Due to events beyond my control, I missed last week’s “American Idol” Top 4 Redux and had to leave the show in the very capable hands of Mr. Alan Sepinwall. For readers, I assume that was like going to a Yankees game to watch Wally Pipp play first base and getting stuck with Lou Gehrig.
So I apologize for returning.
I didn’t watch last week’s episode, but I’m not exactly surprised that Amber Holcomb went home.
Tonight, Angie, Candice and Kree will each be singing three times. That’s a lot of performances and a lot of room for error. Click through and join the journey through Wednesday’s performances…
8:01 p.m. ET. That is the pinkest pink dress in the history of pink dresses that Nicki is wearing. “Somebody hasn’t had any carbs,” Ryan Seacrest leers at Mariah Carey, who’s showing a lot of midriff tonight. I’d say that Ryan is a sexist pig, but I was probably having the same thought.
8:02 p.m. The Finalists went on their hometown visits this past week. I hope they like local FOX affiliates, because that’s who they’re gonna get to see.
8:04 p.m. Because there are only nine performances in two hours… Early commercial break!
8:08 p.m. Round 1 songs will be decided by Jimmy Iovine, Round 2 by the judges and Round 3 by “The ‘Idol’ Production Team,” whatever that means. Up first with Jimmy’s pick is…
Singer: KREE HARRISON
My Take: Why did Jimmy decide to give Kree a Pink song? I need an answer and please, show your work, Jimmy. The arrangement is a bland Country-fied take on the song that gives Kree only bland ranginess to showcase. She shows very little life and only minimal vocal technique. It’s entirely “fine” and forgettable. It’s my fear that on pure talent, Kree is probably out of her depth at this point. She’s a good Top 5 singer and deserved her place and will do just fine going forward assuming she gets the right material, but “Idol” knows that a Candice-Angie finale is what’s best for business and Jimmy may have just been doing his part to make that a reality.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Keith asks what Kree thought of the song choice. Kree liked the message. Keith loves that no matter what song Kree sings, she has a signature sound and she’s a country singer. Ummm… OK. Sporting a British accent, Nicki says that the quality of Kree’s voice was filled with quality. Ummm… Oh. She says Kree sounded “easy-going.” Her best advice to Kree is to wear flat boots instead of heels. [It’s hard to tell, since she’s usually standing next to Ryan Seacrest, but Kree is tiny. This is why she doesn’t wear flat boots. Anywho…] Oh. “For me, I didn’t love that song so much for you,” Randy says, adding that it sounded good, but had no pizzazz. He’s completely correct. Mariah calls the song choice “interesting,” which is code for “stupid,” because Mariah says that when she started as an artist, she demanded being able to choose her own songs. Mariah suggests Kree is holding back.
Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
My Take: Candice can sing anything, so there’s absolutely no way for Jimmy Iovine to handicap her. This is also a strange arrangement. It takes the U2 original and makes it much more melodically conventional. I’m not sure I approve, since I prefer the anthemic quality of the original over… this. I do, however, always approve of Candice’s voice, though she gets a little shout-y in a couple places. Candice isn’t prone to getting “shout-y” so that’s a bit odd. I think Jimmy Iovine just may not be very good at selecting songs for these ladies. Candice is definitely better and more dynamic than Kree was, but this wasn’t a Top 15 performance for her.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Oddly, Nicki loved the song selection. Oh! It’s the Mary J. Blige version of the song. Interesting. Stupid Dan! “You are on your way. You are a diva. You did that justice,” Nicki says. Randy also thought it was a great choice. Well, OK. “I don’t know if everything was perfect, but what’s perfect about it is that the emotion was so on-point,” Randy says, adding that Candice is in it to win it. Mariah is perplexed that Candice worked as a travel agent, telling her that they felt it, even if Candice didn’t love her own performance. Keith agrees that it was a great song choice, praising Candice’s power. Keith, however, points out that because of her adrenaline, Candice was sharp in a few spots. Ryan is amazed that Candice was able to learn “One” in just one week. I’m amazed at how Candice towers over Ryan.
