

Jessica 10

Phil 10

Even so far on my card, though the judges called it for Jessica after some thought.

The Jason Derulo song “Undefeated”, co-written by internet voters, was about what you would expect from a Song by Committee: all clichés and stock lines with a generic dance mix background. Good luck feeling that song, though teenagers will probably eat it up. It’s easily digestible, which is important. Big Macs sell. Broccoli? Not so much.

Round Two, Encore performance:

Jessica Sanchez, “The Prayer” (Celine Dion)

Not to beat the “feeling” thing to death, but I was surprised Jessie picked this one for her encore. My guess is that she “felt” it more than some of her other, more noteworthy performances. Unlike most of her performances, she didn’t just smile at the end. She looked to be completely under the spell of the song. Did she sing it well? Of course she sang it well. She’s a good singer. I noticed, on her first song, that her tone was a little bit raspy. The rasp was there again on this song, and I am pretty sure that those falsetto notes were a lot harder to get out than she made them look. It appears that both of our finalists are less than 100% tonight. That’s fair, and in a way more interesting than simply hearing them both at the top of their game. A-

Phil Phillips, “Movin’Out” (Billy Joel)

Phil seemed to hit his stride when they kicked it in, and his voice sounded somewhat stronger. This performance was vintage Phil, and as such it can be taken several different ways and get a grade anywhere between A+ and F; depending on whether you like what Phil does or not. I tried to imagine him first in a coffee house, just him and the guitar, and how that would play. My guess is that an open minded crowd would have loved it, with a few very high hipsters sitting in the back moaning “sooooo cooooool…….” while the sober bartender looked on nonplussed, wishing he was high so he could understand what the hell they saw in that weird arrangement of a classic song. Next I envisioned him at the Grammies, pulling it out as one of his already known originals. In that scenario he would get a big hand, with a few very high hipsters sitting in the back, moaning “sooooo coooool…..” while the sober, reformed old rockers in the crowd sat back, nonplussed, and mused; “dam, I miss weed……” A-

Round Two Scorecard:

Jessica 10 (20)

Phil 10 (20)

Still even on my card; judges were divided out loud, undecided under their breath.

Round Three, First Single:

Jessica Sanchez, “Change Nothing”

I’ve noticed that these “singles” almost always get a little bit butchered by the contestants the first time they sing them publically. Even Adam butchered his a little (who could blame him? “No Boundaries” sucked out loud), and the only one I can remember being done well was the epic Crystal Bowersox performance of “Up the Mountain” during the season 9 finale performance night. Jessie wasn’t immune, going flat several times on her high notes. From what I’ve heard in the past, she will have the song down pat and nail it by the time she has to perform it outside of the show. As far as the song itself, I kind of like it. I need to hear it a few times to figure out if I love it or not. B

I’m not sure what to say about the judges’ comments. They didn’t really hammer on Jessica, they hammered on the song. Based on Jessica’s comments at the end, it seems that she actually picked her own “single”. Did she? That would be a first, I think. I always thought Idol’s producers chose the singles. The facts (ma’am) are that the song is pretty good, but Jessica doesn’t have it down yet so she didn’t nail the high notes like she usually does.

Phil Phillips, “Home”

What?

The first half of the song had me moaning “soooooo cooooool” (no, I’m not high)… I was getting into it, digging Phil channeling his inner Paul Simon and enjoying everything…. Then a marching band crossed the stage behind Phil. Seriously, I am not kidding. A freaking marching band marched across the stage in the middle of Phil’s song.

The marching band appearing out of nowhere, running across, and disappearing back into nowhere…. it reminded me of those streakers we used to see at sporting events and concerts back in the 1970’s. I was waiting for a bunch of British Bobbies (cops) to run by chasing after them, running around in circles, waving their batons and falling down and running into each other before leaving in a confused gaggle, loud voices fading away after they left our view. Phil turned around when they marched by, and I imagined him mouthing “WTF are you doing out here?” at them, but apparently he knew they were coming. Honestly, it was surreal. They did this on purpose?

I was, as the sober bartenders and old rockers were, nonplussed. I don’t wish I had some weed, I don’t smoke weed, but if I did I’d fire one up right now and watch that over and over several times. It was so weird…

I can’t grade something like this, other than to say either you loved it and it was a moment or you hated it and you want to go punch Phil in the face. I guess I’m in the middle, more confused than anything else. Hell, Paul Simon liked marching bands and he used them sometimes, so why not? B; with the caveat that this was in no way a B performance. It was somewhere between brilliant and horrifying, with little in the way of middle ground.

Round Three Scorecard:

Jessica 10 (30)

Phil 10 (30)

I scored them basically even tonight overall; if either had an edge it was Phil for getting a lot of love for his last song. Neither one of them had their best voice, so neither one of them had their best night. Someone should be fired for giving Jessica three ballads, but that’s been the theme all season: too many freaking ballads. Phil’s middle of the road style stood out in stark contrast, and probably made the competition even closer than it already was. I still think Jessica is going to win, but it’s something like 52-48 or 51-49, if not 50.2-49.8. It could go either way, and nothing will be the least bit surprising.

The final editing of their performances came up last, and I really noticed how tinny and raspy Jessica sounded tonight. I thought her edit might hurt her at first, but then I saw Phil’s edit. They didn’t do him any favors, showing weaker parts of all three of his performances. Honestly, they didn’t do either one of them justice with the final edit.

Who’s gonna win? Hell, I don’t know….. It’s going to be close. I picked Jessie before tonight, and while Phil won the night by a hair I don’t know if he moved the needle enough to change the outcome.

