I’m not sure if FOX is trying to confuse me or trying to confuse my cable listings. On-air, FOX has been saying that tonight features performance by the Top 10 “Idol” Ladies. In my listings and on FOX’s press site, though, it just says “10 Semifinalists Perform.”
There’s a big difference between those two things.
Click through and follow along and we’ll see what the truth ends up being…
8:00 p.m. ET. OK. The promo guy just said Top 10 Girls. I’m trusting him. Why would he lie to me? WHY?!?
8:01 p.m. “Tonight, it is the ladies,” Seacrest confirms.
8:02 p.m. “It’s bittersweet,” Keith Urban says of allowing America to take control. He adds that they’ve given America a lot of diversity to choose from. “I’m just passionate about who I love,” Nicki Minaj says, emphasizing that she wants her fans to vote on their own and she hopes they get performers they love. “The girls definitely have the edge,” Randy says, claiming he hasn’t said that for a long time. That’s not true, but whatever. Mariah Carey time-travels back to her own youthful innocence. “I think that everybody here has to have a certain amount of passion as well as talent,” Mariah says.
8:05 p.m. The Top 10 Ladies are on the stage. The crowd sounds extra responsive to Zoanette Johnson and Angela Miller.
Singer: ZOANETTE JOHNSON
Song: “What’s Love Got To Do With It”
My Take: Very interesting that Zoanette is opening the show. It’s always hard to open long telecasts, so the “Idol” producers must have faith that the “cooky” people are going to respond to Zoanette. If you just watched the performance out of the context of Zoanette’s entire “Idol” journey, you’d probably be horrify. This is a really, really, really shout-y and unmusical Tina Turner cover that’s almost completely devoid of the humor and wackiness that Zoanette has brought to previous performances. She doesn’t have Tina’s voice. She doesn’t even have a parody of Tina’s voice. That isn’t surprising. The part that’s surprising is that not only does she note have Tina’s strut, but she doesn’t have a parody of Tina’s strut. I liked and supported Zoanette last week. I can’t support that.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “If we were giving an award for the most joyous, unbridled… free-spirted girl, you would win hands-down,” Keith says. But he calls it an odd song choice, even if he loves her “ferocity” and her power and her exhibitionism. Somebody in the audience yells something that has to be bleeped. “That wasn’t it,” Nicki regretfully tells Zoanette. Somebody in the crowd continues to yell things that have to get muted. “I think with this particular song, you’ve gotta really be on-key and stuff,” Nicki says wisely. “You’re the spirit leader, the inspirational team leader, you’re all of that,” Randy says, before calling it “a mess.” Mariah appreciates the energy and the love that Zoanette gives other contestants and she appreciates Zoanette’s struggle. “This wasn’t my favorite performance that you’ve done either,” Mariah admits, though she calls her “a bundle of festivity.”
Singer: BREANNA STEER
Song: “Flaws and All”
My Take: Wait. You can’t say that you’re a “bitch” in the afternoon on FOX? Then why approve this song, FOX? come on! I really liked Breanna’s attitude and sass in her performance last week. After this performance, I’m a little concerned that she thinks curling her lip is the same as having “attitude and sassy.” Last week felt authentic. This week feels like a put-on. Without feeling connected to her personality, I don’t get as excited about her voice, which is rangy, but a little thin. But at least we know that her nickname from now on is “Breanna Sneers,” because she does. And it’s odd, because she’s a very pretty gal when she smiles. Oh well.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I love your song choices,” Keith says. He predicts that she will advance, but he wants her to find a song that takes her into her own place and that doesn’t just seem like another Beyonce. “I think this was the absolute wrong song for you,” Nicki says, warning Breanna that she sounded strained and that she shouldn’t get comfortable. “I’m agreeing with my own self,” Randy says. He thought the song choice was cool, but safe. He wanted more moments. Randy always wants more moments. He wasn’t jumping up and down. Mariah thinks it was a unique song choice, calling it “lyrically very raw and simplistic,” whatever that means. Breanna says she was thinking about “someone special” when she was singing. And he’s here tonight! I think it’s Seacrest.
