Tonight’s finale contestants are a study in opposites. A boy against a girl… A Caucasian against an “Amexipino”…A WGWG (white guy with guitar) and a Diva (Divette?)… Dave Matthews Jr. and Whitney Houston Jr… A growler and, well… a growler… Maybe the smallest voice to ever make the finale against one of the biggest… An “artist” and a “karaoke singer”… A post-grunge blue eyed soul/folk singer against a pure pop singer….In just about every way it’s a battle of opposites or near opposites. Just about the only thing they have in common beyond being carbon based is that they are on Idol.
Idol has had:
– A boy/girl matchup six times, with each gender winning three times.
– White versus non white three times, with the non white contestant winning two (David Cook won the battle of the Davids in season seven)
– WGWGs have made the finale six times, winning five times including the last four in a row.
– Divas have made the finale four times, winning three times but none since season six.
The best comparison to Phil-Phil and BeBeChez is probably Taylor Hicks versus Katherine McPhee in season five. Taylor won, becoming the first male to beat a female in the finale, even though Kat was considered the better singer. Kat had a similar reputation to Jessie; that of a great singer who didn’t really “feel” her songs. Taylorwasn’t so much an “artist” as he was an everyman who everyone thought was nice, fun and dynamic.
The Voice just completed its season, with a different voting system but a similar audience. They also had white versus non white, and male versus female. Pop versus rock. The non white male pop singer won over the white female rocker, in a mild upset.
Oh wait, they are singing tonight too, aren’t they? I guess that might make a difference, though I can’t see how unless the judges decide to shill for one or the other. I don’t expect it, honestly. They played favorites heavily towards Josh, but between Jessie and Phil they have been fairly neutral.
Three songs each tonight, including each of their respective first singles. Let’s have it, kiddies…
The Singers, the Songs:
Round One, Simon Fuller’s choice:
Jessica Sanchez, “I Have Nothing” (Whitney Houston)
Aside: It just occurred to me that the whole “Jessie doesn’t feel her songs” complaint is based almost one hundred percent on her age and the assumption that she is too young to feel her songs. Well, I’m almost fifty years old and I’ve been singing for decades. There are certainly songs that I feel emotional about, but in most cases what I feel is the need to sing it as well as I can.
A lead singer might feel a dozen songs, but that’s out of hundreds, if not thousands of songs a lead singer will sing over a long period of time, and the ones that are felt are ones the singer has been singing for a long time. I defy anyone to learn, memorize, block out and perform song after song, week after week like they do on Idol, and feel any of them. Phil is 21, so he is allowed to “feel” his songs, but Jessie is only 16, so how could she feel her songs? That’s the assumption. Am I right?
Jessie isn’t not feeling her songs because of some personal lack on her part. Jessie is feeling her songs as much as anyone would be feeling them under these conditions, and no more and no less than Phil feels his songs. The whole “Jessie isn’t feeling her songs” complaint, if you ask me, is rank prejudice and stereotyping based on her age. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before.
Did she sing her song great? This time she did. Her daring key change came off perfectly, and she didn’t miss a single note or rhythm. I’m pretty sick of this song since it’s been done to death on Idol, but Jessie nailed it. A-
Phil Phillips, “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King)
Phil had his eighth surgery this week for his kidney stones. His voice was really strong last week, but on this song he seemed to be missing some of his power. I won’t dun him for that, because he’s proven that he has at least a decent amount of power; enough for what he does, anyway. I liked his guitar picking, though he needs to be a little bit smoother to really have his guitar be a show-off part of his performances. He’ll get there. He had his signature style working, and while I didn’t much like the sleepy arrangement he hit what he was aiming for. A-
Round One Scorecard:
Even so far on my card, though the judges called it for Jessica after some thought.
The Jason Derulo song “Undefeated”, co-written by internet voters, was about what you would expect from a Song by Committee: all clichés and stock lines with a generic dance mix background. Good luck feeling that song, though teenagers will probably eat it up. It’s easily digestible, which is important. Big Macs sell. Broccoli? Not so much.