Phil-Phil and Jessica at twenty paces

Joshua Ledet
Joshua Ledet

Quick and sweet tonight: Jessica and Phil will face off next week, while Joshua spends the week reviewing documents from Interscope Records.

Adam was terrific…. he added a couple of extra competition glory notes to his new single, winking at the judges after he did them. Lisa Marie was weirdly cool, and I kinda like her song. It’s catchy.

Power Rankings:

2: Phil- I’ve probably said he’s going to win more than anyone else, but Jessica has a ridiculously large fanbase already. Every poll I saw had her at the top of the voting, and she was the first one sent to the finals. With Josh gone I expect more of his voters to gravitate to Jessica than to Phil.

1: Jessica- I ranked her lower than I should have in a few of the recent weeks, for reasons that don’t matter here. Seeing the polls and what’s happened since, her bottom finish in the round of 7 looks even fakier than it did at the time. Jessica has been at the top of the voting all season. You never know what will happen next week, and I think it’s going to be close, but I predict a confetti shower for Jessica Sanchez.

Final three perform

The contestants will sing three songs each tonight, and there will be three homecoming segments. The first round is judges choice, second round contestant choice, and the third round Jimmy’s choice. I’m curious about Jimmy’s picks more than anything else. He picked some wonky songs for the kids last year, not so much bad songs but songs that didn’t have the kind of dynamic range to show the contestants off.

My hope is that Phil gets more Joe Cocker or maybe some Springsteen, Jessica gets a strong power rock melody, and Joshua gets some Bayou music to sing. I’m 49 years old, though. I’m sure they can find good songs that I don’t know, which are newer than the ones I want to hear. Speaking of what I want to hear:

Terry’s Wish List:

Phil, “Delta Lady” (Leon Russell/Joe Cocker), “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen), “Save Me”(Dave Matthews)

Joshua,“Brother John” (Neville Brothers), “Stand Tall” (Burton Cummings), “Smoking Gun” (Robert Cray)

Jessica,“The Warrior” (Scandal), “Cryin’” (Aerosmith), “It’s In His Kiss” (Shirrells)

They won’t do any of those songs, of course, but I have my dreams. Let’s have it, kiddies…

The Singers, the Songs:

Joshua, “I’d Rather Be Blind” (Etta James)

Josh didn’t have his in-ears, and he wasn’t quite as on the tuning fork as he usually is. Cause and effect…. I didn’t think much of the song choice, honestly. There wasn’t much for Josh to do with the melody in a minute and a half. It keeps repeating itself, and what made it cool for Etta James was that she had several minutes to work it where she wanted to take it. He tried to mix it up some, before the inevitable blow-off at the end that we’ve come to expect, and I liked what he tried to do. I expect the studio version to be a lot more enjoyable, since it won’t limited to a minute and a half. Josh will have the time to really develop the song.

Aside: I’m switching up the grading. Tonight I’m splitting it up into a few categories: Song (will the voters like the song?), sung (did the contestant sing it well?), blue (was it emotional?) everybodyknowsone (was it memorable?) and an overall grade. I’ll use 1-100, with 90 being an A, 80 a B, 70 a C, and so on. Josh’s grade:

Song- 78 (not much for Josh to work with)

Sung- 92 (pitch issues only bad thing)

Blue- 84 (not as emotional as he usually is)

EBKO- 77 (nobody is going to remember this by the end of the commercial break)

Grade- 83 (B+)

Jessica, “My All” (Mariah Carey)

Jessie is more of a copycat protégée than an artist right now, but before we damm her too much keep in mind who she’s copying. It’s not easy to find the real Jessie in there with all the imitating, but one thing that I think is a signature Jessie move is where she goes with her really low notes. It’s not just the Boris and Natashia moose and squirrel tone; it’s the look she gets on her face. The kid’s only 16 so she gets no credit (or blame) for showing emotions in her face like an adult would, but think about how that face is going to look when she’s grown up. She has an amazingly fierce, expressive, charismatic face, and people are going to believe everything she sings once she gets old enough that Randy and Jimmy can’t keep telling her she’s too young to have any feelings.

Song- 88 (really good song, though not perfect for Jessica)

Sung- 86 (too copycat, Jessie changed her tone to copy Mariah)

Blue- 80 (her emotions are mostly about her need to sing good)

EBKO- 85 (such a good song so sort of memorable)

Grade- 85 (B+)

Phil, “Begging”(Madcon)

First of all, just to be clear: Phil doesn’t have a barn burner of a voice, and it did cause some slippage and weakness on the occapella intro. That said, though, Phil thrashed his way to a new level on this song. He was everything that is good about his game, and he left the bad notes and almost all of the vocal weakness behind him. If he sings like this all night I’m going to have to burn everything I ever said about him. This was a moment. Huge props to Steven for picking a perfect song, too.

Song- 100

Sung- 98

Blue- 99

EBKO- 100

Grade- 99 (A)

Lee Dewyze has ten times the voice that Phil does, but Phil would have blown him off the stage with this one. Lee doesn’t have anywhere near the rhythm sense Phil does, or the projected soulful emotions that come off of the kid just about every time. I’ll bring in another grading system, from boxing. Round one goes to Phil convincingly:

Phil- 10

Jessica- 8

Josh- 7

Joshua, “Imagine”(John Lennon)

Hometown visit…..Did you hear his Dad preaching? Now I know where the huge voice comes from….Josh is a fairly shy person, I think, and I like that about him. He doesn’t seem to take himself seriously, and he was more “is this real?” than “Look at MEEEEEE!!!!” in his hometown visit. The most telling moment was when he ran screaming to (apparently) one of his best friends, and bear hugged her like he hadn’t seen her since he went to ‘Nam or something. She was screaming just as loud as he was.

