But first, an important announcement.
90’s pop singer Jane Child (l) and Colton Dixon
I’m sorry it took me this long to realize that Colton Dixon (spotted in the studion audience last night) used to moonlight as Jane Child. Those EARS, darlings! Those eyes! “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” with Colton anymore because he’ll probably start wearing cornrows again, and that would mean social suicide for our kids.
The remaining rascals visited their hometowns in nuttily edited montages and sang three songs on the big stage: one the judges chose, one the contestant chose, and one that Jimmy Iovine chose. In my rankings, I’ve listed their selections in that order. Now, time for my favorite Idol parlor game where I pick what I’d have sung if I were a Top 3 finalist. I believe Jennifer Lopez (obvs my mentor) would’ve chosen Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny on the Block” for me because it would capitalize on my Bronx cred*. Picture me trilling, “I’m down to Earth like this — rockin’ this business! I’m in control and loving it!” You’re crying! Next, I’d have chosen Kylie Minogue’s “Get Outta My Way” for my second performance because I believe strutting is an important artistic virtue. I would do a lot of that onstage, probably near Ryan. Last, I believe Jimmy Iovine would’ve chosen Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” for me because he’d so keep forgetting that I’m not a woman. He’d be like, “Right, a gay man. Right. That exists, I’m sure of it. Don’t forget to wear a hot sundress, sweetie.”
Onto the rankings! With just three kids left, the tally is pretty definitive. I think we can all agree on who shouldn’t, but will be in the finals, eh?
3. Phillip Phillips, “Beggin’,” “Disease,” and “We’ve Got Tonight”
Now, I’ve enjoyed more than a few of Phillip’s performances. He’s charming. And funny for real. But I’m not a slave to his knowing smirk, and I can tell you without hesitation that his song choices were pathetic last night. “Beggin’?” An almost nonexistent performance, and I could’ve throttled J-Lo when she claimed his rendition topped Jessica’s “My All” and Joshua’s “I’d Rather Go Blind.” On what planet, girl? That performance was downright nondescript. It was “beggin'” for a singular moment of any kind, mami. I’d say the same thing about “Disease,” which is an unremarkable song even for the tame tunesmiths of Matchbox 20. We all know Rob Thomas’ most endearing feature is his follicular swoopiness, not his composition skills. Adding the samba percussion was no help.
Then came “We’ve Got Tonight,” which was certainly a touching moment of articulate rasp-whining for young Philly Phillz. He felt that thang. And it was fine. But Phillip’s only genius moment in the two-hour stretch of last night’s episode was when he burst into tears during the parade in his Georgian hometown. I said out loud to my own television, “He just won American Idol.” That’s what the freebasing tween voters pick up the phone for. They want teary hot boys with guitars. Isn’t it eerie that Phillip is from “Leesburg,” Georgia? Is his father named “DeWyzer Phillips”? I can no longer contain my nightmarish asthma and jitters.
2. Jessica Sanchez, “My All,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “I’ll Be There”
Can you imagine if two contestants of color landed in the Top 2 of American Idol?!? No, you can’t. Because it won’t ever happen. I hate feeling sure that Jessica will go home because she truly turned out great performances of — get this — two really well-chosen songs! Props to Jennifer Lopez for singling out the potential for “My All,” because it’s the tenderest moment in Mariah Carey’s legendary, overplayed catalog. Though Jessica began the song a tad low, the confessional honesty she brought to “Stutterin'” and “You Are So Beautiful” came back with a more studied, adult vibe this time. Mysteriously un-contrived for being so “adult contemporary.” Remember in season eight when Paula Abdul chose “Dance, Little Sister” for Danny Gokey? Straight up, I was caught in a hit-and-LOL. Thank God Jessica wasn’t subjected to a similar fate.
Then came the problem performance: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” is, first of all, not as cool as “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love.” Just letting you know. Two, that awful Aerosmith song is the dreariest of Idol standards, and I’m not just saying that because the unforgettable Antonella Barba botched it in season six. It simply means nothing. It’s a Diane Warren jam that helps Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler cope with the end of the world. It should be buried in the desert with all those E.T. Atari games. If Steven Tyler wants it back, he can dig it up with one of his moon pendants. Finally, Jessica gave us “I’ll Be There,” which was a lovely, if slight moment for the teeny singer. I just think she delivered a quaint evening of song and should be rewarded for it. It’s not her finest night on the show, but she’s certainly worthy of the star-studded, life-altering finale. (Honestly, I am obsessed with Idol finales. Remember when Alanis Morissette joined Crystal Bowersox onstage? I died from a hollerin’ overdose.)
1. Joshua Ledet, “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Imagine,” “No More Drama”
It takes six keywords to understand the impact of Joshua’s performances last night: Bluesy hollering, thoughtful balladry, teary belting. Whatever you think of those styles — and you’re allowed to think they’re maudlin and hammy — they sum up what Joshua does, and that’s why he’s the evening’s undisputed victor. He dished out an A-Z education in The Bouncing and Bleating Of Joshua Ledet, and he even added extra bouncing for the hell of it. He was teary-ass Tigger out there. He brought down the House at Pooh Corner, y’all. Ultimately, he sold himself to America and bothered to do it with perfect pitch, which is all you can hope for on Top 3 night. Sigh. He may dawdle on stage like a cartoon toddler after every performance, but he is electrifying when he wants to be. Go, churchy manchild, go.
Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” (misidentified as “I’d Rather Be Blind” by legendary musicologist Randy Jackson) was a pretty standard exercise in jive-y blues for Joshua. He turned it into a really entertaining Chips Ahoy! commercial. “A thousand chips DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-deliciiiooousssss!” was how I interpreted his last line. “Imagine,” however, was a more novel opportunity for Joshua to “tell a story” (quoth legendary raconteur Jennifer Lopez), and he indeed articulated those lyrics like a saucy sermon. And “No More Drama,” arguably the most hilariously melodramatic number in the Mary J. Blige oeuvre, came sputtering out of his mouth as an apocalyptic roar. He yammered that track like a gay auctioneer on fire. That obviously fills me with pride, and if Jessica’s going home tomorrow — which I suspect is the case — at least we can hold onto the knowledge that Joshua can be pretty fabulous at times. It’s been three seasons since a faboo male finalist made the Top 2, and I’d say we’re overdue for a soupcon of that sauciness, wouldn’t you?
*I was born and raised in Lemont, Illinois.