The “Rock Week” results episode kicked off with the Top 7 group sing to “Somebody to Love” by Queen. Lot of Queen this week. Some of it was pretty, and once Candice came in at the end she stole the entire song. There were other moments -- mostly with Lazaro -- where it just wasn’t working. There were parts where they seemed to forget the lyrics again, or didn’t know who was taking the lead. I’ve never seen such poorly rehearsed group numbers on this show.
Time for the Jimmy Iovine recap. He was baffled by what he saw on Wednesday, and put much of it on poor song choice. Jimmy said that Burnell got it all wrong, and again expressed his disappointment with Burnell obviously not knowing the basics of the music industry. Jimmy thought Kree did pick the right song, and said that she sang with dignity, especially given the pinched-nerve issue. He thought Janelle was merely competent, and again chalked it up to the wrong song. Jimmy has had it with Lazaro, calling his performance “reasonable,” and saying what I’ve been saying since semi-finals -- Lazaro’s voice is nowhere near ready for this level of competition. He didn’t care for Candice’s performance because the melody of “Satisfaction” did not showcase her vocals. On the other hand, Jimmy thinks Amber is improving every week, and considers her one of the three best singers in the competition. Jimmy also liked Angie’s performance a lot more than I did, but he did pick up on the fact that Angie continues to overthink while she performs.
Ultimately Jimmy thought Amber, Angie, and Kree would be the Top 3, and bluntly said that, “If America gets it right, there’s only one person going home tonight: Lazaro.” I cannot recall a judge/mentor ever being so blatantly dismissive of a contestant before.
After the break, we got Casey James from Season 9. It actually took me a few minutes to remember who that even was -- Casey was never the most memorable contestant, and the fact that he came in third is a testament to the overwhelming shitiness of Season 9. (Lee DeWyze winning is, of course, the only proof you need.) Casey has apparently become a successful country artist since the show. I always considered him a more straight-ahead blues artist, but I guess country is more commercial. His new song was generically pleasant, though Casey’s voice is as weak as ever -- his strength was always in his guitar playing and his hair. Apparently Casey did research on the current Idols and got them each presents from their hometowns. OK, that was extremely sweet. Good on you, Casey.
And here’s a weird twist. While the show first promised us public rankings of the contestants, and immediately backpedaled after Week 1, it threw a curveball by revealing the judges’ picks for the Top 3 of last night. Apparently the judges didn’t like this, and in the case of Nikki Minaj, apparently didn’t know the information was being revealed publicly. Nigel is going to hear about that, I’m sure. Keith Urban picked Kree, Angie, and Amber. Nikki picked Angie, Amber, and Kree. Randy Jackson picked Amber, Kree, and Angie. Mariah Carey went with Kree, Amber, and Candice.
Then Ryan told us who actually WAS in the Top 3 this week. Kree was first, Angie was second, and LAZARO was third. Unbelievable. Unbelievable! You know Candice and Amber had to have been shitting themselves on that couch knowing that a guy who cannot remember the lyrics to his songs was in the TOP THREE and they were not.
And then: Cunderwood! I love Carrie Underwood. She and Kelly Clarkson swap places as my favorite winners of the show (I know, what a bold statement…), although I did not care for her last single, “Blown Away.” She looked fan-freaking-tastic singing her new song, “I Will See You Again.” The vocal was not great. The beginning of the song -- her own song -- was too low for her, and the higher notes were too pinched. But I liked the song itself -- very pretty. And Carrie was never the best vocalist. She’s more of a total-package deal. She’s reportedly playing Maria von Trapp in NBC’s upcoming production of “Sound of Music.” I am utterly fascinated to see how that turns out.
More results: Candice was safe, and I think she was legitimately worried. That plus her broken toe made for an awkward moment. Amber was the other person safe, leaving Janelle and Burnell in the Bottom 2. Janelle surprises me. I think she is the weakest of the girls, but I thought the country vote would save her. Burnell had this coming after Wednesday night.
And indeed, it was Burnell who got the lowest number of votes. For his sing-for-the-save he sang “Ready for Love,” which he has sung at least twice before on this show. He’s very good at this song, there’s no doubt. And he’s a hell of a singer. But Burnell is SO limited as a singer. He can only do these mid-tempo r’n’b ballads. That’s literally it. Using the save on him would be pointless. He has zero shot of winning this.
The judges declined to use the save. I think that’s right. It was Burnell’s weakest version of the song that we’ve seen, and if they didn’t use it for Devin last week -- when he was legitimately moving in his Hail Mary bid -- they shouldn’t have used it here.
That means we have all five girls left, and Lazaro. Holy smokes. Lazaro’s continued presence has become THE story of the season, and now he’s going to start taking out people with legit shots at winning. This is going to get INTENSE.
The theme was rock night, but the actual theme of the show as fashion trends. Seriously, I think the judges spent more time talking about the contestants’ clothes and styling than they did about the singing. That’s an exaggeration, but not by much. Anyway, people we expected to do poorly with this theme did in fact fall flat (Burnell), while people who should have aced the task came up short (Angie). An interesting week overall.
Burnell Taylor got a double whammy this week. The theme was not anywhere near his wheelhouse, and he got shafted with the Death Slot. He did Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Unsurprisingly, Burnell’s voice sounded completely out of place on this song. The back-up singers were making more of an impact than he was. He came in late on the first line. He seemed generally unsure of himself throughout the performance. He had some decent connection bits with guest guitarist Orianthi (who is fabulous, by the way), and I appreciated that he went out to the audience toward the end. But the whole thing felt forced and awkward. And that’s to be expected. Burnell would never, ever record a song like this. It’s so silly to force these kids to jump through these hoops. Keith Urban told Burnell that he has to make songs his own, even if they’re not his style. True that -- there is very little interpretation going on this season, just straight covers. Nikki Minaj still found him adorable, like a Teddy Ruxpin doll. Mariah Carey blathered on about how she loves that song and…whatever. Burnell admitted that this was the only song he knew of the provided options. How do these children have such limited musical awareness?
And then, terribleness: LazaroArbos and Angie Miller did a duet version of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Lazaro was just awful. Pitchy, lifeless, amateurish, and AGAIN he forgot parts of the song. Angie was also not great. I’m worried about her. Between last week’s huge whiff and this dud of a performance, she seems to be stalling and/or crumbling. Nikki was overly complimentary to Lazaro, but called him out on again forgetting the lyrics. Unacceptable. They all loved Angie. Lazaro admitted to never having heard the song before. Mariah Carey tried to argue that the problem was that the song was not initially a duet. No, the problem was Lazaro. Keith got cut off in his critique, but he found the whole thing too variety show.
Kree Harrison wisely picked Janis Joplin, specifically “Piece of My Heart.” That’s totally her vibe. At first she sounded a bit flat, but she was good on the higher notes. Kree obviously enjoyed performing this song, and interacted a bit with the crowd and threw herself into the lyric. Some good improvised notes in there, too. Randy Jackson did his tiresome “in it to win it” bit. Mariah said that Kree totally knows who she is as an artist, and she’s going to be fine no matter what happens with the show. Keith asked if something was wrong with Kree tonight, and Kree admitted that she has a pinched nerve and could not raise her arm above her head. It’s impressive that she was able to execute as well as she did. Nikki said that it was magnificent, and that Kree would get all of her votes right now.
Second duet, Burnell and Candice on “The Letter.” Burnell was so much better on this than in his solo number. Candice was terrific, as usual. Her stage presence has improved remarkably since this season started. I do wish that there was a better connection between the two of them, but the singing was good. Mariah was hoping for a song that had absolutely nothing to do with the theme. Sigh… Nikki said that Candice’s voice is “clearly superior,” but I couldn’t tell if she was saying that in general, or re: Burnell.
