With the help of hilarious and insightful guest mentor Steven Van Zandt (TV's Silvio Dante), four of the Top 5 put on their bravest "gotta have it" faces and Phillip Phillips put on his "I'm in severe pain" face for two rounds: The '60s and British Pop. Lots of great performances this week, but the real story here was that we got a never-this-close-before glimpse of the infamous American Idol cheat sheet/script!
So there it is. Honestly, I'm disappointed that the cheat sheet/script contains plain-as-day photos of the contestants instead of suggestive clip art: a shotgun for Skylar, a high heel for Jessica, a frightened bird for Hollie, a big-ass diamond for Joshua, and a throbbing heart for Phillip. And up until last week, a senior citizen/disabled parking symbol for Elise.
Hollie S***! Hollie's gotta have it, Ryan! Little Hollie Cavanagh took a big risk attempting Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High," or what Little Steven called "probably the most exciting record of all time." I couldn't believe how well she commanded the giant army of backup singers and musicians at her disposal here. A much less confident Hollie would have been overwhelmed by so much activity onstage a few weeks ago.
It goes without saying at this point that her vocals were near flawless, but I couldn't get enough of all of Hollie's visual details here: lifting her chin to smirk while confidently striding past Nigel Lythgoe, shimmying up to the bongo player between verses, and that sassy yet smiley head jerk at the end. "I LOVED IT, TOO!" bellowed Randy after teasing (with very little suspense) that he might have disagreed with Steven and J. Lo.
R. Yo is right that Hollie's peaking at just the right time. I don't love how the judges have "put her through the wringer" (even J. Lo admitted that last night), but you have to admit they've crafted a pretty compelling story arc for Hollie here. After a few weeks of "no connection," all of the power players seem to be on board with Hollie's forward momentum. Ryan even got in on that action, letting the viewers know after "River" that Hollie's second song would be great, too.
Phillip Phillips definitely gave off a cool vibe and more energy than we've seen from him in awhile on the Box Tops' "The Letter" -- but as he'd removed its essential melody, the song was virtually unrecognizable. (Especially if you were Jennifer Lopez.) Jimmy Iovine had worried about the key change and mood of this performance, reminding Little Steven that "it's a television performance." But his bosom buddy gruffly argued in favor of P. Phil's artistry: "It's not the Miss America Pageant." Damn, I thought it was. Ryan is so good with heels.
Anyway, Phillip appeared to be having a blast, which was cute, but at this point most of his vocals sound like a tin chest (likely filled with gray shirts) rolling endlessly across a completely flat street. Steven Tyler admitted he missed the melody of the original, Randy boomed "At least he STRIVES to be original," and J. Lo once again tried to make Phillip Phillips-as-a-verb happen. It's not going to happen.
Strike two: Phillip Phillips has a girlfriend, who reminds me of Aurelia from Love Actually.
NEXT: 'Whatever,' Randy. Ugh, as if!