By Steve Kirk, TSB Editor
Hollie Cavanagh redeemed herself in the eyes of American Idol’s three outspoken critics — the judges — during Wednesday night’s live television show on Fox.
“Hollie, I’ve gotta say you did what all of America was waiting for you to do,” judge Steven Tyler told her. “You finally came out of your shell.”
The remaining seven contestants sang two songs Wednesday: a No. 1 hit from 2000-until-present; and a soul song from “back in the day,” as host Ryan Seacrest put it.
Cavanagh, a 2011 McKinney Boyd graduate, was the first artist to perform Wednesday night. She performed “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. By all accounts, her rendition of the popular song was brilliant.
“You ruffled your feathers a little,” Tyler said. “And you know what else? You took a song that everybody loves — a popular song, a beautiful song — with a beautiful voice, I can’t judge it. It was beautiful. It was perfect.”
“That’s what we mean — you just forgot about everything and you sang that song,” judge Jennifer Lopez told her. … “You did it. I’m so happy for you.”
“What I loved, for the first time ever, I felt you,” judge Randy Jackson said. “You had feeling, you had emotion. … Oh, my God you’ve arrived. Hollie. Very well done.”
While practicing the Adele hit for coach Jimmy Iovine in the week leading up to Wednesday’s live show, Iovine told her that it felt “great.” Then he asked her, “What happens when you hit the stage? Do you get nervous when you hit the stage?” Hollie admitted that “I get really nervous. Like 20 different things run through my head.” The Idol judges and Iovine have been critical of her in recent weeks for not loosening up and thinking too much during her live performances.
“You have more feeling here (at practice),” Iovine told her. “You’re looser, more powerful. You hit the stage and you’re slightly robotic.” He told her that when she’s in the dressing room, she needs to focus. “Stay away from everybody if you have to.”
She took the advice to heart.
Later in the night, Hollie received a “good luck” message on the giant screen behind the stage from the Liverpool Football Club, from her hometown in England prior to her second number. The second songs from contestants were based on music from former long-running TV show “Soul Train.”
She chose “Son of a Preacher Man” for her second song. And surprisingly, two of the three judges liked her second song even better.
“Dude, you worked it out — I loved that,” Jackson said, admitting that he was worried how she’d pull off a soul number. “I even liked this even better than the round one song in a weird sort of way.”
Lopez agreed with Jackson, saying, “I thought it was better than the first time, and you did really great then. I think you’re showing a new composure in your performance, and it really suits you.”
“I see it, too, Hollie,” Tyler said. … “And I still think you can push it even more. I’m telling you, you’ve got the voice, you’ve got the vehicle. When I close my mind and you’re singing, I picture you doing all this other stuff. Then I open my eyes and you’re still kind of standing there. But your voice is good. Just push it over the top.”
“Drive your car,” Jackson added.
Seacrest asked her what was different this week before she exited the stage for the final time on this night.
“I think I just realized that I need to let go,” Hollie said. “I watched back on the other performances and I saw me singing it, but in my face I could see what they were just saying. It was bland. So I know now I have to let everything go and go back to just singing. Forget everything else.”
Elimination night is Thursday at 7 p.m. on FOX.