Well, producer Nigel Lythgoe heard our cry. “We want new themes! More music!” We’ve cried after hearing the same songs over and over again on the show. This week’s theme had the potential to open the doors to new, creative song choices. But in reality we got 1… count them: ONE song that had never been performed on the show. Maybe the problem isn’t the themes…
That being said, a few people took their recycled song choices to new levels, while others faded in the shadows of the original. Let’s find who did what. I’ll include comparisons to the original and stand-alone grades, plus commentary.
1. Curtis Finch, Jr. – I Believe (Fantasia’s Winners Single from Season 3)
I apologize, in advance. I was given false information about the fact that they couldn’t do Idol’s winner singles. That being said, I wish that was true in this instance. This song has been sung 3 times on the show (5 if you include Fantasia and Diana’s versions during the finale), now 4, and never particularly well. It’s hard to deliver the raw emotion that comes from having the taste of victory in one’s mouth. But for Curtis, it wasn’t even that. This was a predictable song choice for him. He got to bust out the choir and do his crazy runs, but none of it was particularly on pitch. He was flat in parts and screechy in others and the end result, unlike Fantasia’s, just felt lukewarm. Unfortunately, I don’t think this performance did him any favours and going first? Probably not going to help matters.
- Winner of this battle: Fantasia, hands down.
- Grade: 38%
2. Janelle Arthur – Gone (by Montgomery Gentry, sung by Scotty McCreery)
During Janelle’s intro package, she said she wanted to stick with traditional country. It was good to hear her say this because, as I’ve said, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline is her kind of thing. This song, however, was not. It fit Scotty because it was sung by a guy in the first place and wasn’t particularly about the singing, more about the performing. At times, Janelle sounded like she was shouting and out of breath and I never really got the feeling that she felt comfortable in the song. I still don’t think she’s chosen the right song for her in a while, and I was glad to hear Nicki tell her just that.
- Winner of this battle: Scotty. It just fit his style more.
- Grade: 40%
3. Devin Velez – Temporary Home (From Carrie Underwood’s album Play On)
I agree with the judges, to an extent, on this one. I don’t know if this was the exact right song choice for Devin. It’s a beautiful song and he sung it well, but it felt like someone chose it for him. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But I think that’s a point for him to improve on for next week, if he’s there. Unfortunately, I think his performance kind of got lost in the fray tonight and I’m worried about him. There was still that beautiful clarity in his voice tonight but I just wish he picked something that let him let loose a little more and gave him a more comfortable emotional connection.
- Winner of this battle: Carrie Underwood.
- Grade: 63%
4. Angie Miller – I Surrender (by Celine Dion, as sung by Kelly Clarkson in Season 1)
I cringed when I first found out that Angie was singing something Kelly had taken on. And a Celine Dion song. Talk about a uphill battle. But I thought, vocally, she slayed this. After her emotions kind of pulled a few strands loose in her victory performance during last week’s results, I was worried that the same thing would happen tonight. Thankfully, she was right on the money. I’m glad the judges gave her the praise she deserves, but I do feel Jimmy Iovine’s critique of her being too pageanty. She needs to learn that it’s okay not to smile and it’s okay to pick songs that people wouldn’t expect you to sing. I think tonight’s song choice wasn’t a great example of that, but her Jessie J and Colton Dixon covers in the week’s prior proved that she’s capable of that. Still, I couldn’t have asked for much more with the song she did choose.
- Winner of this battle: Tied!
- Grade: 80%
5. Paul Jolley – Amazed (by Lonestar, as sung by Scotty McCreery on Season 10)
I’ve been kind of lukewarm on Paul since the competition started. I recognized that he had a good voice, but I never felt much of a connection with him. Tonight, that changed a bit. He gave me something and I liked it. I wish Jimmy hadn’t shattered his confidence by telling him not to oversing before he came on stage. Paul knows what he’s doing with his voice and tonight it felt like he was holding back on a song that doesn’t require him to. He didn’t have to go full blown, but he could have dug his heels into some of those notes and really given us something to make sure we remember him. I will, however, say that he probably gave the best performance of the boys tonight.
- Winner of this battle: Tough call, but I’ll give it to Paul by a hair.
