American Idol’s Top 3: A Fight for Second Place

Since the last time I wrote about American Idol, Hollie Cavanagh was rightfully eliminated, Joshua Ledet laid down one of the best performances of the season with “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” Jessica Sanchez revealed that she’s been growling since she was a tiny tyke, and Eventual Winner Phillip Phillips got one week closer to winning the whole damn thing.

Tonight’s Top 3 show features Jessica and Joshua in a battle for second place. So, who will be runner-up to Leesburg, Georgia’s own pawn show worker and resident heartthrob? Let’s get to the performances!

Joshua Ledet – “I’d Rather Go Blind” – Etta James
This is classic Randy Jackson: not even remembering the song title of the song he chose for Joshua. This is also classic Joshua Ledet: a velvety smooth church-infused R&B take on a retro-soul number. That carefree ease of Joshua’s is on full display here, as is his sharp fashion choice of a black blazer with a red rose accent.

Jessica Sanchez – “My All” – Mariah Carey
In this sleepy diva number, beautiful high notes dance with an incoherent lower register. With Jessica uncomfortably perched high above the stage, we’re left with a technically proficient and sweet lullaby wrapped in an ultimately cold performance. This song does Jessica no favors. Thanks a lot for picking this song, J.Lo! Sigh.

Phillip Phillips – “Beggin'” – The Four Seasons/Madcon
Does Phillip really need the pimp spot tonight? He’s already gonna win the whole thing, so why not spread the love? Anyhow, Phillip wisely starts the performance with only his own guitar for accompaniment, taking a page out of the Kris Allen handbook (On his season’s Top 3 night, Kris masterfully performed “Heartless” with just his guitar, vaulting him into the finale over Danny Gokey.) Phillip, however, is nowhere near as talented as my beloved Kris. Not even close. This is a smart song choice from Steven Tyler, as it features high energy with a melody right smack in the middle Phillip’s limited range.

Joshua Ledet – “Imagine” – John Lennon
I’m impressed by so much of Joshua’s restraint here, including the restraint of keeping a gospel choir out of the performance (too bad the backup singers pressed a bit too hard, though). Joshua’s over-singing affectations and saccharine weightiness of last week’s “You Raise Me Up” are nowhere to be seen. Good.

What Not To Wear (And Not To Sing)

Jessica Sanchez – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” – Aerosmith
Oh goodness gracious. Song choice, Jessica! You could have theoretically picked any song out there, and you choose this over-performed song? This Aerosmith tune has been performed on Idol six times before! SIX TIMES! If anything, you should have gone with another “Sweet Dreams” radio-ready pop tune or something more fierce! Anything else, really! And you were flat on that last note! And what the what was that Pocahontas-inspired pantsuit?! Where did Tommy Hilfiger go? Jessica, it’s time you start packing your bags and your unfortunate outfit… sigh.

Phillip Phillips – “Disease” – Matchbox 20
“Disease” may not have won Phillip any more votes, but his father’s proud tears in the hometown visit sure did. Here, Phillip shows off his strength as a musical ensemble performer. Strip Phillip of his guitar, and he becomes an awkward shuffler, but put him in the middle of a sax and bongo player, and he’s more at home. Regardless of his musical coherence, this performance just doesn’t do anything. It’s as bland as Phillip’s penchant for earth tones.

Joshua Ledet – “No More Drama” – Mary J. Blige
This is where we start to see just how and where Joshua might fit into today’s musical landscape. The raw emotion that oozes out of this performance is a quality that Joshua holds above and beyond his two competitors, and above anyone else this whole season (I see your approval in the audience, fallen Idols!), for that matter. And thank goodness he took that jacket off, those rhinestones were way distracting! DRAMA!

Jessica Sanchez – “I’ll Be There” – Jackson 5
Again, this vocal, while gorgeous and lilting, is not what Jessica needed tonight to propel her into the finale. Why, Jimmy, why?! I hate to agree with Randy, but she needed a showstopper akin to last week’s “And I Am Telling You.” A performance where she could have “blown the box” out of the song, or whatever nonsense Randy would babble. Where’s the dynamite? Where’s the emotional power? And while at no fault to Jessica, this is basically her second Mariah song of the night. Sigh.

Phillip Phillips – “We’ve Got Tonight” – Bob Seger
This stripped-down vocal is something we haven’t seen from Phillip before: actual singing. What started our reading as uncomfortable (stop rubbing your thigh and inadvertently turning on America’s voters!), eventually transformed into earnestness. The melody of this performance brought out a hidden, yet shaky, tenderness in Phillip. There could not have been a more perfect time to show off an actual vocal performance. So, good for Phillip. Shower him with the confetti right now, why don’t you, Nigel?

Ok, so Phillip Phillips has been slated to appear in next week’s finale since January. Who will join him after tonight’s performances? Jessica showed us nothing more than the pretty qualities of her voice, while Joshua kept the night moving through his diverse musical stylings. So thanks to Jessica’s mediocre song selections and lack of visible firepower, America will once again lose its chance to crown a female winner. Sigh.

Yet another WGWG (white guy with guitar) is not what America nor American Idol needs in its eleventh season.

Help us, Joshua Ledet. You’re our only hope.

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