One of the best parts of watching “American Idol” is for the blunders, gaffes and general off nights of some of the better contestants. Remember when Simon Cowell told Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino that she sang like Donald Duck on helium? When Brooke White stopped and re-started a song not once but twice? When Sanjaya Malakar… well, basically, was on the show?
The other best thing about “Idol” is the “moments,” the crazy amazing performances that are so professional and good, you can’t believe they just happened on a show as cheesy as this one.
The current Top 3 have had bad nights, and they’ve had great nights. Let’s take a look at both, shall we?
As a guitar-strumming, singer-songwriter type of musician, Phillip has probably had the fewest stand-out moments this season. But he did have a few performances that elevated him from his Georgia coffeehouse future. Phillip’s first number during finals, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was a ramped up reprise of his audition, and his solid stage presence and twinkly blue eyes garnered him enough of a following in those two minutes to carry him through weeks of worsening performances. He had just about worn out his welcome when, after weeks of comparison to Dave Matthews, he took on DMB’s “The Stone,” reminding audiences of who he wanted to be (the above mentioned coffeehouse guy—red brick walls and all). But then came ‘60s/Brit pop week. Phillip tried to break loose of his reputation as a guy who doesn’t sing melody by trying to sing “Time of the Season”—and failing miserably on the falsetto. With a couple of bombs, it looked like Phillip was on the way out—until he did Damien Rice’s “Volcano” last week, and in an intimate and simple performance, snagged a spot for himself in the Final 3.
Best: “Volcano” – Top 4
Worst: “Time of the Season” – Top 5
Watch: Is Jennifer Lopez Leaving “Idol”?
Jessica probably sailed into the Final 3 from her first a capella notes of “I Will Always Love You,” way back on Whitney Houston night, Top 13. And despite a horrible rendition of “Turn the Beat Around” the following week, it seemed like Jessica could do no wrong. She made a forgotten Billy Joel song famous with her performance of “Everybody Has a Dream” and slowed down Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” in a surprisingly moving performance. But America quickly tired of Jessica’s pageanty successes, and tried to kick her off the show after one ballad too many. And though she’s made good on the judges’ save since then, with a terrific growling version of “Try a Little Tenderness” and a monster performance of “And I am Telling You,” she’s also had her fair share of flops—particularly a cruise ship version of “Proud Mary” that had her dressed too racy for her 16 years, and attempting (and failing) to dance.
Best: “Sweet Dreams” – Top 9
Worst: “Turn the Beat Around” – Top 11
Joshua is the hardest contestant to pick apart, because he’s just never really flopped. No painful notes like Phillip, no cheesy lounge dancing like Jessica. But maybe his downfall is his consistency. Watching all of Joshua’s performances in a row, it’s hard to tell one from the other. All of them start slow, then build to a key change, some gospel wailing, and borderline religious transcendence. I’m not complaining. But it’s also hard to pick out the “moments” when Joshua has had a “moment” practically every week. Joshua stood out since his semi-finals performance of Jennifer Hudson’s “You Pulled Me Through,” had a super-moment two weeks later with “When a Man Loves a Woman,” sang himself to tears at the end of “Without You,” topped even that with “A Change is Gonna Come,” shocked Steven Van Zandt with “To Love Sombeody,” and earned his umpteenth standing ovation with “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” It’s almost impossible to choose which was the best, and even harder to decide what was his worst—maybe Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way,” or Fantasia’s “I Believe,” but only because the memories of those numbers haven’t lasted as long as some of the others.
Best: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” – Top 4
Worst: “I Believe” – Top 7 redux