Final three perform

The contestants will sing three songs each tonight, and there will be three homecoming segments. The first round is judges choice, second round contestant choice, and the third round Jimmy’s choice. I’m curious about Jimmy’s picks more than anything else. He picked some wonky songs for the kids last year, not so much bad songs but songs that didn’t have the kind of dynamic range to show the contestants off.

My hope is that Phil gets more Joe Cocker or maybe some Springsteen, Jessica gets a strong power rock melody, and Joshua gets some Bayou music to sing. I’m 49 years old, though. I’m sure they can find good songs that I don’t know, which are newer than the ones I want to hear. Speaking of what I want to hear:

Terry’s Wish List:

Phil, “Delta Lady” (Leon Russell/Joe Cocker), “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen), “Save Me”(Dave Matthews)

Joshua,“Brother John” (Neville Brothers), “Stand Tall” (Burton Cummings), “Smoking Gun” (Robert Cray)

Jessica,“The Warrior” (Scandal), “Cryin’” (Aerosmith), “It’s In His Kiss” (Shirrells)

They won’t do any of those songs, of course, but I have my dreams. Let’s have it, kiddies…

The Singers, the Songs:

Joshua, “I’d Rather Be Blind” (Etta James)

Josh didn’t have his in-ears, and he wasn’t quite as on the tuning fork as he usually is. Cause and effect…. I didn’t think much of the song choice, honestly. There wasn’t much for Josh to do with the melody in a minute and a half. It keeps repeating itself, and what made it cool for Etta James was that she had several minutes to work it where she wanted to take it. He tried to mix it up some, before the inevitable blow-off at the end that we’ve come to expect, and I liked what he tried to do. I expect the studio version to be a lot more enjoyable, since it won’t limited to a minute and a half. Josh will have the time to really develop the song.

Aside: I’m switching up the grading. Tonight I’m splitting it up into a few categories: Song (will the voters like the song?), sung (did the contestant sing it well?), blue (was it emotional?) everybodyknowsone (was it memorable?) and an overall grade. I’ll use 1-100, with 90 being an A, 80 a B, 70 a C, and so on. Josh’s grade:

Song- 78 (not much for Josh to work with)

Sung- 92 (pitch issues only bad thing)

Blue- 84 (not as emotional as he usually is)

EBKO- 77 (nobody is going to remember this by the end of the commercial break)

Grade- 83 (B+)

Jessica, “My All” (Mariah Carey)

Jessie is more of a copycat protégée than an artist right now, but before we damm her too much keep in mind who she’s copying. It’s not easy to find the real Jessie in there with all the imitating, but one thing that I think is a signature Jessie move is where she goes with her really low notes. It’s not just the Boris and Natashia moose and squirrel tone; it’s the look she gets on her face. The kid’s only 16 so she gets no credit (or blame) for showing emotions in her face like an adult would, but think about how that face is going to look when she’s grown up. She has an amazingly fierce, expressive, charismatic face, and people are going to believe everything she sings once she gets old enough that Randy and Jimmy can’t keep telling her she’s too young to have any feelings.

Song- 88 (really good song, though not perfect for Jessica)

Sung- 86 (too copycat, Jessie changed her tone to copy Mariah)

Blue- 80 (her emotions are mostly about her need to sing good)

EBKO- 85 (such a good song so sort of memorable)

Grade- 85 (B+)

Phil, “Begging”(Madcon)

First of all, just to be clear: Phil doesn’t have a barn burner of a voice, and it did cause some slippage and weakness on the occapella intro. That said, though, Phil thrashed his way to a new level on this song. He was everything that is good about his game, and he left the bad notes and almost all of the vocal weakness behind him. If he sings like this all night I’m going to have to burn everything I ever said about him. This was a moment. Huge props to Steven for picking a perfect song, too.

Song- 100

Sung- 98

Blue- 99

EBKO- 100

Grade- 99 (A)

Lee Dewyze has ten times the voice that Phil does, but Phil would have blown him off the stage with this one. Lee doesn’t have anywhere near the rhythm sense Phil does, or the projected soulful emotions that come off of the kid just about every time. I’ll bring in another grading system, from boxing. Round one goes to Phil convincingly:

Phil- 10

Jessica- 8

Josh- 7

Joshua, “Imagine”(John Lennon)

Hometown visit…..Did you hear his Dad preaching? Now I know where the huge voice comes from….Josh is a fairly shy person, I think, and I like that about him. He doesn’t seem to take himself seriously, and he was more “is this real?” than “Look at MEEEEEE!!!!” in his hometown visit. The most telling moment was when he ran screaming to (apparently) one of his best friends, and bear hugged her like he hadn’t seen her since he went to ‘Nam or something. She was screaming just as loud as he was.

