I have to give Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe credit for trying. He’s realized, by now, that the fuel for the Idol Machine, so to speak, is audience participation. We connected with these performers, we vote for them, we tune in week in and week out and, ultimately, we’re the reason they succeed or fail in the music industry, so why not let us pick the themes? The theme for this week was Rock music, but after the online community got very vocal about the amount of ballads being sung this season, Nigel decided to force everyone to sing something up-tempo (We also got the added treat of having guitarist Oranthi accompany them, which was pretty cool). Ryan also announced, at the top of the show, that users could tweet theme ideas using the hashtag #attidoltheme to help them pick themes for the upcoming weeks. It will be interesting to see what comes of this…
But now let’s get right down to the music. We got 7 solos performances and 3 group performances, so I’ll give you my thoughts on their individual performances first:
1. Burnell Taylor – “You Give Love A Bad Name” (by Bon Jovi) – I’m going to start by saying that Burnell had an uphill battle. He said he wasn’t aware of this song at the end of the performance, so I’m assuming he wasn’t aware of the song’s history on the show. Blake Lewis killed this back in Season 6 and it’s one of those songs that, as Nicki says, should never be touched again. That being said, it also felt like the wrong song for him. I did like hearing his raspy side, but when he was just singing, his tone felt unpleasant for the first time in the competition. I’m not saying that he should immediately be banished back to the realm of ballads, I just think that he could have picked something with a little more soul then straight up shouting rock anthems, like Bon Jovi.
2. Kree Harrison – “Piece Of My Heart” (by Janis Joplin) – It’s funny that Kree picked this song because I was going to recommend it for during my results show recap. Again, it was just an okay choice for her though. She’s definitely sounded better on other songs. There were spots where she was sharp and flat, but I did like the feeling she injected to it and considering how flawless she’s been with pitch in the weeks prior, I’m not going to start smacking her on the wrist for messing up the pitch on a Joplin song, when Joplin didn’t get a rat’s behind about pitch when she sang it. What’s great about Kree is that she clearly gets music and what music means to her. Her diversity is also super exciting: she can do blues, soul, jazz, country, rock and it never feels false. As Nicki said, it’s always Kree.
3. Janelle Arthur – “You May Be Right” (by Billy Joel) – My boyfriend question whether Billy Joel is rock and I’m pretty sure I gave him a scathing look through my computer screen. Janelle picking Billy Joel was a bit of a surprise though. It seemed more down Burnell’s alley. However, I think there were some good moments and some iffy moments in this too. It was definitely better than Janelle’s uptempo song back in Week 1. She’s learned something over the past few weeks and figure out the limitations and the strengths of her voice. She made some interesting and cool vocal choices with the song and I liked that. Her rendition also felt genuinely country without being campy, so I applaud her for that. I just wish the song kept her out of that shouty, rushed part of her voice that isn’t always pleasing to the ear. Still, I think the judges are right to say Janelle is improving from week to week, or at least not getting worse.
4. Lazaro Arbos – “We Will Rock You” (by Queen) – I think I’ve just stopped grading Lazaro the way I grade the others. I’ve stopped expecting him to have a breakout moment or pick a really brilliant song. I digress though, because I thought this performance wasn’t rock bottom for him. He walked around the stage, he gave it a bit of feeling and there were parts that were in tune. I just don’t feel like it’s enough at this stage in the competition. We’re at the Top 7 and I want quality performances. That’s what I loved about last season. At this stage in the game, I had no idea who would win because everyone was turning in great performances. Lazaro is by far the weakest link and this performance did nothing to make me think otherwise, even if Burnell gave him a run for his money tonight.
5. Candice Glover – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (by The Rolling Stones) – Literally the only critique I can give her is like Keith said: more energy. But I can’t fault her for that because of her injury. But, to elaborate on that point: Candice & Kree both have this thing where they make everything seem effortless, even hitting crazy big notes. So they have to compensate by working the stage and picking unexpected songs. That’s what I want to see from Candice going forward. With that said, I think Candice brought a little bit of grunge to this that I liked. She sang it great. She still does so many unexpected things with her voice that it makes me stand up and take notice and get excited. That’s what’s keeping me interested in her but hopefully the audience doesn’t get complacent.
