American Idol 2012 is almost over and the competition to win the title was fierce by the time the show got down to the final four. Still left in the competition on May 9th was Phillip Phillips, Hollie Cavanagh, Jessica Sanchez, and Joshua Ledet. The men are favored to win it in office betting pools across the country even though both young female singers are fabulous. Here’s the weekly recap of events leading up to the next elimination. Which singer performed the best as the pressure is mounting for them to come out on top? Sadly, not Hollie — Jessica Sanchez’s rebound night songs really washed the poor girl’s voice out.
Can you believe that American Idol got down to their final four contestants so fast in 2012? With the competition harder than ever due to the tremendous talent of the season, the competitors were struggling to do their best and hoping to stay on the show long enough to make it to the hometown visit. Can’t get enough Idol? You can see all the live performance videos at americanidol.com — but here’s the gist of the viewers feedback based on online comments, fan interviews, and Twitter remarks.
Phillip Phillips is getting a lot better at talking in front of the cameras (something that is helping him win votes. Singing a Credence Clearwater Revival song as his first choice, there was no rain in sight for the young musician. His voice is incredibly unique with a blues to rock undertone. Handsome in a modest way, the quirky singer is earning himself a fan base of women like celebrity Julianne Hough (girlfriend of show host Ryan Seacrest) and girls across America. Wearing a blue shirt that made his eyes sparkle and sporting a week long growth of beard, he looks like a rock star on stage. Steven Tyler loves him. Jennifer Lopez finally pointed out the Joe Cocker voice connection. Randy Jackson noted that when he starts to smile while singing that his pitch goes right on track, and his advice to him was to have a great time on stage. The new hastag on Twitter that is helping to connect his fans is #philatics — and people giving him kudos for his live performances and groovy vibe is fun trending topic to watch.
Hollie Cavanagh, just a teenager, auditioned more than once to get on American Idol but her vocal and emotional growth landed her a spot on the show this season. Her first number, “Faithfully” by Journey was strong but missed the mark until she belted out the final verse. A half an octave too low, it did her no justice. But the judges seemed to think she did well. Randy Jackson said she did Steve Perry proud. Jennifer Lopez, the celebrity judge who has been her champion all along, said she’d been waiting to see her have enough confidence to share her gift with everyone. Steven Tyler says her creativity has really come around. Hearing them give her positive feedback, it was almost as if they wanted her to go out with high praise from the judges (even though American might not vote to keep her on). It was a nice gesture from them, as the young lady’s confidence hangs in between giving up her dream of singing and becoming a professional singer for life.
Joshua Ledet took on a song he dedicated to his father (the preacher). Hoping to make it to the hometown visit, the hashtag trend #jjewels seemed to indicate there is a great chance he will be able to head home to Lousiana with the cameras rolling. Singing a song called “You Lift Me Up”, his church background as a vocalist shined through. When he hits certain notes in songs, you just know he gets the attention of angels. Somehow, it seems right to say on May 9th, he might have gotten God’s attention as well. Whether or not he will be the next American Idol still remains a mystery, but one thing is certain: he is one of the best singers with raw talent to ever take the stage on American Idol. Jennifer Lopez said it right when she called him an artist. Steven Tyler said he was really glad he conquered his claustrophobia and was able to get on the airplane to LA. Randy Jackson said Ledet validates what the judges say; he says if you have talent, you can sing any song in the world and do well with it.
Jessica Sanchez tackled an Etta James song for her first number in the final four round. The teen singer who sounds a great deal like the deceased legend Whitney Houston has the vocal range to fill her shoes in the music market, so the judges used their “save” to keep her on the show when America rejected her weeks ago. She’s been singing live at mini-concerts since she was two years old. Now, the friendships she has made on the reality television show have transformed her more than anything she notes. Jennifer Lopez said she was happy to hear her growl out the song. For her, she thinks Sanchez is one of the best female vocalists right now that could enter the market. Steven Tyler thought the Etta James style really showed off a better side of her voice. Randy Jackson said her vocals are ridiculous (as a compliment). Styled more like a teenager with class in her appearance, it looks like whoever has been dressing her paid more attention to criticism the 16-year-old looked far too mature for parent comfort in the past episodes. Joking that secretly, she is really 65 years old, Jessica showed America that she really does own her own voice and style despite criticism.
Joshua and Phillip sang a duet to “This Love” that rocked the house and provided a nice musical interlude to the show while the girls were getting dressed. Oddly enough, those two boys singing together does not sound weird at all. They both have a unique tone but are equally strong. The more they try to out-sing one another and start to laugh, the better the tunes sound. Steven Tyler said the marriage of both voices was perfect. Jennifer Lopez agreed and compared the boys to Usher and Adam Levine and said the duet was an unexpected treat. Randy Jackson thought it sounded amazing. America agreed and so did show host Ryan Seacrest. Both of them said this song was far more fun than their last duet [a song by the Righteous Brothers that was so lovey-dovey it made them uncomfortable singing together even though they sang the heck out of it]. Forming a friendship, one hopes that when the two finish the competition they will sing a few professional duets together each year as songs for America.