Josh has done more with a song several times, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed him as much as on this song. I pretended he was Johnny Mathis covering John Lennon, and the rest fell right into place. His octave jump made my spine tingle, and he picked perfect melodies all the way through to deliver not just a powerful vocal, but an emotionally thrilling, album worthy performance.

Song- 100 (are you kidding? One of the best songs ever)

Sung- 100 (amazing cover, amazing interpretation)

Blue- 94 (Josh ain’t Lennon emotionally, but he brought it hard and left it all out there)

EBKO- 99 (Not quite the revelation Phil’s performance was, but close)

Grade- 98 (A)

Jessica, “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” (Aerosmith)

Hometown visit….Is there anything more ostentatious than a stretch Escalade? That thing was 50 freaking feet long. Good luck parallel parking. Unlike Josh; Jessica’s been in this world for awhile, with her experiences in other talent competitions. She was less “is this real?” and more “I can get used to this”. It was cool to see the Midway. The last time I saw the Midway was in 1987, I think. I was driving a forklift on the flight deck of the USS Camden, somewhere in the middle of thePacific Ocean. Memories…

Remember what I said about Josh on “Imagine”? Jessie did the same thing, “covering” a song by a very different artist and making it her own song. She sang beautifully, as she always does, and while she has had maybe more impressive vocals, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed her more than on this song. Josh had the octave jump, Jessie had the last verse sudden soft dynamic move.

Song- 100 (are you kidding? one of the best songs ever)

Sung- 100 (Amazing cover, amazing interpretation)

Blue- 94 (Jessie ain’t Steven, but she owned every note of the song)

EBKO- 99 (not quite the revelation Phil’s performance was, but close)

Grade- 98 (A)

Jessie and Josh both did something I really wish they had all done several weeks ago: They both picked an iconic rock song, and covered it like an established artist in their style would cover it. They paid respect to the original version, even as they created their own version. Idol doesn’t get much better than this.

Phil, “Disease”(Matchbox 20)

Hometown visit…..I didn’t mention this before, because at the time I didn’t know it, but Phil’s “The Letter” arrangement from a couple of weeks ago came from Leon Russell and Joe Cocker’s version; released in 1970. Their version was the cover music for Phil’s hometown visit…. Phil’s a fairly shy kid too, isn’t he? The whole meeting the family thing is weird with so many cameras lurking, and the family didn’t seem all that comfortable around it. I’m sure they went nuts, and I mean nuts once the cameras left. That is one huge family.

Joshua was “is this real?”….Jessica was “I can get used to this”…. Phil was “dam, this is real, ain’t it?” I was charmed, and warmed, by all three of them.

Phil’s been really good for about five performances in a row now, ever since his messy CCR song early last week. Is it possible that he’s just feeling better, after several weeks of feeling under the weather? His voice isn’t ever going to be Idol strong, but it’s clearly stronger now than it has been for several weeks. He was in tune again, and when Phil is in tune he is really fun to listen to. I really like M20, but this song isn’t really one of their most dynamice songs. It’s more of a mood song, an atmospheric interlude song. For Phil, it was a nice change of pace in between his moment – and hopefully another moment to end the night.

Song- 87 (mood piece, not an iconic anthem)

Sung- 96 (well performed, outstanding presentation)

Blue- 92 (set the mood nicely)

EBKO- 88 (won’t be memorable on a night like this, but won’t be negatively memorable either)

Grade- 91 (A-)

Round 2 goes to Jessie and Josh, just a smidge over Phil. All three of them picked their songs well, though Phil’s choice wasn’t quite as inspired as the others. Boxing grades:

Jessica- 10

Joshua- 10

Phil- 9

Joshua, “No More Drama” (Mary J. Blige)

Baseball all star game 1989, Bo Jackson comes to the plate to start it off and hits the ball 460 feet, to the top of the grassy area behind center field in Kansas City. The other all stars see where the ball lands and at first they just stare in wonder, in amazement -then they go nuts, high fiving each other and swarming Bo at the plate after he runs around the bases. That was Josh on this song. Josh may or may not win, but he’s an Idol all star who just hit this song to the top of the grassy area, well beyond the limits that Idol demands of their contestants. Was it emotional? Who cares? He swung as hard as he can at the song, and he got all of it. Not an emotional moment, but a vocally athletic moment. Even Adam Lambert would be proud of this one.

Song- 94 (could have been a train wreck in weaker hands)

Sung- 100 (only because I can’t go higher)

Blue- 93 (competitive emotions only, I doubt seriously that Josh knew the song three days ago. Think of an Olympic figure skater pulling off a quad axle with the Russian judges glaring at him)

EBKO- 100 (gonna be replayed for years by those who replay Idol songs)

Grade- 98 (A)

Jimmy’s pick was dangerous, but Josh made him look like a genius.

Jessica, “I’ll Be There” (Jackson 5)

Uh oh.

First of all, Michael Jackson songs are death to Idols, even Idols as good as Jessica. Second, everyone knows exactly how these songs go, all the way to the smallest inflections and passing notes. Third (remember second):

Jessica made three bad melodic decisions. The first one was to go low on the first bridge. That sounded kind of weak and out of place, even though she hit the notes perfectly in her lower range. The second one was to go all the way up to the root note instead of hitting the minor seven note on the second “I’ll be the….air” passage. The voters had to cringe when she did that, even though her note was pure. That’s just not how the song goes. The third one was the “just call my name” passage. She went straight down instead of running down…. Instead of “just call my na-a-a-ame” she did “just call my na-ame”. There was another one, not as important as the others; the set up right before the first “I’ll be thea-air”,where she didn’t go up where she needed to go. She could have gone high, and she should have gone high.

