Well, once again Idol kind of dropped the ball on the theme week. The theme was “Motor City Music” or artists who recorded in Detroit, yet only one of the songs was not from the show’s recycled Motown Catalogue. I’m not sure if it was the contestants and the producers decision, but either way, I had higher hopes. Still, some contestants delivered, while some fell flat and had me questioning the talent and promise they once show in this competition. But let’s get right to it because I don’t want to downplay the few good performances we did get. I’ll review our three duets/trios after talking about all their solo numbers.
1. Candice Glover, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (by Marvin Gaye) – I’m starting to worry about Candice. Not because she can’t sing – her talent is undeniable – but because her song choices are becoming a little too predictable. That said, her take on this song was refreshing. It didn’t feel like a reheated version of the six others we’ve seen over the course of the show. It was closest to Fantasia’s version back in Season 3 and that’s a high compliment. Like the judges said, Candice showed a bit of grit with her vocals. There was blues, soul and a little rock in there but without disrespecting the original version of the song. That part about Candice still excites me. The judges often give this critique to others on the show, but I think it’s more appropriate for this girl: she never compromises who she is. She is undeniably Candice and if you like what she does, then she’ll keep getting your vote, but she doesn’t plan on going the David Cook route and reinventing herself week in and week out to build-up the kind of unstoppable fanbase that could take her all the way, and that’s what has me worried. I think I just wish that this performance had been a little less safe. Candice can cover songs like this in her sleep, which is why I want her to pick a song that we wouldn’t expect her to do and kill it.
- Rating: 72%
2. Lazaro Arbos, “For Once In My Life” (by Stevie Wonder) – This performance started with a load of promise. Just Lazaro and the microphone and a slower tempo to the song so it didn’t feel like he was out of breath the entire time and I almost wished he had stayed there. But he didn’t. He returned to the songs original tempo and took centre stage and sang it like the fairly cheesy song that it is. The judges gave him praise for an improvement on his last performances, and I agree, but it was only a minor improvement. I like Lazaro, but it’s not fun watching him flounder every week amongst seven more comfortable performers with better voices. I think, if I had the choice, I’d send him home now, but I doubt America’s going to heed my advice on that one, even with the lackluster night he had.
- Rating: 30%
3. Janelle Arthur, “You Keep Me Hanging On” (by The Supremes) – I didn’t get to watch the show when it aired, so when my boyfriend texted me to say he was officially converted to the Janelle train, I got a little confused. And even further confused when I saw what song she was singing without hearing the performance, but I have to admit that she definitely earned points in my book with her acoustic, angst-filled take of another overbaked song on Idol. It felt real and raw and I thought Smokey Robinson gave her fantastic advice by telling her to stay up in her higher register near the end because that part of her voice is super pretty. I think Janelle has found her niche on this show and I think she’s finally stopped competing with the other girls in their style and started doing her own thing, and that might be what takes her further than we originally expected after a few anti-climatic performances in the first few weeks of the competition. Gotta love a comeback kid.
- Rating: 80%
4. Devin Velez, “The Tracks Of My Tears” (by Smokey Robinson) – Well, Devin
was probably smarter to pick this song a few seasons out from Adam Lambert’s show-stopping version than Paul McDonald, who did it only two seasons later, but I still don’t know if it was enough. I will give Devin this: He sang it beautifully. His falsetto, like his Spanish from week’s past, meshed seamlessly into the rest of the song, but what got me was that it didn’t have the vibe the song needed. It felt like he was disconnected from the lyrics. When Smokey told him beforehand that it was about someone who cried so much over someone that you could see the tracks of the tears in the face, I was really expecting him to use that story to his advantage. I mean, how often do you get the original songwriter telling you what the song is about? And Devin just didn’t grab a hold of that emotion. It also felt a little stiff. I get that he was trying to give off the cool Motown aura, but once again, it just didn’t fit. I’m worried that this will be the last we hear of Devin, because I think he’s a great kid and has a good voice, but tonight he just didn’t bring it hard enough to convert new fans, despite what the judges said about him being “back”.
- Rating: 59%
5. Burnell Taylor, “My Cherie Amour” (by Stevie Wonder) – I thought Smokey & Jimmy gave Burnell some great advice with their “less is more” critique during rehearsals, but unfortunately Burnell didn’t heed it. His voice felt like an engine revving at a red light at times. He’s got that great tone, but it just didn’t fit the husky, mellow feel this song requires. I personally wish Jimmy would require the contestants to come to him with a few songs and have them sing a bit of all of them before deciding. I thought Motown was a great theme for Burnell, but this was not the kind of song I would have chosen to fit his young, contemporary R&B vibe. If Devin wasn’t off his game as well, I’d say Burnell should be a little worried about his chances come Thursday night, but the kid has been safe for the past two weeks, so I don’t think he’ll be right at the bottom of the pack. That being said, that, combined with the judge’s high critiques for a fairly mediocre performance, could lull his fanbase into a false sense of security and pull the rug out from under him. We’ll see I guess.
