Top 5 - 60's & British Invasion Week - May 2, 2012
1. Hollie Cavanagh - "River Deep, Mountain High" B
I think Hollie could have brought even more energy to this Tina Turner classic than she did. It amazes me how some contestants acknowledge the history and dare-I-say mythology of the show (best example of this during this season would be Colton Dixon, who knew how to play the game) and others who ignore it completely. The quintessential balladeer of last season, Pia Toscano, was shockingly eliminated after her performance of this song. But it just might have been that frightening jumpsuit Gwen Stefani styled her in. Anyway, back to Hollie, this was a competent and a good performance but something about it was missing for me. She sounded good and looked great but I think she lacked the charm of the Pia Toscano and Glee versions that have come out recently.
2. Philip Philips - "The Letter" D+
So much to talk about on this song. The fact that Jennifer Lopez HAS NEVER HEARD this song?!?! That kills me as someone who grew up on the music of the 50's and 60's. What else killed me? Philip's bizarre version of this beloved song. His cover left the song absolutely unrecognizable. I give him credit for trying to bring something different to the Idol stage, but this did not work. It sounded again like a Dave Matthews Band type arrangement of the song. I would never listen to this again if I could help it.
To get this awful version out of my head, I am posting two vastly superior versions of this song:
American Idol Winner Season 9 - Lee Dewyze - "The Letter" (Live)
And, one of the BEST AMERICAN IDOL PERFORMANCES OF ALL TIME, Season 7 contestants Carly Smithson & Michael Johns. If you never listen to anything I post on this blog, LISTEN TO THIS.
3. Skylar Laine - "Fortunate Son" B
I loved Skylar's energy on this CCR classic rock song. She really rocked it out and made it look easy. The vocal had a few moments of brilliance in the verses, but the chorus wasn't my favorite for me, for you. Absolutely explosive and untamed, she is the consummate performer of Season 11.
Duet - Joshua & Philip - "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" A-
Philip sounded the best he has sounded all season on the opening verse of this duet. It was wildly cheesy in the best possible way. I knew I shouldn't love this, that the harmonies weren't quite right, that it didn't really work in the way it should - but god help me, I did. I also loved that this song was almost 3 minutes long - giving it the time it deserved. (Most Idol covers are slightly less than 2 minutes to 2 1/2 minutes.)
4. Jessica Sanchez - "Proud Mary" A-
So much energy and just perfectly delivered. I just wish the Idol costume department didn't put all the girls in 5 inch heels, inhibiting their ability to run around the stage and truly command it. I loved the way Jessica started the song, slow and deliberate, and then let it go with the wild second half of the song.
5. Joshua Ledet - "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" A
This was just awesome from start to finish. The choreography, the outfit, the presentation, just everything worked. It evoked the doo-wop style of the 60's with an edge of something slightly more modern. One of my favorite performances of the night. Undoubtedly, Joshua would have been a huge star in the 60's.
6. Hollie Cavanagh - "Bleeding Love" A+
Achingly gorgeous and sung with perfection. She took her time with the song and let each word land with resonance. Full disclosure: I absolutely hate this Leona Lewis song. I turn it off everytime it comes on the radio which thankfully is less and less often. But Hollie did the impossible - turned this awful Leona Lewis hit into something with emotion, pitch perfection, and overall beauty.
7. Philip Philips - "Time Of The Season" C
In direct contrast to Hollie, Philip took a song by The Zombies I absolutely love and delivered it in a way I could not abide. Philip's voice could not hit the higher notes on the chorus and still sound pleasant. There were a few brilliant moments, especially on the second verse, and brilliant is Philip capitalizing on one of his best moments on the show ("Does your Daddy let you date?" with lyrical content that mirrored that.
Trio - Jessica, Hollie, and Skylar - "Higher And Higher" B+
Overall, a lot of fun and great to see the three girls interact with each other. I loved Skylar's attitude on this and the three singers sounded great together.
8. Skylar Laine - "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" A
The lampposts, couple on the bench, moody fog lighting was perhaps some of the most interesting staging I have ever seen on American Idol. And yet, despite itself, it still kind of worked. Skylar really brought the complete anguish and heartache to this song to embody the lyrics fully. Watching this performance made me see so clearly the career Skylar will undoubtedly go on to have. Singing requires a bit of acting - both in the tone of one's voice and also the expression on one's face (especially through the ever-less-important medium of music videos). And Skylar has that talent in spades.
9. Jessica Sanchez - "You Are So Beautiful" A/A-
Very simple and pretty. She really delivered the song in an emotional way and her voice is almost too perfect at times (is that even possible?). I really don't have much to say about this performance though.
10. Joshua Ledet - "To Love Somebody" A+
I got closer to my TV as Joshua began this song. I was expecting great things. And I got them. I was expecting a bit more of dramatic instrumentation when Joshua began the first "you don't know what it's like", but I can get over that. Sort of. Joshua inhabited this song so amazingly I forgot about everything else. This was a revelation.
But of course, I have to post Clay Aiken's AMAZING Season 2 version of "To Love Somebody" (which garners some high praise from Simon) to close out this blog post:
Best of the night: Joshua
Worst of the night: Philip