American Idol Review: California Dreamin'

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American Idol is winding down, y'all. In just two weeks we'll have to find a new way to spend our Tuesday evenings.

Tonight the contestants will sing one song from an artist or band from California and one song they wish they had written themselves. I don't know who's picking these "themes" but they're getting more and more out there as the weeks go on.

Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez, Josh Ledet and Hollie Cavanagh

Round One:

Phillip Phillips is up first tonight with the California choice of CCR's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and without his guitar. I don't like the arrangement. The saxophone and piano accompaniment is too lounge-y. Steven says he's "living proof that the road to success is always under construction." J.Lo said he sounded like Joe Cocker. Randy said it started rough, but he fell into place by the first chorus. Then he called it sensational. It wasn't spectacular. Phillip sounded like himself, but the whole thing was just sort of "meh." 2.5/5

Hollie Cavanagh picked a ballad for Round One, "Faithfully" by Journey. Again, the arrangement is strange. She has 15 minutes by my estimation, so why chop the song up? I think Hollie's back in her head again and thinking too much, or the song is in the wrong key. She's pitchy start to finish. Randy said she's peaking at the right time. J.Lo said she's really grown and called the performance "beautiful." Steven said she made her creativity bloom and called her song choice over the top. I feel like the judges heard something different from what we heard at home. This is a power ballad and there was no power in her performance. 2/5

Singing "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban, Joshua Ledet is third on the night. First, I think this might be the only song anyone knows by Josh Groban. Second, I didn't love it. There could've been emotion in it, but I didn't feel anything. And I don't think he sang the song particularly well. J.Lo said it was another great performance after dodging Randy's question of what she thought. Steven said Joshua sang his "tush" off. And he also said that "courage is fear that's said its prayers." He's full of the adages tonight. Randy said he never would've thought that Joshua would bring a Groban song "to church" and my biggest question is why wouldn't he think that? That's what Joshua does. 2.5/5

Closing out Round One, Jessica Sanchez has chosen the Etta James number "Steal Away." It was definitely the best of the four, but that's not saying much. She growled too much. The problem with the growling is that she loses all enunciation when she does that so you can't understand what she's saying anymore. The words are totally lost. J.Lo called her one of the best she's seen in a long time. Steven said she nailed it. Randy said the Blues are about pain and tapping into that pain. She's 17, Randy. What pain? Then he said she can sing the phone book. It was another of Jessica's performances where at the end I'm kind of staring at the TV wondering what possessed her to choose that song out of all the possible songs to choose. 3.5/5

Round One goes to Jessica, reluctantly, but NONE of the Final Four had outstanding song choices in the first round. Out of all the songs to come out of California, why are these the songs they chose? Why not younger, more current songs that make them relevant as artists?

Here's to a better Round Two. But first, duets.

Phillip and Joshua are singing "This Love" by Maroon 5. Slightly less awkward than their duet last week unless you count the fact that they're both singing, theoretically, about the same girl. Oddly enough, they got to sing the song in its entirety when it's a non-judged song. Why, oh why, on a night like tonight when we have four contestants singing for two hours, are the judged songs not longer?

Jessica and Hollie take on The Bangles' "Eternal Flame." In swings. Like something out of Cirque du Soleil except minus the acrobatics. These two aren't great at harmonizing with one another all the time and seem to favor singing in unison. That is, when they're not oversinging. Randy called it "strange." Steven made a joke about the four of them being swingers that left everyone uncomfortable. J.Lo said she loved the "Bengals." I'm sure the city of Cinncinnati is happy.

After duets we got a 15-minute advertisement for the upcoming movie Rock of Ages. Then a group sing of Foreigner's "Waiting For a Girl Like You" complete with odd lyrical change-ups from girl to guy and a weird ending. As the cameras faded after the performance, you could hear Steven shout "more commercials!" That about sums it up, Steven.