The two girls sang a song while swinging from giant fabric swings that hung from the ceiling of the American Idol sound stage. The tune was “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles and it was really evident that the boys were singing at an entirely different level than the girls. Both of them sang for fun but the women sang with seriousness and professional purpose. Randy Jackson said the song was a little strange for him. The audience booed but America agreed with him. Jennifer Lopez tried to defend them but Steven Tyler just had to make a joke that after only a few short months in Hollywood they were already “swingers”. [OOPS! The celebrity seemed to forget he was talking to teenagers. The flack expected for him as a result of the comment from prudish parenting organizations around the country will surely be enormous.] These two will make great records but are destined to become Las Vegas performers.
Julianne Hough was in the audience on May 9th and the show producers ran the film clip of the contestants getting a sneak peek at “Rock of Ages” — the new movie musical featuring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, and Julianne Hough.
After that, the top four sang together and the one voice that really stood out as one you wanted to hear more of most was Phillip Phillips (if you were really listening and following along on Twitter). Both the girls sounded like lounge act singers while Joshua simply lacked sex appeal. But Phil? There is a reason Julianne Hough says he is, “Yummy…” — because aesthetically to women and vocally to both women and men he is (and the judges really had to notice he is the most marketable rising star of the bunch).
Phillip Phillips told Ryan Seacrest he wished he had written the song “Volcano” (his second song choice. Jimmy compared him to a butterfly in the competition because the song choice proved to him that Phil really does not sound like anyone else. The haunting melody was perfect for him to sing and the crowd went wild listening to him live. The Twitter audience backed him up — this boy is going to be a huge artist. The song was without a doubt his best performance on the show to date and he sang it after singing the three other tunes perfectly. Steven Tyler said he had never heard him sing like that before and it was beautiful. Jennifer Lopez said the song was a real testament to who he is as an artist and said it was one of the most poignant moments any contestant has ever had on the show. Randy Jackson said, “Dude, that right there is one of your best performances on the whole season.” Even Ryan Seacrest said the song was amazing.
Hollie Cavanagh sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” as her second tune, a Bonnie Raitt song. Jimmy was nervous that she might over-sing it. The tones of the song ended up being perfect for her, as the country song was not as highfalutin as others she’d chosen in the past. If she could only choose songs that were more appropriate for her age, the teen would have such better stage presence, but she sounds so foolish singing these very adult lyrics and being expected to understand the meaning behind them when it is very likely she’s never even had a real boyfriend or gone through a breakup yet. Adele she’s not. Bonnie might be flattered, but the song was tough. Steven Tyler agreed said it fell short. Jennifer Lopez noted when you have had heartbreaks and have gone up and down, it is easier to connect emotionally with a song. The emotion she did bring in caused her voice to get too shaky. Randy Jackson said she has a ginormous big voice but she missed her moment and blamed the song choice. Ryan Seacrest clearly felt bad for the girl and asked America to take into consideration her earlier song more.
Joshua Ledet took on a James Brown tune as his second song of the night. He and Jimmy have been bonding lately, and the mentor said at practice he really killed it. When he took to the stage to sing “This Is A Man’s World”, he was impressive. How someone so soft-spoken so often comes out and sings with such passion and intensity remains a mystery — but expect an album from him even if he does not win the competition. There is one word for the singer’s performance: intense. It had to be one of the best songs performed on the American Idol ever. Jennifer Lopez bowed. Steven Tyler said neither man nor woman had ever sang that well on the show ever and claimed he had never heard anything like that in his life. Jennifer Lopez almost started speaking in tongues. Randy Jackson said it was one of the best performances on any television show, ever. The judges claimed he helped them find religion just by listening to him because he is such an enormous talent. Will his voice help him win the competition? Maybe… but whether or not he is marketable to a huge, picky market the same way someone who has a more generic voice like Jessica Sanchez is or a unique sound like Phil Phillips remains to be seen. Clearly, he will be able to create a revival in the R&B sector that brings old school vocals back into fashion.
Jessica Sanchez closed out the night with a rendition of a song that (quite frankly) was powerfully vocally and emotionally but there was no way she impressed America like a teenage pop music idol. She seemed to be on the wrong show. She has an amazing voice, it is true but what’s missing is a sense that she could really write or create her own songs with the help of a lyricist. Her song will undoubtedly get her in the top three — sending Hollie Cavanagh (most likely) home. Steven Tyler noted it was the first time she put herself in the song and let it all out. Jennifer Lopez said there is nothing to say about a performance like that, one so strong it rips a soul apart. Randy Jackson seemed like he wanted to be speechless but talked just to hear himself until he figured out what to say about it. Ryan Seacrest quietly said, “Wow…” and asked, “Are you okay?” The teen fought back tears and answered yes. Laughing, one viewer commented she was not crying because of the intense performance. Instead they thought tears were springing from her eyes because the high stiletto heals she was wearing must have been killing her.