Wednesday, April 10, 2013

American Idol Top 6

Before I begin, I must take just a moment to salute the memory of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who passed away earlier this week. She was a true giant in world history.

With the "Iron Lady" in mind, it is worth nothing that this season of American Idol has such a discrepancy in talent among its ladies and all the men that were put through. This was clearly intentional by the Idol Powers That Be, in order to produce a female winner. That tactic will ultimately work, but the ratings are suffering as a result. I can only wonder what would have happened if some truly good male competitors would have been able to sing for America's vote, because at least two of the women this year would deserve to win in just about any kind of season.

Tonight, the contestants sang two songs each, and I much preferred the second round to the first. I will now try to remember my thoughts from having watched all this a couple hours ago. I was somewhat surprised the show managed to end on time, as the judges critiques for the first couple performances seemed to go on forever. Mariah Carey sure loves to meander vocally. I wonder if she knows Joe Biden. Nicki Minaj took the opportunity to pass on offering comments on a couple of occasions, ostensibly for time reasons.

Firstly, contestants sang songs from the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songbook. While this theme (which has been done before) will please some of the older Idol faithful, people my age or younger were probably bored. Almost every song in this round turned out to be a Dionne Warwick number. I wonder what her thoughts were. To me, she will forever be associated with Celebrity Apprentice and "I got your number, hussy."

1. Angie Miller- "Anyone Who Had a Heart"

I am already struggling to remember much in the way of details of the first performance of the evening. I think Angie sang it decently from a technical standpoint, but I did find it on the boring side and it seemed very old fashioned. In her performance, she did not really seem that connected to it, and the judges commented on that. Based on what I knew the theme for Round 2 would be, I anticipated a much more connected vocal and performance later on in the evening.

2. Amber Holcomb-" I Say a Little Prayer"

This was a pretty good vocal from Amber, who also gave a spunky performance. Once again though, it just seemed pretty old fashioned and more like something you would see in some kind of theater production saluting the 1960s, rather than something that could be relevant in today's market. I am willing to accept that, and I think she was more than credible singing this old song, but it just was lacking any "wow" moments.

3. Lazaro Arbos- ("They Long To Be) Close to You"

I am not a fan of this song, which mercifully had never been done on Idol before. So leave it to Lazaro to pick it. I thought his tone sounded pretty pleasant for the first few bars, but then it got pretty off-key and demonstrated once again that he was totally out of his league trying to sing in the Finals of an American singing competition on national television. As usual, a sweaty Lazaro resembled a deer caught in the headlights with his eyes. At least he seemed to remember all the words though.

After the performance was the most interesting. The audience barely reacted at all and any applause was quite minimal and muted. I had never heard anything like that done before. All of the judges, gave him extremely negative critiques, which Lazaro wisely did not attempt to sass back at this week. There was no booing from the audience though, as usually occurs when judges are harsh on anyone. Were they told not to react? In any event, the message was clear; Idol wants him "Gone, Gone, Gone."

4. Kree Harrison- "What the World Needs Now Is Love"

I do believe this is the first time this song has ever been done on Idol, and like almost anything else Kree does as a solo performer, it just felt right for her. Her voice is just so effortless and professional sounding. It seemed like maybe it was a bit of an original arrangement to fit her style, so that was another plus for her. Like last week though, it maybe seemed a bit restrained. Perhaps Kree is a bit wary still of moving around because of her pinched nerve issue, but I would like to see her do something a bit more uptempo and energetic sometime in the near future.

5. Janelle Arthur- "I'll Never Fall In Love Again"

Before she sang, we learned that Janelle once performed in a play as a boy, complete with a deep voice. She should have considered doing that tonight. She certainly would have been the most masculine person on stage and probably gotten a lot of votes just for that.

I did not know this song and felt the whole thing was a bit cheesy. Janelle I suppose gave an endearing performance and managed to put a bit of her country twist on it, but it just did not leave any great positive impression on me.

