Wednesday, May 9, 2012

'American Idol 11' - California finale dreamin'

When I copied over the picture this week, I couldn't help but to be amazed that there are only four people in it! I know it's Top 4 week, but it doesn't really compute until you actually see the four remaining finalists. Top 4 is the week anything can happen, so it's going to be an interesting week on 'Idol.'

 We start off with a memorial to Skylar. “Who will take the lead?” Carrie Underwood is singing “Blown Away” in the background. And yes, I want to be blown away.

Voiceover man welcomes the judges. J’Lo is wearing a skin-tight lame dress in varying shades of black, gray, and silver. Randy is wearing a jacket that looks like a big, ole red and white tablecloth. Ah, the sartorial splendor. Out comes Ryan looking dapper. He’s growing his hair out, I see. As usual, the crowd goes wild. Ryan welcomes us to the show and thanks us very much. He reminds us that in just two weeks, the next American Idol will be named. “All of them are hungry for the title, “ he says as the Top 4 comes out to the stage.

Tonight’s themes are California Dreaming and songs that inspire the Idols. We will also have a chance to watch each contestant’s journey so far.

First up is PP. He never expected to get this far, and is pushing himself to keep going. His brother-in-law did note that “Time of the Seasons” was “rough!”

Phillip Phillips - “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” - CCR

No guitar for our gray-clad WGWG tonight. He’s using his non-Dave Matthews voice and singing somewhat out of tune. He’s turned it into a reggae-ish number. Love the female sax player. Actually, he’s carrying the melody, for once, but this exposes the roughness in his vocals. He is not a melodic singer, that’s for sure.

PP is laughing, as usual. Steven says he’s living proof that the road to success is always under construction. J’Lo says he has a Joe Cocker-ish vocal quality and thinks it was a great way to start the show. Randy says it started out rough and he struggled to find the pitch (boos). But, as soon as PP started to smile, he found his way and it was sensational. “Remember, if you have a good time, we have a good time, so come on man.”

PP confesses he “somewhat” nailed the lyrics. He is smiling ironically!  Is PP “in it to win it” or he really hoping this torment will end? You gotta wonder, right?

Here’s Hollie’s journey. We see her audition last year when she cried. Then she sang “The Climb” and had her moment of clarity. We see her rejection from last year and then her grand return.  She says this has changed her life for the best.

Hollie Cavanagh - “Faithfully” - Journey

Kissing up to Randy, eh Hollie? I am still somewhat puzzled as to how she’s lasted this long. There just isn’t anything exciting about Hollie. She has a nice voice, for sure, but dull, dull, dull.
This performance is no different. The Celine voice is back. She has a little trouble with the lower notes, and I’m not getting a solid connection to the lyric either, but she sings it well enough. Too much wind!  She finishes strong and does seem much more relaxed. As Randy would say, I’m not jumping up and down, but it was good.

Randy says Hollie is peaking at the right time. He’s amazed watching Hollie’s history. He says this song is near and dear to his heart and says she did Steven Perry proud. “Dude, you were right in the zone. Hollie wants to take this thing.” J’Lo says watching the journey made her emotional. She says watching how much she has grown and loves the confidence she showed tonight. Steven says he’s watched her last year and she was so young. Now, he’s watch her blossom, and says her creativity is blooming.

I’m not ready for Hollie to win. She says a lot of people helped her understand the true meaning of the song and now she knows she’s living the true meaning of it.

Before we hear from Joshua, we have a chance to catch up with Jason DeRulo who is working on the Coca-Cola single. Jason is still wearing his bejeweled neck brace. He urges us to submit our lyrics asap. This is our last chance to finish the song.

Joshua is next. He tells us he is dedicating his performance tonight to his father who works so hard to help so many.  Joshua was turned away last season too. he says he wasn’t ready. We hear once again about how Josh overcame the fear of flying. He says all the hard work he’s put in is paying off.

Joshua Ledet - “You Raise Me Up” - Josh Groban

Hey, didn’t we just hear this on ‘The Voice?’ Oh... wrong show. I still recovering from Jermaine’s win.  Not sure this is a great song choice. It doesn’t fit his voice somehow. But, of course, the gigantic choir helps turn it into a gospel tune, and he immediately hooks into it. I get the emotion. Oh, so strange... the pedestal he’s standing on rises up when he sings “You raise me up.” Come on!

