Phillip Phillips Backstage at ‘Idol': ‘I’m not trying to be some boy that tries to look good’

ALTIt’s that Time of the Season. That time in which executive producer Nigel Lythgoe decides contestants should songs not only from his 1960s youth, but his homeland across the pond as well. But inside the theater at CBS Television City, the crowd at American Idol’s Wednesday night taping was pumped to see the contestants invade the theater on British Invasion night. (Even Lythgoe had one girl holler for him before the cameras started rolling.) But what you may have missed at home is that Steven Tyler aided the thunderous applause for Ryan Seacrest during the show’s opening by pumping his arms, encouraging the crowd to continue cheering. In fact, he appeared to on a mission to have Wednesday night’s crowd be the loudest of the season. And it worked for most of the show.

The performances kicked off with Hollie Cavanagh’s rendition of “River Deep, Mountain High.” From my seat, it was clear that J. Lo dug the performance — the judge began cheering before the song even started and danced with Steven throughout the performance. Even though Randy Jackson showed a little more restraint, he still looked floored when Hollie belted out her biggest. Added bonus for Hollie: A standing ovation from both Randy and Steven.

Hollie continued to win over the studio audience with her second performance of “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. She had nearly everyone mesmerized from the first note. Her only issue during the performance was her troublesome ball gown. Before the performance, a stagehand did a last-minute adjustment of the dress (no wardrobe malfunctions here), and Ryan even helped Hollie with the gown’s train during a commercial break.

Minus the costume problems, Hollie was still thrilled to be praised by the judges this late in the competition. “I was glad I got positive feedback on both songs. It would be horrible to come out of the night with negative feedback,” she explained backstage. “I mean, now it’s Top 5, so you have to bring it every week, and I’m just glad they’re seeing that I’m learning and progressing.”

And in case you haven’t already gotten the message, Phillip Phillips once again showed he wants to be known as an artist, not just a pop star. His first song, “The Letter” by The Box Tops, had Jennifer and Randy whispering at the beginning of the performance while most of the audience seemed to struggle to connect to the song. His second solo performance, The Zombies’ “Time of The Season” resulted in a similar reaction in the theater. At least, when it came to anyone but the judges and teenage girls in the audience, who made sure to scream for the contestant per usual.

However, the girls’ excitement may have been short-lived as Ryan announced that Phillip not only had a girlfriend, but she was at the show. (Ladies, are you wishing that your other favorite guy, Colton, could come back to the show?) Phillip seemed to have little concern about losing votes due to Ryan’s admission. “It was funny. It doesn’t matter,” he explained in the press tent. “If it does, then [the voters] weren’t really liking the music. I’m trying to get the music out there. I’m not trying to be some boy that tries to look good or anything. I want the music to speak first.”

Back on stage, Skylar Laine had no trouble getting the audience grooving to her first performance of “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Randy was even nodding his head along with the music. But it was her second performance of “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” that made everyone in the room realize why she is a true contender in this competition. The audience, at least, rose to give her a standing ovation.

It was Jessica Sanchez’s rendition of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” that jumpstarted a major disagreement between Randy and the audience. From the start, Jessica received huge cheers from the audience (and had Steven moving in his chair). But, when Randy criticized the performance, he received a major backlash in the form of boos and one woman loudly screaming her disapproval.

But Jessica redeemed herself in Randy’s eyes with her performance of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful.” In addition to a standing ovation from the audience and universal praise from the judges, Randy may said just the thing she was waiting to hear ever since her near elimination: That she was back at the top of the leaderboard.

And in typical Idol fashion, the show saved the best for last. Joshua Ledet sang “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “To Love Somebody,” and managed to have the audience (and judges) in the palm of his hand during both performances. The whole room (including Steven) was moving to the beat during his first performance and audience members were even singing along with The Bee Gees’ hit at the end of the night.

With many stellar performances, the night’s strangest moments came during the group performances. While the girls appeared to be enjoying themselves and the company during their number, it was simply the musical arrangement of “Higher and Higher” that left that the studio audience and judges wanting a little more. Joshua and Phillip made it clear there was no bromance between them when they awkwardly belted out “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” With little connection between the performers, it was difficult for the audience to join in on the fun of this classic duet.

Will Hollie survive another elimination night Thursday? We’ll have to watch and see — and be sure to return to Friday to find out everything that went down behind-the-scenes!