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Building a Top Three

At the top of the results show for "American Idol," host Ryan Seacrest reminded viewers that the survivors of this elimination would each get a chance to go home for a special hometown hero's welcome. Who would survive?



Hollie sings her swan song
Hollie sings her swan song.



The Top 4 performed the Mamas and the Papas song "California Dreamin'," sauntering out together wearing "summery" clothes: Hollie in a blue and white mini-sundress, Joshua in a T-shirt with yellow, blue, red and green stripes, Jessica in a blousy halter top and Phillip in a short-sleeved checked button-down over a maroon V-neck. The song was a pleasant hint of what it might be like on the summer tour.



Before airing this week's Ford commercial, which is about the electric car and how it's good for the environment, there was "making of" video, featuring Hollie, Jessica and Joshua. Once more, Phillip was excluded, probably for health reasons (he's scheduled to have major surgery after the finals, to deal with his kidney stones). The video itself showed them, to the strains of the Jennifer Lopez song "Feeling So Good," driving through a gray world into a bright, shiny tomorrow with magical flowers everywhere. Groovy.



The first to hear results this evening was Phillip Phillips. In recorded comments, singing mentor Jimmy Iovine said about his first performance that this was an acoustic song, so it was an odd choice to him not using the guitar and opting for a saxophone player instead. But he thought it was a great way to assert his own identity. On "Volcano," Jimmy felt that Phillip "finally delivered on the promise" that had been there all year. He said if he'd heard that performance in a club, he would have signed him right there.

After 70 million votes, Ryan said that "the nation has decided that you will be heading... back to the couch. We'll find out in a little bit what happened." Those weren't final results, though, Ryan said.

Next, Hollie Cavanagh was brought to center stage. On "Faithfully," Jimmy said that her over-singing actually worked. About her choice for her second song, "I Can't Make You Love Me," Jimmy was less enthusiastic. He said that evidently, she didn't have the personal or professional experience to take on that song. He thought she'd crashed and burned.

David Cook, Season 7 winner, debuted his song, "The Last Song I'll Write for You," dressed all in black, strumming a black guitar. I do love hearing him sing. He can take anything and turn it into a worthwhile track. I especially liked the chorus.



Then, Ryan called Joshua Ledet center stage to hear his highlights and Jimmy's comments. Jimmy said that the first song didn't work for him: "'You Raise Me Up' let him down." He would talk Joshua out of putting gospel-inflected songs like that on his album. About his second song, "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," Jimmy said, "James Brown and Joshua Ledet came together last night and created a type of magic rarely seen on the 'Idol' stage." He compared Joshua to Prince and Bruce Springsteen and said it was captivating. Now, he said, the challenge is to come up with an original song as good as that for his album.

Finally, Jessica Sanchez came forward. Jimmy thought she did a good job with her Etta James number, but that the growling was an old trick that wasn't really working for her, since she uses it too often. About "And I'm Telling You," Jimmy said that she brought "all her artillery in the right proportion," including her growl, dynamics, etc. "She murdered it," he said, adding that music executive Jimmy Mottola e-mailed him immediately after the performance and said, "I'm going to her first concert." He said that any one of the Top 4 could win, given the right song.

After a break, judges Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler joined Ryan in the audience to introduce "Dance Again" by Jennifer Lopez, which was prerecorded. She started out in a "chair" made of four nearly nude male dancers, then walked slinkily across the stage in a low-cut sparkly midnight-blue leotard and black tights, her hair in loose waves. She performed (and lip-synched) with a small crew of shirtless male dancers, and it was a very danceable number. [JENNIFER LOPEZ'S PERFORMANCE]

Before the final results, Ryan asked the judges to talk about the Top 4. He asked Steven how Phillip has evolved, and Steven said that Phillip has gone from "not caring" to showing us who he is "and not caring." Heh. About Hollie, Jennifer praised her for getting over her nerves and noted that it's a tough journey. About Joshua, Randy said that when they met Joshua, he had "mad potential," and he's grown by leaps and bounds. Apparently, like Hollie, he had been turned down the previous year. He predicted that "the sky's the limit: you are ready for anything." About Jessica, Ryan asked Jennifer to respond to Jimmy's remark about her using the "trick" of growling. "What trick?" Jennifer asked. "The really good singing' trick?"

The first one into the Top 3, Ryan announced, was Jessica! She looked stunned. The next person to return to their home town, Ryan said, was the pride of West Lake, Louisiana, Joshua. Then it was down to Phillip and Hollie. One would be in the Top 3, but first they'd have to endure another commercial break. [RESULTS, PART ONE]

Tension reigned as Phillip and Hollie waited for the news. Phillip would be the one going home for a hero's welcome. Hollie would just be going home. [RESULTS, PART TWO]

She sang the Miley Cyrus song "The Climb," and the camera focused on Joshua, who looked upset. She walked over to the Top 3 and hugged them. It was after that that Joshua collapsed on the couches, a tear rolling down his cheek as he listened to his best friend's swan song. Don't worry, Joshua, you'll see her again in a few weeks when the Top 10 starts working on the summer tour.





The question about Hollie is not necessarily why did she get eliminated now but what got her in the Top 4? Early in the season, due to some uneven performances, Hollie was discounted, and she's landed in the bottom three several times.

In recent weeks, however, she turned it around, showing a newfound confidence that impressed the judges and voters alike. She said that she had finally internalized the good comments from the judges and producers, which is great news. That sort of self-confidence is what's going to help her reach the next level as a performer. Hopefully, she will hold all of those remarks close to her heart and focus not on the fact that she was eliminated now, but that she made it this far.

Moral:
It really is about the journey.



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Tags: american idol, music, television
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