Wednesday, March 27, 2013

American Idol Top 8

I watched Idol on Wednesday evening,and it was an interesting show, with probably just as much to talk about regarding the behavior at the judges' table and among the contestants after the performances. I will have to take some time in the days ahead to watch all this again. Immediately after the show, I switched to watch the Chicago Bulls improbably snap the 27 game winning streak of the Miami Heat, in spite of being severely depleted by injuries. That was an extremely exciting finish for all Chicago sports fans and I have been pretty amped up about that since, but I wanted to get this blog in before midnight. Let's see how much of the show I remember.

Tonight featured "Music of the Motor-City" although only one song really deviated from Motown Records or Motown like artists from that era. Smokey Robinson joined Jimmy Iovine in mentoring the contestants. There was no Motor City Madman Ted Nugent, no Eminem hip hop, and no music from the likes of courageous Mitt Romney supporter Kid Rock.

Since it was a two hour program, we also had one duo and two trio performances, in addition to the solos. As always, Idol staggers those, so some singers sang twice before others had gone once. That always makes it very frustrating for me to try to judge, as I insist on judging everything on performance nights, but I went ahead and did the best I could to judge the first time each singer sang as Round 1, and then Round 2 for the second time. At the end of the night, I would average their placements together, and break ties, putting stronger emphasis on their solo performances.

Let's see how much I can recall. It may not be as much as I would otherwise want to say-

1. Candice Glover- "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

I had somewhat mixed feelings about the arrangement at the beginning, but there is no doubt that Candice was able to bring it vocally once again. It was more of a modern R&B spin as opposed to the duel traditional versions from that era, that have been performed on Idol before. It may not have been my favorite performance of hers, but it was still extremely good, and she deserves credit for once again not just singing a ballad.

2. Janelle Arthur and Kree Harrison- "Like A Prayer"

This song, by Michigan native Madonna, was the only one to really deviate at all from a Motown theme (although I do not think that Aretha Franklin was on that label.)

I had heard Jennifer Nettles do a countrified version of this song on YouTube and that is what the two country singers attempted here. It was not really bad at all, but it did seem a bit of a mess in parts. Kree always sounds pretty good, while Janelle can be a bit inconsistent. Nicki Minaj certainly did her party to try to play into the drama by praising Kree to the heavens, while ripping Janelle at the same time. That had to be awkward for the two ladies, but they genuinely did come across as being a united team and good friends in the moment. Something was also said about how Janelle helped Kree pick up a lost lyric at one point, but I did not catch that moment in the song.

3. Lazaro Arbos- "For Once In My Life"

I have to say, I think this might have been Lazaro's best vocal yet. However, it still was not on par with his competition, especially the females, to say the least. While an improvement over his other recent performances, there were still issues with his timing and rhythm and Lazaro still sweated a lot. This time though, it looked like he was sweating glitter. I actually thought the judges would praise him more for a "comeback" than they did.

4. Janelle Arthur- "You Keep Me Hangin' On"

Janelle was out once again pretty quickly, playing the guitar for the first time, and despite the criticism she had received earlier, delivered a strong performance which will likely keep her in the performance.

She claimed it was an arrangement for this well known uptempo song that she had devised herself at the age of 14. If that is true, I consider it pretty impressive. The vocals may not have been perfect, but I really liked what Janelle did in turning this into a bit of an acoustic, slowed down version. She seemed really connected as a performer as well. Positive comments from the judges had Janelle in tears, but for some reason, Nicki chose to be critical again.

5. Devin Velez- "Tracks Of My Tears"

My first thought was disappointment that Devin was going to be doing a slow song once again, but with the band, it actually turned out to be more uptempo than what he had done before.

Smokey Robinson explained the meaning of the song to Devin, exactly the same way he had to Adam Lambert, when he had mentored him on the show a few years ago. I guess the seasons of Idol continue to run into each other.

I have to say thought that I thought Devin probably gave his best vocal on his performance. While I do not see much "current" about his style, I thought he made some good vocal choices and mostly succeeded on the falsetto. Since he was at risk of going home, he probably did himself some good on the merits with this performance.

6. Angie Miller, Amber Holcomb, and Candice Glover- "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"

So, why not bring out three ladies to do a Supremes song?  Seacrest asked them who the Diana Ross figure would be, but they all demurred. I guess that means that person would not be shoving the other two ladies of the spotlight either literally or figuratively.

Maybe they all should have dressed alike though. I do not think we will be seeing Candice (or Kree) wearing dresses this season, while Amber and Angie seem to be all about showing off what they got. They can certainly pull it off, but Angie is continuing to dress a bit on the risque side for a future Christian Contemporary artist.

This was a pretty good performance by all three of them, even though I did not love the song. Candice does seem to have the biggest voice of the trio and was natural for the lead, while Angie and Amber did pretty well in their parts too.

7. Burnell Taylor- "My Cherie Amour"

Like Devin, Brunell also seems to only try to sing slower songs, but with the band, this was a bit more high energy than I expected.

It was decent for the most part, but Brunell is starting to sound and look the same performance wise (i.e. his magically dancing hands) week after week. I really do not know what else to add at this point.

Everyone has finally sang once, so it is time to pull the curtain on Round 1 and reveal the rankings.