Singer: ANGIE MILLER
Song: “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”
My Take: Oooh. This Elton John song seemed like a sure-thing piano track for Angie. Instead, there’s somebody on the piano, but it ISN’T Angie. Instead, Angie’s standing stock-still in a fog bank emoting aggressively. She doesn’t have a clue what to do with her arms. She wants to reach out to hug us, but she seems to be worried that that would look like pandering. So she holds back. And holds back. Also holding back, she keeps her eyes closed for the last few measures, resisting flirting with the audience. This is, vocally, one of her better piano-free vocals. It’s not perfect. She has phrasing issues. But she sounds good and, again, she sounds better than Kree.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Angie tells Randy that she worried about learning the piano in time, which was why she didn’t play. Randy praises her for her restraint and for holding back. Mariah thinks the mic stand grounded Angie and she calls it “really good.” Keith thinks Angie could have held back just a little bit more, telling her that she could have broken hearts by singing a bit more gently. Nicki thought it was a stellar vocal, but it didn’t hit her emotionally. Angie reassures us that she’ll play the piano later.
8:37 p.m. None of the Round 1 performances blew me away. Kree was definitely at the bottom, but between Candice and Angie, I don’t have a meaningful winner.
8:38 p.m. Goal Bruins!
8:38 p.m. On to Round 2, chosen by the judges…
8:41 p.m. That was fast. 3-3.
8:41 p.m. Jimmy gives Round 1 to Angie. Whatever.
8:42 p.m. Candice went to the Low Country in South Carolina. Fripp Island is very pleased for and by her. She has lots of family. She hasn’t seen them for four months. It takes two minutes, but she’s bawling. I love how totally Candice is a chip off her mother’s block. I also love that “American Idol” is introducing much of the country to Gullah! Now everybody should watch Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust.”
Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
Song: “Next To Me”
My Take: I wonder if Emile Sande might be too obscure for the core “Idol” audience, but leaving that aside, this is a good song choice by the judges. It gives her the chance to be much more lively than Jimmy’s choice did and it also lets her show far more vocal range. For the second straight performance, Candice has a couple sharp moments. Where are these bum notes coming from? Candice was note-perfect for much of the season. It’s weird to hear her miss notes. But for the most part, this is pretty solid. She’s working the lyrics, working the phrasings and, for the most part, working the melody. That was an improvement for Candice. Maybe the whole second round will be an improvement?
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Mariah rambles for a bit about how the visit home rejuvenated Candice. That has nothing to do with anything, Mariah. Keith loved that the song started as a conversation and he loves when she was “melodically riffing.” Nicki was moved by Candice’s trip home and she’s proud of Candice. “Congratulations,” says Nicki, who’s too close to tears to get anything more substantive out. Awww. Randy calls it “amazing” as the music plays his off. “Women suffer from so much insecurity about who they are and how they look,” Nicki cries, celebrating Candice’s confidence and her ability to inspire.
8:59 p.m. Angie’s brother is growing a “playoff beard” until the finale, or possibly until Angie wins a Grammy. That’s a bit awesome. Kudos — Or “Kudus,” as Randy would say — Angie’s Brother. Count the number of times Angie claps like a seal during this visit home. Angie got to do the weather on the local FOX affiliate. That’s awesome, too. In case you were worried that Candice got a tear-filled clip package and Angie was getting a goofball clip package, she drives by the Boston Marathon finish line and points at several Boston Strong signs and gets choked up herself. But that manipulation is brief, as soon Angie is inviting her besties to join her in a limo. Kids reacting to Angie are adorable and Angie is adorable reacting to them. I’ve said it before, but it’s my assumption that the “Idol” people are rooting hard for Angie, behind the scenes. Lots of tears.
Singer: ANGIE MILLER
My Take: So the judges chose a song for Angie that didn’t force her onto the piano? That’s weird. Or maybe their goal was to give Angie a Pink song to effectively knock Kree out? While Angie can’t replicate Pink’s energy, her voice sounds instantly radio-ready without dumbing the song down. I don’t buy Angie when she tosses her hair and tries to look sassy, but this works well melodically. That Angie could do a song like this and sound this professional bodes well for how a smart producer could use her after the season. Yes, she does the piano ballads, but she can also do something like this if you want to let her. Candice is every bit as versatile vocally (or more), but Angie is more commercially versatile. I watch Angie and I think she’s a star. I watch Candice and I think she’s a tremendous singer.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I love that you didn’t play the piano,” Keith says, adding that this was the most comfortable she looked piano-free all season. “Boston Strong,” Keith yells. Nicki agrees that this is the most comfortable Angie has looked on an up-tempo song. Nicki compares Angie to Miley Cyrus, which I’ve been saying all season long. Randy agrees that the judges made a great choice. “She wants to win! She’s in it to win it,” Randy says. “I concur,” Mariah purrs.
9:15 p.m. Now we’re off to Kree Country. Don’t worry. More tears, because the first person to greet Kree tells her how proud her mom and dad would be. Sniffle. Plus? Crawfish boil! And Kree talks to a baby! And there’s an empty swing! And a trip to the old family abode for more obligatory tears. Nothing is being left to emotional chance tonight, eh “Idol”? We’ve even got Kree holding up an old t-shirt that belonged to her dad. This is… not subtle.