Singer: AUBREY CLELAND
Song: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”
My Take: They need to separate Breanna and Aubrey, as opposed to putting them right next to each other. As I said last week when they performed, the show doesn’t need BOTH of them. They occupy the same musical and physical space. I bet they can share dresses. Aubrey’s like the smiley version of Breanna. They have almost the same voice as well. They’ve got got good range and not that much texture. This is a slightly more demanding song than the one Breanna sang, which means that she has a couple bigger notes, but there are also a few places Aubrey is exposed either not quite having the notes or not quite having the lyrics. I can’t tell which it is. There are stumbles. Just as she did last week, Aubrey is just smiling her way through a song which really doesn’t ask for “smiles.” As inappropriate as her attitude may be, it also makes her much more approachable than Breanna. People might vote for Aubrey. I don’t expect people will vote for Breanna Sneers.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “First of all, you look fantastic,” Keith says correctly. He could hear her personality in the song, but he was frustrated that she didn’t get to soar more. “You know what I love about you? Your humility,” Nicki says. Nicki loves her vibrato and her near-falsetto, but she doesn’t love Aubrey’s mic posture or something. Randy gets a little bit of a Rihanna vibe, but he wanted more moments. “You so obviously have multi-platinum potential,” Mariah says.
Singer: JANELLE ARTHUR
Song: “If I Can Dream”
My Take: Janelle caught a break last week when the judges rewarded her previous achievement over her performance and I’m still not convinced she deserved to advance over Rachel Hale. Is it time for redemption? Largely, yes. This Elvis chestnut feels really old-fashioned in Janelle’s hands, but I also get the feeling that this is exactly how she wants it to feel. Her voice sounds big and warm and, unlike the past couple performances, I’d say there were a couple “moments,” as Randy would put it. She’s right in the “Idol” country wheelhouse and I don’t think there’s anybody else like her. She’ll stick around.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I loved that, baby,” Keith says. He praises her “classic country voice” with modern runs. “That’s my girl. You’re back,” Nicki says, calling her “a little marshmallow I wanna eat,” with a put-on Southern accent. “I like the old throw-back thing in your voice,” Randy says, hoping somebody will make an old-style country album again. “Feel good about it. Congratulations,” Mariah says, claiming she’s getting an America’s Sweetheart vibe. “I like to eat marshmallows, that’s for sure,” Janelle declares. She loves marshmallows, America! How can you not love her?
8:53 p.m. Crab legs are delivered to the judging panel. I expect Nicki-and-crab-legs to be featured in gif form by the end of this episode.
Singer: TENNA TORRES
My Take: TeNna’s definitely looking younger tonight. Her hair looks better and she’s showing a lot of skin. But was her voice always this vibrato-y? Last week, I thought she sounded reasonably good. Tonight, she sounds like that goat who pops up on YouTube videos bleating like a screaming person. She softens a tiny bit by the end. I did not enjoy listening to that, though. She tried way too hard for me.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Keith tells Tenna not to let the camera distract her, but he applauds her for singing a Faith Hill song. “You look rally pretty. I like your hair like that, Tenna. Good job. I liked your boobs, too,” Nicki says. “Randy, shut up, acting like some good-two-shoes,” Nicki tells a scandalized Randy. Nicki praises her professionalism, but she doesn’t know if her personality jumps out. “I like the restraint,” Randy says, inexplicably. Mariah liked the “richness,” which she feels like she hadn’t heard previously. Apparently the judges and I were listening to a different performance.
9:00 p.m. “Nicki Minaj Eats Crab Legs and Talks About Boobs” will be paired with “Seacrest & Zoanette Talk About Weaves” in a new FOX comedy block next fall.
9:01 p.m. Oh no. Angela Miller is singing a Colton Dixon song? Consider me… wary.
Singer: ANGELA MILLER
Song: “Never Gone”
My Take: OK. I was nervous about the Colton Dixon-ishness about this song, but Angela Miller wants to be in front of a piano whenever possible. I have no idea how much she’s leading the melody and I can hardly hear the piano at all, but in this context, she’s such a freaking star. And she’s not in the model of anybody we’ve ever seen on “American Idol” before. She’s going to make a lot of money for Colton Dixon out of this performance. I don’t know the song at all, but this version of it is terrific. I hope he at least buys her a Sprite to thank her. But yeah. She’s leaps and bounds beyond the night’s other performers. It’s not even close.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “That was beautiful,” Keith says, urging “Angie” to play the piano more, calling her “a true artist.” “The trumpets should sound when you walk in the room, little girl,” Nicki says, predicting that Angie’s sure to advance. “Can I just get your album?” Nicki says. “America a star is born on that stage right there,” Randy says. “It’s like I was at your show already,” Randy says. “This was such a great choice that… all of us were blown away,” Mariah says. “Hi man! Hope you’re having fun on tour,” Angie says to Colton.
