Thursday, May 17, 2012

idol top 3: phil's got tonight babe -- please let him stay ...

You know, for being eleven seasons in, this show still has some staying power.  It still has the ability to impress you, to move you … and to stun the hell out of you when you least expect it.

Possibly never more so than the final performance last night, as Phil (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is who I want to win this season at this point) took a song that is nearly as old as I am … and knocked it to (reggie jackson voice) second f*cking base.

Here’s how I’d rate the nine performances last night, from worst to first …

* Josh, covering “Imagine” by John Lennon.  Hang on, I need to step away from the laptop for a minute.  (stevo taking 2/1000ths of a second to compose himself …) 

There are certain songs that no one should ever attempt to tackle, because the first effort, was so flawless, so perfect, that anything you do to said song, will only wind up looking weak, pathetic, and inferior.  And no song is that more true of, than “Imagine”.

Blake Lewis, my all-time favorite contestant on this show (although, to be fair, Phil is rapidly gaining on him), butchered this song in season six.  David “Asshat” Archuleta nearly made the ghost of John Lennon decapitate him with his embarrassing effort on this in season seven.

And last night?  Josh basically unzipped his pants and let it whiz on the greatest song a human being has even written and/or recorded.  The beauty of “Imagine” is its simplicity – it’s one man, at his piano, putting into words his idea of utopia.

What Josh did to this song?  Should infuriate anyone who gets what John Lennon meant when he composed this masterpiece.  Please, “Idol” contestants, and any singer anywhere for that matter?  Leave perfection alone.

Grade: F.

* Jessica, covering “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith.  I’ll give the girl this: she’s got balls of steel, to choose an Aerosmith song with its singer judging her.  Unfortunately, her performance was in the ballpark of “god awful”, and within a base of “shitty”.

Her vocal was underwhelming, the arrangement was a mess, and again, see my point regarding Josh’s abysmal effort on “Imagine” – some songs are so well known, so perfectly done the first time out, that attempting to “cover” or “reinvent” them, come off as pathetic.

Grade: D.

* Phil, covering “Beggin” by Madcon.  It was a perfectly acceptable cover.  I’m absolutely willing to pay $1.29 to listen to it again on iTunes.  But it was one of his weaker efforts this season, and didn’t come anywhere close to anything else performed last night.

(Have to admit up front: I argued five weeks ago that this was the deepest talent pool “Idol” has ever had for a top seven.  When Colton is your seventh best competitor?  When Skylar can’t get a homecoming?  Sick talent.  Sick.)

Grade: D+.  Put it this way – all three contestants had at least one god-awful effort last night.    And each of them had one epic performance.  How America judges their middling, average effort?  Determines who advances.

* Jessica, covering “My All” by Mariah Carey.  This was JLo’s choice for her, and I actually liked the performance.  I thought she did a perfectly acceptable job.  My problem with Jessica is this: how does she get better from here?

Yes, it’s a harsh criticism … but it’s a fair one.  Kelly Clarkson had superstar written all over her.  Ditto Carrie Underwood and Jordin Sparks.  David Cook is an acquired taste, but one worth acquiring.  Even Scottie, as much as I was not a fan, even Scottie you knew exactly who he was, and what he was going to aim for as an artist.

Jessica?  I have no clue.  She wants to be a diva-style singer … but I don’t think she has the voice to pull it off, as evidenced last night.  She’s not country, she’s not top 40 pop … still, this was a perfectly acceptable effort that, as Slezak pointed out in his quick hit summary, you’ll forget about 30 seconds from now.

Grade: C+.

* Josh, covering “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James.  In the interest of full disclosure, no contestant save for Katherine McPhee, has even driven me as bat shit crazy as Josh does.  He annoys the crap out of me.  But since I strive to be objective … this was a perfectly mediocre performance that I never want to hear again.

Grade: B-.

* Phil, covering Matchbox 20’s “Disease”.  I love Matchbox 20, but this was the wrong song to choose.  (This was Phil’s song choice).  If he wanted to do Matchbox 20 (which was a good call), he should have gone with “Unwell” or for a truly inspired choice, “Long Day”.  I fear this perfectly mediocre effort is what will send him home tonight.

Grade: B.

* Jessica, covering “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5.  A really solid effort that got overshadowed by the remaining two performances.  If you close your eyes and just listen to the performance, you’ll totally dig it.  If you actually watch the performance, you’ll just like it.  Not a good sign for The Sanchize’s long-term prospects to become the next great American recording artist this show launches.

Grade: B+.

* Josh, covering “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige.  There will be some who argue this was so over-the-top that it was unbearable.  And believe me – on first listen, I was one of you, right down to the “Jesus, he stripped the suit coat off AGAIN?!?!” portion of the performance.  Only, give it a second, a third, a fourth listen.  This was epically good.  I loved the over-the-top theatrics, I loved how he totally threw himself emotionally into the song.  And again, in the interest of full disclosure – the only “Idol” contestant to reach top four status I have ever hated more than Josh, is Katherine McPhee.  He nailed this, and earned a spot in the final.  Excellent effort.

Grade: A.

But the best performance of the night, the most unexpected performance of the night, got the pimp slot, to close the show down …

* Phil, covering “We’ve Got Tonight” by Bob Seger.  I have to admit, when Jimmy gave this as his choice to Phil, I cringed.  This song is not in Phil’s wheelhouse.  I had zero expectations entering it.

Sweet freaking Jesus.

If this is Phil’s final “Idol” moment, and I suspect it is, give the kid this – he went out on an epically high note, a top six of all time performance.  (I’d rate it sixth, behind Blake’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, Diana’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud”, JHud’s “Weekend in New England” (that somehow got her voted out, what the f*ck?!?!), Carrie’s “Alone”, and LaKisha’s “This Ain’t a Love Song” … and just ahead of Kris’ “Heartless” and David Cook’s “The World I Know”.)

I loved how he kept to the soft, subdued, almost whisper-like version the original was.  I loved how he avoided a huge finish, instead closing it out exactly as it should be – with an air of regret, of knowing the plea of the song is going to go unfulfilled.

And yeah, I totally loved how the eye shot at the 2:11 mark of the clip revealed he might be higher than a kite.  It’s called Visine kid.  You might want to invest in some.

Anyone my age-ish?  Has a connection to this song, and this is why, at least for me.  One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite shows.

Grade: A+.  Awesome effort I can’t stop replaying, and can’t wait to download on iTunes.  I just fear it’s not enough to get him through tonight to next week …

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