A day late with this week's rundown for personal reasons. As I sit down to watch the show on the DVR, they've just announced the winner on the East Coast, but I promise that I've scrupulously avoided reading anything about last night's show, so you're getting my opinions unfiltered through anyone else's perspective. Just in case you cared.
Tonight, a round of music from the 60s, and a round of British music, so the obvious mentor is... Steven Van Zandt? Well, he's in his 60s, so maybe that's the logic. A pair of very broad themes, which should provide ample opportunities for all.
Round 1: the 1960s
Hollie, "River Deep - Mountain High" -- Hollie's getting very smart about her song choices. This one plays solidly to her strengths, as it can mostly be belted and doesn't require huge amounts of subtlety. Still, there are problems. The "do" of "do I love you" is inaudible both times; she's pushing so hard that she's out of air by the end of the first chorus; and the performance plays as an animatronic simulation of excitement instead of the real thing.
Phillip, "The Letter" -- Thank heavens for the animated rain of letters behind him, or we might never have known what the song was about. Anyway: It's an odd mismatch of energy levels, with the band wailing away as if they've still got energy to spare from Hollie's performance, and Phillip delivering his usual laidback vocals. Combine his low-key approach with some fairly significant alterations to the rhythm and melody, and it feels a bit as if he's just been handed the sheet music and he doesn't sight read very well.
Skylar, "Fortunate Son" -- Enunciation continues to be Skylar's biggest flaw, and about a third of this is complete gibberish. But as always, it's energetic and she knows how to work a crowd. And goodness knows she certainly seems passionately committed to whatever it is she's singing about. (It's one of the CCR songs that I don't know, but from the lyrics that did come through, I gather that it's sort of a Vietnam-era analogue to the Occupy movement, with Skylar as one of the 99%. Sound right?)
Jessica, "Proud Mary" -- Really? A whole frackin' decade to pick from and she picks this? Look, Jessica can sell a ballad as well as anyone, but this sort of up-tempo number is all wrong for her, especially when it calls on her to be sexy. What should be aggressive prancing across the stage is instead tentative mincing, and her backup dancers are more interesting than she is. Jessica keeps slipping in the ranks, and it's due to lousy song choice as much as anything.
Joshua, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" -- Good solid performance. Not going to make anyone forget the original, but there were no glaring problems. He's got the voice, he knows how to play to an audience, and he almost always chooses the right song. He's the most consistent performer in the bunch.
For Round 1: Joshua, Hollie, Skylar, Jessica, Phillip.
Round 2: British music
Hollie, "Bleeding Love" -- Two problems here, one technical and one emotional. Technically, Hollie needs to find a middle ground between her big full-voiced belt and her tiny little head voice; the transitions between the two are jarring and abrupt. Emotionally, she doesn't project vulnerability well. In part, that's a natural consequence of having such a large voice; she's going to have to work harder than most on showing a softer side. (But it can be done! Listen to, for instance, Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" -- huge voice that'll break your heart.)
Phillip, "Time of the Season" -- He's got no falsetto. Those high notes in the chorus are thin, barely audible, and only tangentially related to the correct pitch. Which is a shame, because aside from that, this is the best performance Phillip has given in weeks. His just-this-side-of-lazy vocals sort of work, the slipping and sliding in and out of notes seems to suit the song, and even the "yeah, I'm sexy" smirk is somewhat appropriate here.
Skylar, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" -- She gets a little overwrought in the last few bars, but the verse is gorgeous, an impeccable fusion of the original with Skylar's country sensibilities. Best thing we've heard tonight.
Jessica, "You Are So Beautiful" -- Clearly, this is more in Jessica's wheelhouse than her first song was, and it's a prettyy performance. Even at her best, though, there's a Barbie-ish plastic quality to Jessica; if she could get some personality to go along with all that technique, she'd be formidable. The arrangement was a touch on the slow side, I thought; just a bit more forward motion would have helped.
(British? Really? A song written and originally recorded by Billy Preston? Not as egregious a cheat as we got the last time Idol did a British night, when "Tell Him" was allowed to sneak through, but c'mon.)
Joshua, "To Love Somebody" -- The sort of performance that Joshua can deliver in his sleep -- a slow burn through the verse, take the chorus up an octave, and go to church at the end. Unfortunately, it kinda felt as if he was doing it in his sleep; there was something a bit rote and predictable about it. Yeah, the technique is formidable, but there was an emptiness behind it this time. (Nothing awful enough to make him the Ken to Jessica's Barbie, I hasten to add.)
For Round 2: Skylar, Joshua, Jessica, Hollie, Phillip.
For the night: Skylar, Joshua, Jessica, Hollie, Phillip.
For the season: Joshua, Skylar, Hollie, Jessica, Phillip.
Let's send home: Phllip's been at the bottom of my list for a month now. Can we please send him home? (I will not be surprised, however, if either Jessica or Hollie goes instead.)