‘Idol’ Top 4 Recap: Hollie Hobbles, Joshua Raises Up
In her own sweet and adorable way, Hollie Cavanagh has clawed and kicked her way to "American Idol's" top four--bucking the odds, outlasting frontrunners like Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine, ruining office pools, and along the way establishing herself as Season 11's tiny Reinhartian warrior. Last week, in fact, she was so wonderfully in the zone, as Randy Jackson would say, she even managed to upstage Jessica Sanchez. But this week on "Idol," some of the fight seemed to leave Hollie's little warrior body. Joshua Ledet and Jessica experienced big moments with big songs that once again had the judges up on their feet (in case you'd lost count, that was the TWELFTH standing ovation for Joshua, and this latest one was undoubtedly deserved). And even more excitingly, Phillip Phillips--whose dreadful performances last week were so phoned-in, they may as well have been sponsored by Sprint--turned it all around and delivered what was arguably not only his finest performance of the season, but one of Season 11's best performances overall. But sadly for Hollie, she didn't quite do what she needed to do in order to break up what has long seemed to be this season's practically preordained final three.
"She's got to come from behind and do magnificent. She can't just do okay. No chance," warned tell-it-like-it-is advisor Jimmy Iovine. Hollie seemed to rise to Jimmy's challenge on her first song, but when she struggled through Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," that song's title unfortunately became prophetic. Hollie certainly couldn't make the judges love her, at least. Steven Tyler, who usually thinks everything is "beautiful" and "over-the-top," told her the Raitt performance "fell a little short," and Randy criticized it as "the wrong choice at the wrong time." With the finale only two weeks away, this definitely was the wrong time for Hollie to be receiving such rough critiques.
Hollie, along with the rest of the contestants, had two chances to impress this evening: first with a "California" song, then with a "Song I Wish I'd Written." (Or, in poor Hollie's case, a "Song I Wish I'd Sung Better.") All four singers were somewhat disappointing on their Cali tunes, of course avoiding any interesting or risky choices like Guns N' Roses, Jane's Addiction, or some West Coast hip-hop, and instead going with snoozy fare like, um, Josh Groban. But everyone except Hollie really stepped it up when they got the opportunity to perform songs that meant something to them personally. Maybe Hollie just should have wished she'd written a different song.
Here's how everyone did this Wednesday...
Phillip got the death spot, fueling my speculation that the "Idol" producers were hoping to railroad this seemingly unstoppable dude off the show to make way for their clearly hoped-for Joshua/Jessica finale. But based on how Phillip did this evening, the producers may not get their way. Phillip's Cali cover of "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" had some spunk that was missing from his lackluster performances last week (which, apparently, Phillip's brother told him were terrible--someone make Phillip's brother an "Idol" judge!). Sure, I could have done without a third Creedence Clearwater Revival song in just two weeks, and no, Phillip didn't get all the lyrics right--but hey, at least Phillip wasn't doing a Dave Matthews impression or crazy-eyed "Fat-Bottomed Girls" karaoke this time around. "You're living proof that the road to success is always under construction," Steven said in his usual babbling-Burger-King-commercial manner. Jennifer Lopez mentioned something about Phillip having "cottonmouth" (um, what?), but praised the performance, saying, "There's this Joe Cocker quality to you that I have not heard from you before." And Randy gave one of his usual at-first-it-was-rough-dawg-but-then-you-worked-it-out-and-it-was-great-by-the-end critiques. Not a bad start for Phillip, but maybe not enough to keep him out of trouble. But then...he did his second song.
Yes, then Phillip sang "Volcano" by Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice. It may have been a risk for him to do such a relatively obscure tune at such a crucial point in the season, and I was bracing myself to hear J.Lo slam him for being too "artsy," but even she had to admit that this was "one of the most beautiful, poignant moments a contestant has ever had." Eschewing his usual hokey jam-band shtick and fratty DMB copycattiness, and playing on a hushed, darkened stage with just a cellist and a female backup singer (who was no slouch herself), Phillip generated some real magic here. I had goosebumps (I refuse to call them "goosies"), I had chills...and I had visions of Phillip winning Season 11, as long as he keeps creating genuine, amazing moments like this one. "That was the kind of song I could listen to in headphones over and over," sighed Steven. "I don't think many contestants could have pulled that off. It's a real testament to who you are," said Jennifer. "Dude, that's one of your best performances of the whole season. Sometimes, the little simple statement has more volume to it," said an uncharacteristically wise Randy. Phillip REALLY seemed unstoppable, after this.