Finally, Round Two:

Phillip Phillips wishes he'd written "Volcano" by Damien Rice. Jimmy said his voice is in a different place this week and this song is "like a bullseye" for Phillip this week. This week, Jimmy thinks Phillip sounds like Phillip instead of an imitation of another artist. This is remarkably better than his round one performance. In fact, it's downright phenomenal. Steven said it was the kind of song he could listen to over and over. J.Lo said it was a testament to who Phillip is as an artist and called it one of the most poignant moments she's ever seen on the show. Randy said this is one of his best performances of the season. Finally, I feel like the judges and I are watching the same show. 5/5

Hollie Cavanagh would've written "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. Jimmy says that on a song like this, she really has to get into the words. Hollie herself says she knows she has to feel it. But I don't feel it. She oversings the song and loses the emotion behind the lyrics. Steven says to really feel that song, you have to have gone through those things. It's his way of saying she's too young for this song. J.Lo echoes Steven. Randy says the song wasn't the one he would've picked because a Raitt-style song isn't big enough vocally for her voice. I don't think Hollie did herself any favors with this performance. Loving the song and loving the lyrics isn't enough if you don't feel the song and feel the lyrics. 2/5

Joshua Ledet channels his inner James Brown and says he would've written "This Is A Man's World." Jimmy tells him to save his voice. He's got this. Y'all, he's so got this. There couldn't be a more perfect song for him if this song had actually been written for him. Is it Top 40 material? Maybe not. But the performance is great. And he looks fantastic. He earned his standing ovation tonight. Steven says it's the best performance in the history of the show. Ever. J.Lo said we saw passion and heart, except she said it in Spanish. Randy said that was the greatest song for Joshua and praised him for connecting to his songs on an emotional level. Again, it's not something we would ever hear on the radio, but, just like last week, I "got" Joshua. 5/5

To close the night, Jessica Sanchez chose "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" by Jennifer Holliday. Jimmy says if the audience and judges see what he saw, it could be "game over." I'm not seeing what Jimmy saw. She's screaming and growling the song and the performance is rather soulless. We saw footage of her singing this song in a pageant at 7 years old and this feels like an over-performed pageant number. It's certainly not the powerhouse performance LaKisha Jones gave in Season 6. Steven called it "over the top" and "another winning performance." J.Lo said that with a performance like that, there's nothing to say but called it a real moment. Randy said she's in it to win it and thought she "slayed it." This was another of Jessica's performances where there's no humility. She's been told so many times that she can sing that she's bought into her own hype. I didn't love it. 4/5

Joshua Ledet is tonight's winner. Hollie Cavanagh is the contestant I see leaving us tomorrow night.

I don't even feel like it's worth it to tally their scores out of ten because the first round was so abysmal compared to the second. The contestants were plagued by poor song choices and bad arrangements and I'm not sure how much of that is on them or is the fault of the producers who choose the themes each week or the vocal coaches who steer them toward certain songs. But song choice was key tonight. Song choice and emotion. Joshua and Phillip had emotion in spades in the second round tonight. Hollie, try as she did, just didn't connect to her song in either round.

Who do you think will be leaving us this week? Also, do you think the contestants chose the right songs?


Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.


...the show has reduced itself to this and I mostly blame the judges. The theme nights are very hit-and-miss. I think this year's talent has be somewhat wasted, which really is too bad.


It's interesting that I was thinking last night, just like Robert D, that Simon is horribly missed on this show. The judges are basically useless as mentors... they have reduced themselves to fans. Randy is generally the only one with the guts to attempt to critisize, but then backs off if the audience boos. Based on last night's performances, I'd guess it will be Hollie who packs it in tonight (but, her songs were definitely not "butchered"). The odd thing is all of these kids can sing, but I'm not pulling hard for any of them specifically, anymore. They are all good enough to do something significant in the industry... but the judges comments like "one of the best in America" and "best in the last 50 years" are a bit much and way to early to contend. And, I'm not duped by fake emotion that equates to the pained face of a Russian figure skater. Most of the duets and most guests are only moderately entertaining, equating to fill-time. I think it's dissapointing that the show has reduced itself to this and I mostly blame the judges.