J’Lo says “OMG, I think the whole world knows what I think of Joshua already.” She says we have great artists on the show and she thought they would all be there at the end. Really?  She loved the “draama” and urges him to keep it consistent until the end. Steven says Josh sang his “little tush” off. “The world is acccepting you now like nobody’s business.” Randy is happy Josh came back. He says if you are a great artist, you can sing anything. “I’m so excited to see what you do... I think you’re an amazing artist with a ginormous career.” Josh’s next song is for his Mom, who is in the house tonight.

I’m not really feeling the California spirit in all of this tonight. Am I missing something?

Ad for new dating show on Fox with spinning red chairs and celebs picking dates by voice alone. The show is called ‘The Choice!’ Really?

Jessica tells us she’s wanted to be on ‘American Idol’ since she was five and performing since she was two. She says she can’t do anything but sing! She says she would have never imagined making it this far. She can’t believe she’s one of the Top 4.

Jessica Sanchez - “Steal Away” - Etta James

So much for age-appropriate song selection. Why does Jimmy even say this stuff? Jessica is sitting on the piano again to star. At least her outfit doesn’t make her look 45. The thing is, she puts this performance together with a lot of attitude and sass. Of all the OMG she’s only 16-year-olds on this show, she’s the best of the lot. She has vocal maturity far beyond her years and will only get better. Watch out for Jessica. I think she’ll be around for a while, win or lose.

J’Lo laughs about Jessica’s childhood growling! She is amazed at some of the things Jessica does. J’Lo says her vocal quality is one of the best. Steven says he loved it. He says it showed another side of her voice. Randy says he loved the vibe of it. He says her vocals are ridiculous, but she can tap into the blues of it.

Round one - Jessica, then Joshua, Hollie, and PP.

After the break, another PP/Josh duet on Maroon 5‘s “This Love.” Joshua, who is wearing another odd cowl-neck shirt, dances up the stairs to stand on top of the piano. PP, in gray as always, is sitting on the piano. What’s up with all the piano abuse this season?  PP has happy feet while he’s sitting down. Oh, now he’s standing up. The choreography is magnificent. They actually sound better together on this one than the mess they sang last week. Joshua ‘s voice is so much better.  But they really get into it and seem to be having fun.

Steven says everything about this song was “perfect” and congratulates Nigel on the song choice. J’Lo says it was funny because they are both so different. It was like “Adam Levine and Usher” coming together. Randy says they had fun with it and that it sounded amazing. he says “here” in some odd kind of southern accent.

Ryan asks if they were more comfortable during this one. Josh says he laughed all the way through it.

Hollie and Jessica are singing the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame.” They are both on fabric swings. Yes, you read that right. Both of their vocals are somewhat shaky individually, and the harmonies are harsh. Their voices don’t blend. Jessica is singing too low or something. Neither seems all that serious about it. Like, here you go, sing this and get it over with.

Randy says it was strange for him (boos). Josh and PP are in the background on the swings! Randy says it was weird and he didn’t like it. J’Lo says she’s always loved the song. Both of them have sweetness and power. Steven says “Four months in LA and you turn into our favorite swingers.” Josh and PP (Jillup) are still on the swings.

This week, the Idols were treated to a sneak preview of the new movie, ‘Rock of Ages’ (without Constantine)! The director gets a tour of the mansion. He kisses a picture of J’Lo.  They all watch a sneak peak of the movie... not the movie, I guess, and we, of course get to see it as well. Tom Cruise as the rock legend? Ryan’s girlfriend Julianne Hough is in it as well.  I don’t think I’ll be going to see this one!

That killed off a few minutes. After the cJulianne Houghlip, Ryan has the producer and Julianne stand up.

The Top 4 sing Foreigner’s “I’ve Been Waiting.”  I can’t get over Josh’s shirt. PP looks ill. They are sure working these kids like mules this season. Two solos, a duet, and a ga-roup number, all in one night. Wow.

Ryan talks with PP and asks him how he’s feeling. PP says he looks forward to going home and jamming with his buds.

Round Two - Songs I Wish I’d Written

Philip - “Volcano” - Damien Rice

Jimmy compares PP to a butterfly as he’s seen him becoming more like himself. Jimmy says this song sends a message that PP can record a song and not sound like anyone else. He says PP's voice is in a different place this week. "I think it's exactly what you need right now," he says. "He was sounding like another artist, until today."  PP’s got the guitar out again and is accompanied by a cello. He’s using his DM voice again. I don’t know what Jimmy is talking about. I like the harmonies with the background singer.  As he moves through this song, he really does seem to find his own footing, though. This is a beautiful song, very haunting and dark. This is PP’s best performance ever, in my humble opinion. Really, really good.