Singer: KREE HARRISON
Song: “Here Comes Good-Bye”
My Take: The judges know that Kree is country, so they gave her Rascal Flats. They know Kree’s voice much better than Jimmy Iovine did. Kree sounds good on the verse, but she’s fairly sharp on some of the chorus, or at least the first chorus. She settles in for the last chorus. It’s a better and more natural performance than her first. This is much more wheelhouse-y for Kree. And it goes without saying that just as emotion fed into the performances for Angie and Candice, Kree is tapped into this song in a totally different way.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “You can’t underestimate or deny the power of a true, genuine emotional trigger,” Nicki says, saluting Kree’s strength at being so young without parents. Sniffle. “They’re seeing you now, Kreedom,” Nicki tells Kree of her parents. “I think this is one of the best Top Threes we’ve ever had on ‘Idol,'” Randy says, calling it “unbelievably beautiful.” Mariah was pleased. Keith thinks it was the perfect song and he sounds like he’s got a frog other some other lachrymose amphibian in his throat.
9:27 p.m. It’s another round without a clear winner. I think I’d say Angie and Kree split this one with Candice very close behind. Jimmy will disagree, but I only care what Jimmy says on Thursdays.
9:31 p.m. Jimmy thinks the judges picked well for Angie and Kree, but not for Candice.
9:32 p.m. On to Round 3…
Singer: ANGIE MILLER
My Take: Piano Angie! I’m pretty sure she’s not playing the piano, but she’s sitting at it, so that counts, right? I mean, piano seats are crazy comfortable, right? No? Whew. Now she’s playing. Somebody at “Idol” has stock in Emilie Sande. And… guess what? Angie gives good piano performance. It’s a no-brainer and it pays off solidly, if unremarkably. She could do a song like that and it’d be a hit. Comparison-wise, this Sande song is a better fit for Angie than the earlier one was for Candice.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “We love her,” Randy says of Emilie Sande. Of Angie, he says that tonight she became a complete performer. Mariah’s impressed with how long Angie stayed in her “belting register.” Keith has nothing to say. Nicki says Angie has grown and that she’s come full circle. “You are out of your head. You’re not pageant-y. You’re feeling it,” Nicki says.
Singer: KREE HARRISON
Song: “Better Dig Two”
My Take: Kree’s tonight’s Comeback Kid. Jimmy Iovine should be ashamed of himself. For various things. But also for a series of dumb song choices. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a perfect song choice, at least on a technical level. I want a little bit more edge to Kree’s voice here, a little more of that bluesy rawness. It seems like she’s having fun with this performance, but I don’t buy the attitude behind it at all. Still, it’s a commercial country vocal and “Idol” his a commercial country-friendly show. Guess what? This was not a great performance, but it’s gonna get Kree a LOT of votes, I think. I hate to say it, but Candice may be in danger.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I love to feel the pain when you sing from your soul,” Mariah says. “I like the sorrow more than the anger,” Mariah adds. “I don’t know that that’s the place for you,” Keith says, but he says America will have a hard time voting. Nicki likes Kree’s dimples, but says whoever picked the song for Kree should be stoned. Hmmm… It was much better than what Jimmy giave gave her. “It was too ordinary for you,” Randy tells her.
Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
My Take: This is, of course, a great song, but who chooses “Somewhere” out of all of the songs in the known universe for Candice? The 90-second cutdown is not especially good. It pretty much kills the song’s natural ebb-and-flow and negates any meaning to the lyrics. Still, I might pay for a “Candice Glover Sings Broadway Classics” album. This is the standout vocal of the night. It’s a cheat, because it’s the night’s best song. But Candice still slays it. And, perhaps sensing Candice needs votes, the judges stand for her.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “How do you do that?” Keith says, accusing people who don’t vote for Candice of not having a pulse. “Four words: See you next week,” Nicki says. Randy says that was another “Idol” classic for Candice. “Thanks again for making me cry, yet again,” Mariah says.
9:56 p.m. I think Angie is in the finale. But Kree and Candice are going to make things interesting. The tendency of the “Idol” voting sample will be to put Kree through, especially after plenty of pandering in the second half of the show. But Candice’s final performance will get some votes. It’s gonna be… Interesting. To me, it should be Angie-Candice. I felt that at the beginning and I feel that now. We’ll see what America thinks.
What do y’all think? Who do you want in the finale? And who’s gonna be there?