I’ve been watching the show since season seven, and I can’t count the number of previously safe singers who were suddenly dumped because they sang a song that everyone knows perfectly -without the signature notes they expect to hear. Jessica sang great, and she wasn’t out of tune – but she didn’t sing the right notes. She is suddenly in big trouble. Josh and Phil are destroying their songs tonight, so the voters are going to have to look for any sign of weakness. Jessie might have given them an out.

Song- 91 (hard song; but if done perfectly it could have been a moment)

Sung- 81 (sung really well, just not well enough for this level of the competition. Hard to ignore signature notes that weren’t there)

Blue- 87 (emotionally just fine, but not much emotion to draw on)

EBKO- 79 (Hard to say, but if Jessie gets dumped it’s going to be polarizing)

Grade- 84 (B+)

Keep in mind that I’m really nitpicking. These kids are all so good that it’s going to take some serious nitpicking to separate them. Jessie sang the song really well – for a top 5 performance. It’s top 3 now, and she is up against some stiff competition. It might not be enough.

Phil, “We’ve Got Tonight” (Bob Seger)

Not all songs are aimed at me. Phil wasn’t vocally impressive, but he probably erased that 1% of doubt about making the finale with this song. He was vulnerable, open, and knee buckling sexy. His soft little “why don’t you stay” at the end was ethereal. In its own way his last song might have been even better than his other two songs, which I thought were fantastic.

Phil didn’t just have a good night tonight. He owned the night, against probably the best Idol final three ever. Had you told me that Phil would own it tonight I would have laughed at you until my sides split, but that’s exactly what he did. Who was that joker who kept telling us about the naked emperor? Phil got his last song moment. Not for me so much (I liked it), but for the girls who love him (they loved it).

Song- 97 ( Phil doesn’t really have the voice to compare to Seger, but how can I dun it when he did it to such good effect?)

Sung- 98 (made it his own)

Blue- 100 (Hearts splatting all over the country)

EBKO- 100 (see above, about those splattering hearts)

Grade- 99 (A)

Round three goes to Phil, with Josh a bit behind and Jessie a bit below Josh:

Phil 10

Josh 9

Jessica 8

Final boxing scorecard:

Phil 29

Josh 27

Jessica 26

 

Safe to in Danger:

Phil is going to be one of the finalists unless something really weird happens. I’d call the odds as of now:

Phil: 98%

Josh: 57%

Jessica: 45%

A look at “The Voice”

th (8)I watched The Voice last night, for the first time. Here’s my take on the show, and how I compare it to Idol:

What I Like About the Voice

– By far the largest advantage The Voice has over Idol is its panelists.

Idol has three formidable stars who aren’t by nature suited for the job they have been given, while “The Voice” gets the best out of their stars by giving them a task they are perfectly suited for. Idol’s judges struggle to look like anything other than a bad joke once the finals begin, while The Voice’s coaches are in the middle of everything in mostly positive ways. Idol’s judges don’t have any vested interest in the competition. The Voice’s coaches are intimately involved with and invested in every aspect of the competition. Idol has an R&B singer/dancer, a rocker and a pop/R&B producer on their panel. TV has a pop diva, a rocker, a country singer and an R&B singer on their panel. Idol’s panelists are all over 40, and two of them are over 50. The Voice’s panelists are all in their early 30’s. Idol’s panelists, other than JLo, haven’t had a big hit since the 20th century. The Voice’s panelists are all current artists.

Idol’s contestants who get negative feedback generally get dumped from the show by the voters, while the rest of them stagnate because nobody is telling them what they need to do if they want to get better. The Voice’s contestants are getting directed, tough love instruction from coaches are personally invested in making them better; all the while weeding out the weak links themselves. Idol gets maybe one or two contestants a year who noticeably improve from the semifinals to the end. Virtually every “Voice” contestant improves from week to week, even though song choices might create the illusion of a step back at times.

– The Voice has a better band, and they know how to use it to better effect.

Idol’s band is formidable and they don’t make a lot of mistakes, but they generally just learn the songs and play them with normal professionalism unless someone like Adam Lambert or Skylar Laine gets them going. The Voice’s band is part of the show, and they play every song like their hair is on fire. At times this can be jarring, but that’s because I am new to the show. My only criticism of the band is that, in their exuberance, they tend to get a little bit too busy and loud. I’ll take the tradeoff, though. One of my biggest complaints about Idol this year is that the performances don’t have enough pizzazz, and I think part of that is because the band isn’t as invested in the songs as they can be. Idol is in its 11thyear, while The Voice is still really new and trying to establish itself. It’s hard to keep an edge when you have been doing it for over a decade.

Differences That Don’t Really Matter

Carson Daly ain’t Ryan Seacrest, but he has his own charms. He isn’t nearly as slick as Ryan, but he has a sort of folksy way of talking that is pleasing. He does his job well.

The stage is garish, and my eyes were almost overwhelmed by the constant sea of red and black, but as much as I like the Idol stage I can’t say that I dislike the Voice stage. There is an energy up there that works for the performances; not like Idol’s directed to the front focus but more of a wide lens look at the whole thing. With Idol you really see the singer. With The Voice you see everything, with the singer working in the midst. You don’t lose the singer. Their cameramen do a really good job of creating a visual gestalt, and going back to the singer enough to keep the focus where it belongs.

