‘American Idol’ top 5 review: Hollie Cavanagh, Joshua Ledet make magic

How did they do?

There was a little bit of everything happening on “American Idol” Wednesday night — from R&B to rock to country to duets. There was some music from the 1960s (and plenty of it), and there was also a little bit of today mixed in courtesy of Leona Lewis.

Unlike some of Randy Jackson’s criticisms, let’s not waste any time when it comes to talking about what matters here — the top 5!

The 1960s round

Hollie Cavanagh, “River Deep, Mountain High” – Did anyone tell Hollie that Pia Toscano completely nailed this performance last season? Despite having a throng of backup singers following her around like they were a musical posse, it didn’t keep Hollie from suffering from the weight of the comparison.

If we can ignore this (as hard as it is to do so), Hollie actually did give a pretty nice performance here. She is starting to finally become more comfortable on stage, even though we do wish that she still smiled more and gave the impression that she is having a really great time on stage.

Phillip Phillips, “The Letter” – Phillip seems to be so afraid of stepping out of his box at this point, you can almost predict almost every element of his performance before he comes on stage — from the guitar to the saxophone players to the way in which he crunches up his face when he sings.

Does that mean that his performance was bad? Not entirely. While Lee DeWyze had a bit more fun with the song in season 9, it was one of Phillip’s better-tuned vocals in recent weeks. We also have a feeling that Phillip is one of those performers who is probably more electric live than on television.

Skylar Laine, “Fortunate Son” – When it comes to song choice, we really weren’t a fan of this song. It didn’t give much for Skylar to do during the verses, though we also put some of the blame here on “Idol” itself. Why make a modern country singer have to try and tackle a song from the 1960s? Something does not quite mesh.

On the positive side, Skylar really did everything she could to rock out the song and make it appear current, fun, and more country than the original CCR song.

Jessica Sanchez, “Proud Mary” – This is a song that has been covered more than just about any other in music, and since “Idol” loves covering songs that has been performed a million times already this song choice shouldn’t come as a surprise.

What we were surprised about here was Randy saying that since Jessica wasn’t Tina Turner, she couldn’t really do the song justice. Was she as great as the original? Probably not, but she was pretty darn fantastic and was easily the best of this round after the first four performances.

Joshua Ledet, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” – There may not be a group more perfect for Joshua to cover than the Temptations, and it’s not even close to being an understatement to say that he completely slayed this.

Could you complain that Joshua didn’t change up the song at all? Sure, but you would be one of those people who mostly wants to see change for change’s sake. We boogied more during this performance than we have boogied in weeks, and we can’t imagine how much fun it must have been to be one of the members of the audience during this.

British music round

Hollie Cavanagh, “Bleeding Love” – We don’t know where this Hollie has been all season … but this sensational. Not only was this Hollie’s best performance of the season, but it may be in the top ten of the entire season. It was not only a strong vocal, but there was so much emotion and vulnerability present.

Of course, with our reaction we assumed the judges to hate it — but they loved it! Our favorite moment of the critique? Randy saying that he had one more thing to say, only for Jennifer Lopez to say something instead.

Phillip Phillips, “Time of the Season” – In this week’s edition of the judges being too nice to Phillip, nobody bothered to point out how our guitar hero was flat on some of his high notes during the chorus of the song. While it was nice to see Phillip take a cue from the judges and actually sing some of the melody, there were some problems that were still present throughout.

The real problem Phillip has on this season is that he is ultimately a musician on a show full of big singers — and only getting two minutes to perform benefits people who rely only on their vocals.

Skylar Laine, “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” – Skylar was begging for us to believe her during most of this performance, and after listening to it we admit that we do. She was convicted when it came to singing the song, which actually reminded us of an earlier time period (the 1950s).

The only problem that we have with this performance is that this may not be something that viewers remember at the end of the show — at least compared to some of her other performances from the past.

Jessica Sanchez, “You Are So Beautiful” – Jimmy Iovine had a great note for Jessica this week to not make this performance too pretty, mostly because it would end up washing out the entire performance. With that in mind, a flawed (and in many ways flawless) performance was designed.

There are not many vocals that come across as stellar as this one — unlike some of Jessica’s past performances, it was soft, soulful, and wonderfully-conceived. Well done all around here!

Joshua Ledet, “To Love Somebody” – Overall, the British round may be overall one of the best sequences of songs by the contestants that we’ve heard all season. Like Jessica, Joshua dialed back the start of this performance — but then took us on a tear-jerking trip to funkytown with some spectacular runs and high notes.

We’re still not sure if Joshua is going to win this entire season, but it’s hard to argue against him deserving it. He has yet to have a bad performance, and he literally pours all of his soul (and his voice) into every song that he does.

The group performances

Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” – Even the swaybots looked a little bit listless in the front row to this disjointed song. Both are great performers in their own right, but this was like putting a white tiger next to a lion and expecting them to automatically work well together since they’re both big cats. It doesn’t always work out that way. At least the two guys can say that this performance got progressively better, and Phillip putting the moves on Joshua at the end may be one of the funniest things we’ve ever seen during a performance (even though it probably destroyed the aesthetic of the piece).

Hollie Cavanagh, Skylar Laine, and Jessica Sanchez, “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” – While this was a fun performance, Randy is right about the arrangement — it really felt like someone left out a few parts here and there.

While Phillip and Joshua attempted to play up the “bromance” angle, these three really seemed to just operate under the objective of having as much fun as possible. If their solo careers don’t work out, we could see them being a fun three-piece girl band that brings a little bit of everything to the table.

What was your favorite performance on the night, and who do you think is in the most danger of going home? We’re still predicting that Hollie could leave Thursday based on history, but we also think that Joshua and Jessica are really the only person who did enough to keep themselves safe from going home on the evening.

Be sure to answer either with a comment or in the poll below!

Photo: Fox

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