American Idol Recap: The Top 4 Serenade California

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And not one Katy Perry song among them!

The premise last night was that each Idol would sing one song in tribute to California (if there was a reason for this tribute I missed it) and one song that they wished they had written. I like that approach because theoretically it's about craft and talent, as opposed to pure treacly "inspiration". I'm not sure it really worked out that way, but I could see the possibilities.

My big question for the first half, though, was: Where is Jimmy Iovine??? He didn't show up until the second round of songs, which sucked. Oh, sure, limit us to only one round with him…no fair!

 1. Phillip

California: Have You Ever Seen the Rain by CCR. This is not a singer's song, i.e. the saxophonist's part was more interesting than his vocals. I didn't think it was a strong way to start the night or his run for the finals.

Song He Wishes He Wrote: Volcano by Damien Rice. Now, THIS was a cool choice. I love Damien Rice, but I don't expect to see him on American Idol. He still sounded like Dave Matthews singing Damien Rice, but hey, that can be a good thing! I liked this a lot.

Bottom Line: So, I finally did a little Googling around to find out what the references to his health were about, and it turns out he's been battling kidney stones that are not passing on their own. He's already had some surgeries, and he needs to have another one, but is waiting until after the show. Um. Ouch! I think his talent, quirkiness and stalwart suffering are kind of an unbeatable combination for him.

2. Hollie

California: Faithfully by Journey. Wow, that took a LONG time to get going. She didn't have enough power on the low stuff to make it compelling. That song was way too much of a slow burn.

Song She Wishes She Wrote: I Can't Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt. I agree, I totally wish I wrote that song. And I've sung that song, and it's a heart-wrencher. To me it was clear that the Idol producers finally want Hollie off this show. They totally screwed her. What was up with the crappy long walk staging with only long shots...no close-ups on her face for the whole first half. They didn't let us see her emotion; they didn't let us connect with her until too late. It's true that her vocal wasn't as strong as it usually is because of the emotion. however, I think if she had been a guy, she might have been praised for that!

Bottom Line: They want her gone, and I think she has got to be gone this week.

3. Joshua

California: You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban. Well, first I wondered how this was Californian. I guess Josh is from California? I missed whatever connection they made. And I wish the artists had gone for songs that evoke California, not just that were performed by people from California. Like why not do Lights by Journey, instead of Faithfully? Anyway, back to Joshua: I wish I liked him, but I just don't. His approach to this song is one reason why. In this song, it is the lyrics that do the metaphorical raising…I believe the reason Josh Groban was able to have a hit with this song is because his vocal approach was strong, clear, simple and pure. The lyrics are over the top, but his vocals were not. The way Joshua attacked this just made it too much. At least for me.

Song He Wishes He Wrote: It's a Man's Man's Man's World by James Brown. Well, just when I made my mind made up about Joshua, he pulls out a pretty great performance. Although I'd still pick Juliet Simms's version on The Voice over this version, he did rock it. I loved it when he sang through gritted teeth…bringing the pent-up passion and tension to it. That's exactly the kind of dynamic approach he needs to bring to every song.

Bottom Line: I think Joshua is safe for sure. 

4. Jessica

California: Steal Away by Etta James. (Who, I guess, is also from California.) Here's my issue: She keeps singing these old soul songs, but I don't buy that she is one of those old soul people. It seems put on, particularly when contrasted with her pre-performance packages. I'd like to see her do something a little lighter or a little sweeter. 

Song She Wishes He Wrote: And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going from Dreamgirls. Oh ho hum. So tired of this song. She is technically great. And I believed her emotion. Jennifer totally called the one really weird thing abut the performance: She seemed rooted to the ground. Even so, I thought she did a really good job.

Bottom Line: I know some folks don't buy Jessica as the next diva, but she clearly did a better job than Hollie last night.

Duets:

Phillip and Joshua sang This Love by Maroon 5. Well, that was weird and awkward. And why are they smiling so gleefully through this song?

Jessica and Hollie sang Eternal Flame by the Bangles. Meh. Very pageant or karaoke.

The Top Four sang Waiting for a Girl Like You by Foreigner. Also meh. I think I even folded my laundry during this.

Bottom Line for the Bottom Two:

Should be: Hollie and Phillip with Hollie going home.

Will be: Hollie and Jessica with Hollie going home.

But what did you think?

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