Monday, May 21, 2012

American Idol Top 3 Week

Note mostly to self--- I had a big problem today with posts from March-May accidentally getting deleted. My only option was to find those posts thru emails I had sent and from Google's cache archive. For some reason, all of the posts I have done today, on 5/21/12 will not appear on archive by day. In order to access them, and thus all recovered entries from 3/25-5/2, go to the oldest post that can be found through the archives and then look to the right for previous entries until there is the first one from 5/21 which is an explanation about what I would be doing:

There would once again be a lot more I could write, if I were doing these posts during or immediately after viewing the episodes, but it has been several days since then and I have to rely on memory.

On Wednesday, the Final 3 sang three songs each, and saw their Homecoming videos air as part of the competition night broadcast. Before last year, that was always done on the Results Show. Showing these heavily produced video packages during the show could sway a lot of voters to support someone for reasons beyond their most recent performances. At the same time, I think most power-voters had already made up their minds at this point and would stay loyal to their choice.

In the first round, the contestants sang songs selected by Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez:

1. Joshua Ledet- "I'd Rather Go Blind"

This is an oldie from Etta James that I remember being done this past season on X-Factor and had been mentioned by some Idol fans as a song they would like to see Jessica do on Idol this year. Instead, it was Joshua who took it on, singing into some old-fashioned prop microphone. It sounded good, if not predictable. Not much else I can remember. At least viewers were not saying they would rather go deaf. Grade: B+

2. Jessica Sanchez- "My All"

This is a Mariah Carey song I do not know. Typically, Idol judges have advised female contestants to not try to take on Mariah, but since Randy manages her now, I guess it's fair game. Once again, Jessica delivered a very technically proficient vocal, but I did detect a bit of tiredness in her voice. She really gave it everything she had on her final song the week before and had to do a lot of singing at home in San Diego, in addition to preparing for this show. Also, she is the only contestant who has to do go through the formal Idol school thing on a daily basis during the week, so one can hardly blame her if she has gotten a bit tired at this point. Needless to say, I hope she is in fine voice tomorrow night for the Finale. Grade: B

3. Phillip Phillips- "Beggin'"

Now from what I understand, this was his own varied interpretation of a somewhat recent different sounding remake of an old Four Seasons song. In choosing it for him, the judges easily gave him the best crowd pleaser of the night. P2's voice may not be as technically sound as the other two, but the performance itself was less boring. In fact, it was pretty decent all around and the frontrunner seemed to have rebounded momentum from earlier this season as opposed to some weak rounds more recently. I wonder how many casual Idol viewers know that his kidney problems are said to require major surgery that he is supposedly going to be having as soon as later this week. According to reports, the recovery time will be several weeks, which would mean that likely runner-up Jessica will have to do the bi-coastal media tour herself, which will bring a lot of exposure for her. In the meantime, Phillips continues to not take part in the Ford Music video shoots. Grade: B

All in all, I was not blown away by anything here. Instead of "bussing" P2 and trying to get both Jessica and Joshua into the Finale, they were really pimping him at this point. Perhaps, the Idol Powers That Be realized he was not going to be stopped for anything and it was in their best interest to make him look like as worthy a winner as possible. Or from another conspiratorial perspective, they could just have been sewing the seeds for a backlash to help underdog Jessica pull off a Finale victory.

3. Phillip Phillips
2. Jessica Sanchez
1. Joshua Ledet

Next, came time for songs the contestants picked for themselves, assuming the show was able to get them cleared.

1. Joshua Ledet- "Imagine"

This was a very bold choice. I usually scoff at those who say that Idol contestants should not attempt to do songs that previous Idols had a "moment" with, but in this case, I did wonder if Joshua was prepared to have his version compared with that of David Archuleta (now one of the most famous Mormon-Americans in Chile) from Season 7. Nobody has attempted to do the song since.

It was a very different version. While Archie's take was to sing it without runs, Joshua ran like crazy. To be sure, I thought it was an impressive performance vocally, but I knew a lot of people would say it did not feel as heartfelt as the last time it had been been done.

Unlike Archuleta in the competition, Joshua had the time to sing multiple verses, including the first one which is unmistakingly anti-religion. I found it incredibly ironic that the preacher's son, who has taken so many songs "to church" this year, attempted to do so again and tried to turn an ode to atheism into a rousing gospel anthem. I have said in previous seasons and thought again, that by singing those anti-faith lines, it could turn off enough religious viewers to cost votes. That could be part of what happened to Joshua this week (in addition to his having name checked Obama). Grade: B+

2. Jessica Sanchez- "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing"

Next, was another song that has been done to death on Idol! This was a big hit in its day and a song I enjoyed, but it feels a bit contrived on singing competition shows at this time. Didn't I read somewhere that in her YouTube videos, Jessica has demonstrated rapping ability? This would have been a great time to bust that out.

She sang it quite well, seeming to hold back until one big note at the end, and received great praise from judge Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, the original singer. The last note sounded a bit shaky to me and I just did not feel as if it were a moment. Grade: B+

3. Phillip Phillips- "Disease"

Did he pick this song to subtly send a message about his kidneys? I do not really know what to say about this particular performance of his. There is not a lot I remember, except that I thought he managed to pull it off, but it very similar to most of his performances all season. The judges did call him out a bit on this (which led me to think that maybe they were going to approach this on the up and up) but I suppose he could afford to cruise a bit at this point in the competition. Grade: B

Same rankings as before:

3. Phillip Phillips
2. Jessica Sanchez
1. Joshua Ledet

Jimmy Iovine weighs in with his selections, while we see the Homecoming videos:

1. Joshua Ledet- "No More Drama"

We see a nice retrospective of Joshua's visit home. He really did not cry though. Bad sign for him. The people of his Southwest Louisiana town (which seems to be very racially mixed) are thrilled to welcome him home, and who can blame them? (This will be the first time in three years I do not see any local sites/political types on this episode without a third consecutive suburban Chicago finalist).

