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TV Column
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 05/18/2012

‘American Idol’ 2012: Joshua Ledet exits; Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez head to the finals

(Note: Lisa de Moraes is covering the upfronts in New York, and will return to recap the season finale next week.)

Is it just me or were you getting flashbacks too? Suddenly it’s like we were back in the heartbreaking semifinals of 2006, when we also had a loveable soul misfit battling against a too-perfect pop princess — all for the right to lose in the finals to a raspy, loose-limbed good ol’ boy with a charismatic grin. . .

Sorry, not following? You’re clearly not the kind of person who volunteers for a night shift recapping “American Idol.”

Of these three hometown heroes, only two will continue this journey tonight! An event so special the producers have shelled out for some vintage Paul Simon to play over outtakes from last week (run through an Instagram filter for that sad, nostalgic feel). Cocktail attire for the judges: Black leather blazer on Randy, a maroon-and-turquoise color-blocked gown on Jennifer, and a Sonny Crockett white jacket and coral blouse for Steven, smartly accessorized with a chest full of shark’s teeth.

Even the kids are dressed up, coordinated in black and white for a lounge-y version of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life.” It’s not very good — a little blaring and forced — but an unobjectionable level of mediocre that makes me wistful for the big Up With People-style group medleys so deliciously mortifying I’d feel like crawling under the couch. You miss those nights too, right? That’s why I’m always sad when it’s down to just three.

Oh, so this is one of those Ford commercials I’ve been FFWD-ing all season. It’s a silent movie theme, where Joshua is the bumbling Keystone Kop and Jessica is the safe-robbing Hamburgler. . . Okay, questions:

1.Is it really true that Phillip has been playing hooky during all these commercials this season? Not that I blame him, but that is ridiculous. It’s like sitting out the group medleys. Shouldn’t be allowed. You gotta be in it to win it, dawg.

2.Does Lisa de Moraes actually watch all of these Ford commercials? Seriously, she is not paid enough.

Joshua, center of the stage, here we go ladies and gentlemen!

The highlight of this season, really: Jimmy Iovine reviewing not just the Idolettes but J-Lo/Randy/Steven as well. The judges were way too generous to Joshua on that Etta James song. Not only would he not have given it a standing ovation — “I think I was lying down at the time.” HA! . . . .As for “Imagine”? Dazzling showman Joshua was forced to dress up its simplicity with overcompensating riffs and runs . . . And the Mary J. Blige song? “I gave him a song that didn’t have enough melody,” and he takes the blame for it, because Joshua “belongs in the finale.” (Back atcha, says Joshua: “I listen to everything Jimmy says. I look up to him, and he’s always right.”)

Next, J-Lo is in a dressing room taking a phone call from some animated creature and — this is some kind of product-placement business I can ignore, right? . . . The kids go to a recording studio to meet singer/songwriter Ester Dean. This is a minor value-added development, because Dean was recently the subject of a fascinating New Yorker story — apparently she writes all of Rihanna, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, etc.’s tracks — but you know the New Yorker, always chintzing on the photos, so it’s nice to see what she looks like. But, ohhhhh, look — it’s four finalists in the studio. Holly’s there! Clearly filmed early last week. It’s so distracting. Like one of those New York movies they made in 2000 and then decided not to airbrush the towers out of. I commend that decision, by the way — it’s honest — but it still makes you a little sad.

Our special guest performer tonight is . . . Lisa Marie Presley. Very curious. I’m not sure what she’s doing here — some deal to license Elvis’s song catalogue? She sings like Lana Del Rey on Robitussin, and, well, looks something like Lana Del Rey after a couple decades of Robitussin. But I’ve had a little cocktail myself and she doesn’t sound all that bad. She’s the King’s daughter, and we should root for her. Her new song sounds like an outtake from one of those Chris Isaak albums of the ’90s; it’s pleasingly derivative and perfectly okay.

Season 12 audition information! Tryouts in L.A., New Jersey, Chicago. Maybe this year is your year? It’s too late for me, of course. I’ll live through you.

Jessica, center of the stage! Jimmy Iovine again speaks truth to power. The Mariah Carey song the judges loved and your recapper thought was weak? Well, Jimmy says your recapper was right. At this point in the competition, Jessica needed “a shock and awe moment” but didn’t deliver. . . The Aerosmith song? “I’m looking for more than that,” he says. . . . The Jackson 5 song? Again, Iovine mans up, says he made a mistake: He wanted Jessica to try a Michael song, didn’t realize she’d have to do Jermaine’s parts as well. “It hurt her.”

Random B-list audience grownups of the night: Rita Wilson and Carole Bayer Sager. Presumably they came with other projects to tout, but since they were alive in the ’70s, they gamely follow Ryan’s request to say a few words about the late Donna Summer.

Our next guest performer. . . Adam Lambert! The shooting star finalist of 2009, and maybe the most assured Idolette since Fantasia. Looking very MTV 1985, down to those fluorescent touches borrowed from the “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” video. I still think he’s destined to be a major star — which, granted, I still say about Fantasia, seven years later — but trust me, I was there when the 2009 Idol Tour came to Verizon Center, and the way the little girls would scream for Adam, you were almost embarrassed for poor Kris Allen. (Look, I was there on my own time; I don’t need to explain anything to you.) So this new song? Apparently, Adam wishes this night would never be over. Didn’t really grab me, but maybe after I’ve heard it in the car 30 times it will click.

Phillip, center of the stage, please . . . Jimmy, channeling me, reminds everyone that “Beggin’” is actually a Four Seasons song, but otherwise shrugs off Phillip’s performance. “No harm, no foul.” . . . . As for the Matchbox 20 tune, experts agree: “It was a total snoozefest.”. . . . But “We’ve Got Tonight”? Iovine has been made a believer: “Best of anyone last night. He hit notes I didn’t think he could hit.. . .There is a dark mood and an aching soul that Phillip dug down deep and pulled out of himself.”

A note to yesterday’s commenters who challenged my jadedness about Phillip. Listen, I am totally open to this. Obviously, I’ve had my issues with Phillip, but if (when) he wins, I’m ready to recognize him as our American Idol and rally behind him.

Earnest talk from the judges about The Journey, etc. This is the time of the week when I study J-Lo’s makeup choices and wonder they could work for me. Fuchsia lips — probably not, but it looks fine on her.

More than 90 million votes, and the first person to compete in the season 11 finale is. . . .

Jessica Sanchez!

Really? I didn’t see that coming. Neither did she, it seems, hand clasped over mouth, genuine shock, no false modesty. (Colton in the audience does some kind of shoulder bump with whatshisname, the judge’s short-lived pick — Jeremy?)

So, Jessica. Guess it makes sense. Where else would the Holly vote go? So now it’s Phillip and Joshua, arms wrapped around shoulders, the bro version of the Miss America finalist hand clasp. . . .

Phillip Phillips. Like we knew it would be all along.

Joshua closes it out with a song. “It’s a Man’s World,” of course.

Related reading:

Last night’s performance show: The final three perform, and search for a “moment-moment-moment”

TV Column: Fox execs say ‘Idol’ will be “tweaked” next year; reports surface that J-Lo is quitting

Last week’s results show: Hollie Cavanagh goes home

Last week’s performance show: Final four perform

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 05/18/2012

Tags:  American Idol, American Idol 2012

 
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