Janelle Arthur did Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right,” and marched on to the stage like she was pulling an ice wagon. I don’t know what was happening with that insane gold vest with mega-long fringe she was wearing. Janelle sounded fine on the verse, but the chorus was bad. Shrill, pinched, flat -- awful key for her. It got better on the second time through, but it was still her worst performance in weeks, and there was something really lame about the whole thing. Keith said that he likes Janelle’s performance commitment, and he thinks she gets better each week. Oh, come on, Keith. That was nowhere as good as last week. Nikki loved Janelle’s boots and apparently she’s going to borrow them. She thinks that Janelle is very relatable to young girls and Middle America. There is no question that Janelle (and to a lesser degree, Kree) is pulling big from the country vote. Mariah said that she actually loved the key because it showed off her vibrato. I suspect this sounded better in the studio than it did on TV.
LazaroArbos got read for filth by the girls for his ridiculous performance moves. Rightly so. He did Queen’s “We Are the Champions” for his solo number. Typical Lazaro performance: started out too low, troublesome diction. But here’s something new: this song was also too high for Lazaro in some points and he was flat on some the upper notes. But there were certain sections that actually sounded better than Lazaro has in weeks. I wasn’t embarrassed for him or the show by the time he got about halfway through. So…good on Lazaro? The crowd response was a little ridiculous. Nikki was picking up a Spanish vibe, which I didn’t get at all. She thought Lazaro did the song justice, and I guess he did. Randy was also clearly surprised that Lazaro didn’t butcher it. There was some talk of Lazaro having “Ricky Martin sexiness.” You have GOT to be kidding, Nikki. Lazaro is pretty, but he has zero machismo.
The trio of Amber, Janelle, and Kree did Billy Joel’s “Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me.” What a weird group, what a weird song for them. I found Janelle barely intelligible in her lines. Amber was ostensibly wearing pants, but they were at least 40 percent holes. Kree again pulled focus here, just like last week. The girls also seemed confused about who was singing what part, and there were some biffed lyrics. Are they giving these contestants any time to rehearse these group numbers? Randy lied and said it was “unbelievable,” saying that they sounded like a real group. You’re terrible, Randy. Nikki hated the song choice and got roundly booed by the audience. She just thought it was cheesy, but responded to Amber the most.
Candice Glover apparently broke her toe in an ill-conceived April Fool’s joke on Lazaro. Lazaro ruins everything! Candice did “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. Candice knows how to build a song. The beginning was fine, but by the time she got to the chorus she was putting her brand of stank (a good thing) on it and throwing in some great little runs. Man alive, she has become sensational. I think she’s my favorite at this point. The judges all loved it, and at this point Nikki even said that she has run out of different things to say about Candice’s voice. She did find the song boring. Say what? I don’t get that AT ALL.
Amber Holcomb did Heart’s “What About Love.” I was pleased with the costume change, and even more pleased with the strong, assured vocal. I didn’t get Amber the first few weeks of the competition -- I wasn’t seeing the sparkle or presence the judges were talking about. I see it now. This was a solid performance on a very challenging song, and the vocal was excellent up until a few bum notes right toward the end. But even those were just slightly off. Keith Urban loved the song choice, and specifically talked about the key change, which was sublime. Nikki felt very emotionally connected to Amber and her performance, and called it her favorite of the night.
Angie Miller got back behind the piano for Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life.” Smart song choice for Angie. But she fled the piano quickly, and that disappointed me. This was still a decent performance from her, and one she really needed after last week’s total bomb. The vocal was solid, and ended very nicely. But the elements didn’t connect as completely as I was hoping. Angie has the ability to electrify, and she should have with this song. But it was just good. (We’ll take good.) Nikki said that she sounded amazing, but really wants Angie to actually go back to the piano stuff that we originally saw her doing. Yes, exactly. I suspect that Angie is deliberately staying away from that during the middle part of the competition so that she can return to it toward the end and propel herself into the final. That’s just a guess, but I cannot fathom why she repeatedly ignores the judges’ pleas to do so otherwise. Keith had a moment of clarity when he said that Angie didn’t really let go and feel the song -- she seemed to be thinking throughout it.
Recap:Burnell was bad on a song that was never going to fit him; Kree was very good on a song perfectly suited to her; Janelle tried too hard and had a dip in the vocal; Lazaro surprised everyone by not bombing; Candice was funky and great; Amber nailed a very challenging song; Angie was comparatively not as good as she should have been.
Predictions:Burnell is toast. He was the weakest of the night and he doesn’t have a very strong fan base to begin with. The question is who joins him in the bottom. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Angie in the B3, which is a bad sign for her. This theme, that song, and the Pimp Slot should have catapulted her to the top of the pack, but I don’t think that’s at all what happened. And although I think she’s great, I bet Amber joins her. The show continually seems to ignore her and I suspect she and Candice are competing for votes -- and that they’re going to Candice. The country girls will probably be safe, although Janelle’s performance should put her in B3 at this point. Lazaro will coast to safety after his near-exit last week.
Que lastima! What a tragic ending to another wonderful episode. The Final 6 queens -- Alaska, Alyssa Edwards, Coco Montrese, Detox, Jinkx Monsoon, and Roxxxy Andrews -- first had to emote during “The Crying Game” (she’s a man!). Then they put their (over)dramatic skills to use in telenovela scenes opposite a somnolent Wilmer Valderrama, whose agent clearly forced him to appear here to satisfy some kind of debt.
Again I’ll dissect the queens’ performance, in order from most successful to least.
Jinkx Monsoon became the first contestant of the season to win more than one challenge -- it is remarkable that we got to F6 without any clear frontrunner -- by nailing both the acting challenge and the runway. Jinkx is a trained actor, so it’s not surprising that she killed it in the telenovela. She dialed it up past 12, with her orgasmic teen literally mounting the furniture in ecstasy. Hilarious. The Dia de los Muertos ensemble for the runway was a risk, but a brilliant one. RuPaul audibly gasped at Jinkx’s reveal, and the last time I recall that happening was with Tyra Sanchez and the wedding episode back in S2. That’s telling. Also telling: we got clear-cut proof of what has been emerging as the story over the past four or so episodes, that the other queens have been coming after Jinkx because they know she’s the one to beat. Four out of five of her competitors named Jinkx as their stiffest competition for the tiara. They’re absolutely right. Unfortunately that’s also going to paint a giant target on Jinkx going forward. And I’m just not sure how she’s going to handle that kind of pressure, going from underdog to top dog.
Alaska came in a close second, once again. Something tells me that’s kind of the de facto tragedy of Alaska: really good, just not quite good enough. Alaska was great in the crying mini-challenge, serving up some Liz Taylor in Tennessee Williams Realness. And she was better than most as the histrionic matriarch in the telenovela. Her weakness was once again the runway, where she wore yet another cheap-looking prom gown. She was saved by whipping out two maracas, but it’s clear that the judges have become bored with her predictable wardrobe.
Roxxxy Andrews bounced back after two terrible weeks with a funny performance in the telenovelas and a runway look in which she actually showed us something different than body-ody-ody. For once she didn’t wear lycra! And her make-up was toned down enough so that we could actually see her (beautiful) face! Roxxxy also showed some uncharacteristic self-awareness at multiple points in the episode, and was endearing in her interactions with Detox. But then she shot herself in the foot with her defensive, off-the-hip remarks in “Untucked.” I do like Roxxxy, but she doesn’t make it easy to root for her.
