by Lee Stabert
Well, my dear, dear Creamy friends, it's time again for the grand anti-climax. For the second year in a row, I don't really have a dog in the finale fight. (RIP Skylar; RIP Joshua.) Yes, I want a lady to win. Then again, I don't think Robo-Sanchez has ever done anything vaguely interesting. Yes, I want to make sweet love to Phillip Phillips. Then again, he is not in the least qualified to win a national singing competition. Oh well, someone has to win a lifetime guarantee of fame and fortune. Just ask Lee DeWyze!
You can tell tonight is special because they've relocated the circus to the Nokia Theater and J-Lo looks like a glammed-up member of the Borg. Small Wonder is up first, singing producer Simon Fuller's choice, and I can already see that she's wearing a silly ballad gown. She is singing Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." Because of course she is. I feel like her voice has gotten less impressive over the weeks. You know every note she's gonna hit (hint: It's the exact same one the original artists did). Let me also mention the empty emotional pantomime that results when a 16-year-old home-schooler sings a song about intense, undying love. So yeah, Jessica's first performance is exactly what you expected it to be.
Phillip is singing "Stand By Me." I think it's a pretty good choice. It's simply a tremendous song, and it makes people think of River Phoenix. I will say this for PP: He has his own peculiar style (that, yes, resembles Dave Matthews Band), and he has never really veered from his core personality. This take on "Stand By Me" doesn't just mimic every other version of this song — that doesn't mean it's a particularly good take on it, but at least it's mildly interesting. He displays a nice tenderness at the tail end of the performance. Overall, it's pretty solid. First round to Phillip!
Now it's time for the reprise section — contestants sing their favorite songs from the season. Jessica has chosen "The Prayer," which she apparently sang to get into the Top 24. Another ballad gown! Thanks to Google, I know this song has been sung by both Celine Dion and Josh Groban. Exciting! Or the opposite of exciting! You pick. As expected, the song is a ludicrous piece of schmaltz, but she does hit a couple huge notes. Can we talk about how Jessica Sanchez is, like, the boring-est teenager ever. I would kill for a little brattiness or sass from R2Sing2.
Phillips picked "Moving Out," which is kind of a surprising choice. He at least brings some energy to the stage. I prefer the stark opening to the up-tempo mid-section (are you shocked?). He does do a good job of spinning the narrative and I actually like the performance a bit better than when he sang it during Billy Joel week. (Man, I am just now realizing the depth of my antipathy towards Sanchez-bot — it's totally making me come over to Phillip's side ... of the bed.) I love how he gives props to the band at the end of his performance.
The judges, who only speak at the end of each round, seem to be leaning toward Jessica. But J-Lo does throw some love at her boy.
Now it's time for the Idol singles. These things are usually dreadful. Jessica's jam is called "Change Nothing." The opening feels too low for her, but then it swoops and sways to a big cheesy crescendo. I mean, this is not good music. Even Randy says as much. He also says he wished it had some R&B verve to it, and questions the choice of introducing She-Data to the world with a pop ballad. Agreed.
Phillip is singing a song called "Home." The writers actually seem to have tailored something to suit his style. The tune has a nice little Americana shuffle and a great "ooh, ooh, ooh" hook. Plus, marching band drummers! This is pretty cool. Definitely the only Idol victory song in history I would ever consider having on my iPod. I mean, it sounds like an indie-rock song. He earns a standing ovation from the judges. Randy is hollering. He calls it "perfect," and is sure to name-check Mumford and Sons and Fleet Foxes. J-Lo says he didn't sound like any other band out there. She is not very knowledgeable about contemporary music.
I think Phillip will win tomorrow and I'm actually sort of rooting for him. (I'm as surprised as you.) But my top hope for the two-hour extravaganza is a Skylar Laine/Miranda Lambert duet. How about "Famous in a Small Town"? Make it happen, Idol.