Singer: AMBER HOLCOMB
Song: “I Believe in You and Be”
My Take: I’m confused. Did something VERY awkward just happen with the clip that Ryan aired for Ryan? Lots of ballads this week. I already miss the energy that Angela Miller brought just 10 minutes ago. But Amber is definitely the best of our balladeers tonight, kinda making Tenna and Aubrey and Breanna look like interchangeable amateurs. She’s got more range, more vocal control and more confidence in her instrument than any of the non-Angelas we’ve seen thus very. That wasn’t a great performance — it was just a bit too Wannabe Whitney to move into “greatness” — but it was very, very, very good. The judges stand. For me, I’d love to see Candice Glover do the exact same song immediately afterward. I’m just trying to get a sense of dueling big-voices. Angela doesn’t do what Amber does. Kree doesn’t do what Amber does. Candice may, but we’ll have to wait for that head-to-head.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “What a perfect song for you,” Keith says. “I’m just gonna call you ‘ber from now on,” Nicki says. “I know you’re not only legs, but sweetheart, your vocals are surpassing this competition,” Nicki says. “Amber is definitely in it to win it,” Randy says, resurrecting the catch-phrase hew retired last season. “I love you tonight, I love you every night,” Mariah says.
Singer: KREE HARRISON
My Take: Another Faith Hill song from a singer who hadn’t been presented as a country singer previously. I don’t think this is Kree doing what she does best and yet she does it tremendously well. To me, this is a pop-country song and I think Kree has more of a folk-roots kinda voice. But maybe I’ve just been misjudging and Kree can see whatever Kree wants to sing. Last week, Kree was still giving off a “Just rolled out of bed” style. That’s gone. Tonight, she looks polished and packagable. Apparently the first half of this show didn’t count, because NOW we’re getting into the people who can bellow. I wouldn’t have thought Janelle was in any trouble, but we’ve had three straight Top 10 locks in a row, so now I wonder.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “The first two words in ‘Idol’ are ‘I do’ and I do love to hear you sing,” Keith says weirdly. Nicki and Kree talk briefly in British accents. “You already know that you’re my wife,” Nicki tells her. “Guilty!” Kree says, happily playing along. “It’s my favorite tone out of all the girls,” Nicki says. Kree is also in it to win it. “How can you top that?” Mariah asks.
Singer: ADRIANA LATONIO
Song: “Stand Up For Love”
My Take: It’s a matter of comparisons for Adriana. If you measure her against the night’s first five performers, she’s the stand-out. She’s got a much better vocal showcase that the one that did Aubrey and Tenna Breanna in, but she’s much less polished and confident than the last trio we got. They looked like pros, she looks like a somewhat precocious child, but not a Jessica Sanchez-level precocious child. As of this second, Adriana would be in fifth for me, but with Candice Glover still to come, I can’t imagine her sticking around.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I’m a little nervous about that song choice for you tonight,” Keith worries. Nicki says that after Angie, Amber and Kree, Adriana needs to think about coming back next season and getting more maturity and life experience. Ouch. “It was just very safe and it was kinda pageant-y,” Randy agrees, adding that it was “a little boring.” Mariah didn’t like the song.
Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
Song: “Ordinary People”
My Take: Gender-flipping a John Legend song, Candice offers the reminder that in her range, she’s got something that Amber can’t matcher. I think Amber’s more commercial, but Candice is… ummm… better. Her voice rises and soars and stakes its own ground. She’s not especially exciting as a performer, but her voice is exciting enough to make up for whatever stage-craft limitations she may have. This is way, way better than Candice’s performance last week.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “The level of singers tonight is crazy. It’s through the roof,” Keith says, calling it “superb.” Nicki merely salutes Candice. “That was ridiculous because you sang notes that people don’t even understand… I’m learning listening to you,” Randy raves. “We’ve gotta talk to producers. We might need a Wild Card or something,” Randy says. Mariah just thanks Candice for sharing her gift.
9:56 p.m. Randy thinks America has its work cut out for it. I disagree. Candice, Amber, Kree and Angela advance. As long as that happens, I’m not worried about who the fifth person is. I think Janelle would be my preference, but the gap between the Top 4 and everybody else is unimaginably wide. The funny thing is that I think Zoanette is the big mystery. She got pimped so heavily last week that I can imagine a certain group of voters loving her so much that she advances despite a woeful performance tonight. But yeah, unless somebody from the Top 4 doesn’t advance, “Idol” doesn’t have any worries.
What’d you think? Who’d you love? And who advances?