Idol doesn’t do much backstage stuff, while The Voice does a bunch of it. Idol tends to do the family interviews in off camera segments and Ryan going into the crowd, while The Voice does most of theirs backstage. Keep in mind that I only saw the finale, so they might have done something different in the earlier rounds.

The Voice sells itself as an exciting new product, while Idol sells itself as an established product. This is natural. Idol is established, while The Voice is trying to get established. Idol’s promos generally assume you know who they are. The Voice’s promos tend to try and punch you in the face to get your attention.

What I Like About Idol

– Idol gets better singers. It’s a small sample size, but only Juliet Sims would easily make the Idol tour among TV’s top four. Jamar Rogers made TV’s final 8, and he was dumped inHollywood by Idol in season 8. The Voice draws from a larger pool than Idol, accepting professionals and older singers who wouldn’t qualify for Idol. None of their final four would qualify for Idol. Sims has had multiple recording contracts;Lucca was part of the Mickey Mouse Club and is several years too old for Idol; Paul and Mann are both too old.

The Voice does a terrific job of backing their contestants on the show, but they are only in their second season and they don’t have a cache in the business yet. Idol has over 300 number one hits from their alumni. This isn’t something that The Voice can’t overcome down the road, though. They are new, while Idol is established. If Sims or Paul have success on the radio they can use that to build from. Last year’s winner Javier Colon reached 17 on the Billboard charts with his first single but his album didn’t sell well, peaking at 134 on the album charts. They have work to do if they are going to catch Idol.

Idol is a pop culture fixture; The Voice is an Idol spin-off. Idol has become part of our cultural furniture, like Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show. The Voice is fighting to establish its relevance, and it’s an open question whether they will survive and thrive amongst the throng of singing competitions who are trying to replicate Idol’s success. Idol doesn’t have to do anything new and amazing to survive; they just have to be consistent and keep up with cultural changes. The Voice still needs a transcendent star to establish themselves as something more substantial than a short term curiosity.

Idol replicates the American Dream much better than The Voice does. Idol’s pool of contestants go through a similar process as The Voice does early on, but while The Voice waits until they are down to a few dozen before the panel hears them Idol gives roughly a thousand hopefuls a shot in front of the judges. This allows for a wider swath of talent to bubble up. The Voice ends up with a fairly obvious group, while Idol’s group is always weirdly diverse and never predictable. Idol’s judges will hear their candidates several times before they have to pass judgment on the best of them, while The Voice’s panelists have to make their judgment the first time they hear them. The Voice’s producers make most of the pre-live show decisions, while Idol’s panelists make most of the pre-live show decisions.

——————————————–

I think I’ve already said, several times, that my main problem with “The Voice” is that their hook is “we don’t care about anything but the voice”. I like the idea, but they don’t do it that way. They have producers (who can see the contestants) pick the final 40-50 candidates, then they have each of them sing one time in front of the coaches when they can’t see them. The chairs turn around, and from that point forward everyone can see everyone.

If someone wants to produce a singing competition where the voice is the only thing that matters, do it on the radio. Pretending that the voice is the only thing that matters on a TV show is pointless. We can see them, they can see them. I don’t mind the show; it’s an entertaining show. The pretense that its more “pure” than the other karaoke competitions is insulting. Other than that, I enjoy the show and I wish them the best of luck.

I took some time to write about the “Voice” final four, after listening to them on Monday night. Here’s my take:

Chris Mann-Opera singer. He has terrific intonation and a sweet, well trained tone to his voice. He’s a bit low key (Rip Van Winkle was a bit low key for twenty years), and he doesn’t take any real chances with the melody to make a song dynamic rather than sweet,; and he has Pat Boone’s rhythmic sense. He’s two things: sweet – and boring. He looks sort of like Ben Affleck, but without the butt on his chin. His best post-Voice gig? Honestly he’s probably Broadway or bust. I see little likelihood that he’ll sell a lot of albums.

Tony Lucca-Former Mouskateer. He is a pro who plays his guitar well, and he has a very strong, professional rhythmic sense as well as very good intonation. He knows how to entertain an audience, and I enjoyed all three of his performances. His big weakness is that his voice isn’t very strong, and that his tone is fairly pedestrian. He didn’t growl or scratch, or hit any high notes, or show anything unique or unusual last night. He gets the most out of what he has, and the Mickey Mouse Club hook should get him a contract. He’s had that hook for twenty years, though, so I can’t be sure that he is a good enough songwriter to make hay with the sunshine the show is giving him. He is professional, and if he can come up with the right songs he has a shot.

Juliet Sims-Eighties throwback rocker chick. My brother Dennis loves her, and I sort of love her too. She scratches like Melissa Etheridge and she bites off her notes and melodies like Lita Ford. She knows what she’s aiming for, so it won’t be all that tough to figure out songs to record. She has some weaknesses….. Her voice is strong, but not STRONG. She has been inconsistent, going in between massive performances and struggling, inconsistent performances. She wasn’t anywhere near her best last night, which cost her the title. She was the prohibitive favorite going into the finals. I’m making an assumption based on a few looks, but she appears to have been an eighties throwback in some negative ways as well as positive. She looks older than she is, and a little bit washed out and tired. I’m high on her future anyway. While she would be cliché in the 1980’s nobody is singing her style on the radio at the moment. It’s possible that she will, with the help of the show, get enough of a push to draw a new audience into her style of grinding, raspy, old school pure rock and roll.

