Even at a super-sized 90 minutes this episode had more padding than a 80 lb. drag queen. The format for revealing the Top 10 was easily the stupidest, most time-wasting gambit I can recall on this show. Clunky and awkward, and that’s not even considering the tenor in the holding pen. When they were down to six in each room it was really uncomfortable to see the misery on these kids’ faces.
The first person to make the Top 10 was Paul Jolley, which was something of a surprise. I thought he would get lost in the mix after Wednesday. However, in the playback they showed tonight, Paul’s was the only clip that made me actually look up and really take notice. He’s one of the few guys who has a voice I can actually imagine hearing on the radio. Plus, he’s really cute. The contestants that made it to the Top 10 all got to sing a victory song. This was a bad idea in Paul’s case, as he did Heart’s “Alone,” which was both too low and too high for him and fell squarely into his cheesy-performance trap. I really don’t think he understands the concept of, or possibly even the definition of, the word subtlety.
Next up, another surprise, was Burnell Taylor. I say a surprise because according to DialIdol, Burnell didn’t make the cut. But he was absolutely amazing Wednesday night and I’m thrilled that he made it into the Top 10. For his victory song he did the dirge-like “Ready for Love,” and the vocal was again really terrific. My fear with Burnell is that he’s going to continue to pick these slow, emotionally heavy songs that the vast majority of America probably won’t know. I guess I want to see more diversity in tone and tempo from him, because his voice is one of the best I’ve heard on this show in a while. He also needs to up the energy when he’s not singing.
Curtis Finch Jr. acted all surprised when Ryan told him he made it, but I’m sorry, I’m not buying. Curtis was a lock for the Top 10 -- he’s a very strong singer. Plus, he keeps giving us some Cowardly Lion realness, so I can’t hate him for that. For his victory song Curtis also sang a slow gospel/r’n’b song I’ve never heard. I’m sensing a theme this season, and if it’s r’n’b and gospel every week I’m going to get very bored very quickly. The majority of the song was well sung, but Curtis isn’t quite as good at the falsetto runs as he thinks he is.
Devin Velez was the other more-or-less lock to make it into the Top 10, and so he did. He’s a very good singer, as demonstrated by his victory song -- which again I did not recognize. Let me say straight up: I’ve been watching this show since Season 3 and I’ve never seen so many songs come up here that I had never heard before. And I consider myself a fairly well-versed pop-culture guy. Anyway, I liked the song, I liked Devin’s vocal -- it was upbeat and exciting! And huge thanks to him for not switching into Spanish. It’s fine every now and again, but every time feels a bit desperate. And yet Nikki Minaj told him to do exactly that, and stick to just ballads. I normally agree with Nikki, but not here. (And by the way, Nikki, that Spanish-language trick HAS been done on “Idol,” by Karen Rodriguez a few seasons back.) Also, confidential to Devin: please have a discussion with your very cute mother about her choice in eyeshadow. We can do better!
And the final guy into the Top 10 was LazaroArbos, the famous stuttering contestant. I have…thoughts. First, before he took the stage for his victory song, he ground the show to a halt as he had a conversation with the band leader (I guess). Really awkward.And almost as awkward as his actual performance. Once again Lazaro picked a song that was way, way too low for him in the beginning, this time “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He had serious pitch issues throughout the rest, and the lyrics were basically mush. He has beautiful moments in just about every performance, and a great upper register. But Nick, Cortez, and Vincent just got really and truly robbed -- they are much stronger singers than Lazaro. That was not a vote based on singing. That was a vote based on Lazaro being someone people like.
We got a brief send-off to Elijah, Nick, Vincent, Cortez, and Charlie. Cortez and Vincent screwed themselves Wednesday night, and Elijah was always chaff. I was terrified that we’d be stuck with Charlie (DialIdol put him ahead of every other guy by a wide margin), and so I am absolutely DELIGHTED that we dodged that melodramatic bullet.
