Each of the final three had gone to their hometown to be welcomed with parades and other celebrations. While normally, that video would be seen on results night, this time it aired in conjunction with the second round of songs. The first round would be songs chosen by the judges. Round two would be chosen by the contestants, while round three would be selected by the season's music mentor, Jimmy Iovine.
The Top 3
1) For Joshua Ledet, judge Randy Jackson had chosen an Etta James song that he felt would work with his soulful style, "I'd Rather Go Blind." Joshua wore a black jacket with visible stitching and a red rose in the pocket. He had a red button-down shirt underneath, along with a dove gray vest. The song was definitely in his wheelhouse, and he sang it like a pro: nurturing the song like a flower at the beginning of the song and embellishing it where necessary, all the time singing into an old-fashioned mike that I'm guessing is specially designed to deal with the sort of workout he gives it! Yet another standing O. from the judges. Once upon a time, standing ovations used to mean something.
Steven Tyler called it "another Joshua moment" and said it's "so surreal to hear someone sing those old songs and deliver them" and hear the audience screaming. He told Joshua that he'd sung like an American idol tonight. Jennifer Lopez said that the judges had struggled when it came time to choose a song for Joshua, but "you are such a throwback" and "always bring down the house with those numbers," which he'd done again. Randy called him a "classic stylist" and said this song "fit you like a glove." He expressed his wish for Joshua, once he records an album, to bring a lift to R&B because it's "ailing and aching right now." [JOSHUA'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
In a funny bit of synergy, the Kraft commercial immediately afterward used the same song!
2) For Jessica Sanchez, Jennifer chose a power ballad, "My All" by Mariah Carey, because "there is a tenderness in the song that Jessica will kill." She was gorgeous in a deep purple evening gown with black details on the ruffles. Her performance was solid, but the lower parts were a little hesitant.
Randy thought it was absolutely beautiful and one of the best times a Mariah song has ever been performed on TV. Jennifer acknowledged it was a hard song but liked how Jessica did it her own way, bringing tenderness to it. Steven said that, when she sings, he makes people hang on every note. He added, "You'll be the last one standing there." [JESSICA'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
3) Phillip Phillips did a high-energy song with his guitar, "Beggin" by Madcon, chosen by Steven because the song had a strong melody he wanted Phillip to sing. The song was another good choice, paying attention to what Phillip does well. He wore a gray button-down over a blue V-neck and took some liberties with the melody, like he likes to do. It was a little different from his usual performances, giving him a chance to stretch his skills.
Jennifer teased him about playing with the melody, since that was one reason they'd chosen it. Still, she liked it. Steven said he's looking forward to Phillip writing his own songs, because "you could be a new Springsteen." Randy said it had felt like the "Phillip Phillips concert." He liked that Phillip has a good time and thought it was "another incredible performance." [PHILLIP'S 1ST PERFORMANCE]
Asked who won round one, Randy thought Josh had a slight edge, while Jennifer gave it to Phillip and Steven was on the fence.
4) Before the round two songs, we saw video of the Top 3 on their journeys home. Joshua said that the most amazing thing about his trip home to West Lake, Louisiana, was that the arena was sold out, and he believes it's the first time it has ever been sold out. He brought back some fun props for Ryan and the judges: a big chunky necklace for Ryan, wacky glasses for Steven and Randy, and a multicolor boa for Jennifer. While riding in a limousine with a police escort, Joshua joked that "they're acting like I'm Barack Obama." In his father's church, the congregation was thrilled to see him again, including his youngest fan, a newborn baby. He invited his little niece to ride with him in the parade, which included marching bands and dogs in costume, plus more infants, one of whom was presented to him to kiss. At his high school, the windows were decorated for him, and the gym was filled with screaming students. He performed a bit of the call-and-response from a Ray Charles song and then sang, "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" for the crowd in a stadium later. [JOSHUA'S TRIP HOME]
For his second song, Joshua selected the John Lennon song, "Imagine." Unlike the David Archuleta version from a few seasons ago, Joshua sang it with a little bit of a gospel feel, which was perfect for him. He wore a simple black suit for it and kept the song simple but poured a lot of emotion into it. You could really believe that he meant every word. As he finished, there was a shot of his bestie, Hollie Cavanagh, applauding in the audience.
Steven called it "another thank-you God moment with you." He said that every time Joshua sings he "puts it over the top," because he's that good. Jennifer said that it was almost like he was preaching while he was singing, but she thought that was a good thing. He has a great instrument, she said, and his ability to dig deep for his performance, paying attention to the meaning, is something she loves. Randy asked him why he chose the song. Joshua said he was driving to the rehearsal and didn't know what he wanted to sing but then heard this song on the radio. Randy said that "everything you sing should touch you and should mean something to you," but I don't think he meant that this song didn't mean something to Joshua. Randy liked that Joshua digs deep and found it "another stellar performance." [JOSHUA'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
5) It was strange for Jessica to go home to Chula Vista, California, she told Ryan, because she's been homeschooled without many friends. Back home this time, she said, guys were chasing her car. She rode in a helicopter to the stadium where the Padres play, so she could sit again in the seat where she'd waited for her chance to audition. Later that night, she greeted fans in the Chula Vista Stadium and then finally got to hug her family and be greeted by the adorable family dogs. Her little brothers rode with her in her parade, and at the high school, crowds of supporters cheered for her. Chula Vista declared it Jessica Sanchez Day, and she also visited the USS Midway, where she received a souvenir shirt and sang a song which she dedicated to her father, who's in the military. [JESSICA'S TRIP HOME]
For her second song, Jessica chose the Aerosmith song, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," wearing a brown wide-legged pants suit, paired with a chunky turquois necklace. She was joined onstage by violinists. This is another song that's been sung before on this show, but she brought her own flair to it.