Josh has done more with a song several times, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed him as much as on this song. I pretended he was Johnny Mathis covering John Lennon, and the rest fell right into place. His octave jump made my spine tingle, and he picked perfect melodies all the way through to deliver not just a powerful vocal, but an emotionally thrilling, album worthy performance.

Song- 100 (are you kidding? One of the best songs ever)

Sung- 100 (amazing cover, amazing interpretation)

Blue- 94 (Josh ain’t Lennon emotionally, but he brought it hard and left it all out there)

EBKO- 99 (Not quite the revelation Phil’s performance was, but close)

Grade- 98 (A)

Jessica, “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” (Aerosmith)

Hometown visit….Is there anything more ostentatious than a stretch Escalade? That thing was 50 freaking feet long. Good luck parallel parking. Unlike Josh; Jessica’s been in this world for awhile, with her experiences in other talent competitions. She was less “is this real?” and more “I can get used to this”. It was cool to see the Midway. The last time I saw the Midway was in 1987, I think. I was driving a forklift on the flight deck of the USS Camden, somewhere in the middle of thePacific Ocean. Memories…

Remember what I said about Josh on “Imagine”? Jessie did the same thing, “covering” a song by a very different artist and making it her own song. She sang beautifully, as she always does, and while she has had maybe more impressive vocals, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed her more than on this song. Josh had the octave jump, Jessie had the last verse sudden soft dynamic move.

Song- 100 (are you kidding? one of the best songs ever)

Sung- 100 (Amazing cover, amazing interpretation)

Blue- 94 (Jessie ain’t Steven, but she owned every note of the song)

EBKO- 99 (not quite the revelation Phil’s performance was, but close)

Grade- 98 (A)

Jessie and Josh both did something I really wish they had all done several weeks ago: They both picked an iconic rock song, and covered it like an established artist in their style would cover it. They paid respect to the original version, even as they created their own version. Idol doesn’t get much better than this.

Phil, “Disease”(Matchbox 20)

Hometown visit…..I didn’t mention this before, because at the time I didn’t know it, but Phil’s “The Letter” arrangement from a couple of weeks ago came from Leon Russell and Joe Cocker’s version; released in 1970. Their version was the cover music for Phil’s hometown visit…. Phil’s a fairly shy kid too, isn’t he? The whole meeting the family thing is weird with so many cameras lurking, and the family didn’t seem all that comfortable around it. I’m sure they went nuts, and I mean nuts once the cameras left. That is one huge family.

Joshua was “is this real?”….Jessica was “I can get used to this”…. Phil was “dam, this is real, ain’t it?” I was charmed, and warmed, by all three of them.

Phil’s been really good for about five performances in a row now, ever since his messy CCR song early last week. Is it possible that he’s just feeling better, after several weeks of feeling under the weather? His voice isn’t ever going to be Idol strong, but it’s clearly stronger now than it has been for several weeks. He was in tune again, and when Phil is in tune he is really fun to listen to. I really like M20, but this song isn’t really one of their most dynamice songs. It’s more of a mood song, an atmospheric interlude song. For Phil, it was a nice change of pace in between his moment – and hopefully another moment to end the night.

Song- 87 (mood piece, not an iconic anthem)

Sung- 96 (well performed, outstanding presentation)

Blue- 92 (set the mood nicely)

EBKO- 88 (won’t be memorable on a night like this, but won’t be negatively memorable either)

Grade- 91 (A-)

Round 2 goes to Jessie and Josh, just a smidge over Phil. All three of them picked their songs well, though Phil’s choice wasn’t quite as inspired as the others. Boxing grades:

Jessica- 10

Joshua- 10

Phil- 9

Joshua, “No More Drama” (Mary J. Blige)

Baseball all star game 1989, Bo Jackson comes to the plate to start it off and hits the ball 460 feet, to the top of the grassy area behind center field in Kansas City. The other all stars see where the ball lands and at first they just stare in wonder, in amazement -then they go nuts, high fiving each other and swarming Bo at the plate after he runs around the bases. That was Josh on this song. Josh may or may not win, but he’s an Idol all star who just hit this song to the top of the grassy area, well beyond the limits that Idol demands of their contestants. Was it emotional? Who cares? He swung as hard as he can at the song, and he got all of it. Not an emotional moment, but a vocally athletic moment. Even Adam Lambert would be proud of this one.