Round Two, Encore performance:
Jessica Sanchez, “The Prayer” (Celine Dion)
Not to beat the “feeling” thing to death, but I was surprised Jessie picked this one for her encore. My guess is that she “felt” it more than some of her other, more noteworthy performances. Unlike most of her performances, she didn’t just smile at the end. She looked to be completely under the spell of the song. Did she sing it well? Of course she sang it well. She’s a good singer. I noticed, on her first song, that her tone was a little bit raspy. The rasp was there again on this song, and I am pretty sure that those falsetto notes were a lot harder to get out than she made them look. It appears that both of our finalists are less than 100% tonight. That’s fair, and in a way more interesting than simply hearing them both at the top of their game. A-
Phil Phillips, “Movin’Out” (Billy Joel)
Phil seemed to hit his stride when they kicked it in, and his voice sounded somewhat stronger. This performance was vintage Phil, and as such it can be taken several different ways and get a grade anywhere between A+ and F; depending on whether you like what Phil does or not. I tried to imagine him first in a coffee house, just him and the guitar, and how that would play. My guess is that an open minded crowd would have loved it, with a few very high hipsters sitting in the back moaning “sooooo cooooool…….” while the sober bartender looked on nonplussed, wishing he was high so he could understand what the hell they saw in that weird arrangement of a classic song. Next I envisioned him at the Grammies, pulling it out as one of his already known originals. In that scenario he would get a big hand, with a few very high hipsters sitting in the back, moaning “sooooo coooool…..” while the sober, reformed old rockers in the crowd sat back, nonplussed, and mused; “dam, I miss weed……” A-
Round Two Scorecard:
Jessica 10 (20)
Phil 10 (20)
Still even on my card; judges were divided out loud, undecided under their breath.
Round Three, First Single:
Jessica Sanchez, “Change Nothing”
I’ve noticed that these “singles” almost always get a little bit butchered by the contestants the first time they sing them publically. Even Adam butchered his a little (who could blame him? “No Boundaries” sucked out loud), and the only one I can remember being done well was the epic Crystal Bowersox performance of “Up the Mountain” during the season 9 finale performance night. Jessie wasn’t immune, going flat several times on her high notes. From what I’ve heard in the past, she will have the song down pat and nail it by the time she has to perform it outside of the show. As far as the song itself, I kind of like it. I need to hear it a few times to figure out if I love it or not. B
I’m not sure what to say about the judges’ comments. They didn’t really hammer on Jessica, they hammered on the song. Based on Jessica’s comments at the end, it seems that she actually picked her own “single”. Did she? That would be a first, I think. I always thought Idol’s producers chose the singles. The facts (ma’am) are that the song is pretty good, but Jessica doesn’t have it down yet so she didn’t nail the high notes like she usually does.
Phil Phillips, “Home”
The first half of the song had me moaning “soooooo cooooool” (no, I’m not high)… I was getting into it, digging Phil channeling his inner Paul Simon and enjoying everything…. Then a marching band crossed the stage behind Phil. Seriously, I am not kidding. A freaking marching band marched across the stage in the middle of Phil’s song.
The marching band appearing out of nowhere, running across, and disappearing back into nowhere…. it reminded me of those streakers we used to see at sporting events and concerts back in the 1970’s. I was waiting for a bunch of British Bobbies (cops) to run by chasing after them, running around in circles, waving their batons and falling down and running into each other before leaving in a confused gaggle, loud voices fading away after they left our view. Phil turned around when they marched by, and I imagined him mouthing “WTF are you doing out here?” at them, but apparently he knew they were coming. Honestly, it was surreal. They did this on purpose?
I was, as the sober bartenders and old rockers were, nonplussed. I don’t wish I had some weed, I don’t smoke weed, but if I did I’d fire one up right now and watch that over and over several times. It was so weird…
I can’t grade something like this, other than to say either you loved it and it was a moment or you hated it and you want to go punch Phil in the face. I guess I’m in the middle, more confused than anything else. Hell, Paul Simon liked marching bands and he used them sometimes, so why not? B; with the caveat that this was in no way a B performance. It was somewhere between brilliant and horrifying, with little in the way of middle ground.
Round Three Scorecard:
Jessica 10 (30)
Phil 10 (30)
I scored them basically even tonight overall; if either had an edge it was Phil for getting a lot of love for his last song. Neither one of them had their best voice, so neither one of them had their best night. Someone should be fired for giving Jessica three ballads, but that’s been the theme all season: too many freaking ballads. Phil’s middle of the road style stood out in stark contrast, and probably made the competition even closer than it already was. I still think Jessica is going to win, but it’s something like 52-48 or 51-49, if not 50.2-49.8. It could go either way, and nothing will be the least bit surprising.
The final editing of their performances came up last, and I really noticed how tinny and raspy Jessica sounded tonight. I thought her edit might hurt her at first, but then I saw Phil’s edit. They didn’t do him any favors, showing weaker parts of all three of his performances. Honestly, they didn’t do either one of them justice with the final edit.
Who’s gonna win? Hell, I don’t know….. It’s going to be close. I picked Jessie before tonight, and while Phil won the night by a hair I don’t know if he moved the needle enough to change the outcome.