Everything has returned to normal on the Idol stage (including Ryan's skin color) and tonight, Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band will be mentoring the finalists as they tackle British pop and the '60s, because Bruce Springsteen was on vacation/too busy/too rich/not interested in participating.
Steven, so excited about the job, brought out his finest purple turban and matching blazer for the occasion. He's ready to rock! And so are we. Let's begin.
Song: "River Deep Mountain High"
Stevenism: "You don't care what these judges think, screw them, who are they anyway?"
Hollie is always one note away from a complete and utter catastrophe, so naturally, I was nervous about this performance. But you know what? It was actually quite good! We can all agree that she's not the best singer in the competition, but you'd never know it from that song. She loosened up and was prancing across the stage like a seasoned pro. "It was a different type of Hollie out there tonight. I really felt the energy," says J. Lo.
Song: "The Letter"
Stevenism: "This is not the Miss America Pageant."
If someone were to win an award for being the most consistent performer, Phillip would take it in a landslide. But in some aspects, it's his consistency that make his performances (and outfits) feel so mundane week after week. Once again, he was passionate and his rendition was great, but nothing about it was exciting or unexpected. I've been Phillip's biggest fan from the get go (both physically and otherwise), but I just wish he would push the envelope more. However, the judges loved it. "You made it new for me. I loved it dude," says Randy.
Song: "Fortunate Son"
Stevenism: "I'm not sure about that groove."
Loving that Skylar changed up the look tonight: darker hair, sparkly cowboy boots, etc. One thing I've come to learn about her is that no matter what she's singing, she sells it. We never would have known this wasn't her original song choice by how emphatically she performed. This was a classic spitfire Skylar display and I really enjoyed watching her. "I particularly love it when you 'boot scoot' out there. It was just fabulous," says Steven.
Joshua and Phillip sing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." Joshua screams, Phillips croons, Joshua swats away Phillip's attempt at an embrace. An awkward moment is had by all.
Song: "Proud Mary"
Stevenism: "Growing up in bar bands, it was one of those songs that you had to do. So we all hate it."
Based on her track record, upbeat songs don't usually pan out well for Jessica. But this one was definitely an exception. She was able to showcase both her vocals and her ability to maneuver the huge stage while singing. Jessica was incredibly talented from the beginning, but this performance is evidence that she's improved more than we probably realize. J. Lo and Steven loved it. Randy did not. "The performance was OK for me. It didn't really quite sit with me," he says.
Song: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
Stevenism: "This is on tape now."
From the second he sang the first few words of the song ("I know you want to leave me!") we knew we were in for one of Joshua's best showings yet. And the remainder of the performance did not disappoint. It might have been more fun if he put a more unique spin on the song, but aside from that, everything about it was on point. "You've got to be one of the top two best Idols of all time," says Steven, in his boldest statement to date.
Song: "Bleeding Love"
Stevenism: "Keep it intimate."
This song was bound to be a make-it-or-break-it for Hollie (as all songs are for her), but I have to admit — she surprised me once again. Her pared-down version of the Leona Lewis original was fresh and unique, and she sang it beautifully. I kept waiting for a weak moment, but there really wasn't one. "You've been the dark horse all season," says Randy. "To me, you're two for two tonight and that was unbelievable."
Song: Time of the Season
Stevenism: "It might scare people."
When Phillip prefaces a song by saying it's going to be "sexy," that leads me to believe he'll be making a porno with his guitar on stage. Much to my dismay, that did not happen. But on the bright side, we got a brand new type of performance from Phillip. I don't think he hit every note perfectly (in fact, most of it was pretty pitchy), but I'm thrilled he went with a song that showed his mellow, softer side. "I'm glad you chose that song... you sang it really well," says Steven. The judges don't seem particularly enthused about the performance, but they don't also seem to be in the business of critiquing anyone tonight.
Skylar, Hollie and Jessica sing "(You're Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher." They sounded nice and in sync and all of that. There wasn't one specific standout. Girl power!
Song: "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"
There was nothing lacking about Skylar's vocal performance, but there also wasn't anything that made it especially imrpessive for me. However, the judges were all blown away. But they've also been blown away by everything tonight. So... yeah. "You're winning over the hearts of America as we speak," says J. Lo.
Song: "You Are So Beautiful"
Stevenism: "[Jimmy] was just an engineer. And by the way, he slept most of the time."
Jessica's vocal range is undeniable, and once again, we saw that in her rendition of this song. On one hand, I might categorize the performance as sleepy, but at the same time, it was essentially flawless. "Your talent level is unbelievable, and if you can continue to tap into the feeling like you did there? Dude you are off to the races," says Randy.
Song: "To Love Somebody"
Stevenism: "Howdoyadodat? You could not do dat."
Ok here's my conclusion: Joshua must have a serious case of lover's angst, because any time there is a song that involves loving someone/something in some way, he nails it. He gets a tortured, damaged look in his eyes that makes his delivery even more authentic. Such was the case with this song — a song he had never heard before, mind you. There were points where it sounded like screaming, but I guess that's his thing. And it earned him a standing O from the judges. "I think you're one of the best singers I've seen in 50 years," says J. Lo.
So that's it! Aside from Steven Van Zandt (the best Idol mentor ever) who was the night's MVP, in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Also, be sure to check out our interview with last week's casualty, Elise Testone.
- Steven Van Zandt