(continued).... last night's spellbinding rendition of Damien Rice's Volcano! It was awseome!!! Mt wife and I had never heard that before and we were both blown away. We listned to the mp3 after the show and it sounded amazing!!! I hope people "get it" these next couple weeks, and vote for someone who has some originality as an artist, someone who is not a one-trick-pony, someone who has demonstrated versatility and musicianship and range as a singer and an artist!


Joshua is a very talented young man, but he has shown ZERO in the way of versatility throughout this competition. Every week, every song, its basically the same thing, the same "formula" every song. He'll bring the choir out, growl, scream, and the judges melt and cheer, give him his standing ovations, tell him how wonderful he is. Basically do what JUDGES are not supposed to do! Pick favorites and openly root and lobby for them. I can't help thinking that if Simon were still judging, he would have had some harsh things to say about Mr Ladet. Tell him, and the blind masses, that Joshua needs to show more versatility, and range and show he's not just this one-trick-pony he's proven himself to be every week, every song! Phillip is somone I can imagine writing, and making music that matters. Interesting music, different music, music with variety, and freshness that people will buy. He's anything BUT a one-trick-pony. He's sung songs from Usher to Genesis, to Billy Joel, to last night's spellbinding rendition of Damien Rice's volcano!!! Awesome!!! I hope America really "GETS IT" these next couple weeks!!!

Miranda wicker

@Tim--she's not "my" Hollie. I pan her just as often as I pan Jessica. @Terrie--I think you bring up an interesting point about the songs. I think that for some of them, it's not that we're complacent with the originals. It's that we love them so much as they are that unless something really amazing is done with them, we're biased against what basically amounts to karaoke. @meg816--I totally agree with you that the last two performances were self-indulgent. (And I agree with whomever said they both growl.) The difference is that Joshua seems genuinely humble and shocked that people like him this much. Jessica's so confident it's coming off as cocky and arrogant.


Again, I still don't understand your harshness with Jessica. Could be because she's way better than your Hollie, eh?


Jessica's second performance was a bit better than her first. I still feel she is WAYYYYYYYYY over confident and over sings a lot. She's getting to where she screams as well........ I feel it's between Phillip, Joshua, and Jessica and I think Hollie goes home this week...........I will be shocked if it is any different...........


Hollie, unfortunately, butchered bother her songs.........especially "I can't make you love me" ..that arrangement pretty much sucked and was more up tempo than the original...........she should definitely be leaving tomorrow night.......... I really didn't care for the duets.........they seem forced. Maybe if the songs were actually duet songs it may have played out differently. I'm sorry but I liked Juliet Simms from The Voice version of "This is a man's world" better than Joshua's. I wish he could get through one week WITHOUT screaming!!!!!!!!!!!! I do, however, give Joshua kudos for the emotion he put into it. One last thought.......Do any of you think we, as the audience, have become so complacent with the original versions of songs that we find it hard to like another rendition??


Honestly, I respect most of your opinions, but I think that Joshua "growls" everyone of his songs. Is he good? Yes, but at the end of the day, Jessica is the better "singer", and let's not forget that this is a singing competition. Jessica also has the most buzz around her name and she is the most commercial out of all of them, she will win, plain and simple. American Idol Winner 2012: Jessica Sanchez.


(continued) more imperfect performance of man's world by juliet simms on the voice that I found to be much more emotional and vulnerable which made it more powerful. and Jessica, well honestly i think that anyone who has her type of big voice is gonna sing that song good at this point so someone singing it doesn't impress me anymore and her performance of it standing still and stiff like that (sorry if it was the show who made her perform it that way) really rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. Phillips second performance last night just reinforced for me why i love him so much. I was legit like hypnotized by it and that has happened to me multiple times with him (like with his usher performance) and its what i love. Yes he is a good looking guy but that's not what it is about him its the quality of his voice and the emotions his voice evokes. ok i'll stop now lol.

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