Jermaine Paul-Former Alicia Keys backup singer. He won the title, and based on what I heard last night he deserved it. He was the only contestant who outsang his mentor on their duets, and both of his individual performances were good. He commits to the melody much more than the recent Idol R&B types have, and he can do the complicated runs. He overdid the runs last night, but that was in a competition. His ability to recognize and sing a melody gives me confidence that he won’t overdo the runs and trills on his album. Weaknesses….. His intonation isn’t perfect; he’s about where Skylar is now. Like Skylar, by the time he gets on tour he should have that fixed. It’s not uncommon for a harmony singer to struggle with aspects of lead singing at first. Crystal Bowersox struggled with rhythms; Jermaine struggles just a tiny bit with intonation. He’ll fix it, and he’ll be fine. I have no idea if The Voice will have any real cache in the business, and they probably don’t know either. If they do, Jermaine should have some success. Just as it is with every former contestant on a singing show, he’s going to need some really good songs and a big marketing push.

And then there were three

Hollie Cavanagh
Hollie Cavanagh

Hollie couldn’t avoid the axe again, and her unlikely run to the top four ended tonight. I’m dry eyed at her ouster, with no angst or anger. It was her time to go. Hell, it was her time to go a month ago, but I’m glad she got the chance to show us what she’s capable of last week. I’ll miss her a little, but with her leaving Idol might have its closest final three ever.

Power Rankings:

3- Jessica: There is no way to clearly rank the three, they are that close. Jessica is the one who is getting the least love from the judges by miles and miles, so I’ll use that as the tiebreaker for now.

2- Joshua: Do you see him beating Phil? I don’t. If the judges weren’t so desperately trying to pimp him into the finale I would rank him a distant third.

1- Phil: His rendition of “Volcano” last night might have locked up the title. Jess and Josh have overlapping fanbases, so it’s very likely that Phil will cruise into the finale. I’ll use that as the second tiebreaker for now.

Percentage chance of making the finale:

Phil- 90%

Jessica- 60%

Joshua- 50%

Percentage chance of winning:

Phil- 55%

Jessica- 30%

Joshua- 15%

Final four perform

Two songs each, one duet for each, and one group song. Plenty of drama to deal with:

– Will Phil rebound after a bad week?

– Will Hollie regress after a good week?

– Will Joshua get his 38th standing ovation from the judges?

– Will Jessica get her first?

One very undramatic thing; who is going home tomorrow night. It’s Hollie this week, I am 100% sure. I haven’t heard anyone yet, but do I have to? Phil won’t ever be criticized, and neither of the two J’s have had a trainwreck all season. Hollie has been in the bottom two five times already, and she is about to make it six. That’s amazing, isn’t it? She’s been one contestant away from being done five times in the last six weeks, yet she is still here. Maybe I should say I’m 99% sure.

Lets have it, kiddies. Bring on the heat….

The Singers, the Songs:

Phil, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” (CCR)

Um…. Let’s just move on.

Hollie, “Faithfully”(Journey)

I got the songlist early from a live blog, and their recap said that Hollie killed it. I’m Hollie’s biggest fan, but I don’t really think she killed it. She was good, really good at the end, but the arrangement was sleepy and sort of boring. There wasn’t much going on dynamically, and her glory notes weren’t all that glorious. She isn’t good enough to get away with boring. B

Joshua, “You Raise Me Up” (Josh Groban)

Somebody must have told him to tone it down a little, because he sang more melody tonight than he’s sung in several weeks. When I first heard him during the Hollywood rounds, my impression was that his voice had enough natural character to sound pretty amazing even if he just sang the melody. He showed that tonight, then of course he did his thing at the end and my ears glazed over a little, but he was really good. A-

Jessica, “Steal Away” (Etta James)

This is the Jessica who I fell in love with in Vegas… The blues ain’t exactly her strongest singing style yet, but it might be in a few years when she’s all growed up. The only mar on one of my favorite performances of the year was a single wonky note late in the song, when she missed the mark badly on a falsetto jump. She showed some new stuff, and her voice sounds terrific. That’s a huge relief, after a couple of weeks when she sounded strained. A-

Phil and Josh,“This Love” (Maroon 5)

I figured what the heck, at least Josh will sound good….. But it was Phil who blew the song up and sounded fantastic, while Josh looked disinterested and a little confused. I noticed something weird on the second verse: Phil went into a Bill Cosby selling Jello pudding schtick with the faces, the dancing and the weird growling. I’ve always thought that he sounds sort of like Fat Albert, so that made me laugh. Good job, Phil.

Jessica and Hollie, “Eternal Flame” (Bangles)

Both sounded great, both took on a complicated harmony part and did it well, they worked together and I was thoroughly entertained. I see no reason to grade these duets, but if I did this one would grade fairly high. The only thing I could do without was those swings. That was pretty hokey. I don’t know what Randy was talking about, they switched high and low the entire way, but it’s not like I ever understand what Randy is talking about. He’s even more the weird Uncle lately than Steven, who seems to be more focused now.

Everyone, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” (Foreigner)

Is it crap on Elise week? Josh is singing one of her finals songs later in the show, making I think four times that Elise’s songs have been repeated. I don’t remember Idol doing any repeats at all in the finals before, other than those cheesy finale songs like “No Boundaries”. Elise is probably home in front of the TV, wondering what the hell is going on.

