“American Idol’s” top three made their home town visits this week. It’s the moment when the show’s producers pull on our heartstrings with warm stories of family, friendship and blossoming fame. It’s always sweet to witness the contestant’s first real encounters with mobs of fans and adoring members of the opposite sex.
Back at the Kodak Theater, the contenders delivered three rounds of songs. The first round was judges’ choice, the second was their own pick, and the third song was selected by mentor Jimmy Iovine. Who came out on top? Here’s the view from the peanut gallery.
Joshua Ledet – Joshua was solid all night. The judges chose a soulful Etta James tune, “I’d Rather Go Blind.” The song suited him perfectly and his deliver was impeccable. Randy Jackson dubbed Joshua a “classic stylist.” This is the kind of tune that proves it. The real question is not, “can he sing,” but “will America go for this old school style of music?”
Joshua chose “Imagine” by John Lennon for round two. It seemed like an odd favorite for a preacher’s son. The lyrics decry religion as a false human construct that must be eliminated in order to connect with our true selves. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” preacher’s son? Jennifer Lopez praised his “pulled back and controlled” performance. Whatever the song means to Joshua, his delivery was lovely and heart felt.
Joshua had some funny moments during his visit to Westlake, LA. When supporters mobbed his limo, he noted that “they are really acting like I’m Barack Obama.” Then, noticing the police escort he quipped, “I feel safe. Do you feel safe?” He endeared himself to moms and grandmas everywhere when he asked his little cousin, Chloe, to ride in the parade with him.
Jimmy chose Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” for Joshua. There was plenty of drama, and it showed the kind of contemporary singer he could be, but it didn’t suit Joshua as well as the judges’ pick.
Jessica Sanchez – the Judges’ chose well for Jessica. She “Wowed” with the difficult Mariah Carey ballad, “My All.” Her performance of the sweet Aerosmith love song “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” got rave reviews from originator Steven Tyler. Jennifer Lopez pointed out that he is normally critical of contestants who perform his songs, so the kudos from him mean that much more.
We learned that Jessica was home schooled, so she really didn’t have any connection to the local high school, but the school was on her home town visit itinerary any way. She also performed for a group of enlisted men, which was fitting since her father is in the military.
Jimmy’s stated objective was to choose a song for Jessica that would put her youth on display but also appeal to the older crowd. His choice of the super sweet Jackson 5 hit, “I’ll Be There,” didn’t leave her much room to “have a moment.” It was just too simple.
Phil Phillips – ever since I wrote that Phil can’t carry a tune, he’s been out to prove me wrong. His performances this week were his best to date. He seems to finally be learning that the non melodic vocal effects work best when employed strategically to punctuate a moment in the song, and get tiresome when you use them on every line. Or maybe he’s just not sick anymore.
Randy made a critical point about Phil. He said he hopes Phil writes his own songs. Phil doesn’t have the greatest vocal talent in the world, but he’s got a modern, edgy style. He could be a huge hit as a singer songwriter, but he’s too individualistic to sing someone else’s material. I still don’t think he should be the “American Idol,” but I might buy his album – if the songs are good.
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