I’m so sorry I missed Tuesday night, because I missed my beloved human unicorn Zoanette taking on Tina Turner. The recap suggested that the rest of the girls were all mostly competent, but also largely dull.
The first person to make the Top 10 was Janelle Arthur. I have a real problem with that, too. First, I didn’t see her full performance on Tuesday, but the clip they showed tonight did not sound good. But the truth is, Janelle never should have made it through Sudden Death -- she was flat-out awful that week, and the judges pushing her along was shameful. She’s been trying to get on this show for three seasons and has been featured fairly prominently at least twice. I think Janelle has a great voice, but she seems to have a problem with nerves or picking songs or something. For her victory lap she went with a country song I don’t know. It was fine, but unexciting. There is something about her that’s likable, though, and that might get her votes far beyond what her vocals should be bringing in. Nikki said that tonight was the best that Janelle has looked or sounded, and there may be truth to that. She just seemed to be having fun out there.
Candice Glover was next, another heavily hyped contestant this season. For her victory song she did “I’m Going Down” and it was the best I’ve ever heard Candice sing. I’m glad, because up until now I’ve found her wildly overpraised. I still don’t think she’s bringing anything new to the table that we haven’t seen on this show dozens of times before. But she can sing, so I’ll take it for now.
Angie Miller was next, which was absolutely no surprise -- if there’s anyone who is the presumptive winner this season, it is Angie. And with good reason. Angie is an enormous talent -- she can sing, she can write songs, she can play piano. She is an honest-to-god artist and, frankly, a bit too legit for this show. For her victory she sang something that seemed vaguely familiar, I’m guessing it was called “I Was Here.” She struggled with the beginning -- the rhythms were off, it was too low in parts. It was easily the worst performance I’ve seen from her, but still better than all but maybe two of the guys.
Amber Holcomb was the ninth person to make it into the Top 10, and frankly, I’m ambivalent about her. The judges raved about her Sudden Death performance, but I found it to be solid yet unexciting. The clip I saw of her Tuesday-night performance didn’t wow me either. She went with “I’m Every Woman,” which was a mistake. This song was made famous by Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston, and basically nobody’s voice is going to stack up favorably to either of them. It was super rough at first and Amber spent too much time engaging with the audience during the middle. The sustained notes at the end were good, though.
The final person in the Top 10 was Kree Harrison, which was again, absolutely no surprise. Kree has been heavily promoted by the show since Hollywood Week and there was no way she wasn’t advancing. Kree looked better tonight than I think she’s ever looked. Her victory song -- which started at 9:29 p.m. for a show that was supposed to end at 9:30 p.m. -- was another song I didn’t recognize. It had a nice bluesy country edge and Kree sounded great on it. She was more lively than I’ve seen her, and I’m glad to see that.
And that meant farewell to three girls I don’t know (including the two that Nikki gushed over about being ready to be signed last week), Tenna, and modern muse Zoanette. Show: please hire Zoanette as your special magical-creature correspondent. She’s too special to just drop.
As the credits were hastily rolling, Ryan rattled off something about some online sing-off for the runners-up for a special slot on the “Idol” tour. Thanks for making that clear, show. Maybe you should have wasted a little more time with the stupid holding pens and Ryan running back and forth.
So that’s our Top 10. Given the sea of garbage we initially had when we got to the Sudden Death rounds it came out a lot better than I expected. For the guys, I expect Devin and Curtis to go far, and depending on how rabid Lazaro’sfanbase is, he could get pushed as far as Top 6. I just don’t see Paul or Burnell lasting too long, despite the fact that they both have great voices.
For the girls, Angie is the one to beat right now, but she’s got to show more diversity and fast, lest she go the same route as PiaToscano. I see votes getting split between country girls Janelle and Kree -- though Kree will absolutely come out on top there -- and r’n’b queens Candice and Amber. I’ll be curious to see who wins that particular battle.
So what do you think of the Top 10? Who do you think has it takes to win?