Just four (painfully long) months ago, Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet were nobodies. Today, they are still nobodies... to everyone who doesn't watch American Idol. But when they returned to their hometowns for the ever-popular "Hometown Heroes" episode of Idol, it was as if Jesus had been resurrected and descended upon Westlake/Leesburg/Chula Vista. Here's what the visits consisted of:
Joshua: Church! Police escorts! Dogs in tuxedos! Crawfish! Mardi Gras things!
Jessica: Helicopters! Cheesy radio hosts! A high school she didn't go to! Sailors!
Phillip: Nachos! Phillip tears(?)! Taxidermy! Dads with holsters!
Tonight, there will be three — count 'em, three! — rounds, and they will consist of the following:
Round 1: Song chosen by judges
Round 2: Song chosen by contestants
Round 3: Song chosen by Jimmy Iovine
Ding! Ding! Ding!
Etta James, "I'd Rather Be Blind"
We should first talk about Joshua's suit that was assembled with felt, by first grader, using a needle and thread. It's a good thing his stylist decided to dress it up with the bling-bling rapper watch, which is sooo totally in tune with Joshua's brand. At this point, we've been hearing the contestants for so long, it's hard to differentiate this performance from any of his other strong performances. With that being said, he was great.
Steven: "Out of 70,000, there's only one American Idol. And you sang like that one tonight."
Mariah Carey, "My All"
When I found out that Jessica would be singing Mariah, I was kind of like, "Duh, we've heard this before." But as it turns out, "My All" showed us something completely different from her. It was powerful, though not in her usual belting-it-out kind of way. Her performance was calm and scaled back. I'm not sure that every note was perfect, but I liked that it was unexpected.
Randy: "I think it's one of the best times a Mariah song has ever been performed on TV."
Some of my favorite Phillip moments are those that start out slow and mellow, and all of a sudden break out into a wild, high-energy performance. This was definitely one of them. Sure, it was the same button-down/guitar/bulging forehead-vein situation, but there was something about this performance that felt special. Props to the judges for a superb song choice.
J. Lo: "You catch a groove in a song that is all yours and you just ride that all the way home."
John Lennon, "Imagine"
I never expected to hear Joshua sing a song by a Beatle, but I don't hate it! Of course, Joshua put his own church choir-esque spin on it, and surprisingly, it really worked.
J. Lo: "It's almost like you're preaching, while you're singing. And it's a beautiful, beautiful thing."
Aerosmith, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
Singing one of the judge's songs? Bold move, Jess. Especially considering it's a genre that isn't exactly her forte. I salute Jessica for taking a risk here, but to me, it fell flat. Except, of course, for her grand finale high note at the end. It wasn't one of her best, but it also wasn't her worst.
Steven: "You just took a great song and made it greater."
Matchbox 20, "Disease"
Has it really taken this long for Phillip to sing a Matchbox 20 song? Seems like something that would have happened weeks ago. Anyway, it was an obvious choice. Phillip refuses to go beyond his comfort zone (in music, and in clothes) and it's totally to his detriment. The performance was fine, but it didn't knock my socks off. Though, for the record, I would gladly contract any disease Phillip is sharing.
Randy: "I wanted a bigger look from you. More of a moment. It was just OK."
Mary J. Blige, "No More Drama"
When it comes to Joshua, I can tolerate a good amount of scream-singing, but this was just off the charts. To me, almost intolerable. I know there will be people that disagree, but there will be equally as many people that thought it was way too much. I couldn't even determine if he was hitting the notes through all the screaming. In conclusion: I didn't like it.
Steven: "It was beautiful... It was over the top."
The Jackson 5, "I'll Be There"
There were moments where I loved it ("let me fill your heart with joy and laughter") and moments that didn't exactly wow me ("I'll be there"). It was a cutesy choice, and I did feel a connection between Jessica and a young Michael Jackson, but I wouldn't call it one of her best.
J. Lo: "It was a perfect tone in your voice. You almost sounded like Michael."
Bob Seger, "We've Got Tonight"
Within the first 10 seconds we know this is bound to be a winner for Phillip. The monochromatic backdrop/outfit package, the violins, the fact that he's sitting on a stool without a guitar... Iovine did a fantastic job of picking a song that allows Phillip to showcase his voice, but didn't push him beyond his vocal range. It was a smart and strategic move. Every girl watching felt like he was singing to them. I know this, because I am one of them.
Randy: "Your best performance on the show ever. You had a giant moment."
So what did you guys think? Who nailed it, and who blew it? Who do you want as your final two?!
Just four (painfully long) months ago, Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet were nobodies.