6. Amber Holcomb – “What About Love?” (by Heart) – Okay, so I think Amber’s song choice
verged a bit on being a ballad, but I’ll give her a pass because she sounded great and looked great (in this performance at least). I think she started to prove, unlike Burnell, that she can step out of her comfort zone a bit. I think she has a bit more to go, but with the right songs and performances, she could do what Janelle’s doing and become a competitor in this competition. I’m just not sure she has the same artistry and creativity as Janelle. All her performances seem to colour within the lines. Sure, the finish product is pretty, but it has to be more than that, I think, to win after seasons of winners who do everything but colour inside the lines.
7. Angie Miller “Bring Me To Life” (by Evanescence) – And the award for most out of place song choice goes to… but to be honest, I didn’t mind. I wanted to see Angie do something more contemporary and I love Evanescence, so this seemed like a perfect match for her. Like Nicki said, the intro with the piano allowed her to do her thing while still sticking to the theme and that was good. Poor Angie though, that windmachine was really giving her a lot of wardrobe trouble. However, she sounded great and I think the modern song choice and going last will help her get the votes she needs. I’m still wondering if the judges are downplaying her so the fans will keep voting or if she really isn’t the chosen one? We’ll see I guess.
Group Routines: Normally I’d just say “as usual, the group routines added nothing of value to the competition tonight”, but I do think that one of them boosted a certain individuals chances at survival come Thursday night, while another may have deepened the pit that they’ll have to dig themselves out of.
1. Angie Miller & Lazaro Arbos – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (by Queen) – It’s funny, because I predicted Lazaro would sing this at some point during the night and sure enough…but I can’t tell what the producers were trying to accomplish with this performance. We’re they trying to make Angie seem sympathetic of Lazaro’s downward spiral or make Lazaro look foolish once again? Either way, it was like Angie was paddling a two-man canoe upstream with only one oar. It was hoping for some cute chemistry between them that might help me ignore the fact that Lazaro wasn’t going to be vocally on point, but no such luck and, once again, he forgot his words. Like I said, there’s no excuses for that any more at this stage in the competition and with Devin departing last week, I’m even more bitter about it now.
Rating: 19% (I wish I could give separate scores to Lazaro and Angela, but alas)
2. Candice Glover & Burnell Taylor – “The Letter” (by Joe Cocker) – I was full prepared to write this duet off, but when I saw the playful brother-sister chemistry between Candice and Burnell and heard their voices individually on this song, I began to wonder if Burnell could sneak his way into the Top 6. Their harmonies we’re great. I just don’t think their voices meshed well, but separately, I loved how they sounded on it. As a sidenote, Burnell’s personality came out a lot in the pre-performances interviews about each of the contestants’ quirks, which might be another reason why he sticks around. I certainly find myself warming up a little more to him.
3. Amber Holcomb, Kree Harrison, Janelle Arthur – “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me” (by Billy Joel) – This group number describes perfectly how I feel about group numbers generally on the show. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t amazing either. Each girl sounded good on her part but, as much as I love Billy Joel, this isn’t really a song that anyone can kill, especially when you’re competing for screen time with the other two ladies. So while I’ll never argue with seeing more of these three talented ladies on my screen (especially Kree), I don’t think anything from this trio will change voting patterns.
Now for my predictions come tomorrow night. Top 7 has, in the past, featured the infamous “grouping” of contestants. The number of contestants allows Ryan to split them into two groups of three, then the remaining contestant finds out that they’re safe and has to pick the group which contains the other 3 safe contestants. Most “middle men” won’t pick until Ryan coerces them a little bit. Sometimes, the result is super predictable, other times, the group they pick is wrong and everyone’s jaws drop. I’m hoping for the predictable result tomorrow night though. If that’s the case, here are my predictions:
Ideal Bottom 3: Burnell, Lazaro and… no one. Just stick to a bottom 2. That way there’s more suspense for where the ladies stand going into the Top 6.
Ideal Eliminee: Lazaro.
Likely Bottom 3: Amber, Burnell, Lazaro (though they may forgo a bottom 3 just to give us the illusion that all the women are safe)
Likely Eliminee: Burnell.
You’ll have to tune in tomorrow, or read my recap after the show, to find out if I’m right again this week though! (I’m 3 for 3 so far!)
Tomorrow night, Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood debuts her new single “See You Again” (makes me cry everytime I hear it…) and Casey James, who took 3rd place back in Season 9, performs his song “”The Good Life”. Should be a good show if all goes well. Don’t let me down America.