Detox finally did something worth discussing this episode. A few things, actually. First, she broke down during the crying mini-challenge, explaining that she had a boyfriend who died a few years back (we got some additional details about this later in the episode, and it sounds like a pretty complicated/emotionally fraught experience) and so everyone fake crying made her extremely uncomfortable. It was a very real moment and made me rethink my opinion of Detox as aloof and over seemingly everything. Detox also did OK in the telenovela. But as the judges all seem to be telling her all of a sudden, OK is not nearly enough at this stage. In the work room Ru said that Detox has consistently been getting the note that she’s giving “B+” when they need “A++.” That’s interesting, because we haven’t seen Detox get any feedback in weeks. She’s almost always middle of the pack. I think most viewers -- myself included -- gave up on Detox several episodes back. She’s been so forgettable for so long, just seeming not to really try at many of the challenges. Tonight the show felt like it was setting up her inevitable boot in the next few weeks (her unfortunate sombrero ensemble only helped to move her closer to the door). That’s remarkable, because pre-show there’s no question that Detox was a favorite for the win.
Coco Montrese continues to destroy my will to live. She is just a thoroughly unpleasant presence on this show, and one of the most infuriatingly self-absorbed queens to ever disgrace our screens. Her petulant, passive-aggressive attacks against Jinkx and Alyssa became tiresome weeks ago, and I was desperately hoping for her ouster when she landed in the Bottom 2 for choking a bit in the acting challenge. But a stunning long-sleeved, bright orange jumpsuit and a dead-on lipsynch to the rap in Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” kept her around for another week. I can’t stand Coco, but I can’t argue with that decision. (I do think her runway outfit helped her a LOT in that LSFYL.) But god, she cannot learn how to shut her mouth. In both “Untucked” and in her talking heads she was just a catty, insufferable old hag. What was that BS about Alyssa being there for a competition but the rest of them were there for some higher purpose? And how America’s Next Drag Superstar has to be willing to commit to the challenges? Like you committed to the children’s show challenge you threw, or the singing challenge in which you were a defensive bitch, or the perfume challenge in which you blatantly kissed ass while totally missing the point of the assignment? She's so full of shit her eyes are BLUE.
But we must say good bye to Alyssa Edwards, my adorable, befuddled drunk aunty. I started this competition absolutely loathing Alyssa, but after a few weeks her well-intentioned cluelessness really grew on me. Her mugging in the mirror. Her hysterical double takes. Her folksy confessionals. So charming! But beyond that, Alyssa really is a fierce queen and a hell of a performer, as evidenced by tonight’s lipsynch. But the other contestants had valid points when asked why Alyssa was the weakest queen currently in the pack. Alyssa reflexively said she wasn’t an actress, a singer, or a comedian. She’s just a performer. I still think she legitimately tried in every challenge (more than I can say for Coco). But Alyssa gets…easily flustered, I think. You could see her psyching herself out going into that LSFYL and there was no competing with Coco and those damned sleeves. So farewell, crazy aunt Alyssa. This season will be FAR less entertaining without you.
NEXT: The annual drag sister episode, this time with military men. Please, god, let there be beefcake. I don’t think we even saw the Pit Crew ONCE this episode!
First, and most importantly, WHAT WAS LAZARO WEARING? It looked like “Day of the Triffids” attacking his shoulders.
The Top 8 opened the show with a group sing of “Old Time Rock N Roll.” The boys just shouted. The girls fared better. I noted that Lazaro and Amber were the only two not given solo sections. (Amber was basically ignored all episode long, despite having -- I thought -- the best performance of the night on Wednesday. The producers are making it awfully obvious who they’re pushing this season. *Cough*Kree, Angie, Janelle*Cough*)
There was some product placement for Ford in which the Idols had to mentor grade-school kids on singing Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” I have a cold, dead heart but even I thought that was cute. If we’re going to have gross product placement, I’d rather we have stuff like this than the stupid pimp-o-mercials.
In Jimmy Iovine’s recap of last night, we got some interesting tidbits. He said that Janelle’s poor performance in the duet with Kree negatively affected his overall opinion of her (but he loved her solo number).He said that Lazaro was indeed better than the previous week, but Jimmy obviously bristled at NickiMinaj’s note for Lazaro to ignore Jimmy. Jimmy thinks Lazaro needs to listen to something -- the melody, at least. SNAP! He thought that Devin sounded good, but compared to the rest of the crop, he “came up short.” Devin is so screwed. He also called the men’s group number terrible. Nicki’s appalled close-up during that performance was a thing of beauty.
After the recap, in which Jimmy predicted an all-boy Bottom 3 and a Lazaro boot, Kree got a nice surprise -- Aretha Franklin left her a voicemail telling her she did a great job on “You Lied” and saying she wasn’t going anywhere. Let’s hope the last part is true. Also, I found that really sweet and cool. Much better than those stupid hometown proclamations.
Then Season 11’s Colton Dixon came back. He put out his first album in January, and it shot to the top of the gospel and Christian charts. That does not surprise me at all. Colton was always incredibly marketable, and he was one of several contestants last year who I expected to find success outside the show, winner or not. (I am still waiting for big things from Skylar Lane and Jessica Sanchez.) Colton sang his new single, an emo-rock ballad called “Love Has Come For Me.” A bit overwrought for my tastes, but I’m sure people into that kind of music will love it. You cannot deny the high level of execution. He’s already a polished star. And just like Casey last week, he was a reminder that we have very few ready-made artists this season.
And then a blast from the WAY past! Season 5’s Katharine McPhee -- one of my all-time favorite “Idol” contestants -- singing with One Republic on its new single. I’ve found it weird that Kat has not appeared in the show lately, given her prominence on “Smash.” I assumed she was trying to distance herself from “Idol.” (Reportedly she’s doing that with “Smash” now, which…isn’t good.) She started singing her part while sitting on the couch with the S12 contestants. I thought that was kind of cool -- a sign of solidarity. She looks great with the shorter hair. The song sounded like modern Coldplay, which is not at all a bad thing. I found I liked it more as it went on. I noticed that she did not speak to Ryan at all.
And then Keith Urban came out to sing his new song, “Long Hot Summer.” Given how relentlessly Jennifer Lopez promoted her various projects on this show, I’m amazed that none of the new judges have performed up until this point. I mean,Nicki has to have stuff in the works. Anyway, this song sounded an awful lot like a couple of Keith’s other songs, and I thought he sounded shouty and sharp. The band was awfully thin for what is obviously supposed to be mainstream-radio bait. Keith’s got some great arms and a nice chest, though. I am objectifying you, Keith! Deal with it!
Results: we are obviously not going back to the public rankings. Way to put your dick on the table and then yank it back, show. Kree, Candice, Janelle, Angie, and Amber were all safe -- this has to be a record for the most number of weeks without this show losing a girl. That left the Bottom 3 consistent with Jimmy’s prediction: Devin, Burnell, and Lazaro.
Lazaro looked pissed. Devin seemed really frustrated. Burnell was largely inscrutable. He was the guy sent to safety, which is right. I didn’t like his number Wednesday night, but Burnell is a very talented singer. And shockingly (kind of) it was Devin who received the lowest number of votes. You guys, that was our best shot at getting Lazaro out the door. His fans will rally around him for the next few weeks, and every time he has a clunker of a performance that’s just going to encourage them more. God damn it…
For his sing for the save Devin did “Impossible,” switching to Spanish halfway through. I believe we’ve seen this exact performance from him before. Mariah Carey was literally crying and the judges seemed deep in conversation. Here’s the thing: Devin is obviously very gifted vocally. But he has been in the Bottom 3 EVERY SINGLE WEEK of the finals. He is so talented, but he does not connect with the audience. It’s not there, folks. Again and again and again this has been a problem for him, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Ryan made a point of saying that the judges only have three more weeks in which they can use the save. I was almost positive that the judges were going to use it, especially after the crowd literally chanted, “Save! Save! Save!” But Randy Jackson announced that it was NOT unanimous, and so they would not be saving Devin. I wonder who the holdout was there. My guess was Randy, although Nicki was stonefaced during that entire process. Mariah was clearly pro-Devin.