6. Candice Glover- "Don't Make Me Over"

This is another song I had never heard before, but that is probably good for Candice, because she is the only contestant who managed to sound current and relevant in this round.  It was an extremely good vocal, and easily superior to everyone else who had sang thus far. Her voice is just so powerful, yet technically subtle when it needs to be, and all her decisions about runs are usually right on the money. The thematic elements of this song and the lyrics might also speak to a lot of people about Candice and her current experience in Idol, where contestants are so often "made over." If that was the intent at all, it was quite a powerful appeal to many in the audience I am sure.

Round 1 Rankings:

6. Lazaro Arbos
5. Angie Miller
4. Janelle Arthur
3. Amber Holcomb
2. Kree Harrison
1. Candice Glover

Next, the kids were to sing songs "I Wish I Had Written." So, basically, this was pretty open to them, and a great way (unlike the last round) to show what kind of artists they would wish to be after the show. I was expecting to enjoy these performances as a whole much more than the Bacharach songs.

7. Angie Miller- "Love Came Down"

Like many people, I certainly did not know this song, and while it was never mentioned, it is clear that this was a Christian Contemporary number, and fits very much with the genre that Angie wants to get into.

The difference between her emotional connection between this song and the one she did earlier in the evening was like night and day. It was a very good vocal and Angie, who was moved to tears afterwards, was clearly at her most comfortable singing this type of music and emoting while at the piano. The judges, who had been asking her to do that for some time, were quite happy she did that.

8. Amber Holcomb- "Love On Top"

Amber probably gave the most "swag" performance of the night and showed she certainly could fit in the pop market, taking on this Beyonce song. I certainly think her vocals were at least slightly above average, but if I am being honest, it was not at all her best vocal performance and she seemed to be a bit off rhythmically. Of course, almost anyone would singing and moving around as much as she was trying to.

The judges gave her positive feedback for the most part, with Nicki Minaj telling Beyonce to "look out" and wondering where she might be. Is she still in Cuba contributing to a repressive Communist regime? Then, while talking to Seacrest, Amber responded to a comment Nicki had made about her in the last round (which I did not understand at the time), by leaving the door open to her possibly being in a relationship one day with Burnell Taylor, who was eliminated last week. Consider me surprised. I did not think she would truly be into him. Maybe she is just trying to get his votes. Also, Seacrest made what some may consider to be catty remarks about Paul Jolley and Devin Velez in the midst of this awkward conversation.

9. Lazaro Arbos- "Angels"

Before the break, we heard that Lazaro would be taking on Robbie Williams, and I knew it would have to be this song. I was prepared to already denounce it as a disaster and call on the extremely talented David Archuleta to briefly return from his Mormon mission just to (theoretically) slap Lazaro across the face for ruining what is considered one of his signature songs.

This turned out to be perhaps the biggest surprise of the night to me. I did not hate it. In fact, I am ashamed to admit, in the spirit of keeping it real, I maybe even liked it. Perhaps everything is being judged on a curve where Lazaro is concerned, but I thought this was easily the best he had ever sounded, since he first came on television in the auditions. I can theorize that he just knew this song really well and felt the emotion of it. Dare I say, he came across as vocally credible? It might have been even better if it was just the audio too I had heard.

I expected the judges to talk about how much better he was here than earlier and if he was going home, at least it would be on a high note, etc, etc, but they (and the audience once again) were extremely muted and everyone acted like they just wanted him off the stage as soon as possible. They gave him some very minor praise about how it was better, but that he had no business competing with the girls. All that is true to an extent, and while I feel like he has long escaped responsibility for some bad performances on the stage, he was maybe cheated a bit on recognition for this one solitary showing.

10. Kree Harrison- "Help Me Make It Through the Night"

Kree and Kris Kristofferson. Some people may be nervous to see three K's together like that, but of course Ms. Harrison gave another very strong performance.

