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.

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