‘American Idol’ vs. ‘The Voice’: Which singer is best of all?
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‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’ attract legions of viewers every week, but how do the performers of each show stack up against each other? What would happen if you took all the singers and put them head to head? That’s what we’re going to do 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.
Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here.
1. Phillip Phillips (‘American Idol’): What do I love about Phillip Phillips? Nearly everything. His earnest smile, his scruffy good looks, the way he punches out each word to every song with his whole body, his humble confidence and solid grasp of who he is (real) and what he stands for (music), the way the fripperies and pressures of the competition seem to roll off him, and the way he stomps like a mad bird and wails when he really gets into a song he’s playing on guitar. All of those qualities came through loud and clear this week when Phillips moved in — growl and all — on Billy Joel’s ‘Movin’ Out.’ He imbued the song with the raw genuineness and originality that may be exactly the two qualities I find most captivating about this double-named son of a pawn broker.
2. Jessica Sanchez (‘American Idol’): After a semi-stumble last week on her birth-year song, ‘Turn the Beat Around,’ Jessica Sanchez came back strong this week with Billy Joel’s ‘Everybody Has a Dream,’ showing both power and restraint. She also proved she could control her vibrato, holding it in check and singing with a sweet clarity and then unleashing its fury at just the right moment. And since we’re supposed to pay close attention to styling this season, now that Tommy Hilfiger is dishing out fashion advice, I’ll note that Sanchez also looked elegant, youthful and gorgeous in her lacy, low-waisted, high-necked dress. As one of the judges said, ‘Perfection.’
3. Jermaine Paul (‘The Voice’): Stepping out from behind Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige, for whom he has been a backup singer, to forge a solo path via ‘The Voice’ (auditioning for the show had been his young daughter’s idea), this beautiful fellow proved in this week’s battle rounds he was — without a doubt — fully worthy of the spotlight. Facing off against the irritatingly named ALyX on Billy Ocean’s ‘Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,’ Paul took a mediocre ‘80s pop song and used it fully to his advantage, giving more voice, energy and personality to the tune than many of us probably thought it was worth. I think Adam Levine spoke for many of us when he marveled that Jermaine had taken the song and kicked its … you know. I expect a lot of ‘Voice’ voters will be ready to clamber into his backseat — and help power his ride to the big-time — when the live shows begin.
4. Elise Testone (‘American Idol’): Elise Testone has seemed like the Rodney Dangerfield of ‘Idol’ this season. Last week, with Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ she earned some serious respect from the judges and mentor Jimmy Iovine yet still landed in the bottom three. This week, with ‘Vienna,’ which she opted to sing over the objections of Iovine and guest mentor Diddy, she showed a vocal nimbleness and onstage confidence we had not yet seen from her and finally — finally! — got some respect from the voters too. If Testone keeps this up, she could turn into this year’s Haley Reinhart, toying with the bottom three just long enough to end up in the top three overall.
5. Colton Dixon (‘American Idol’): To be honest, though I can appreciate Colton Dixon’s musical talent, his performances generally leave me pretty cold. There’s something about his vocal tone I just find … unintriguing, and a bit remote, no matter how hard he’s selling a song. But, I have to admit, sitting at that shiny red grand piano this week, Dixon slid into Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ as if it were a bespoke hipster jacket with military-ish details (and natty buttons on the sleeves). Iovine kept telling us Dixon had an advantage this week — he plays piano and sings; Joel plays piano and sings — but the ivory-tickling ‘Idol’ hopeful deserves credit for taking that edge and using it to cut his way, if not to the very top, certainly closer than he’s been.
— Amy Reiter