- Rating: 51%
6. Angie Miller, “Shop Around” (by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles) – I will
commend Angie on one thing tonight: I love that she tried to make this song into a rock song after the feedback the judges gave her last week. It was weird to then hear the judges redact their statements when the rock vibe just didn’t work for this song. It’s true, the song is a light hearted pop song and Angie tried to inject a little too much sexy, sassy, rock into it. I appreciated the effort and that she was “trying to have fun”, but it was probably her worst performance in the competition thus far (which isn’t saying much considering all the others have ranged from good to stellar). That said, will she be in the bottom come Thursday night? Probably not. Her fanbase will hopefully stand behind her and, if not, the judges will pull out their trump card and keep her around. I still think she has the potential to win, just not with songs like this.
- Rating: 60%
7. Amber Holcomb, “Lately” (by Stevie Wonder) – I wonder if I’m the only person on the planet that isn’t a huge fan of this Stevie Wonder song yet, inevitably, whenever it’s in the catalogue, someone has to sing it. However, I will say that Amber sang it beautifully. It was the first time sing the semi-finals that I felt that magic with her again and I really felt like she connected with the song and made me understand it for the first time. I started to see that Syesha Mercado quality about her again, the girl who back in Season 7 edged her way into a surprising third place finish. Amber might have the ability to do that if she keeps performing just well enough to make the voters feel guilty about putting her the Bottom 3. Jimmy, Smokey and the judges certainly reminded us plenty of times not to do it again. That being said, I can’t really figure out who will take her place in the Bottom 3, given the size of everyone else’s fanbases.
- Rating: 70%
8. Kree Harrison – Don’t Play That Song (by Donna Summer) – Kudos to Kree
for picking the only new song of the night (outside of the group routines) and making it memorable. That’s what is so exciting about Kree. Like Keith has said, she’s undeniably country, but without putting off the non-country fans because she can sing anything and she proved that with this song and with her other performances to date. As always, she’s was pretty pitch perfect. The one thing I will say is that I’m not sure it was deserving of the final spot of the night. If Janelle didn’t go last last week, I would have given it to her because she was better tonight. I think Kree could have probably picked something with a little more “oomph” to show that, as she said to Jimmy, isn’t just a light and airy singer. That being said, I still love her and I love that the judges are latching on to her to.
- Rating: 76%
Now it’s time to talk about the performances that I, well, would frankly rather not talk about most nights. I’m still not convinced that the duets, trios, etc. are a great addition to the show. Like Ryan said at the top of the night, these people are going to be solo artists and ought to be judged on that basis. There is no obligation for them to do duets after the show, but here we are. Over the years, we’ve had a handful of good duets and trios (Adam & Allison in Season 8, Lee & Crystal in Season 9) but I’m still not convinced they’re necessary. I digress, however, let’s get to this portion of the show.
1. Janelle & Kree, “Like A Prayer” (by Madonna) – I give props to these ladies for picking the only non-Motown song of the night and referencing my queen, Jennifer Nettles (of Sugarland) for the arrangement. That said, I didn’t get the country vibe from this at all. The choir was a good addition, but they outsang our two ladies and made me long for a more simple vocal rendition of this and while I think the judges were right to point out that Kree outsang Janelle on this one and that she seemed like a star and made it look easy, I don’t think it was necessary to pit our two country girls against each other at this point in the show. They’re both talented and they proved that with their solo performances tonight. However, this performance did have me wondering whether a double country girl finale were a possibility, non-withstanding our other three talented ladies.
- Rating: 58%
2. Amber, Angie & Candice -“ I’m Going To Make You Love Me” (by the Supremes) – This performance was an interesting combination that somehow worked well. Sure, it felt like the ladies were more “playing” at being big superstars. But it was cute and fun and they all sounded great on it. I think it definitely compensated for whatever flaws were in Angie’s solo number tonight and certainly didn’t hurt Candice or Amber in the eyes of the voters. If I had to rewatch one of the group performances tonight (tie me to a chair and make me do it, why dontcha?) it would be this one.
- Rating: 67%
3. Burnell, Devin & Lazaro – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” (by The Four Tops) – When this first started out, I didn’t think it would go downhill so fast. It was clearly uncomfortable for the three men, who seemed to lack rehearsal because they forgot the words and didn’t harmonize one bit, but worse of all was what happened after the performance. Nicki even gave Burnell the “cut it out” signal because the three men suddenly started pointing fingers at each other for how terrible the final product was. Admittedly, it seemed like Lazaro slipped the most while the other two men tried to salvage the performance, but it was too late I think, and I think sealed the fate of one of these men come Thursday night.
- Rating: 10% (for the performance and the post-performance attitude, get your stuff together, boys)
Now it’s time for the wrap up of what I think will go down come Thursday night:
- Ideal Bottom 3: Burnell, Devin, Lazaro
- Ideal Eliminee: Lazaro
- Likely Bottom 3: Burnell, Devin, Amber
- Likely Eliminee: Devin
Colton Dixon, Keith Urban and One Republic (featuring Season 5 Runner-up Katharine McPhee) perform on Thursday. Should be a great show. See you there!