- Grade: 68%
6. Candice Glover – I (Who Have Nothing) (by Shirley Bassey, as sung by Jordin Sparks on Season 6)
I was sort of worried when I got this prediction right. It’s a great song and, no doubt, Candice would sing it well. But I was worried it was past it’s prime on the show. Jordin gave a great rendition of it in Season 6 and Haley gave another interesting twist on it in Season 10. But Candice really sunk her teeth in it tonight and gave, without a doubt, the performance of the night. It takes a lot to get me to stand up out of my chair and have me applauding in my living room, but this did it. She made it seem so effortless and, once again, left me questioning why she’s had to auditioning so many times before making it to the finals. At least the judges are finally giving her the praise she deserves.
- Winner of this battle: Candice Glover, but Jordin’s version was good too, just different.
- Grade: 88%
7. Lazaro Arbos – Breakaway (by Kelly Clarkson from her album of the same title)
Honestly, I don’t think this was such a terrible performance for Lazaro. Maybe I grade him on a curve, but I’m still impressed when he goes from such a severe stutter to singing so smoothly. Sure, the end result was a little cheesy, but so is his entire journey on Idol thus far, so I didn’t expect much more. I do wish that he’d stick to his niche of old school songs, like he did with Feeling Good. That fit him well and it gave him a bit of swagger and confidence that kept him from feeling seeming uncomfortable or like a deer in the headlights on stage.
- Winner of this battle: Kelly Clarkson
- Grade: 52%
8. Kree Harrison – Crying (by Rob Orbison, as sung by Carrie Underwood during Season 4)
Keith said it perfect, at least in my mind, when he said that he just loves hearing this girl sing. I even understood Nicki’s waffle analogy. Kree’s voice and performances are just warm and comfortable. I could listen to her sing for the entire show and probably not mind. Like Devin, she has a great clarity to her voice and a fantastic ability to connect emotionally with songs. This was a good song for her and really appealed to her genre, if that’s the kind of artist she’s hoping to be. I guess I was just hoping for more. I have the bar set high for her and she’s slayed it week after week and this was great, but not exceptional. I’ve come to expect exceptional from her.
- Winner of this battle: Kree Harrison
- Grade: 78%
9. Burnell Taylor – Flying Without Wings (Ruben Studdard, from Season 2’s, original Idol single)
Ah, Burnell. You just has to pick an Idol single, now didn’t you. By now, we know Burnell can sing. I was glad to see him tone down the hand gestures, but I did not need this cheesy ballad from him on a night when I felt like he had a real chance at feeding off his momentum and making a move for the title. If he’s going to crack the Top 6, he’s going to need to deliver better than this and the only way to do this, as Jimmy Iovine said, is to take a little bit of a risk with his song choices. R&B doesn’t have to be boring. Go uptempo, do something a little more dramatic. It’s okay, it won’t hurt you.
- Winner of this Battle: Ruben, I guess
- Grade: 57%
10. Amber Holcomb – A Moment Like This (Kelly Clarkson, from Season 1’s, original Idol single)
The first shock of the night came when I found out that the girl I had pegged as cannon fodder got the final spot of the night, so dubbed “the pimp spot”. Contestants who perform last rarely go home because their performances are fresh in the mind of the voter as they go to pick up the phone. So I was expecting great things from her. And she deliver… good things. She sang the song well and I thought didn’t do anything to make me like her any less – she still seems like a sweet girl, but I didn’t think this was the absolute best song choice she could have made, nor did I think it was – as the judge’s said – the performance of the night. Maybe it was different in the studio, but I felt like this was just good, not great. Good may, however, be enough to keep her from what seemed like an inevitable 10th place finish for her coming into tonight.
- Winner of this battle: Kelly Clarkson
- Grade: 72%
And now, for my predictions for eliminations. These may change before the show tomorrow because I like to read what other people thought to give me a better idea of what will go down, but here’s what I’m thinking right now:
- Likely Bottom 3: Devin/Burnell/Curtis
- Likely Eliminee: Devin (please America, don’t let this happen)
- My Ideal Bottom 3: Curtis/Janell/Burnell
- My Ideal Eliminee: Curtis