The top four American Idol contestants, Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh and Phillip Phillips performed for the nation’s vote Wednesday night. This season’s ‘Idol’ will be crowned in just two weeks, so Wednesday’s two rounds of performances were even more intense as a result.
The first round was called California Dreamin’, and had the finalists singing songs by artists from California or tunes about the Golden State. The second round featured songs the contestants wished they’d written themselves. Judges Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler were there to offer their thoughts.
Here’s a rundown of the performances:
Phillip was up first with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” and the song really fit Phillip’s gruff vocal style. Steven called Phillip “something else,” and Jennifer said Phillip had a new kind of Joe Cocker quality that she hadn’t heard him use before. Randy thought Phillip really hit his stride from the first chorus on with this performance.
Hollie took on Journey’s “Faithfully,” which fell right in line with the rest of the power ballads she’s performed this season. Randy said Hollie was peaking at the right time of the competition, and her performance left Jennifer in tears. Jennifer was emotional realizing how far Hollie has grown this season, and Steven said Hollie’s talent was really blooming, thanks to her song choice.
Joshua went with Los Angeles native’s Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” and the gospel feel of the song made it a great fit for Joshua. Jennifer said it was another great performance, and she loved the drama of his performance. Steven said Joshua sang his “little tush” off, and Randy thinks Joshua has a “ginormous” career in front of him.
Jessica sang Etta James’ “Steal Away,” and host Ryan Seacrest made a point to note Jessica is only 16-years old singing this big blues number. Jennifer said Jessica is one of the best singers she’s seen in a long time, and Steven thought the performance showed the other side of Jessica’s voice. Randy was impressed Jessica could tap into the pain and soul of the blues at such a young age.
Phillip and Joshua teamed up for a duet on Maroon 5′s “This Love” at the close of the show’s first hour, performing on and around dueling black and white grand pianos. It started off a bit sleepy, but really got cooking towards the end. Steven called it “perfect,” and Jennifer thought the song really fit Phillip and Joshua even though they’re much different singers. Randy said Phillip and Joshua had fun with it and called it “amazing.”
Jessica and Hollie opened the second hour with a duet of The Bangles’ ’80s hit “Eternal Flame.” They delivered the first part of the song while swinging in fabric swings onstage, and the whole performance was a little on the bland side. While the judges were offering feedback, Joshua and Phillip got in the swings. Randy said Jessica and Hollie’s duet was a little strange vocally and called it “weird.” Jennifer thought the duet showed sweetness and power.
In a taped piece, Adam Shankman, the director of the new movie “Rock of Ages” stopped by the “Idol” mansion to show four scenes from the film, which comes out June 16. Ryan’s girlfriend Julianne Hough stars in the movie and was in the audience for Wednesday night’s performance show. Ryan played like he was going to propose to Julianne on camera, but he ended up just handing her a note to give to the film’s other star Tom Cruise.
After that bit of promotion for Rock of Ages, the top four contestants took the stage for a group performance of Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”
The second round kicked off with Phillip singing the song he wished he’d written — “Volcano” by Damien Rice. Mentor Jimmy Iovine said Phillip was coming into his own with this stripped down, haunting performance. Steven said he heard the musician in Phillip this time. Jennifer said very few people could pull a performance like that on Idol. She said it was a real testament to Phillip as an artist, and called it a “poignant moment.” Randy said it was one of Phillip’s best performances ever.
Hollie sang Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and Jimmy warned her not to over-sing the lyrics. She belted it out at the end, but Hollie did a good job of not shouting the lyrics. Steven thought it felt a little short because Hollie doesn’t have a wide dynamic range. Jennifer didn’t think Hollie had the life experience to sell “I Can’t Make You Love Me” either and said her voice fell flat. Randy didn’t think this song provided Hollie with the big moment she needs onstage at this point in the competition. It was the only real performance misstep of the night.
Joshua chose James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” in honor of his mom for Mother’s Day, and Jimmy said he killed it in rehearsals. Joshua delivered a big performance onstage too and earned a standing ovation from the judges. Steven said he’d never heard anything like that performance in his life, and Jennifer said Joshua took his level of performance to an even higher level with this one. She called it “sickening” and later said it made her see the Lord. Randy said it was one of the best performances in the history of all televised singing shows.
Jessica closed out the show with the monster song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from “Dreamgirls,” a song she’s been singing for years now. Jimmy said she was coming back ferociously with this one, and the performance seemed like a plea to voters that Jessica was vowing to stay on the show. The judges gave Jessica the second standing ovation of the night. Steven said Jessica really put herself into this song, and Jennifer was impressed that Jessica didn’t move onstage while delivering those big, emotional vocals. Randy didn’t know where Jessica got the experience and vocal chops to pull it off, but he was impressed.
The top three contestants will be revealed on Thursday night’s results show at 8:00 Eastern on Fox. ‘Idol’ alum David Cook and judge Jennifer Lopez are also set to perform.