“American Idol”‘s remaining five contestants performed Wednesday night for a spot in the top four next week. They took on songs from the ’60s in the first round and Brit Pop in the second. Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band and The Sopranos fame joined Jimmy Iovine in mentoring the contestants this week. Judges Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler were on hand as usual. Here’s what happened:
Hollie Cavanagh started the ’60s round taking on Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep – Mountain High” backed up by a full horn section and four background singers. Steven said it was the first time he’d really heard Hollie step out and sing the blues. Jennifer said Hollie held her own amidst the big production onstage, and Randy thought Hollie really sang it like no one was watching.
Phillip Phillips sang “The Letter” by The Box Tops, and Steven Van Zandt liked the way Phillip changed it up. Randy said Phillip’s jam band vibe made the song new for him, and Jennifer said Phillip was a compelling, dynamic performer. Steven said Phillip gets away with being himself very well, and Randy added that Phillip strives to be original. Of note, host Ryan Seacrest pointed out that Phillip’s girlfriend was in the audience though her name wasn’t given.
Skylar Laine tapped into her rebellious side for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” and really worked the stage for this one. She didn’t get to show off her vocal range though. Jennifer said Skylar was getting more fearless in her performances each week, and Steven loved how Skylar “boot scoots” around the stage. Randy said Skylar was born to be on the stage.
Phillip teamed up with Joshua Ledet for a duet in the middle of the ’60s round on The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Joshua actually told Ryan he didn’t know the song before the producers gave it to them to sing it, and they didn’t put much emotion into it until the end. Steven loved how Joshua hit the high notes, and gave them a hard time about singing a love song together. Jennifer said they seemed really scared to sing together, and she loved how they finally let go at the end. Randy said Phillip and Joshua can sing anything if they remember who they are.
Jessica Sanchez blew Steven Van Zandt’s mind with her take on Ike & Tina Turner’s version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” in rehearsals. Jessica definitely gave off a Tina vibe as she worked the stage and growled her way through the chorus. Jennifer said Jessica really picked up on that rocking, Janis Joplin vibe, and Steven thought Jessica was stretching out into the blues a bit. Randy though it was “barely OK.” He didn’t think Jessica lived up to Tina’s iconic performance of the song, but Randy liked her voice. Jennifer stuck up for Jessica saying you can’t compare a 16-year-old to Tina Turner.
Joshua Ledet returned to sing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations, once again turning in an old school ’60s R&B performance. This time Joshua threw in some choreography with his female backup singers though. Steven said Joshua had to be one of the top two Idol performers of all time, and Jennifer said she enjoyed every single time Joshua got onstage. Randy said Joshua could bring R&B back to the mainstream music scene.
Hollie sang Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” to start the British Pop round. Steven Van Zandt encouraged her to keep the performance intimate, and she really delivered on his direction. Steven said Hollie nailed it, and Jennifer said the performance had a great intimate quality with some beautiful vocal runs. Jennifer thought Hollie even surprised herself with this performance. Randy called this performance “unbelievable” and said Hollie was peaking at the right time in the competition.
Phillip chose “Time of the Season” by The Zombies because it was a sexy song, and Jimmy thought Phillip’s charisma would take him far on this one. He didn’t mess with the melody on this one, and it seemed a little too high for him at times. Randy liked that Phillip actually sang the melody this time around and described it as a “nice” performance. Jennifer said he did a good job with the mellow song. Steven said Phillip sang it well.
Hollie, Jessica and Skylar formed a trio to sing Jackie Wilson’s late ’60s hit “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” Steven thought it was a weird arrangement but said they sang it well. Jennifer said seeing them all sing together was a treat. Randy said the arrangement had some holes in it but added that they all did well on it.
Skylar returned to sing “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield. Skylar’s vocals were astounding, but the arrangement of the song was a little off as they tried to take this moody ’60s ballad into modern country territory.
Randy said Skylar has a real believability onstage, and Jennifer said Skylar just might win the whole thing with performances like that. Steven loved the song choice.
Jessica went with “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker. She sang the entire song sitting down on a stage filled with billowing smoke and candles. The vocals were straightforward and beautiful. Steven said she showed America what a great singer she is this time. Jennifer said Jessica captivated the entire audience, and Randy said Jessica sang more professionally than some people he knows who have been in the business for 50 years.
Joshua Ledet closed out the night with the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody,” which he’d never heard before rehearsals. The judges gave him a standing ovation along with the rest of the audience. Randy was really impressed that Joshua had never heard that song before this week and turned around and delivered a powerhouse performance. Randy called Joshua one of the best singers ever on American Idol. Jennifer said it had been years since they’d seen someone as good as Joshua. She went so far as to call Joshua one of the best singers in all of music in the past 50 years. Steven just left it at calling Joshua a great artist.
Someone is going home after tonight’s results show. Coldplay and Carrie Underwood are set to perform.