Steven agrees with Jimmy. He says he just sang like he really dug the way he sung! He says he could listen to this song over and over. J’Lo says very few people could have pulled this off on a karaoke show. She says this was one of the most beautiful performances she’s ever heard on the show. Randy says, “So yo, this is what it’s all about.” He says that was one of PP’s best performance on the whole season. “Sometimes a little simple statement has more volume to it.”

And that may well have gotten PP into the Top 3.

Hollie - “I Can’t Make You Love You”

Jimmy says you can’t get a girl with more soul or feel than Bonnie Raitt. He urges Hollie not to oversing.  He says if Hollie’s in the song, she can do great. I will always remember Kimberley Locke’s fabulous performance of this song. It was the song that pushed her up to contender status. Can it do the same for Hollie?  She does resist the urge to oversing, at least at first, but I don’t think she quite has the vulnerability in there. Pretty, but not really original.

Steven says "It's not so much how you sing that song, it's how you say the words. It felt a little short as far as the dynamic range. ... Sorry, baby.". J’Lo says "You're trying to make America love you. That's a hook, that's a way into a song. ... It doesn't have to be so literal.". She thinks Hollie should have been singing it to us. She says there was too much vibrato.  "You need moments," Randy says. "This was a great song, but you're a different kind of singer than Bonnie Raitt. It gave you nowhere to go. There were no moments. To me, it was the wrong choice at the wrong time."

Hollie says she loves the song and was feeling it.  Joshua’s doing James Brown - heh!

Joshua Ledet - “It’s a Man’s World” - James Brown

Jimmy says he’s seen James Brown in the recording studio. He tells Josh that after every take, a guy would come in and comb his hair! Jimmy says this James Brown song, Joshua really kills.  A parade of women come out playing violins as Joshua descends the Adam Lambert Memorial Staircase. The entire horn section is female.  Josh has got a little swagger on this one. Seriously? Kid is tearing this up. Tearing. It. Up. He’s able to control the intensity and reel it all back it when he needs to and then let it all loose again. Remarkable. So much depth there.  This is one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen on this show, and I have seen almost every performance in ten, now eleven season. This was Joshua’s “moment."

The judges stand. J’Lo is bowing. Steven says, “Neither man nor woman has ever sung that good with so much compassion on this show ever. I can go home right now. I’ve never heard anything like that in my life.” J’Lo says we may have thought we had seen everything he had, but we hadn’t. She speaks in Spanish. Randy says this was one of the best performance in the history of any show. “If you want to know what singing is really about... please watch Joshua Ledet. He’s sending everyone to school.”

J’Lo says she didn’t really understand what “taking to church meant.” Now she does. Josh’s mom is ecstatic. Ryan wonders where the transformation comes from... because it is a transformation. If ‘American Idol’ really were a true singing competition, Joshua just won it. But it isn’t. So we must wait.

Jessica - “And I am Telling You” - Jennifer Holiday

Jimmy says he was disappointed with “Proud Mary” last week, but when Jessica is challenged, she comes back strong. "If the audience sees and the judges see what I saw, it could be game over," Jimmy says. Jessica says she’s not going anywhere! I can’t help compare this to Jennifer Hudson. J’Hud has more depth to her voice, and of course, she didn’t have to do it in 90 seconds.  It is indeed Jessica’s moment  Whoa...  another moment.

"Another winning performance, just over the top," Steven says. "Tell me how you really feel." J’Lo says it’s going to be a race to the finish. She says there’s nothing left to say. Jessica is crying. J’Lo says Jessica let out so much stuff and standing still like that rips your soul apart. Randy says he doesn’t know what’s going on tonight show it that she, Joshua, and PP are really in it to win it. He says it’s a hard song to sing. He doesn’t know where she gets the strength to sing from that place.

Julian Lennon is in the house. He salutes Jessica.

Round two - Joshua, Jessica, PP and Hollie.

Top 3 - Joshua, Jessica, PP - Hollie will go home tomorrow.

David Cook and J’Lo perform and we find out who gets to make the triumphant trip home.

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