For those who weren’t already annoyed by Phillip Phillips’s one-trick-pony performances on “American Idol” (namely teenage girls who love his smile and will forgive him almost anything), well tonight’s the night Phillip probably cut the cord. Sure, he sang some unmemorable jazzy riff on an oldie while barking in seeming pain from behind his guitar (“The Letter”). Sure, he moved awkwardly and was completely overshadowed by his duet partner. Sure, he sang off-key while making demonic faces (“Time of the Season”). What else is new? That’s never been enough to get him kicked off before.
So what’s going to send him home tomorrow night? The revelation, thanks to Ryan Seacrest, that Phillip has a girlfriend.
There was a quick shot of her—plain, 20-ish, and, oh yeah, brunette. “He’s into brunettes,” explained Ryan. Is this all a ploy to get back at Phillip for making Ryan’s own (very blonde) girlfriend Julianne Hough swoon last week? Whatever the reason for calling out Phillip’s gf, the likelihood that his tween girl fans will approve of her is minimal. So maybe, finally, the truth will sink in to them tonight, that Phillip is actually a pretty dismal singer and performer, out of his league here, and needs to go home.
The themes tonight were ‘60s music and British pop of any era, although most stuck to the ‘60s for that category as well. Steven Van Zandt was the guest mentor and resident bully of Jimmy Iovine, picking on him in almost every mentoring session to hilarious effect, particularly when he got Skylar Laine laughing like a bad case of hiccups.
Phillip wasn’t the only one to show an Achilles heel tonight. Also popping her perfectness bubble was Jessica Sanchez. Her second number, “You Are So Beautiful,” sitting on the floor surrounded by candles, was cheesy and lounge—exactly what she said she was afraid of. But her first, Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” was also distracting for the way-too-tight white mini-dress and impossibly high heels she had on. Steven Tyler looked visibly uncomfortable at the end of that. Jennifer Lopez commented, “You’re so grown up there.” Randy Jackson said it was “barely okay.”
And Joshua Ledet, as transcendent a singer as ever, showed himself to be ignorantly homophobic during his duet with Phillip to “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” claiming to Ryan beforehand that he didn’t want to sing the song with Phillip, and then appearing visibly uncomfortable during alternating lines with Phillip about kissing and tenderness. He loosened up once he forgot the context and just sang—amazingly, and making Phillip sound ridiculously amateur. But once the song was over, he couldn’t get far enough away from Phillip. Phillip obviously was having some fun with it, and kept trying to touch Joshua or put his arm around him. But Joshua was just getting more uncomfortable to the point of being offensive. “Get over it!” Steven reprimanded. “Hold each other, look in each other’s eyes, and sing that song!”
Skylar was fantastic on her Brit number, Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” She ditched the country twang, but used country technique to tell the story beautifully. But on her ‘60s number, Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” she was a caffeine-addled Energizer bunny, smiling her way brightly through a song about young men being drafted into the Vietnam War.
Really only Hollie didn’t let me down in some way tonight, and that’s because she’s been so bad this season that, as the underdog, I actually want her to stick around. I’m sure it’s some weird mind game she’s played in order to trick America into liking her, but if she’s that smart to pull something like that off, then she deserves to be here. She considerably relaxed on her ‘60s song, “River Deep Mountain High.” It was sort of Vegasy, but Steven was very appreciative that she even managed to sneak a few blues runs in there. Randy was even inspired to use that over-quoted cliché about how she performed “like no one’s watching.” For her second song, “Bleeding Love,” she was her usual self—measured, predictable, but not in any way offensive. And we got a good long close-up of her teeth (they are pretty straight). Randy said Hollie’s “been the dark horse all season,” but was peaking at the perfect time.
Randy also mentioned that “Bleeding Love” is by a contestant from a certain British talent show “by our lovely friend Mr. Simon Cowell.” Inaudibly, there must have been boos (though I only heard cheers) because Randy followed that with “No, no, no, we love him, we love him.”
Besides Skylar’s great Dusty Springfield moment, another standout tonight was Joshua’s show-closing “To Love Somebody,” which broke down into some unintelligible God-given garbly wails that earned him yet another standing ovation from the judges (the only one of the night!). Jennifer said Joshua is one of the best singers she’s seen “in fifty years,” in all her forty two years on Earth. She spoke directly to Joshua’s new boss once he can get on with his life and start making a record: “Jimmy you better not mess this up.” (Joshua’s first number, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” was less insane, but he still did an upstanding job.)
The bottom three is just going to be whoever is not Joshua and Jessica. Skylar and Hollie are almost cancelling each other out at this point, with both coming across robotically preprogrammed from time to time. Hollie probably deserves to go home first. But with Phillip’s love interest showing up, especially on a night when he was particularly boring, he and his kidney stones are at risk of being passed.