Mr. Ledet takes a ride in a limo and says something to the effect of that he feels like Barack Obama or that the people in his hometown are treating him like Obama. Uh-oh. For one thing, I doubt just about any of the white people in Westlake, LA who are genuinely cheering for Joshua are going to be voting for Obama, but I will leave that up to Barone.

As for the song, Joshua sings Mary J. Blige in a bouncy fashion doing his crazy vocal runs at the end. The song does not have much melody, but it's the kind of impressive vocals we have seen so many times from Joshua this season.

With the competition for a spot in the finale so close though between Joshua and Jessica, I still maintain his association with feeling like Obama cost him votes. He sang "No More Drama", but many Americans, including those who might have previously been rooting for Joshua want No More Obama. Grade: B+

2. Jessica Sanchez- "I'll Be There"

She did not have very far to go to travel home to San Diego, landing in an empty Petco Park, which might have been a good thing, considering how bad the Padres are this year. In previous seasons, SoCal Idol homecomers have visits that look a little less frenzied by the hometown folks, but it looked like Jessica drew a nice crowd, and got to visit a military base and pay tribute to her U.S. Navy father. All of that was good, but Jessica barely cried, and admitted she was home schooled before Idol. It is true, she has been training for a singing career virtually all her life. Will people hold that against her?

I thought Jimmy picked a bad song for her. Sure, a ton of people know it, but it's not one that can produce a "moment." Unlike Round 1, Jessica did not attempt to sing it like Mariah Carey did in the '90s, but instead tried to mimic the original Jackson Five version, singing both Michael and Jermaine's parts. I did think it was quite noticeable how she changed keys and "voices" between a verse and the chorus.

Once again, Miss Sanchez was more than adequate but something just felt like it was missing from this performance and the other two she had done that evening. As someone who found myself at least somewhat rooting for her to take home the crown, I was wondering if it would be enough to get into the Final 2. Grade: B+

3. Phillip Phillips- "We've Got Tonight"

I did not think we would see him cry. He has seemingly approached all this Idol business with a bit of a cool detachment all season, but sure enough, he cried with his Daddy during the visit, and might have clinched the win right there. All of his estrogen laden fans must have loved it, and some others might have gotten on board at the sight of PP Sr. packing some serious heat at the pawn shop. The NRA would approve.

The song that Jimmy gave P2 to sing does not come across as overly difficult and while I thought he did a reasonably good job on it (while rubbing his thigh way too much, which the cougars probably loved), I could not help but notice the fact that his singing voice just is sort of weird. He has some Cookie Monster/Kermit the Frog/Bill Cosby stuff going on. I guess people like that and think it makes him a "real artist."

The judges went nuts over it and all but declared him the winner right there. Just by letting him close the show, the producers must have known he would survive this penultimate week. I thought he was way overpraised, and I bristled at bit at the manipulation that was once again being used to advance him. Steven Tyler said he could be the next Bruce Springsteen, and I actually do not mind that comparison because I don't think the Boss is that great of a singer either. Grade: B

Round three rankings are once again the same and would of course reflect my overall scoring:

3. Phillip Phillips
2. Jessica Sanchez
1. Joshua Ledet

Who should have been eliminated: Phillip Phillips
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Joshua Ledet
Who was eliminated: Joshua Ledet

So, there we have it. I know I said when we first had the Top 25 going into the first live show, that my early prediction for the Final 2 would be Phillip and Jessica, and that is indeed what happened. I might have waivered a bit on that for a few weeks when Jessica was (allegedly) voted off the show, only to be saved by the judges. She has already gone two steps further than any previously saved contestant has, which has to be considered a tribute to her resillience and fanbase. (Are we sure that Filipinos are not illegally casting votes for her.... shoutout to everybody reading this in the Phillipines, I see a bunch of hits for this blog coming from over there the past several weeks and I appreciate that. I am rooting for Jessica too and if she is a clear victor tomorrow night, I might even symbolically dial in a couple votes for her.)

Nonetheless, I see a lot of people online claiming that Jessica is going to win. I think they are likely to be disappointed as I think Phillip has to be considered a major favorite, regardless of how either does in the Nokia Theater tomorrow. I am not prepared to totally rule out a Jessica victory though. I said previously that she was best equipped to garner the "Anybody But Phillips" vote and could pull it off. I know better than to get my hopes up for that though. After all, it's only a singing competition. The U.S. Presidential election is more important of course.

Good luck moving forward to this Olympic year's Idol bronze medalist Joshua. For someone who rarely got any airtime before the voting began, he had a very strong season with some great performances. The third place finisher stays behind to work on this week's finale, soI believe he has yet tor eally meet the press in NYC and LA. I bet he has formualted a response to a couple questions that might come his way.

Jimmy Iovine and Interscope have basically confirmed that they plan to sign Joshua. I bet he will be a crowd pleaser on tour, and after that will make his debut album. It will be interesting to see if the label can successfully steer him in a modern R&B pop sort of way, or if he will eventually wind up as a gospel singer or catering to an older crowd playing theaters/Vegas as a Jackie Wilson R&B/Soul throwback.

He took his elimination last Thursday more than gracefully (a bit unlike last year's third place finisher) and closed out by bringing his Mama onstage for a rousing reprise of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World."

In regards to the American Idol universe, the title of the song appears to be exactly what Jessica Sanchez now finds herself up against.


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