By Steve Kirk, TSB Editor
American Idol celebrated the 1980s on Wednesday night, and McKinney’s Hollie Cavanagh brought a little “Flashdance” to the stage.
Hollie chose the Jennifer Beals title hit “What a Feeling” from the 1983 hit movie. And though she brought more energy to the stage than she had previously, the judges told her that she was dwelling too much about all the advice she’s received instead of naturally letting loose.
“You’ve got to stop thinking, get up there and feel it from your heart and soul,” judge Jennifer Lopez said after Cavanagh’s live performance on the Fox TV show. “When you do that, (the performance) will match your vocal ability.” Lopez said the song didn’t sound like the “pop song that it is.”
“If you stop thinking, your voice is amazing,” judge Randy Jackson told her.
Judge Steven Tyler, who has been most critical of Hollie in recent weeks, didn’t change his tune this week: “Your pitch was all over the place, I’m so sorry to tell you,” he said. “You got there at the end but it took a while to get there.”
The critiques sounded a warning to fans of Cavanagh, a 2011 McKinney Boyd graduate, considering she was in the bottom two last week and barely survived elimination. She will learn her fate, along with all of the eight remaining contestants, during Thursday’s live 7 p.m. show.
The good news for Hollie is, the contestants also sang as part of a duo on Wednesday — and she excelled there. Hollie teamed up with DeAndre Brackensick to sing the famous, up-tempo Pointer Sisters tune, “I’m So Excited.” And during this song, which came prior to her solo performance, Cavanagh appeared more relaxed than she had in some recent performances.
“Hollie, I like that you let go a little bit,” Tyler said. “That’s what you need to do. You need to get so excited, OK?”
Lopez added that Hollie’s “vocals were amazing,” while Randy Jackson said the duo’s performance was “very, very, very, very nice — from two young-uns. I love it, man.”
Hollie was noticeably honored to work with celebrity coach Gwen Stefani this week. “I had no idea my mentor was Gwen Stefani — I was like, `Oh, God, what am I going to do?’ ” Hollie said.
Stefani told her that the Beals song was about confidence: “You know what? You can knock me down but you’re not going to knock me down,” Stefani told her.
Coach Jimmy Iovine said Hollie “at times gets a little technical” and he encouraged her to sing with feeling.
She didn’t do enough of that to please the judges. What remains is, did she do enough to please America? Their votes will make the difference in Thursday’s results show. Also, the judges have one “save” per season to save an eliminated contestant. It’s possible they could use it on Hollie, should she be voted out, because they have all raved about her voice and her potential throughout the season.
“Here’s the thing baby,” Lopez said, “you’re listening to what everybody’s telling you: Go here, move this way, sing that. At the end of the day, you do have let it go.”
“You have the talent,” Jackson added.
When host Ryan Seacrest asked for Hollie’s reaction to the criticism, she was all class.
“I agree,” the 18-year-old said. “I am still learning everything in the music industry. It’s all a learning experience to me.”