'American Idol' vs. 'The Voice: Is Phillip Phillips the best?
On "American Idol" this week, Colton Dixon got voted off, and the judges had no power to save him. Over at "The Voice," there was a surprise elimination — Jesse Campbell — who joined RaeLynn and Ashley De La Rosa in going home this week.
It's the end of the line for those three contestants, but not for our "Idol"-"Voice" mash-up, which takes all the singers from both shows and puts them head to head each week. I will be choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton — and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Phillip Phillips, "American Idol": Phillips, long my "Idol" favorite this season, briefly fell off my list last week. But this week he reminded my how bad I have it for him, first strumming and singing just as sexily as Jennifer Lopez said he did on Usher's "U Got It Bad," and then all itchy-twitchy, chicken-dancey (sans guitar) with "In the Midnight Hour." When he really gets going, Phillips seems almost electrified by the music he's making, and we, too, get caught up in the current. A real musical thrill.
Elise Testone, "American Idol": Testone boldly tackled the Marvin Gaye song "Get It On," showing off her vocal texture, sensuality and soul. Who knows why the judges didn't like it? Maybe it made them uncomfortable to see a woman growling and grooving and getting her moves on up there. (Steven Tyler excepted.) Or maybe they are harder on her because she's older than the other contestants and they think she can handle the criticism, as Testone posited on Thursday night's show. Regardless, "Let's Get It On" was one of my favorite performances of the night. Testone's take on Alicia Keys' "No One" wasn't too shabby either.
Joshua Ledet, "American Idol": Ledet is an immensely talented singer, and early in the season, he was among my favorites. Not long before we started these weekly rankings, however, a few overwrought performances made me lose my taste for him. Happily, in the last couple of weeks, he's gotten his vocal excesses back under control and renewed my appreciation. His restrained "A Change Is Gonna Come," though not pitch-perfect, was nevertheless a pleasure to listen to, perhaps because it was less polished and precise than previous performances. It was no less passionate, though.
Jesse Campbell, "The Voice": Though "Halo" was definitely not Campbell's best song, he was one of the best singers — if not the best singer — on "The Voice" this season, and if the song didn't suit him, I blame his coach, Christina Aguilera, who appeared to press him into singing it even though he expressed discomfort. Campbell may not have hit all the notes spot-on, but even Aguilera had to acknowledge he brought emotion to it, evoking his experiences being homeless, inspired by his daughter to persevere. I'm including Campbell on my list in part to protest his early ouster. And he's the only "Voice" contestant on here (sorry, Jermaine Paul and Lindsey Pavao) because I'm mad at the show for not giving its audience a say in the matter. At this point in the competition, "The Voice" shouldn't deprive its audience of its voice.
Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol": Sanchez seemed understandably affected by her shocking near-ouster last week. She didn't come back with quite the same power we've seen from her some weeks, but she didn't lose her lush tone or playful musicality either. Somewhat chastened, perhaps, by the voters' spurning, she seemed to approach her songs — Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" and the Otis Redding hit "Try a Little Tenderness" — with a new caution. But then she got as caught up in them as ever, prompting many of us to fall for her all over again. I understand what Jimmy Iovine is saying about her tackling songs that may be too old for her. On the other hand, her vocal maturity is just startling. She may look 16, but she sure doesn't sound it.
— Amy Reiter
Photo: Phillip Phillips performs on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox.