With just one week left until the “American Idol” finale, the top three remaining contestants had to sing three songs each on Wednesday night – a song of the judges’ choice, a song that the contestants chose themselves, and a song that mentor Jimmy Iovine selected.
Handsome Phillip Phillips – long criticized by the judges for “not being able to find the melody,” finally proved that if he wants to sing – boy, he can sing.
Sitting on a tall barstool and nervously rubbing his thigh, Phillips looked soulfully into the camera and sang Bob Seger’s 1978 classic, “We’ve Got Tonight,” with just enough subtlety and sex appeal to earn a standing ovation from the judges.
“I know one thing,” declared judge Jennifer Lopez after Phillips’ performance. “There’s about 20 million girls out there who wish you were singing that song to them.”
“When you first came out here, you sang like you didn’t give a s___,” said judge Steven Tyler. “You sang like you just didn’t care. And let ‘em bleep it at home, man, but I’ll tell you what – you just showed that you have all of that passion wrapped up inside of you and it doesn’t matter if you hit the notes or not, it’s about the passion you’ve got. You just nailed it.”
“We’ve Got Tonight” was chosen by Iovine, and it proved to be a home run for Phillips.
"The perfect song at the perfect time, and your best performance on the show ever!" declared judge Randy Jackson. "Finally, in the end, in this moment, when you need moments ...you had a giant moment."
Joshua Ledet, meanwhile, brought down the house with his impassioned take on Mary J. Blige’s 2001 anthem, “No More Drama.”
“At this point, it doesn’t matter what you do, what you sing – you have laid everything on this stage that there is to lay,” said Jackson. “People should just stand up and vote for you.”
“No More Drama” was also Iovine’s selection.
“That was beautiful,” said Tyler. “I watched you and I felt the last 40 years of the music business. It was over the top.”
Jessica Sanchez, the petite 16-year-old from San Diego, did not fare quite as well with the judges.
Iovine’s pick for Sanchez, the Jackson 5’s 1970 hit, “I’ll Be There,” earned middling praise.
“I liked it. OK– I didn’t love it,” said Jackson. “We’re at the end here, and you’re on the stage with all these dynamic other singers. There was never a moment-moment. It needed, like, a moment-moment-moment.”
Sanchez also took on Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and received a rare compliment from Tyler, “You just sang a great song and made it greater.”
“You don’t know what a big deal that is,” said a shocked Lopez after hearing Tyler’s comment. “When people come up there and sing his songs ... I don’t think he’s ever said one good thing!”
Up next: The two “American Idol” finalists are revealed.