Phil, “Volcano”(Damien Rice)

I would buy this as a Phil record, and the mood lighting was perfect. I’m calling this Phil’s first moment of the season, and we all might look back on this performance as the one that really locked down the title for Phil. Hell, Leon Russell wasn’t any better a singer than Phil is. Maybe…

Hollie, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt)

This is the first time I noticed Hollie’s accent getting in the way of the song a little bit. She over enunciated some of the words, and it sounded a little weird. Other than that, though, I liked this performance quite a bit more than her first one. Her voice soared, and her sweet, powerful natural tone fit the song perfectly for the way she sang it. Bonnie Raitt’s raspy, understated growl is closer to Phil’s Cosby Kid tone than to Hollie’s howitzer, though, so some people might have been put off by the jarring difference in tone. B+; understanding that her performance will be polarizing because of the jarring difference between her voice and Bonnie Raitt’s voice. I wouldn’t be surprised if the general feeling is that Hollie misfired. Maybe I’m too biased to be subjective about the kid, but I thought she sounded terrific. She probably should have picked a bigger song, though.

Joshua, “It’s a Man’s World” (James Brown)

Another paint by the numbers over the top Joshua performance, and the camera caught J-Lo nudging Steven to remind him that it was time to give him his standing ovation. I don’t know whether to call it an A or an F. He was terrific, as he usually is, but he’s becoming cliché and his wild theatrics are actually getting a little boring to me. We know you can sing loud, Josh. How about putting a soft note in there once in awhile, ok?

Jessica, “And I’m Telling You” (Jennifer Holliday)

Somebody had better go pick Joshua up, because Jessica just blew him off the stage. I don’t even like this song but Jessie made me like it tonight, calling Phil’s moment and creating her own moment. It reminded me of Haley’s“House of the Rising Sun” performance from last year, the way she ferociously devoured the song and spit the bones out at Joshua’s fan club (the judges). There was a definite “suck it, you standing-o sluts” look on her face when she finished.

Safe to in Danger:

There might be the tiniest chance that Joshua could provide a shocker, but I don’t see it happening. Dread Pirate Roberts will finally claim Hollie’s scalp tomorrow night.

And then there were four

Of the five contestants left Skylar is the one who least needed to win, so losing her now isn’t as big a bummer for her as it will be for her fans. I’d be surprised if Jimmy doesn’t already have a contract made it up for her, a contract that he’s been carrying around for several weeks. Expect an announcement by the finale, and expect at least a gold album from her by early next year.

I fully expect her to be as big a star as Kelly Pickler has been, though in a slightly different style. Miranda Lambert is about the biggest thing going in Nashville. Skylar is a Miranda clone with a bigger voice and a more energetic stage presence. I won’t hurt her that she looks like Reba McIntyre, either. Miranda’s hook is her songwriting and her in your face attitude. Skylar isn’t likely to be as good a writer (who is?), but she has other talents and assets going for her. She isn’t ready right this second, but by the time she does the Idol tour and gets some intense one on one with a serious vocal coach she will be. I am already looking forward to her album, and her eventual appearance on Idol next season as a guest. She is going to be a monster performer by then. She’s pretty dammed good now.

Power Rankings:

4: Hollie- Given that this was her record fifth week in the bottom two (the old record was three), she had a terrific week. She seems like a really nice kid, and of the bunch she’s the one who is always being called “my bestie” (Skylar), “my best friend” (Joshua), and generally the most well liked. She is this year’s “miss congeniality”, and she has one hell of a voice. Idol has had weaker final four members.

3: Joshua– That the kid can sing as well as anyone ever on the show is hard to argue with. That America is as in love with him as the judges are isn’t. His status with the internet gadflies isn’t nearly as strong as it seems to be with the show.

2: Phil– If you only have the show itself to judge how Phil is perceived, you won’t understand why I don’t have him at the top. Honestly, if not for his overprotected status on the show I would rank him third.

He was roasted over the coals last night on the Idol fansites. EW and Slezak both used variations of “the emperor has no clothes” in their recaps, which made me wonder if they had gotten a hold of my recaps since I’ve been using that since early in the season. Dozens of fans roasted him for his singing, his personality; and they took everything they used to call “cute” and “charming” and “artistry” and threw it back in his face. They turned on him like rabid dogs.

I didn’t agree with the hatred; it was over the top. It was as unfair as the unreasonable worship was when they all talked about what an arrrrrrrtist he was. I don’t dislike Phil, not at all. I don’t have a problem with anyone who likes Phil, and I wouldn’t have a problem with him winning Idol.

My problem (how do you solve a problem like Phil-Phil?) isn’t with the results. It’s with the process. Idol’s judges, when they refuse to tell the truth about Phil, are lying to us. They know they are lying to us. They don’t care, because they don’t have enough respect for us to even worry that we will notice that they are lying to us. He is wearing clothes. He is wearing clothes. He is wearing clothes. They figure if they say it enough we’ll just believe it.

It’s not Phil’s fault, he’s just doing his thing. He can still win if he is good next week. I think, for the first time all season, he has to actually be good to keep his place as the frontrunner.

1: Jessica– I said, back when the semifinalists were announced, that Jessica would be loved early, liked in the middle, questioned late, then she would have to produce a moment to get into the finale. She is right on track, but she needs that one more moment to lock it down.

Final five perform

Two songs from each contestant again; one British song and one from the 1960s. There will be a couple of group numbers tossed in the mix as well. Silvio (Little Steven) is the mentor. There is a rumor going around that Hollie will sing both of her songs from the hard chairs to save her a trip, but I don’t buy it. Let’s have it, kiddies…

The Singers, the Songs:

Hollie, “River Deep (Mountain High)” (Ike and Tina Turner)

Pia’s “got me dumped from the show” song…

Tiny woodland creature Hollie doesn’t have much of a low range and she was a little timid on her ending note, but other than that she smoked it; her best performance of the year. She moved around comfortably on the stage, and even showed some swagger. She was glamorous, and even a little sexy. The song was perfect for her tone, and she sounded even better than Pia did on it last year. She might end up picking this song for the tour, it was that good. A; it was a moment for Hollie, but was it a true moment? You tell me, I’m too biased to say for sure.