Ryan seemed legitimately shocked that they let him go. Honestly, I think it was the right decision. He had no chance of winning this competition, and within the next three weeks we’re going to start losing the girls, and I think every one of them actually COULD win this. So discretion is the better part of valor here.
Next week: let’s see if Lazaro can get even worse!
It was Detroit night on "Idol," which I initially interpreted to mean Motown, but it was actually much broader than that - we even got some Madonna in there. Smokey Robinson was our guest mentor. He seems like a nice man. I wish he would stop doing things to his head.
Candice Glover opened the show with "Heard it Through the Grapevine." It opened really slowly, which I did not care for. And whoever set up the shot from below, with the stage light flickering on and off above her, was an idiot - that was super distracting. Candice had tempo issues through the verse, but the singing was great even though parts of the song hit the lower edge of Candice's register. She kept getting better and better as the song went on, and Etta James'd that last note. Judges all loved it.
Because this show cannot be less than two hours long, we had three groups in addition to the eight remaining soloists. Group 1 was Kree and Janelle singing "Like a Prayer" by Detroit native Madonna. Their voices did not work well together. Kree is just so much better than Janelle; Janelle's whiny notes, pitch issues, and weaknesses were underscored here. Nikki Minaj summed it up by saying that Kree looked like a superstar who flew in to do a duet with an "American Idol" contestant - she just totally outshined Janelle.
LazaroArbos did "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder. I thought Jimmy Iovine was noticeably restrained with Lazaro in the coaching session, given how furious he was with Lazaro last week. This started out really slowed down and worked nicely as a ballad. But then the tempo picked up halfway through. It was one of Lazaro's better vocals but it was also noticeably lacking in energy until the last chorus. The whole thing still felt amateurish, and Lazaro himself seemed over it. During the judging Lazaro kept talking over anyone who was saying anything critical - I believe he actually said, "It's all good, Boo" to Randy Jackson, which is wrong on EVERY level. And the judges almost seemed to be apologizing to Lazaro for critiquing him last week. Oh, what a fucking mess this situation is. Nikki Minaj said Lazaro did a great job and it's because he stopped listening to Jimmy Iovine. Nikki, you in danger, girl.
Janelle Arthur did "Keep Me Hanging On," which she performed sitting on a stool and strumming a guitar. Cool, new different take on a really familiar song. This was the second straight week that I loved what Janelle put out there, and she's starting to bring me over to her side. Mariah Carey just kept screaming, "Janelle at her finest!" But I can't hate, because she was right. Nikki weirdly thought her voice wasn't as good as normal, because she was smiling too much. OK...
Devin Velez did "Tracks of My Tears," which was a good choice vocally. But Devin was wrestling with the tempo in rehearsal and that came out a bit on stage as well. Ultimately Devin's issue is that he's simply not connecting, with either the song or the audience. Guy can sing - probably the best male vocalist left - but there's nothing about him that's magnetic. This performance in particular felt very old-fashioned, and even though it's a 50-year-old song, that doesn't have to be the case. Nikki said that Devin was looking like a "ripe banana," which was apparently a good thing.
Group 2: Candice, Angie, and Amber on "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" by The Supremes, which is a song I LOVE. Amber had rhythm issues and Angie slid off the pitch toward the end of her verse. Overall I thought this had some nice moments, but it needed a few more hours of rehearsal. Amber was easily the weakest of the three.
Burnell Taylor did "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder. I thought I would love this, but I actually hated it. The phrasing on the title - the emphasis on "share-REE am-ORE" - really turned me off. His phrasing was awkward in parts, and he sounded really pinched and fully terrible after the key change. I hated it, I'm sorry. I like Burnell, but I hated that. And I thought he looked very strange in that outfit and no glasses. The judges fawned all over it. And hey, guys, did you know that Burnell is from Louisiana? Like Randy? And that he is in it to win it?
Angie Miller picked "You Better Shop Around." She put a slinky rock spin on it, which was...different. I liked the impulse here, but the execution was deeply flawed. The song was too low for Angie. She was trying to be cool and fun strutting all over the stage, but it didn't really work. I think she flubbed a line or two. And nothing about this felt like Angie. She's the moody/emo singer-songwriter, not rocker girl. This just wasn't a good showcase for Angie at all. Randy thought the performance was really pitchy. Mariah thought it was a bad song choice. Nikki said that Angie doesn't need to try to be something she's not.
Amber Holcomb sang "Lately" by Steview Wonder and she absolutely killed it. Her best vocal in weeks. She sang it flawlessly, looked flawless - not a single thing was off about that performance. Tens across the board.
Group 3: the guys sang "Can't Help Myself." Total mess. Lazaro completely forgot one of his solo sections, Devin was more alive in this than he was in his solo, and Burnell actually had some fun. Nikki Minaj said that it was Hollywood Week all over again, that she was going to pretend she never even saw it, that Lazaro fell flat as a pancake, and told them to get off the stage. Awkward moments ensued when both Burnell and Devin said they learned their parts, and gave sharp side eyes to Lazaro. Seriously, he is the worst. If you are still on Team Lazaro, please open your eyes. And ears. At this point he's coming across terribly.
Kree Harrison closed the show with "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" by Aretha Franklin. Normally I love Kree, but this was the weakest we have seen her since Hollywood Week. There were parts where she looked almost in pain, or irritated to be singing. It certainly wasn't bad, but not what you expect to close the show. Definitely a letdown after her duo performance and Amber's solo number.
Predictions: The Bottom 3 should be Angie, Lazaro, and Burnell or Devin, with Lazaro going home. That's not going to happen. I think Devin is basically doomed for another trip to the bottom. Rounding it out will probably be Burnell. Angie could make a surprise appearance down there. But even if she does somehow get the lowest votes, the judges will use the Save on her.
The show opened with the Jimmy Iovine recap, which I always find fascinating. Jimmy is the one person who I feel actually knows what’s going on this season. He found Wednesday night confusing, because some of the singers were good, some were bad, and yet the judges were nice to all of them. He basically gave it to the judges for not doing their jobs. Seriously, we’ve never had a more useless group of judges on this show. Only Nicki and Randy even approach honesty, and sometimes Nicki is way off.
Jimmy also had an issue with several of the contestants not knowing the Beatles catalog, saying that “American Idol” is a job just like singing is a job, and the contestants should be doing their homework. Amen. And lest we forget, some of the judges didn’t even know these songs (MARIAH). Jimmy really came for Lazaro, calling his number on Wednesday easily the worst of the night. He also basically called Lazaro a liar for his plea to Ryan (and America) that he learned his song the night before. Jimmy said that Lazaro sang that same song when he worked with him on Saturday. So something in the milk isn’t clean there.
Jimmy felt that Amber deserved to be in the Top 3, but he called Candice the best performance of the night. On the other hand, he thinks Paul made some really stupid mistakes and will end up in the Bottom 3. Angie got the dreaded “too dramatic” note from Jimmy, and you could see his concern about her. I weirdly feel the same -- she could totally get lost in this competition, yet her potential is massive. Meanwhile, he considers Janelle his dark horse. She had a great night on Wednesday, but I wouldn’t go that far, Jimmy.
