Ready, set, scream! With only a week until the finale, the audience at CBS Television City was deafening as the top three American Idol contestants took the stage during Choice Week. Singing songs selected by the judges, mentor Jimmy Iovine, and himself, Phillip Phillips was clearly the lady’s choice of the evening.
It didn’t take much for Phillip to get the girls screaming Wednesday night. A little wave or boyish grin seemed to get them going before he even had a mike in his hand. From my seat in the second row at CBS, I can also tell you he seemed to be a crewmember favorite. Off-stage, he shook hands, gave high fives, and always remembered to acknowledge his band. He even encouraged the audience to cheer for stage manager Debbie Williams before the show started. But this is not a competition about who is the kindest; it’s about the music (or at least it should be).
As the final performer of the night, Phillip first took the stage to sing the judges’ choice, Madcon’s “Beggin’,” which had the crowd on their feet almost instantly. Jennifer Lopez was bouncing out of her seat while the girls in the audience continued to contribute to my future hearing aid fund. Randy Jackson called it just right when he proclaimed that it was a Phillip Phillips concert. Even the comment alone elicited one of the biggest cheers of the night.
While the judges seemed less than impressed by Phillip’s own choice, “Disease” by Matchbox 20, the girls once again didn’t wait to give him a standing ovation. Joining in on the Phillip love was this season’s fallen Idols, who were grooving along with Phillip’s covers. And before he made his exit, several girls hollered, “We Love You” — in case we hadn’t guessed it already.
It was his final performance of the night, a nearly perfect rendition of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight,” that may have won Phillip a ticket to next week’s American Idol finale (at least if the girls in the studio have anything to say about it). He had the crowd transfixed from the first non-guitar-accompanied note. Not to mention the judges — it was bleeped on your televisions, of course, but following the performance, Steven, who expressed his love for the performance, was reduced to curse words, telling Phillip “When you first came out here, you sang like you didn’t give a s**t.” But Phillip has more famous fans outside the panel — in fact, a special guest slipped in just to watch him sing. Standing in front of me was none other than Ryan Seacrest’s girlfriend, Julianne Hough, who come out from backstage just to see Phillip.
Backstage, Phillip told reporters the night was more about the Top 3 enjoying themselves than the competition itself. “It was a crazy night … I just did something and had fun,” he said. “We’re all so numb because there’s nothing we can feel since it’s almost over. We pray before we go onstage and tonight we just talked about how much fun we’re gonna have. It’s not a competition. Everyone is so different. I’m not the best singer, but I love having fun with the music.”
Adopting Phillip’s let-loose attitude, Joshua Ledet also delivered memorable performances, starting with the judges’ selection, “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James. As he sang, girls swayed to the music and waved their hands in the air while the judges nodded their heads to the song. After receiving a standing ovation from the judges and audience, Joshua left the stage with new air of confidence — moments before the performance he had been nervously pacing.
Joshua’s selection of “Imagine” by John Lennon surprisingly seemed to be one of the toughest sells of the night. While nearly everyone knows the words to this classic, it took until the end of the performance for him to receive a standing ovation from the audience. While Jennifer, Randy, and Steven all looked impressed by the performance, they weren’t their usual excitable selves when it came to Joshua.
After receiving hugs from Skylar Laine and Hollie Cavanagh, Joshua took the stage one more time to sing Jimmy’s choice, “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige. After playing it safe all night, he finally showed why he is still in the competition with this performance. The past idols in the crowd lead everyone into a standing ovation as Jennifer and Randy rocked out together. The audience even refused to sit as the judges began their critiques.
And let’s not forget about Jessica Sanchez, who may have made the riskiest choices on Wednesday night. Hello, singing Aerosmith in front of Steven?! She started off her night with “My All” by Mariah Carey, certainly not an easy pick from the judges. But though her low register was spotty, she managed to hit Mariah’s big notes — what more could her fans ask for? She also had the judges in the palm of her 16-year-old hand as Jennifer swayed and Randy nodded his head to the music.
It may have taken until the final note, but Jessica received a second standing ovation for her performance of “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith. Throughout the performance, the room appeared mesmerized by Jessica’s stage presence. But unfortunately for Jessica, her final performance was her weakest. Even though she received a standing ovation from the crowd almost immediately, the judges wanted to see more. But, Randy’s comment about just liking it, not loving it, made the crowd erupt in boos.
Do you think Phillip’s female fans will sway the vote? Who will make to the finale? Come back tomorrow to find out and read more of my backstage scoop from the Idol set.
[Photo Credit: FOX]