Steven loved her rendition of it, even standing up for her (though the other two judges remained seated). He told her, "You just sang a great song and made it grater." Jennifer thought she did really good and that the note at the end "sent everyone into the heavens." Randy called the song choice bold. Though he said it started slow, he said that "you delivered." [JESSICA'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
6) Phillip's trip home to Leesburg, Georgia, included a guy holding up a sign saying that Phillip owed him $10 and a restaurant which has named a dish after him. His dad was happy to see him, to give him lots of hugs and kisses, too. In what must have been a strange moment, his father's pawn shop had a crowd of people in front. Of course, there were lots of hugs and kisses for the rest of his family, and his parents rode with him in a parade, where girls had to be pushed away from the car by security. Phillip broke down in tears, overwhelmed with emotion. He gave a performance to a crowded stadium of supporters. [PHILLIP'S TRIP HOME]
For his second song, Phillip chose "Disease" by Matchbox 20. He strummed his guitar and sat on stacked speakers while a female saxophonist and bongo player accompanied him onstage. It was an interesting choice for him, and it's probably a song he already knew very well and clearly enjoys singing. But did it give him enough of a moment?
Jennifer loves Matchbox 20 but didn't feel this song was a "wow" performance. Still, "of course it was good." Steven agreed: "You don't have a disease," he said. Randy wanted to check with his fellow judges that they didn't love it. Randy thought it was weird, because "we all disagree," because I didn't like it either. He said it was too subdued, that Phillip can do this sort of thing in his sleep. [PHILLIP'S 2ND PERFORMANCE]
7) In the third and final round, the contestants sang songs selected by Jimmy, with the news delivered to them on new AT&T phones. The song that Jimmy picked for Joshua was "No More Drama" by Mary J. Blige. His family, who were with him when he found out, were confident he'd do well on that. In the audience, Jimmy explained to Ryan that he thought Joshua could use another "moment," and that Mary J. Blige does a similar thing with blending gospel sounds with R&B (shot of Colton Dixon over Jimmy's shoulder in the audience). Joshua wore a black zippered jacket with sequins on his shoulders, along with a black V-neck and black pants. He bounced as he sang, and he seemed to be having an emotional catharsis. At the height of the song, he stripped off the jacket as well as his earphones for the in-house sound (maybe they got tangled in the jacket?) I felt like I was watching a play, in a good way.
Randy said that "at this point, it doesn't matter what you do, what you sing... people should just stand up and vote for you anyway." He called Joshua a great performer and a great artist. Shot of Hollie giving him a standing O. in the audience, sitting next to Shannon Magrane. Jennifer loved his performance and the spontaneity: "You don't know what's going to happen, but you know it's going to be out of this world." Shot of Deandre Brackensick watching, too. Steven had three words: "over the top." Heejun Han stood along with Hollie and Shannon to applaud. [JOSHUA'S 3RD PERFORMANCE]
8) For Jessica, Jimmy chose "I'll Be There," because it would appeal to an older audience but still highlight how young she is. She performed it wearing a coral cardigan with bedazzled pockets and black pants, with video of a Ferris wheel rotating on screens behind her. This song has always been a favorite of mine, and it was nice for her, because she is a lot like Michael Jackson: a young performer with almost preternatural skills.
Steven said, "Perfect song, perfect vocals. You nailed it." Jennifer thought it was a good choice from Jimmy and she almost sounded like Michael. Randy liked it but didn't love it. He reminded everyone that we're at the end of the competition, and he thought there wasn't a moment. [JESSICA'S 3RD PERFORMANCE]
9) For his final song, Phillip received "We've Got Tonight" by Bob Seger. Jimmy explained that he wanted to find a song that could appeal to both guys and girls. It's emotional with a melody that's so great that "Phillip will want to stick to it." Sitting on a stool, wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and nervously rubbing his thigh, Phillip concentrated on the melody. The song might have been a touch high for him: his voice sounded a little pinched. Or maybe he was just that nervous.
Randy said it was his best performance on the show, ever. He said it was a "giant moment." Jennifer said that there's "about 20 million girls out there who wish you were singing that song to them" (though the show only have 15 million viewers total). Hollie in the audience was fanning Shannon. Guess she's one of those fans. Steven said something that was bleeped, which might have been "You came out here and sang like you didn't give a sh*t." He added, "You just showed you got all that passion wrapped up in you. It doesn't matter if you hit the notes or not. You just nailed it." [PHILLIP'S 3RD PERFORMANCE]
Really, kudos to everyone tonight, who made the best of what they were given. I think the votes are going to be close, and based on both the performances and the chatter right now in the fan community, I'd say that Jessica is the only one who should be considered safe. But then again, anything can happen. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Joshua will be the one headed home, if only because he seems to have fewer vocal fans. I'd personally like to see a Jessica-Joshua finale, but Phillip's performance this show put everything into question. We'll see what happens!
At this stage, it's anyone's game.