'American Idol' Top 4: The Top 3 seems easy to pick out

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american-idol-top-4-season-11.jpgThe first theme for "American Idol" this week is California Dreamin', which means songs from artists/bands from California or songs about California, which is kind of weird, but then the back half is Songs The Idols Wish They Had Written, so basically Anything We Have the Rights To.

Tonight, J.Lo looks sparkly, Steven Tyler looks Vegas-y while showing off his old-man chest and Randy is missing the other three voice parts from his barbershop quartet. Seacrest is looking quite dapper in a gray suit with a striped tie and yellow pocket square. It's better than the disco-ain't-dead-no-tie-big-hair look he sports sometimes.

 
1. Phillip Phillips, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?," Creedence Clearwater Revival

OK, now if anybody should be doing CCR, it's Phillip. This week, he's actually got a handle on the melody. It's not pitch-perfect, but it's much closer than that "Time of the Season" debacle. Also, the small changes he's making to the rhythm and melody line are cool - it makes it his own without completely bastardizing it, which is a line Phillip's had to watch these season.

Nice. Didn't have us jumping out of our chairs, but it's not really that kind of song. Very solid, though, and a better vocal than he usually puts out there, so good for him. Randy starts to criticize and is fearful of being ripped apart by the tween girls like a pack of hyenas on a wounded gazelle, so he and his Good Humor jacket quickly get to the praise.

2. Hollie Cavanagh, "Faithfully," Journey

Randy must be just bouncing in his chair at the prospect of getting to say he played in Journey. Did y'all know that? 'Cause he did. And he usually mentions it only 5 or 6 ... thousand times a season.

Anyway. Interesting song choice for a young girl, especially one who has trouble sometimes connecting to the lyrics. Also, it irks me when someone changes the gender pronouns in a song. You can just sing it. It won't get any gay cooties on you. Vocally, this is OK. It's not perfect - the bridge has some slip-ups. Also, it's kind of a boring song until the end and by that time, we're all asleep. Not sure this was the right call for Hollie. 

It's not that it was bad, it just wasn't awesome and this is Top 4. She's got to bring it harder than that to beat the other three. The judges are over the moon about it - we wonder if they're just trying to be supportive because they've really picked on Hollie this season. Hmm.

She could've really sounded nice on some Stevie Nicks or maybe some Eagles - "Take It To the Limit" or "Heartache Tonight" maybe. "Take it to the Limit" for sure, now that we think about it. That would've been good on Hollie because the ending would really let her show off her pipes. Ah well. Actually, does Idol have the rights to the Eagles catalog? Have we heard any Eagles songs on the show? Oh wait, yes. "Desperado" has been all over the place. Duh. And actually, that would've been great one for Hollie too.

3. Joshua Ledet, "You Raise Me Up," Josh Groban


This will most certainly be a crowd-pleaser. It starts off nice - as we say every week like a darn broken record, Joshua's lower register is nice and he doesn't use it enough. The first chorus is also really pretty. When the gospel part really kicks in, it remains more restrained than we thought Joshua would be, it's beautiful when he brings it down right before the ending. The actual ending is also really nice - no shrieking! We are kind of stunned at how restrained that was. It was really, really great. Him getting raised up on a pedestal was a little much, but the singing was beautiful.

4. Jessica Sanchez, "Steal Away," Etta James

Huh. Vocally this is great, but we aren't sure this was the right song choice for Jessica. It's way too obscure. Plus, Jessica's strength does not lie in her shouting and growling. The runs are cool, it's very jazzy, but we aren't sure the American public is going to be picking up the phone for that one. Keep in mind who just got voted off (Skylar) and where her votes are going to go. We're guessing they are more likely to go to CCR and Journey than they are to go to Etta James.

Hmph. Risky choice for her. Steven Tyler rightly says it showed off the other side of her voice, but man, this is Top 4 and we aren't sure that was the way to go. We hope her second song is better.

5. Josh and Phillips, "This Love," Maroon 5


We hope they don't think this is some kind of gay-man thing and get all weird like last week. *eye roll* Anyway, uh, this is OK. They each do fine on their individual parts, but their voices don't really go together, for us. The energy is nice, though, this is much less awkward than their weirdness on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."

6. Hollie and Jessica, "Eternal Flame," The Bangles

Awesome, awesome song choice. We love The Bangles and are not afraid to admit it. The swing thing is weird as heck, though. Oooh, but the harmonies! Nice. It isn't every day they have Idols who can harmonize. They both cheat on the low "darling" part, but this is really pretty. The bridge gives us goosebumps. We kind of want to download that, hope it's available.

Randy says it was a little strange, meanwhile Phillip and Joshua are on the swings, which is hilarious. Randy wishes Jessica had been on the high stuff and Hollie on the low stuff - he has a point, that was a weird choice, arrangement-wise. But we still loved it.

7. Top 4, "Waiting for a Girl Like You"

Oooh, Joshua sounds awesome on this. Down in his lower register, it's giving us tingly feelings. Phillip can't really do the harmonies - he just doesn't quite have the ear. He's also kind of missing the melody on parts. Oops. But the other three do really well.

8. Phillip Phillips, "Volcano," Damien Rice

This is another outside-the-box choice by Phillip that may be a little obscure for Idol voters. However, this is easily the best he's ever sounded. This is fantastic, especially with the back-up singer. He's so Dave Matthews on this song, it's not even funny. We haven't always been Phillip's biggest fan because vocally he struggles sometimes, but this was awesome.

Watch Phillip's performances here.


9. Hollie Cavanagh, "I Can't Make You Love Me," Bonnie Raitt

Our initial instinct is that this is a spectacular choice for Hollie, but it leaves us wanting a little. It wasn't bad, vocally, but this is a really raw, really emotional song and that just wasn't there for us. And it doesn't have anything to do with having "been through stuff," like Steven Tyler says. Remember when Allison Iraheta did this song? She was, what, 17? And she made it sound like she was 40 years old and trying to fight for the love of her life. It was incredible. Hollie could've had that, but she just didn't deliver.

Watch Hollie's performances here.

10. Joshua Ledet, "This is a Man's Man's Man's World," James Brown

We were wondering if we'd hear Josh do this song this season. Naturally, he does an amazing job on it. The runs are beautiful, the low stuff is great, even the shrieky stuff is fitting for the song. We know Josh went last last week, but we're pretty surprised he's not last this week too. Also, now that is how you emotionally connect with a song. We though he was going to have a stroke up there.

Watch Josh's performances here.

11. Jessica Sanchez, "And I'm Telling You," Jennifer Holliday

We've gotten a little over-saturated on this song since "Dreamgirls," but this is a great choice for her voice. Also, this might be the most emotion we've seen out of her so far, which is nice - good time to bust this out. But vocally, this is phenomenal. She's honestly one of the best singers this show has ever seen. People don't just come along with a Whitney-caliber voice every day and Jessica shows flashes of that. And she's only freakin' 16. The ending of this song makes us cry a little, it's so effing good. That might be the best she's done all season.

You know what we don't like about the judges? Yes, they stood up for Jessica. But she kind of got hosed on their praise. They were very lackluster in their comments, whereas for Joshua they were slobbering all over themselves. And Jessica was better. She just is a better singer than Josh. It's kind of baffling, especially since the show should be rooting for a powerhouse female winner, since those are the ones that go on to have the most success.

Watch Jessica's performances here.

So, who's going home? We're afraid Hollie's time has come. Top 4 is nothing to sneeze at and she's had some great performances, but she's not quite up there with the other three this week.

What say you, "Idol" fans?

Photo/Video credit: FOX