Faced with singing songs of the judges' and Jimmy Iovine's choosing, as well as a pick of their own, American Idol's top three rose to the challenge. Two of them sang their hearts out. One did something even more impressive.
He connected with his audience.
Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez may be better pure singers than Phillip Phillips, but, when he needed a moment to sew up his spot in next week's finale, he found it. Iovine picked Bob Seger's 1978 ballad We've Got Tonight for him, and many of his young female fans in the audience probably didn't even know the song, which would've been a hit more than a decade before they were born. But as soon as he sang the first line -- "I know it's late" -- he had them.
Phillip already had delivered one big moment early in the show. Challenged by Steven Tyler to sing the medley of the Four Seasons-turned-Madcon hit Beggin', he responded by turning it into a smoldering Latin groove, keeping every bit of the song's emotion but rendering the melody secondary. His second-round choice of Matchbox 20's Disease didn't connect with the judges, but it was solid enough to set up We've Got Tonight later.
That left Joshua and Jessica to sing hard for the second spot. Jessica started with a pair of ballads -- Mariah Carey's My All and Aerosmith's I Don't Want to Miss a Thing -- before getting the Jackson 5's I'll Be There from Jimmy, as a way for her to appeal to the older audience with a youthful song.
Joshua started with Etta James' I'd Rather Go Blind (a song that, perhaps coincidentally, was used in a Kraft Foods commercial immediately after his performance), then delivered a tenderly soulful rendition of John Lennon's Imagine. For his final performance, he sang Mary J. Blige's No More Drama, working himself into a frenzy where he shed his jacket and ripped out his in-ear monitors. He may have turned off almost as many people with his hyper-emotional performance as he excited. But, as Randy Jackson told him afterward, "You have laid everything on the stage there is to lay."
Thursday night, we'll find out if that was enough.
- Phillip Phillips, Beggin'
- Jessica Sanchez, My All
- Joshua Ledet, I'd Rather Go Blind
- Joshua Ledet, Imagine
- Phillip Phillips, Disease
- Jessica Sanchez, I Don't Want to Miss a Thing
- Phillip Phillips, We've Got Tonight
- Joshua Ledet, No More Drama
- Jessica Sanchez, I'll Be There