‘American Idol’ top 4 review: Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips step it up

Who stood out?

At this point on “American Idol,” we generally have a pretty good idea what we are going to get. Hollie Cavanagh is on the rise, Phillip Phillips is on the way down, and Joshua Ledet is the likely winner.

However, all of that changed Wednesday when Hollie struggled, Phillip had his best performance in weeks, and Joshua Ledet ate everyone’s lunch, dinner, and desert with a performance of a James Brown hit that is one of the best things we’ve ever heard on this show.

The California round

Phillip Phillips, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” – Joined by his best friend the Female Sax Player, Phillip (after hilariously admitting that his “Time of the Season” was “pretty rough”) came out to a song that Casey Abrams did a great job with last year in “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.”

However, if you go back and compare this performance to what we saw from Casey, you’ll realize that he really just isn’t up to snuff anymore. Once again, though, the judges poured kind words upon him — even though Phillip himself pretty much admitted that he made a mistake with the lyrics during the song.

Hollie Cavanagh, “Faithfully” – It’s crazy to look at who Hollie was last season, who she was going into the live shows, and who she is now. She’s easily the darkhorse of the competition, and in a few years she could be a big star if she learns some more about performing on stage.

While we don’t necessarily think that Journey’s “Faithfully” was necessarily her best song of the entire season, there were some nice moments in it — including a nice take on the end of the song where the vocals lift up.

Joshua Ledet, “You Raise Me Up” – Yes, we have heard this song about a million times on other reality shows, and it’s sad that we know almost all of the words to it without ever actually listening to the original song on any sort of regular basis.

The thing that we are unsure about when it comes to Joshua is just whether or not doing so many of these ballads end up blending together to voters at home.

Jessica Sanchez, “Steal Away” – The fact that they referenced Jessica’s singing history without mentioning “America’s Got Talent” is pretty hilarious.  The way that “Idol” hides her past makes it almost into some sort of dirty little secret.

The truth about Jessica is that she is a great singer, and while we still don’t understand all of her older song choices, we do love that this song showed off more of that earthy growl than we have seen out of Jessica in quite some time.

The duets

Phillip Phillips and Joshua, “This Love” – Didn’t anyone listen to their duet last time? These two work well individually, but not together — it’s a bit like putting a banana on a bowl of shrimp and calling it gourmet.

Sometimes, we wonder whether or not we are watching the same show as the brainwashed and/or crazy judges.

Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh, “Eternal Flame” – Vocally, we thought that this duet actually was a far better performance than Randy Jackson gave the two cred for. At the same time, who gave two teenage girls this song to perform? We will never understand why “Idol” takes young, hip singers and then forces them to take on songs that are dated and older than the people singing them.

We know that there was an interlude in here that included a fifteen-minute pitch for “Rock of Ages,” but outside of the ridiculous fake-out proposal with Ryan Seacrest that was likely planned out in advance, there isn’t really anything worth talking about in here.

Moving on…

Songs that the “Idols” wish they wrote

Phillip Phillips, “Volcano” – We’ve been hard on Phillip for weeks, but we’ll be honest here — “Volcano” was one of the few songs this week that we really weren’t familiar with, and it benefited Phillip tremendously. This was not only his best performance of the night, but it may be his best performance of the entire live shows. (It’s also in our top ten for the season.)

Of course, Phillip haters are probably going to be upset about this, but this is the sort of performance that will stay with you for a while. Can you say “final three”? We can.

Hollie Cavanagh, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” – We wish that Hollie had not chosen a song that was about someone desperately hoping to be loved. Why? The entire performance came across as a bit more desperate than we would have liked.

The issue here is that Hollie is a singer with a booming voice, and she went with something soft at this stage in the competition that really plays into her weaknesses rather than her strengths. While Phillip was brilliant in playing to his strengths, Hollie still has plenty to work on.

Joshua Ledet, “This Is a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” – While this song has also been teetering close to overkill on singing shows lately, it was a much smarter song choice than what Hollie did. Not only did it play into some of Joshua’s strengths, but it also brought a different dimension to his catalog on the show — which has been mostly either ballads or uptempo numbers.

There was a bit of growl thrown in here, and Mr. Standing Ovation ended up getting another one. As a matter of fact, J.Lo looked as though she wanted to leap over the table and kiss the man’s feet. It’s another moment for a guy with a whole treasure chest full of them.

Jessica Sanchez, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” – Following Joshua tearing down the entire building, Jessica had a challenge here — and she lived up to it vocally with the hit from “Dreamgirls” that is pretty much every singer’s dream song.

We have to say that Jessica completely nailed the song, even though we were so enthused by Joshua’s performance we could hardly even compute most of it. Ultimately, this was an incredible second half of the show, featuring three of the best performances of the season. (With that, Hollie definitely seems to be in big trouble.)

Who was your favorite from this show, and do you think Joshua and Phillip had some major moments over the course of the night?

Photo: Fox

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