Wednesday, April 03, 2013

American Idol Top 7

This week, I am going to live-blog, as I watch a recording of this evening's proceedings. I will consider my rankings and make comments before I listen to what the judges had to say.

Tonight, is Rock Week. Seacrest tells us "no ballads." That should be quite a stylistic change from what we have been largely seeing this season, but also holds out potential disaster for some contestants. Noted guitarist Orianthi will be backing the contestants up.

1. Burnell Taylor- "You Give Love a Bad Name"

Having just seen it, I do not really know what to think of it. I guess I was just skeptical of Burnell taking on Bon Jovi from the outset. It started off sounding and feeling pretty weird, but actually, I think he probably got the most out of the performance as he was going to. I do not think it was terrible, and at least he did not bastardize the original song, as Blake Lewis did several years ago. Somehow though, I do not think he will get the same kind of critical acclaim that Blake received, and performing his solo first in the night might have Burnell as the next guy to be in danger.

2. Angie Miller and Lazaro Arbos- "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"

Here we go with the first duet. Based on the odd number of contestants remaining, I am expecting one trio. Well, this was pretty much a mess. Lazaro started off this Queen Rockabilly classic looking pretty uncomfortable. Perhaps his pants were too tight. It just felt amateurish throughout, and in what is a trend for Lazaro in these group performances, there appeared to be a lyrical slip-up. Angie may have played a part in that too. She sounded marginally better than Lazaro, but really not that much. This was not good for her either, and she at least, should be considered capable of better.

The consensus of the judges seems to be that the lyric flap was Lazaro's fault, and that Angie sounded good. I think they were kind to her on this one.

3. Kree Harrison-"Piece of My Heart"

We learn that Kree knows everybody on the Idol crew and remembers their stories and that she likes to hug people. It sounds like she has a future in politics. She certainly hopes to be receiving votes in this competition.

Her singing this particular Janis Joplin tune just makes sense off the bat. When was the last time this song was done on Idol? I think it might have been a while. I do not know if this is the most powerful rendition of the song I have ever heard. Kree appeared to be taking somewhat of a laid back and restrained take on it, but it was still far better than anything we have heard so far tonight and she certainly demonstrated the vocal chops to handle this kind of a rock song.

Afterwards, we learn that Kree has a pinched nerve, which probably explains why I felt she was holding back during the performance and that her grandmother grew up with Janis Joplin. That probably makes a lot of Baby Boomers feel extra old. I was most shocked to see Mariah Carey applaud along with the audience to a comment Nicki Minaj made.

4. Burnell Taylor and Candice Glover- "The Letter"

Well, this song has certainly been done a couple times recently on Idol. This was a far better duet than the preceding one this evening. It was a better sound and vibe for Burnell than his solo performance. However, it was really Candace that brought things home with her power and soulful take. So far, she is just incapable of delivering a poor performance. I see a standing ovation by some judges before I pause.

5.  Janelle Arthur- "You May Be Right"

I guess Billy Joel counts as "Rock." The folks back home in Tennessee were gathered at Lincoln's Grill to watch Janelle perform tonight and if they were honest, they may have noticed that she was a bit pitchy.

To me, this was the most off vocally she has sounded and it continues the trend of inconsistency for her. She sounds so good when she does stripped down intimate acoustic type performances, but when she tries to "rock out", even with her country twang, it feels far less professional and sounds troublesome on many notes. At least it seems like she got all the words right. I wonder if the judges will agree with my harsh critique.

Nope, they really liked it. Go figure. Although, they seemed more focused on Janelle's wardrobe and her "relatability." She is pretty good with the banter and quick comments. I just did not like this performance. Also, it seems like Mariah and Nicki have been taking baby steps tonight to pretend like the other person actually exists at the judges' table. They were probably directed to do so.

6. Lazaro Arbos- "We Are The Champions"

For the second time tonight, Lazaro sings a song by Queen. Is he trying to tell us something? Most likely, he has simply never heard any of the songs that were on the list tonight.

His fellow contestants talked about his "fetish" for bright colors, and while he was not wearing them on stage for this, there may have been something else a bit "wrong" regarding his ensemble. I will wait to see if blogs pick up on it tomorrow and if there are conspiracy theories abound.