Group sing! The boys sang “Got to Get You Into My Life.” You could barely hear them. And there’s no excuse for that since I’m 99 percent sure these stupid things are prerecorded and autotuned into oblivion. This week it was Paul’s turn on the lame city/town proclamation day merry-go-round. This is such a stupid addition to the show this season. And furthermore, actual government officials are wasting time making official proclamations about also-rans on a reality show. Is that how you want your elected officials spending their time? The brutal twist is that after Ryan gave Paul his dumb plaque, he also informed him that he was in the Bottom 3. Boom. (But not surprising.)
After the commercial, Season 10’s Casey Abrams came out to sing “I Saw Her Standing There.” Casey’s muttonchops are not the look. Not even remotely. I swear, I need to teach a seminar for straight men on questionable facial hair choices. Anyway, I always liked Casey, and he was good on this, too -- although the noodling at the end got a bit tiresome. He’s a real musician and artist, and I realized while watching him that those are in short supply this season. The closest I think we come is Angie.
Then the five ladies came out for a group number. I know that damned song but I cannot for the life of me remember the title. I thought parts of it were simply gorgeous, while other parts nearly went off the rails. There were times I also questioned whether it was pre-recorded or not.
Results: Devin found himself in the Bottom 3 again. I agree with that. It was a very dull number. He talked about how he had a really hard day yesterday but was proud of his performance. Hm, interesting. Lazaro said that the judges last night were right “for the most part,” and said that he has to pick songs he loves and not switch songs. Again: Jimmy Iovine told us that Lazaro sang “In My Life” over the weekend. So did he switch songs, and then switch back? Or what? Regardless, Lazaro was not in the bottom. Absolutely ridiculous. This is what the show gets for pushing Lazaro through to the live voting just so it could milk his sob story.
And then, Jessica Sanchez! I really wanted Jessica to win Season 11. No offense to Phillip Phillips. He is great. But Jessica, to me, was the best shot this show had at a girl winner in years. (Until this year, when the producers obviously stacked the deck in the ladies’ favor.) SO talented, so young, so full of potential. She premiered her new single with Ne-Yo, which sounded suspiciously like “Closer” in the beginning but came into its own in the chorus. The song was too low for Jessica, and the poor dear really can’t sing and dance at the same time. I liked the song less the longer it went along. It’s super repetitive. But, hey, that’s what’s on the radio right now. So good luck to Jessica. I hope she makes it huge.
More results: Kree was safe, Candice was too. Angie was safe, meaning every person I was really worried about was fine. Janelle made it through, and that’s right given her performance last night. But after Lazaro she’s the weakest person left in the group.
That left the final B3 slot between Amber and Burnell, and surprisingly it was Amber in the low-scoring group. Randy Jackson said that he was shocked that Amber was in danger. Me too; I suspect that had to do with song choice more than anything else. She sounded great on “She’s Leaving Home,” but it’s not an attention grabber.
Given that Ryan zipped through the results without any rankings, I guess we can assume that they’ve discontinued that after just one week. Oh, the conspiracy theories one can associate with that one! My guess is that this comes down to Lazaro, who I suspect was one of -- if not THE -- highest vote-getter last night. And that’s got to be a huge egg on the face of this show, because he’s easily the worst singer in this competition. There’s not even a question about that.
Anyway, it was Paul who received the lowest number of votes. Not surprising. For his sing-for-the-save he did Heart’s “Alone,” which I believe he sang in semi-finals. A mistake then, a mistake now. The song is simply too low for Paul, and he barely got through the first verse. He cut loose on the chorus and sounded great on it, but a song is more than a chorus.
Not that it really mattered. Paul had zero shot of getting the judges’ save. He has never been a favorite of the judges, and I think some of them (Keith, possibly Randy) were surprised that he made Top 10 to begin with. He’s got a great voice for the radio, but he has some serious weaknesses that he needs to address. Hilariously, after Randy told him he wasn’t getting the save, the crowd booed. Paul said, “Hey, I think I’m pretty great, OK?” Of course you do, Paul.
So that’s two boys down, and Devin continues to circle the drain. Unless he does something massively different next week he’s toast. Unless America wakes up and actually starts listening to Lazaro.
Next week: “the music of the Motor City.” So, Motown?
Oh, gee. Beatles week. Because we haven’t done THAT countless times before. At least Nikki Minaj showed up on time tonight.
Before we got to the actual singing, the show had to do some quality whoring. Carly Rae Jepsen apparently still exists, and she’ll be debuting her new song on the season finale, and it has something to do with Coke. Let me blunt: Carly had her hit. She had a HUGE hit. And America has been indifferent at best to her subsequent singles. It's over. This whole thing feels gross and lame to me at the same time. It’s a reflection of how out of touch this show is that they think a Carly Rae Jepsen/Coke collab is going to get attention.
Speaking of gross and lame, Ryan Seacrest then announced the winner of the final spot on the Idol Tour, which was between Charlie Askew and Aubrey Cleland. I was stunned to hear that Aubrey made it over Charlie. Aubrey sang very well last week, but it wasn’t exactly a memorable performance. Charlie, on the other hand, actually impressed me, and I full-on hated him going into it. Part of me wonders how legit those results are…
Kree Harrison got the show running with “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Kree did not sing out of key, so that’s good, but the verse was a bit thrown away. She came alive on the first chorus and sounded terrific from that moment on.It was a great number for Kree for several reasons, especially because it broadened her appeal beyond just the bluesy-country thing she’s been doing so well. Nikki Minaj liked that it didn’t sound like the original, which was true, but it did sound a lot like the Joe Cocker version. Nikki also spoke about Kree’s confidence, which really is improving. That lame-ass Randy Jackson tired to do a fake-out, and then Mariah Carey one-upped him by saying, “I didn’t think it was good…I thought it was fan-freaking-tastic!” And that’s literally all she said. How much is she getting paid for this?
Burnell Taylor chose “Let It Be,” and I thought this was a missed opportunity for Burnell. After the notes he got last week, and Curtis’s boot, you would think that he would try something different than yet another slow, sad ballad. Have we ever heard Burnell sing anything up-tempo? I normally love Burnell’s voice but I found it too affected on this song. It’s like he wasn’t paying attention to the lyrics at all; he was trying too hard. And yet still I felt the song swallowed Burnell by the second chorus, and he has an aggravating inflection on his intense “ee” sounds, too. Nikki thought he was very gentle with the song, and said that she felt like she was in church. Randy got Burnell to admit that he was largely unfamiliar with The Beatles -- he definitely didn’t know the song. Basically the judges all loved it. I didn’t think it was bad, but I was really hoping for Burnell to step up this week, and he didn’t.
