With "We've Got Tonight," Phillip Phillips may have punched his ticket to next week's "American Idol" finale.
Phillips' performance at the close of Wednesday's (May 16) episode stole the show and earned a standing ovation from the judges. All night, Randy Jackson spoke of having big "moments," and Phillips' gentle take on the Bob Seger classic definitely qualified as one of those performances.
"That was the perfect song at the perfect time and your best performance on the show ever!" Jackson told Phillips after the song. Jennifer Lopez said it was like a "lullaby," and Steven Tyler said he "nailed it" and praised him for his passion during the song.
Phillips' "We've Got Tonight" came at the end of a two-hour show that saw the contestants visiting their hometowns and being treated like returning heroes. The episode also saw Joshua Ledet retain his momentum, while Jessica Sanchez slipped a bit, proving it may be tough for her to make it to the final two.
Contestants sang three songs each: One chosen by the judges, one of their own choosing and one picked by Jimmy Iovine.
Ledet opened the show with Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind," which also earned a standing ovation from the judges. (Not surprising, they picked the song.) "Out of 70,000, there's only one American Idol. And you sang like that one tonight," Tyler told Ledet after the song. He followed it with John Lennon's "Imagine," dubbed "brilliant" (by Jackson) and "controlled" (by Lopez) and finished with Mary J. Blige's "No More Drama," his suggestion from Iovine. It was another hit.
"You have this perfect marriage of knowing exactly what you're doing and letting completely go at the same time," Lopez told him after his unkempt performance, which saw him dramatically remove his jacket, as well as his in-ear monitors. "There's spontaneity, you don't know what's going to happen, but you know it's going to be out of this world."
Sanchez's up-and-down night was typified by Jackson's critiques: He called her version of Mariah Carey's "My All" "one of the best times a Mariah song has ever been performed on TV," but later said her version of Jackson Five's "I'll Be There" — also once memorably performed by Mariah — was only "OK." "There was never a moment-moment. It's like, you know, I mean, it needed like a moment-moment-moment." (In Jackson-speak, that means she didn't quite deliver.)
Sandwiched between the two, she took on Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," which is more than a little familiar to one of the three judges. Tyler rose to his feet afterwards, telling her she "took a great song and made it greater," while Lopez called it "crazy" (in a good way). And Jackson? "Dude, you delivered, man, yo, whoa, I'm like yo, all right, all right." Our thoughts exactly, Randy.
Phillips closed so strong it hardly mattered what came before. (Voters have short attention spans, you see.) After his first song, Madcon's "Beggin'," Tyler said Phillips "could be a new Springsteen," while Jackson commented he felt he was at a Phil Phillips concert. All three judges agreed his middle performance of Matchbox Twenty's "Disease" was underwhelming, but by his home-run song was a performance all but forgotten.
One of the performers is headed home — this time not in a good way — on Thursday's episode, which is also set to feature a performance by Adam Lambert.
What did you think of "Idol" on Wednesday? Let us know in the comments!
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.