Yes, it was once again a bit slow and minimalist, but her voice is just so good, that it is impossible to find much to criticize. All of the females this season come across as pretty likeable on television, and Kree is certainly no exception to that. Contrast that to Ms. Minaj who used the opportunity of praising Kree's strong performance to throw shade at Janelle for some reason. There seems to be some strategy involved in that. I was almost hoping that Kree would have snapped back at Nicki in the moment and stood up for Janelle. That would have made for some interesting television.

11. Janelle Arthur- "The Dance"

Vocally, I thought she was far better here than her first song and even Nicki (who seems to be looking for ways to undermine Janelle) had to agree.

This may not have been a perfect vocal, but Janelle, as she usually does when she sings these kinds of ballads, felt much more connected and at ease. Keith Urban noted that maybe she should have done the song just with an acoustic guitar. Still though, I think the target audience that Janelle wants to appeal to will have really liked this.

12. Candice Glover- "Love Song"

I was pretty intrigued when we were told before a break that Candice would be singing a song by 80s British rock band The Cure. I started to think what songs she might do, and this is the one that seemed to be most likely. I was a bit surprised and impressed that Candice would have known this song, and wondered if perhaps there was a cover done by someone that she might have heard. Jumping ahead a bit, almost immediately after the show went off the air, I tried to listen to The Cure version on YouTube and saw instead that Adele had a version she had performed live, and in just listening to a bit of that, it seems possible that Candice was inspired by that particular, changed-up arrangement of the original.

All that being said, this was so very good. Candice can do no wrong in my mind this season, which almost makes things a bit too predictable for me. Her soulful, jazzed up old-school yet fresh version of this song, (which many people probably do not know) had quite an impact and the judges were basically shown losing their crap while she was singing. I did like how Mariah Carey walked up on stage right after Candice was done singing and glitter-bombed her.

After receiving the inevitable standing ovation, the judges, including Randy Jackson, who has been there from the start, said it was one of the best performances ever done on Idol or any other show. I may need to watch it again to see if was truly that spectacular, but in the moment, it certainly was a "moment", and Candice, who seems to be a seriously competitive person (in a good way) appeared genuinely moved to tears by the praise she received.

It is really hard to believe that three judges did not have her in their Top 3 list for this season last week and more so that whomever was making the Season 11 casting decisions, cut her last year, and did not even put her in the semifinals. There is no way that they did not realize then that she had more potential than some of the females that were fodder last season.

Round 2 rankings- much better as a whole:

6. Amber Holcomb
5. Lazaro Arbos
4. Janelle Arthur
3. Angie Miller
2. Kree Harrison
1. Candice Glover

I still feel incredibly guilty about ranking Lazaro above Amber, but that's how it sounded to me.

Overall rankings, with one tie needing to be broken:

6. Lazaro Arbos
5. Amber Holcomb
4. Janelle Arthur
3. Angie Miller
2. Kree Harrison
1. Candice Glover

I find pretty clear distinctions for this group. Despite Lazaro having a decent performance tonight, he clearly remains the weak link. On the flipside, I have Candice ranked first every week. Usually, Kree is in the second position. The two of them deserve to make the Finale at this point.

Then, I have Amber, Janelle, and Angie bunched up very closely, as I did again tonight. Any of them are capable of either giving a very impressive performance, or disappointing as well.

Two things will happen on tomorrow night's Results Show. Either Lazaro will get the lowest number of votes and say goodbye, or a girl will get the least, and then be saved by the judges. Perhaps Nicki will try to create some drama if that girl is Janelle before ultimately going along with the save.

Once again, Lazaro should be voted off, and may be, but he was in the Top 3 last week, and being "dissed" by the judges (as well as having one pretty good, at least for his standard, performance) might even garner him more votes.

I think Candice is going to get some votes that she might not have gotten last week, and thus, I think the "surprise" person who will get the least amount of votes will be Amber. All things considered, I think Idol might prefer her as the eventual winner, and needless to say, if she is singing for the save tomorrow night, she will get it. After all, as soon as Randy says "in it to win it" after her performances, someone in the Idol graphics booth has the hashtag immediately ready to be put on the screen, as a subliminal reminder.