Vocally? I guess Lazaro's rendition of "We Are The Champions" can be adopted as the theme song of the 2013 NBA World Champion Charlotte Bobcats. I think he may have properly hit a note or two, but missed a lot more. There was certainly a lyric flub in there (of course) and besides the terrible sweating problem he has (Nixon never sweated like that when he was chillin' in South Florida with Bebe Rebozo), Lazaro's Cuban accent just comes across as so thick when he sings a lot of the time and that was definitely happening on this. Why doesn't he just sing in Spanish? The judges would probably go crazy for it.

The judges had no criticism for him. The intent from the Idol Powers That Be has to be that such a strategy is the only way to get him voted off this week.

7. Amber Holcomb, Janelle Arthur, and Kree Harrison- "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"

This seemed like a mess. They could have used some more practice time on this one I am thinking. Amber's voice sounded sort of nice on her solo parts, but she mixed up the wording at one point and I think forgot to sing along with a chorus at another. Janelle, singing her second Billy Joel number of the night, sounded ok, but nothing to write home about. Kree did not sound bad, but appeared to be sort of phoning it in on this one and there was really nothing that stood out particularly regarding her vocal.

Now, that everyone has sang once, I can complete the rankings for the First Round:

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

All the judges, except Nicki seemed to like that final performance. Did they really or are they just saying that? I thought I caught Mariah roll her eyes after she made her comments.

8. Candace Glover- "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

While we do not know exactly how Kree pinched her nerve, we hear now that Candace broke her toe playing an April Fool's joke on Lazaro. Why isn't TMZ covering this stuff?

Candace has already proved her bona fides over the past few weeks when it comes to singing in a blues rock oriented way and I think she delivered once again here. It is possible I suppose for critics to claim that she maybe yelled a bit too much throughout the performance. While this was not the best showing she has had thus far, it still was credible and I felt she took enough steps to try to infuse her own personal style into a well-known old rock song.

Seacrest sort of dissed her size by saying he was "stronger than he looked" in case she needed him to help her get off stage. She did sort of look like she might have been in pain though. At least she did not have to suffer an injury like Louisville Cardinal Kevin Ware did. Best wishes to him in his recovery.

9. Amber Holcomb- "What About Love"

This was a great song choice and a great song by Heart for Amber to do. Her vocals may not have quite been at the Ann Wilson level, but I think Amber absolutely accomplished what she sent out to do. It seemed like she was able to finesse the powers in her vocal in a way that did not come across as overly shouty (which may have hurt Candace just a bit) while appearing to also be emotionally engaged in the performance. It looked like one judge was about to stand up for an ovation. Since I rated this highly, I almost expect the others to find something to criticize.

Nevermind. The judges loved it and continued to pimp Amber. She also has a sister in the Army. That should get her some votes.

10. Angie Miller- "Bring Me To Life"

I was wondering if she was going to sing "Angie" by the Rolling Stones. Before the last commercial, she had a written shout out to her alma mater Beverly High School, not to be confused with West Beverly High School, the homebase of a departed Fox Show.

She started off at the piano, as the judges had wanted her to do, but did not stay there long, as she got up and then sang the Evanescence number, complete with wind machine. I sort of wanted to not have to rank this higher than Amber or Candace but I have to say that Angie delivered. She sounded really good and current, and it felt like she was performing with something to prove, which may have been a vibe that was missing from some of other other female frontrunners tonight.

Round Two Rankings:

7. Lazaro Arbos- solo
6. Kree Harison- trio
5. Janelle Arthur- trio
4. Burnell Taylor- duet
3. Candace Glover- solo
2. Amber Holcomb- solo
1. Angie Miller- solo


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

All things considered, this was a somewhat subpar night, although the last two solo performances were the highlights. This season is missing a true "rocker." Angie did her best to try to fill the void I suppose and comes the closest.

These group performances really affect the overall rankings in a weird way, but it is, what it is. It is hard to believe that I would have Kree in a Bottom Three position.

I do not think she is at risk of leaving, although her vote total may decrease a bit. Lazaro should be sent home, of course, and while he will certainly be in the Bottom Three this week, I will once again say that Burnell, despite having a high ranking from me (thanks to his duet with Candace and his competition being weak in the First Round), will be the one to go.