Amber Holcomb did “She’s Leaving Home,” a beautiful song and a real change-up for Amber. She kind of biffed the first line, and Amber continues to have tempo issues -- second week in a row she was fighting the song’s rhythm. That said, once she got to the chorus it was absolutely lovely. Big notes and well executed with some nice twists to the melody. Amber was really connecting with the song and I saw what the judges have been talking about with her -- that was a natural performance, and felt very authentic. Amber also had never heard her song prior to this performance -- Mariah Carey had never heard of it either! Who are these people? Weirdly Nikki felt that Amber’s lack of awareness with the song made her come across as defeated on stage, which I did not get at all. “She’s Leaving Home” is not a smiley song. If she’d been smiling through it she would have looked deranged. Which Nikki knows something about…
LazaroArbo picked “In My Life.” At this point the Lazaro recaps basically write themselves. The song was too low for him? Check. The lyrics were largely indecipherable? You know it. Pitch problems? Sure. On top of that, it was dreary and boring and his voice was the weakest we’ve ever seen. This wasn’t even a “Star Search”-caliber performance. I think Lazaro knew he’d laid an egg on that one. Mariah started out saying how difficult it is to perform a song by Lennon & McCartney. She thinks Lazaro was brave to get on stage with it. What a bullshit critique, especially on a night when the contestants HAVE TO SING BEATLES SONGS. She did say it was too low. That note is about a month too late for this kid. Keith Urban said that Lazaro needs to watch his keys. Nikki said that Lazaro is still too nervous and she needs them to stop putting him in the room with Jimmy Iovine. Give me a break. You don’t want him to be in a studio with a well-respected music executive because his confidence takes a hit? What is he supposed to do after the show is over? Only work with nice people? Pfft. Randy at least had the guts to tell Lazaro that it was his worst vocal ever. This prompted tears from Lazaro, who told Ryan that he only learned the song last night, because they changed his song at the last minute. This kind of things happens fairly frequently on these shows. I don’t need the on-stage waterworks from Lazaro when the judges do something other than fawn over him, nor do I need Ryan’s “sensitive” schtick. After the break Ryan tried to make it sound like Lazaro’s issue was about not listening to himself and listening too much to what others tell him. The issue with Lazaro is that he is not a very good singer. He is certainly not capable of singing at the level of this competition.
Candice Glover owned last week, and I had high hopes for her “Come Together.” I thought she took a few bars to really get into it, but once she was there she just kept getting better and better. Candice is emerging as not just a great singer, but a true star. She’s got charisma and swagger to spare. She actually made this song sound different, blending the rock with some r’n’b flare. Nikki wants Candice to commit more to the performance in her face. Randy was thrilled to see her do an uptempo song -- yes, god, yes. Mariah wants to hear Candice taking different approaches to songs. And then Randy embarrassed himself. God bless Candice for putting up with these people.
Paul Jolley did “Eleanor Rigby,” which, given his propensity for unintentional dramatics, was a risky endeavor. He started out in falsetto, the stage was covered in fog, stained glass was projected on the walls. I mean…drama, right? And yet Paul really did tone down the theatrics for the first half of the song. Once he hit the second chorus, with its big high notes, the cabaret act started to come out. Solid vocal for the most part -- the last note was a bust -- but also one of the sleepier numbers of the night. Nikki said as much while chomping on her gum: she called it safe, predictable, and forgettable. Randy felt that Paul didn’t connect with the song, and I think it’s because Paul is so preoccupied with not being dramatic that he’s living in his head right now. Keith again encouraged Paul to drop the country, because tonight’s pop/rock worked well with his voice.
Angie Miller should straighten her hair more often; she also has a kind of hot brother. Anyway, she chose “Yesterday.” Jimmy Iovine encouraged her to not oversing the song, and just to put real emotion into it. From where I was sitting, that’s exactly what she did for the first half of it. Some really delicate, beautiful notes in there. She started to goose the song in the latter half, which was less successful to me. But she was trying to build it, and she was obviously interpreting the song, and it still sounded really lovely throughout. Her best performance in weeks. Randy liked that Angie held back but still showed hints of her vocal pyrotechnics. Mariah thought her take was very respectful to the original. Keith thought that Angie was wrestling with trying to please her various masters, but I didn’t really get that. Calculated, sure. But I didn’t think it was conflicted. Nikki brought up the fact that Angie started the song in a really high key and still killed it in the high notes. That’s very true -- it was ambitious and she nailed it. And then Ryan made a flat-iron joke. That’s not going to help fight those gay rumors, Ryan.
Devin Velez did “The Long and Winding Road,” and Jimmy encouraged him to go for a more r’n’b take. Again, this seemed like a bit of a mistake. Devin was criticized last week for being dull. “Long and Winding Road” is not exactly the most exciting Beatles song. But hey, the vocal was very good and showed off Devin’s voice. But I did find myself checking out of the performance toward the end, and the song seemed to last twice as long as any other that night. Mariah basically just said that he was amazing and that it would be “a travesty” if he didn’t go through. Devin is one of the strongest male singers left, but he’s not giving us star power. Keith talked about that, saying that Devin’s got a connection issue with his performances. He really does. Nikki made a couple crass comments that got bleeped by Fox and then acted a bit like the enfant terrible. But she thinks Devin is great. Randy said that Devin brought the swagger back. There was 0 percent swagger in that performance. And then Ryan did this weird thing when he went to Mariah for a “shout out,” and she went into full diva mode, and everyone forgot that Devin was standing there. Even Devin!
Janelle Arthur astonishingly got the Pimp Slot. Country historically has not been served well by Beatles Week. She went with “I Will,” which Jimmy noted is a “subtle song.” Jimmy actually had to explain to Janelle why it was important to breathe properly during the song. Seriously. That’s where we are. This was an awfully quiet song on which to end the show, but Janelle has never sounded better. It was a really pretty, delicate vocal that justified her place in the Top 10 after I would argue at least three disappointing weeks. And Janelle was really selling it in her performance. This was a great moment for her. The ending was a bit twee, but that’s about it. Nikki said that Janelle looked like a “beautiful swan goddess,” and that the performance made her obsessed with Janelle. She loves the honesty and authenticity inherent in Janelle's performances. Randy called it one of the best performances of the night. Mariah babbled incoherently.
Recap:Kree was great but went first, which is…worrisome; Burnell was grating and kind of dull; Amber belted beautifully; Lazaro was thoroughly outclassed; Candice gave us a much-needed pulse; Paul was arguably too subdued; Angie sounded and looked lovely; Devin sounded good on a boring song; Janelle was surprisingly great.
Predictions: The only person who really bombed was Lazaro, and given his fourth-place finish last week I think we can assume his sizable fanbase will rush to save him. That leaves the forgettables, in which I would lump Paul, Devin, Burnell, and possibly Amber or Kree. The sad thing is, no matter who goes home tomorrow, they will almost certainly be better than Lazaro.
Another hilarious episode with great challenges. This season is really on a roll; I can’t think of an episode yet that didn’t deliver. And this week’s was arguably the most entertaining yet. We got hot shirtless guys with bulging packages and drag queens acting the fool (some intentionally, some not), plus some salty guest judges and serious back-stage bitchery. Well done, “Drag Race” team.
The episode began with Roxxxy Andrews apologizing to Jinkx Monsoon for coming at her in the previous episode, before Roxxxy had to lipsynch for her life and had an emotional on-stage meltdown. I suspect Roxxxy wishes that segment had been shown last week, because she got savaged online by many, many people, and Jinkx actually had to step in and ask her fans to show Roxxxy some compassion. (It was a rough week for Ms. Andrews in general, as her drag mother died right after last week’s episode aired.) Personally, what I’m seeing with Roxxxy is someone who is increasingly unsure of her place in this competition, and she’s lashing out wherever she can. Last week it was Jinkx, this week it was Alyssa. It’s not a flattering portrait of her, and she’s starting to self-destruct a bit. It’s the Curse of the Big Girl all over again.
The mini-challenge was like the childhood game Memory, except for with 100 percent more beefy men dropping trou. Twenty-something dudes were brought out and the queens had to systematically have them pull down their pants until they found all the matching underwear in the group. Children, on what other show are you going to see this kind of entertainment, this kind of good taste? None! The Emmy should go to RuPaul! All the Emmys! Ivy Winters got all the matches the fastest, but as RuPaulsaid, the true winners were every straight woman and gay man in America. And hi, Ronnie from “Make Me a Supermodel”! Please eat a sandwich, you look really skinny.
The main challenge tasked the queens with developing their own signature fragrances, just like true sell-out superstars looking to make a quick buck. They had to decide everything, from fragrance name to what it smelled like to bottle design, and had to shoot an accompanying commercial. Several of these turned out to be hilariously awesome, with a few queens turning in some really clever work. Others were duds that showcased the queens’ lack of creativity and professionalism. And yet another was a blatant attempt to kiss Ru’s ass, and a copycat to boot.
