Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band and Sopranos fame was this week’s mentor, and he managed to dispense pretty good advice despite sitting like A.C. Slater the whole time. With only a few weeks left, the contestants can see the finish line, and it looks like they’re getting that final burst of adrenaline, which is great for us. It’s getting a lot harder to separate the contestants at this point, so read on to see who has the edge.
But first, a quick roundup of the ephemeral nonsense: Ryan Seacrest aimed to quash the budding romance between his girlfriend Julieanne Hough and Phillip Phillips (we’re calling it “Julip”) by pointing out that Phil has a girlfriend. “She’s with us tonight, and even better news, he’s into brunettes.” And with that, Seacrest ensured that the poor gal would need an armored guard to leave the premises.
And let’s talk about Randy Jackson‘s attire for a second. Randy always makes odd accessory choices, but last night dude was wearing a brooch.
Joshua Ledet turned out two solid songs, plus he carried his duet with Phil on The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” These last few weeks Josh has learned to hold back his voice’s more A.D.D, always-in-motion tendencies, realizing it makes for a bigger payoff if he doesn’t unleash until the end. Which is exactly what happened on his outstanding cover of The Bee Gees‘ “To Love Somebody.”
For his first song, The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” Josh again stuck to the notes and melody, before a killer run near the end. Last night’s themes were made for Josh, because his voice is straight from the vinyl era, and he delivered. We’re not quite ready to compare him to James Brown, like JLo did, but he wins the night.
Jessica Sanchez saw Hollie Cavanagh‘s Tina Turner and raised her a Beyoncé, opening with a rousing performance of Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was a large, entertaining spectacle featuring Jessica letting loose. Her second song was the complete opposite: an intimate, acoustic guitar-led cover of Joe Cocker’s version of “You Are So Beautiful” by Billy Preston. Spare and slow, it all came down to the high note at the end, which she held out evenly and beautifully to close out the precise, delicate performance.
Jessica Sanchez, “Proud Mary”
Hollie Cavanagh is back, people! She gave us Ike and Tina’s “River Deep – Mountain High,” heeding Steven Van Zandt’s instructions about worrying less about consciously entertaining the viewers, and instead just burrowing into the song. It worked; by the second verse she lost herself in it, doing a little Tina walk, and for once she was fun to watch. Jennifer Lopez noted that this was the first time Hollie showed she could lead a big production. Later she performed a stripped-down version of “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. As we started grumbling that Hollie was back to her soggy vanilla wafer self, the girl dug into it and reminded us how huge her voice is. This week, Hollie showed she belongs in the Top 5.
Hollie Cavanagh, “River Deep – Mountain High”
Man, we haven’t gotten to Skylar Laine yet? Well, she wouldn’t be denied last night, either, first performing CCR’s “Fortunate Son.” We were salivating at the prospect of spunky Skylar taking on one of rock’s all-time snarly greats. And she sated our appetite, giving it her usual sass. The girl is just a natural up there. Next, she had her biggest stylistic stretch of the season, doing Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.” It’s a song that’s so classic it’s genre-less, and she somehow avoided violating it with needless country ‘tude. Randy was exactly right when he said she is extremely believable onstage.
Skylar Laine, “The Fortunate Son”
For Phillip Phillips’ first song, he completely reinterpreted “The Letter” by The Box Tops. The original has a vocal gruffness that fits Phil, but the similarities end there. It’s a melody-heavy song, which Phil deconstructed into a folky groove. This was Phil in a nutshell: workmanlike and captivating.
Unfortunately, Phil’s second song was a tale of two parts. He did “Time Of The Season” by The Zombies (which just happens to be a frequent Dave Matthews Band live cover, ahem). The verses were ultra smooth and probably caused tween girls nationwide to start burn books about Phil’s girlfriend. But we couldn’t get over the slightly off high notes in the chorus. Phil always looks pained when he’s singing, but based on his forehead vein and the slight pitchiness, we think this time he actually was in pain.
Seriously, no “Wonderwall”? The hell, Idol?
Best of the night: The last minute of Joshua Ledet’s “To Love Somebody” may have been the best minute of the season. He just imposed his will on the song in that final stretch.
Worst of the night: Steven Tyler underage groupie joke? Steven Tyler underage groupie joke: “The only thing that gives experience a run for its money…is a 16-year-old.” Ick.