No rock, no glory: American Idol 2012 Top 6
Something’s happened to Hollie Cavanagh. It’s great news for the girl formerly known as Tinkerbell. It’s bad news for early American Idol front-runner Jessica Sanchez.
Maybe, staving off disaster last week primed Hollie for the big-time. Maybe, the realization that voters don’t always agree with Idol judges fueled her confidence. Whatever the reason, the promise glimpsed when Hollie sang Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” gushed out today as she belted our Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb”.
Clothes sense was the least of the change. Barely into the first chorus of the song, I blinked and sat up. Tinkerbell was not just initiating eye contact with the audience; she actually had a twinkle in her eye — as she sang “and I hold my head up high”. And she just grew stronger deeper into the song: legs now in open stance, the arms loose and expressive, the neck relaxed (which explains the greater percentage of notes hit). As Hollie belted the notes home, a teeny weeny smile peeped out the corners of her mouth.
Despite the standing ovation given by the judges – her first – Hollie’s better song wasn’t as good as Jessica’s cover of Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father Again”. This was a gleaming teardrop, a distillation of every child’s longing, of every adult’s yearning. That Jessica sang it without a single shriek only adds to the song’s power. That she sang it without letting a single actual tear fall, is sheer genius. That, for once, she let us see a glimpse of how a spirit could be broken and yet persevere, is a giant step for this shy girl.
The real danger to Jessica lies outside of the vocal sphere, in Hollie’s funny little cheerleader routine and the playful deep bow. I’m going to stop wishing for Jessica to display greater spirit, greater empathy, greater conversational engagement. Let’s admit it, it’s beyond her at this point. That doesn’t make her a bad artist. Still, it does lead to technically flawless but ultimately disappointing performances. She’s not cold in the way Pia Toscano was. You can sense her heat and fire but through a glass, very darkly.