Phil, “The Letter” (Boxtops)

His version wasn’t anything like the Boxtops’ version; it was more like Joe Cocker’s version, so much so that I have to assume that Phil had heard it and was aiming for it. B+

Skylar,“Fortunate Son” (CCR)

Wow…. I was tired by the end myself, just sitting here. Skylar owns that stage, doesn’t she? I liked the melody move she kept making at the end of the choruses, and she stood up to Fogerty’s imposing version nicely; making all the right changes to fit the song to her own style. Kelly Pickler has never been this good, and she’s a superstar. A

Joshua/Phil,“You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (Righteous Brothers)

I don’t know why they were playing it off like that; I thought they did it pretty well. I’ve been singing both parts of this song at karaoke for years, so I was listening closely. Was it better than the original? Please…. But it was pretty good, especially if they didn’t really know it.

Jessica,“Proud Mary” (Ike and Tina Turner)

That was harder than it looked, Jessie running around out there in those huge heels. Hollie and Jessie both work at a big disadvantage, trying to move around on stilts most of the time because they are really short. If I had a criticism for Jessie on this song it would be that she looked “stilted” because she was literally on stilts. I’m giving that a pass. Sooner or later she’ll realize that she doesn’t have to be 6 feet tall out there. Dolly Parton ain’t any taller than she is, and she owns the stage even barefoot. Oh, and Jessie sang the holy crap out of the song, too. It’s a singing competition, right? B+; dunned a bit for her slightly inexperienced way of bending the melodies at times, and a tiny bit for the stilted dancing.

Joshua,“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” (Temptations)

He sang the crap out of it, but for some reason I couldn’t really feel the excitement. He seemed a little tight, held in or something. Distracted, like there is something going on outside of the performance that he can’t get out of his mind. Did he have a fight with Phil or something? B; A vocal (really strong vocal; the kid can sing like few others can), but C everything else. He said later that he was distracted by the dance moves. Since Jessie had the same issues (sort of) I’m moving him up to B+.

The judges gave the first half win to Hollie, Joshua and Skylar. I’d go with Hollie and Skylar, with the other three just a smidge behind them. All of them were really good, but Hollie and Skylar might have made lasting moments.

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Hollie,“Bleeding Love” (Leona Lewis)

Once Hollie gets her falsetto, watch out. Her full voice parts were A quality (if not moment quality), but her falsetto was a little shaky early in the song so I’m going to drop her to A-. She earned it tonight, justifying her presence on the show despite being inches from getting the boot for several weeks. The second half of this song was absolutely beautiful, and I don’t even like the song.

Phil, “Time of the Season” (Zombies)

I really like this song, and for the lower parts Phil was terrific. The mood was perfect, and I was enjoying it. The high parts? Well, Hollie has a weak falsetto but hers is miles better than Phil’s. Hollie hid her weaknesses in the early part of her song, giving everyone a chance to forget about them by the end. Phil’s weaknesses were highlighted in bold relief, repeated over and over, and he ended on one of the weakest notes ever sung on the Idol stage. I don’t really know how to grade it. I’ve been on Phil so much that it would look spiteful to give him a really low grade, but ask yourself this: If any of the other contestants had sounded like that, how would they be judged? C+; raised quite a bit because of the good low parts and the cool mood he gave the song.

Jessica, Skylar and Hollie, “Higher and Higher” (Jackie Wilson)

Eh, whatever. It would have been miles better if they hadn’t had six hundred backup singers out there drowning them out. I thought Skylar and Hollie sounded terrific, Jessica not as good but certainly not bad.

Skylar, “You don’t have to say you love me” (Dusty Springfield)

Ninety nine and forty four one hundred percent pure…. I wasn’t thrilled with a couple of her melody choices (trying a little too hard), but just a couple. She is already this good, and she’s just getting started. A-

Jessica, “You Are So Beautiful” (Joe Cocker)

I wasn’t thrilled with the extra trilling at the end, because the rest of the performance was absolutely perfect. They even gave her the Siobhan “Paint it Black” close-up at the end. The trill is the only thing keeping me from calling it a moment. A; Skylar was fantastic, and Jessica just blew her off the stage. Donate those heels to the circus, kid, and go barefoot the rest of the season.

Joshua, “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees)

This performance reminded me a lot of Phil’s first song. Joshua didn’t sing the actual song; he used the song as a platform to sing HIS song. Like Phil did Phil, Josh did Josh extremely well, and this time I could feel him. The first half of the song was really sleepy and boring, but he brought it home at the end. B+, like Phil. Like Phil, I could be talked into an A-.

Ryan signed off without talking about the second half with the judges. If you ask me Jessica owned it, with Skylar and Hollie just behind her and Joshua also very strong. Phil wasn’t in their league, though he had some nice moments in his song.

Safe to in Danger:

The only even sort of weak performance was Phil’s second song, and while he was technically weak he was entertaining. Phil’s been safe all year, and I don’t expect him to suddenly get bounced. He might sit hard, though.

Phil

Skylar

Jessica

Joshua

Hollie

As great as Hollie was tonight, she’s still in the barrel. Unlike the past weeks, though, she was one of the best singers of the night. Percentage guess on who will go home:

Hollie- 50%

Joshua- 20%

Jessica- 15%

Skylar- 10%

Phillip- 5%

My guess is that Hollie will be standing next to someone else at the end again, and it will be a coin flip whether she survives a fifth bottom two appearance. The other contestant in the bottom two? I kind of have a feeling that it’s going to be Joshua, but honestly none of them would surprise me.