Alaska really owned this challenge, showing a confidence we’ve never seen from her before. I want more of it. Her fragrance, Red for Filth, was a slam dunk and included an uproarious video that made good use of her comedy chops. She also really changed it up on the runway this week, ditching the prom gowns and going for something a little freakier. (I hate to say it, but it looked to me like something Sharon would wear, just with much crazier make-up.) Alaska got the win, and she deserved it. A great week for her. Build on it, Alaska!
Jinkx Monsoon also really nailed this challenge -- she's also surging at the right moment -- and her Delusion perfume and ad were smart and well executed. The slightly downtrodden flapper look worked for me on the runway, and she has made such a dramatic turnaround with her make-up skills. The continued blossoming of both Jinkx and Alaska gives me hope that a comedy queen could win this thing this year.
Detoxfinally decided to show up again after what seems like weeks of phoning it in. Her commercial for Heroin wasn’t on quite the same level as the previously mentioned queens, but it was a solid effort with some funny moments. Still, she’s not really growing. Am I the only one who thinks she’s bored by the whole competition? Juliette Lewis nailed her on that weeks ago.
Coco Montresewas deemed safe, and that is the biggest crock of horseshit I’ve seen on this show all season. Where to begin? Coco’s fragrance was named RuAnimal by Coco. This is a blatant attempt to suck up to the head judge, and beyond that, it made absolutely no sense. Why would a superstar name a “signature fragrance” after someone else? Would Jessica Simpson have a perfume named Brit Brit? But what was even more egregious to me is that Coco lifted her entire commercial from other contestants. Her look -- leopard-print body suit, huge lion-mane wig -- was an EXACT COPY of BebeZahara Benet’s iconic look from S1. There’s no way RuPaul doesn’t remember that. The dude in the lion mask? Totally ripped from Alaska in the Snuggie mini-challenge a few weeks back. This episode convinced me that Coco is a total hack. She’s made it thus far relying on gimmicky drama, by wisely using her teammates’ strengths to her advantage, or by straight-up stealing other queens’ acts. I am amazed that not one person on panel has called her out for this. She should have been up for elimination tonight.
Roxxxy Andrews narrowly avoided a second consecutive trip to the bottom for her Thick & Juicy perfume. The idea wasn’t bad -- a perfume that smells like food for big girls who are confident in their figures. But Roxxxy didn’t seem to have a script and her concept -- school-marmish mod get-up that is quickly removed for glamorous amazon underneath -- was unsurprising given who it was coming from. Roxxxy also got blasted by Michelle for her unprofessionalism. She’s clearly struggling at this point, and I’m not sure if she’s going to be able to get back on track.
Alyssa Edwards DID make her second B2 appearance in a row. Alyssa once again bombed the main challenge, admitting that she wasn’t 100 percent sure what she was doing. Alyssa seems so very dim, but I love her. I cherish her. I thought her video shoot was hilarious. Who else names her fragrance Alyssa’s Secret and then hasn’t thought through an answer when the head judge asks the obvious question: “What IS your secret?” No clue from Alyssa. Bless!
But it was Ivy Winters’s first and last trip to the bottom for her perfume, Dress Code. Ivy seemed to be adrift nearly from the beginning, changing her original concept (Poison Rosebud, a riff off assholes but clunky and not at all youthful) and then not knowing what she was doing during the actual shoot. This was not the first time I found myself wondering how intelligent Ivy is (I have the same questions about Roxxxy and sometimes Coco -- Alyssa is obviously not getting a MENSA invitation any time soon). I’m not saying you need to be a Rhodes Scholar to be America’s Next Drag Superstar, but you do need to have some wit about you. Ivy seemed to lack that. Great runways and what seems like a total sweetheart. But really more of a supporting cast member than the lead. Alyssa clobbered her in the lipsynch. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Alyssa took that round. And good on Alyssa, because she needed the win.
On “Untucked” Coco vaporized whatever lingering goodwill she had by openly attacking Jinkx and then daring to act offended when people told her she was acting like a bitch. What a tired old queen she is, good lord. Exasperating and exhausting to watch. Not even her sweet video message from her husband, or the very sad story about both of her parents dying of cancer, was enough to redeem her. Everyone in my viewing party is sick to death of Coco and we want her ass gone next week.
Well, in two weeks, I mean. No new episode next Monday. My friends and I are taking the opportunity to watch “Paris is Burning,” the Episode 1 of “Drag Race.” Except not terrible!
The first results show of the main competition was actually surprisingly interesting. The format has been tweaked significantly, meaning that there’s more actual content in the result reveals. It just felt like more was going on throughout the whole show. Plus, Nikki Minaj actually bothered to show up on time.
In the recap of Wednesday night’s performances, mentor Jimmy Iovine agreed that the girls on the whole way outsang the boys. No question there. He did have some very different takes on a few of the performances, though. Jimmy really liked Janelle Wednesday, and I thought she was pretty dreadful vocally. He thought that Angie was overpraised by the judges, but still good. He thinks that Paul needs to drop the pop-country thing, because he’s not believable as country in any way. Jimmy also loved Amber, saying that she has charisma/star power to spare. I just don’t get that. I realize I’m the outlier here, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about Amber. She is a decent singer but has very little personality to me. Still, I’m willing to be sold.
Ryan explained that the results are going to be done with “a little more detail” this year, with the Top 3 all being identified -- but not the exact order -- and Ryan also gave us some minor geographic breakdowns. So, for instance, Devin was No. 1 in Puerto Rico. That’s not at all surprising. Basically all the contestants he talked to were No. 1 in their home states.
He first called up Devin, Janelle, and Candice, and revealed that Candice was in the Top 3. She was the best of Wednesday night to me, so no complaints there.
After commercials we had our first group song, which was basically a commercial for that terrible-looking new “Croods” movie. So I guess we won’t be getting Ford commercials now? I’m conflicted about that. We also learned that Curtis and Amber are dreadful lip synchers. Do not go on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” you two. You WILL be told to sashay away.
Then weirdly, the mayor of the town where Kree grew up came out to give her the key to the city of Woodville, Texas. What the what is this? Interestingly, Kree was also named to the Top 3, which thrills me. I think she’s great but I worried that she might have gotten lost last night considering that several other girls had much more attention-grabbing songs.
Following that odd segue, Bon Jovi came out. We’ve hit that point where Jon Bon Jovi has started to look old, and that makes me feel terribly sad. The band still sounds good, even though the vibe was dramatically different from what we’ve come to expect from it. Much more laid back. And what is going on with Richie Sambora’s hair?
And then…god, and then. Remember last week, Ryan threatened us with the fact that the runner-up guy and runner-up girl who just missed out on the Top 10 would be competing for a final slot on the “Idol” tour this summer? Well the first person competing was fucking Charlie Askew, who I had just started to believe that we’d never see again after he was blessedly eliminated last week. Here’s the thing, though: he sang an original song called “Sky Blue Diamond,” which he performed while playing the piano -- and I actually didn’t hate it. The pitch was a bit quavery in parts, but the melody was quite pretty. Most important, Charlie wasn’t doing his drama-queen theatric bullshit that drove me absolutely nuts the last few weeks he was on the show. All in all, I thought it was interesting, and stunningly mature given his usual penchant for juvenile attention-baiting.
The girl competing against Charlie was Aubrey Cleland, who did “On My Own.” It was beautifully sung, but that’s an awfully sleepy song to pick for a win/lose voting situation. I suspect that Charlie will win that one. I guess that’s fitting, since he made much more of an impact on the competition than Aubrey ever did.