8. Lazaro Arbos- solo
7. Janelle Arthur- duo
6. Burnell Taylor- solo
5. Kree Harrison- duo
4. Amber Holcomb- trio
3. Angie Miller- trio
2. Devin Velez- solo
1. Candice Miller- solo

8. Angie Miller- "Shop Around"

This was an interesting arrangement of this youthful Motown song, that Angie decided to give a rock edge to.  Parts of it I thought were ok, but she did seem a bit off vocally as well, and the judges were correct in saying it was not really her vibe. They still want her to get back to playing the piano on stage, and Mariah Carey (who ignored several birthday wishes from the contestants and who seemed extra caffeinated during the show) basically told Angie to stay true to her religious musical background.

Angie seemed a bit surprised by the feedback, but is usually pretty poised in her non-singing interactions. It will be interesting to see how she chooses to use the advice, because many people have pegged her as one of the frontrunners this season.

9. Amber Holcomb- "Lately"

I am at a bit of a loss to know what to write about this. Once again, Amber sounded pretty good, but that does not really surprise me. I thought it was a far stronger vocal for her than what she did last week, which had her in the Bottom Three. If I knew more about specific vocal qualities, maybe I would be able to pinpoint why she always falls at least a bit shy of Candice and Kree. The judges really liked her though and I think the Idol "Powers That Be" (a bloggy term that Mariah actually used on air) would be happy to see her as a winner.

10. Burnell Taylor, Devin Velez, and Lazaro Arbos- "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"

An entire article could probably be written about this segment. Frankly, I was expecting a mess going into it. The three remaining boys in the competition took on The Four Tops, besides being just one Top short, and smartass writers could probably have a field day with all of that, but let's move on.

The first note out of Lazaro's mouth sounded iffy, then I think Devin sang a line and it sounded decent, then Burnell sang his first line and it sounded pretty bad. Things would only get worse from there. It just was like amateur hour, although I think Devin vocally held his own, and probably then some as far as his "teammates" were concerned.

Lazaro could not even keep up with the simple cheesy dance moves and obviously and painfully did not know the lyrics at parts. I think Burnell likely missed a couple of his parts as well, as it seemed like Devin was singing the entire song towards the end. When it was over, Devin turned and defiantly pointed at Lazaro to say something. He might have been trying to say something like, "hey, don't worry about it", but some people may have interpreted it as being angry at one of his singing partners. They should have all just pretended that they had fun and everything was hunky dory.

Afterwards, only Nicki was allowed to speak and she angrily (and inappropriately) ordered all three guys to immediately leave the stage. Obviously, they did not do that, but there was a lot said and unsaid when Seacrest came in to speak to them. I really will have to watch all that again. We have never seen anything like this before on Idol, in all the years they have been doing duets and group performances now.

Brunell defiantly responded by saying that HE had done his part (but I am not so sure about that) and I think he claimed he was not trying to throw anybody under the bus, even though that is precisely what he did. Devin calmly explained (I think correctly) that he tried to help out a "couple people" during the song, although that is throwing them under the bus as well. Lazaro admitted he did not know the words.  Then, Devin was pointing at himself and was mouthing something. Could he have been saying something along the lines of "not my fault.?"

Lazaro was the weak link here, but he is probably going to once again get the most sympathy out of it. I think Burnell probably came across looking smug though and that is going to hurt him. It is also very possible that Devin (who I think walks a thin line between appearing relaxed/laid back and arrogant on the show) might have people upset at him as well. He was done a raw deal by having to sing with both Lazaro and Burnell on a competition night, but he did not exactly seem to be above throwing them under that bus on live television.

11. Kree Harrison- "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)"

I believe I have only heard this song played in the context of when Kelly Clarkson sang it in Season 1. All things considered, I think Kree's version was the best single vocal of the evening. As I have said before, she does come across week after week as being in control, both of her voice, and of her confidence. Her duet with Janelle may have been a bit of a mess, but this more than made up for it.

Round Two:

8. Lazaro Arbos- trio
7. Burnell Taylor- trio
6. Devin Velez- trio
5. Angie Miller- solo
4. Amber Holcomb- solo
3. Candice Glover- trio
2. Janelle Arthur- solo
1. Kree Harrison- solo

Overall Results:

8. Lazaro Arbos
7. Burnell Taylor
6. Janelle Arthur
5. Devin Velez
4. Angie Miller
3. Amber Holcomb
2. Kree Harrison
1. Candice Glover

There certainly is a trend at hand of my having Lazaro in last place, Candice first, Kree second, and either Amber or Angie in third.

Needless to say, the season would be better served by Lazaro being voted off. That is going to happen eventually, but I still think he probably manages to survive for one more week at least. I am pretty sure that Candice, Kree, and Angie are safe. Based on a strong solo and her personality traits, I think Janelle will make it too.

It seems like once again, Devin and Amber will be at risk of being voted off. (The judges will likely save Amber if she is at the bottom), but I think that this will be the week where Burnell takes a tumble in the voting. His solo performance might have been decent, but it was just not that memorable when considering the entire evening. I will say that what people will remember most will be his trio performance and what he said (or just what people think he might have said) after that performance, and his voters may sit this one out or go for someone else.

We will see what happens tomorrow night, but I hope the people of Detroit especially enjoyed this evening, in light of their many problems over there. Ironically, I think the long-time staple of the Ford commercial on Results night is now a thing of the past.