Song- 94 (could have been a train wreck in weaker hands)

Sung- 100 (only because I can’t go higher)

Blue- 93 (competitive emotions only, I doubt seriously that Josh knew the song three days ago. Think of an Olympic figure skater pulling off a quad axle with the Russian judges glaring at him)

EBKO- 100 (gonna be replayed for years by those who replay Idol songs)

Grade- 98 (A)

Jimmy’s pick was dangerous, but Josh made him look like a genius.

Jessica, “I’ll Be There” (Jackson 5)

Uh oh.

First of all, Michael Jackson songs are death to Idols, even Idols as good as Jessica. Second, everyone knows exactly how these songs go, all the way to the smallest inflections and passing notes. Third (remember second):

Jessica made three bad melodic decisions. The first one was to go low on the first bridge. That sounded kind of weak and out of place, even though she hit the notes perfectly in her lower range. The second one was to go all the way up to the root note instead of hitting the minor seven note on the second “I’ll be the….air” passage. The voters had to cringe when she did that, even though her note was pure. That’s just not how the song goes. The third one was the “just call my name” passage. She went straight down instead of running down…. Instead of “just call my na-a-a-ame” she did “just call my na-ame”. There was another one, not as important as the others; the set up right before the first “I’ll be thea-air”,where she didn’t go up where she needed to go. She could have gone high, and she should have gone high.

I’ve been watching the show since season seven, and I can’t count the number of previously safe singers who were suddenly dumped because they sang a song that everyone knows perfectly -without the signature notes they expect to hear. Jessica sang great, and she wasn’t out of tune – but she didn’t sing the right notes. She is suddenly in big trouble. Josh and Phil are destroying their songs tonight, so the voters are going to have to look for any sign of weakness. Jessie might have given them an out.

Song- 91 (hard song; but if done perfectly it could have been a moment)

Sung- 81 (sung really well, just not well enough for this level of the competition. Hard to ignore signature notes that weren’t there)

Blue- 87 (emotionally just fine, but not much emotion to draw on)

EBKO- 79 (Hard to say, but if Jessie gets dumped it’s going to be polarizing)

Grade- 84 (B+)

Keep in mind that I’m really nitpicking. These kids are all so good that it’s going to take some serious nitpicking to separate them. Jessie sang the song really well – for a top 5 performance. It’s top 3 now, and she is up against some stiff competition. It might not be enough.

Phil, “We’ve Got Tonight” (Bob Seger)

Not all songs are aimed at me. Phil wasn’t vocally impressive, but he probably erased that 1% of doubt about making the finale with this song. He was vulnerable, open, and knee buckling sexy. His soft little “why don’t you stay” at the end was ethereal. In its own way his last song might have been even better than his other two songs, which I thought were fantastic.

Phil didn’t just have a good night tonight. He owned the night, against probably the best Idol final three ever. Had you told me that Phil would own it tonight I would have laughed at you until my sides split, but that’s exactly what he did. Who was that joker who kept telling us about the naked emperor? Phil got his last song moment. Not for me so much (I liked it), but for the girls who love him (they loved it).

Song- 97 ( Phil doesn’t really have the voice to compare to Seger, but how can I dun it when he did it to such good effect?)

Sung- 98 (made it his own)

Blue- 100 (Hearts splatting all over the country)

EBKO- 100 (see above, about those splattering hearts)

Grade- 99 (A)

Round three goes to Phil, with Josh a bit behind and Jessie a bit below Josh:

Phil 10

Josh 9

Jessica 8

Final boxing scorecard:

Phil 29

Josh 27

Jessica 26

 

Safe to in Danger:

Phil is going to be one of the finalists unless something really weird happens. I’d call the odds as of now:

Phil: 98%

Josh: 57%

Jessica: 45%

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