Then last year’s winner, Phillip Phillips, came out to sing his new single, “Gone, Gone, Gone.” It’s a jangly country-tinged rock song. Not nearly as catchy as “Home” -- a huge hit that Phillip did NOT want to release -- but it’s a totally solid song, and I think “Idol” might have its first legitimately successful winner in years. He’s gone quadruple platinum with “Home.” Thanks, Olympics!
Angie and Lazaro were called up next. Both sang Kelly Clarkson last night, and it was Angie who also made the Top 3 with Kree and Candice. I find it so interesting that Amber did not make it, given that she got the Pimp Slot and a heavy, heavy push from the judges.
So after we found out the Top 3, we got the rest of the results in actual order. The show may have a real problem on its hands in a few weeks, because Lazaro -- who is easily the weakest singer in this competition -- came in fourth place. FOURTH. He should have been fighting for survival, and he was in FOURTH PLACE. Wow. In fifth was Amber, which is still lower than I think many people expected her to be. Coming in sixth was Janelle, which was bullshit. Janelle is also dramatically weaker than just about anyone who placed below her, and should have been toward the bottom of those rankings.
I was surprised, but pleased, to see Burnell come in 7th. I think he’s got a great voice, but I worry that he’s not grabbing votes. I’ll be curious to see what he does next week in terms of song selection. Paul came in 8th, and I have to assume that is largely due to the country vote, and partially because he’s really cute.
That left elimination coming down to Devin and Curtis.Both very good singers. Devin had a really sleepy performance on Wednesday, and Curtis had a potent cocktail of disaster. Death Slot + boring r’n’b song + lousy personality + mediocre performance = a swift ticket home. And it was indeed Curtis who found himself singing for The Save, which I’m sure infuriated him, because Curtis clearly thinks he should be WINNING this thing, not going home first.
You know who else thinks Curtis is great? Nikki Minaj, who literally got up and threatened to walk off stage if he was eliminated. As Curtis sang “I Believe I Can Fly” they camera panned to the judges’ table multiple times as they deliberated. Nikki was FURIOUS and clearly over the whole situation as Keith Urban tried to convince her of something. I assume it’s the fact that using The Save on the person coming in 10th would be spectacularly stupid. Curtis never had a shot to win this thing if he was that low in the rankings already.
Truly, it was nowhere near Curtis’s best performance. I do think he peaked too soon in Hollywood/Sudden Death, and he hasn’t been as good since. The judges had to be unanimous in their vote, and they were not. Nikki was clearly really angry that she didn’t get her way here, saying that she didn’t feel like the judges had the time to properly consider the situation. Again, Nikki: using the Save on the person coming in 10th is an awful idea. America obviously is not interested in Curtis in that way. Nobody is saying isn’t he talented, but he was not going to win this competition.
Nikki Minaj was absent for the start of the first live performance show. I cannot ever remember a judge not being present during a live performance round. Apparently she was stuck in traffic. Are you kidding me? If I was Nigel I would be positively shitting myself with fury if the only judge people even care about was LATE to a live performance show, much less the FIRST live performance show.
The theme was music from previous American Idols -- any song from any previous winners of the show. I’ve thought this would be a smart theme idea for few seasons now, but expanding it to previous “Idol” contestants in general, not just winners. Chris Daughtry, Kimberly Locke, Jennifer Hudson, Kellie Pickler, Clay Aiken -- some of those guys went on to be more successful than people who actually won the show, and have some pretty damned good songs of their own. But the show did approach this differently, not limiting it to just songs BY previous winners. The new kids could select any song ever sung by the winners on the show. So that broadened it considerably. (I do think it’s fun to point out that the only winners not represented tonight were Taylor Hicks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee Dewyze, and Phillip Phillips -- all of the non-country white guys. I mean, even RUBEN got a song in there!)
Curtis Finch, Jr. opened the show with “I Believe,” the coronation song for Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino. Curtis has to watch his nasal tone -- it’s front and center whenever he sings in his middle register. His “yeah yeahyeah” section in the middle also bordered on comical. Overall I thought it was fine, but unspectacular until that last falsetto note. My fear with Curtis is that he peaked in the Sudden Death rounds -- he’s been a bit of a letdown the past two weeks. Keith Urban made some comment about Curtis’s adrenaline causing him to sing above where he was supposed to. I couldn’t tell if that was in reference to oversinging, or a comment on Curtis’s pitch. Randy Jackson doomed Curtis by telling him he has to do something different than just these spiritual songs. Mariah Carey, meanwhile, only wants to hear more gospel-tinged music from Curtis. So Curtis was cursed not only with the Death Spot, but he’s also getting wildly conflicting advice from all the judges (minus the still-absent Nikki). So he’s off to a fine start.
Janelle Arthur is really playing up her country twang in the interviews. I don’t feel like she was quite so…rustic prior to making the Top 10. She chose “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry, which was performed by S10 winner Scotty McCreery. I found it difficult to really gauge Janelle’s vocal here because she was moving so much that I felt like it was impacting the singing. To me it sounded consistently flat, and I was surprised by how little power she exhibited. It was basically the same level throughout the whole performance. After the end of the song she said that she had “cotton mouth.” That might have explained the lack of dynamism. Nikki had shown up at this point -- wearing a hoodie and ridiculous sunglasses -- and told Janelle that she wants to see her singing prettier songs that show off her voice. Randy also picked up on the go-nowhere aspect of her performance. Mariah thought that Janelle’s “aura was giving us star.” I thought she seemed like an obvious pretender. She too wants Janelle to pick mid-tempo ballads. God, please don’t make these children sing nothing but mid-tempo ballads. It’s so damned boring to sit through for two hours.
Devin Velez went with Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home,” which he pointed out was different from his usual ballads with a Spanish flare. Devin blew the words in beginning of the first verse and it threw him for a few seconds, but he got it back by the chorus. Devin seemed unsure of himself during the performance, and where he was supposed to be looking. But the vocal was quite lovely, even if the song itself was not my favorite. Keith didn’t think it was one of Devin’s better performances, saying that Devin didn’t seem comfortable with the song at all. Nikki disagreed with Keith’s critique 100 percent. She thought the song was in Devin’s comfort zone, and thought he sounded and looked great. (I would agree that Devin already seems to be benefiting from the styling help.) Randy thought it was way too safe and that Devin didn’t really do anything with it. Even Mariah told him that he kind of biffed it with his song choice tonight.
Angie Miller selected Celine Dion’s “I Surrender,” which Kelly Clarkson sang back in Season 1. This was a great song choice for Angie, and it really showcased her range and great pop voice. The performance did come awfully close to what mentor Jimmy Iovine was talking about when he said that Angie can sometimes be a bit beauty pageant-ish. Keith says that Angie can take a song from any age and make it sound current. Nikki said that Angie looked like a billion dollars, and that she personifies perfection. Randy predictably said that the competition started with Angie, and that she was in it to win it, and blah blahblah. Pull the string on his back again and he moos like a cow. Mariah simply said it was stellar. How much is she getting paid to judge this show, again?
Paul Jolley continues to exist, so he’s got that going for him. He did “Amazed” by Lonestar, sung by Scotty McCreery in S10. Is Scotty really that influential as a past winner? How weird. The song scraped the bottom of Paul’s register, so the beginning was really breathy. And bless his heart, but the cornball performance was still there, and you could see that he was actively thinking about how to hold back. What’s so upsetting is that when Paul is on, he sounds wonderful. About 3/4 of the way through there were a few bars that were radio-ready. I just fear that he is destined to be a back-up singer, because he just doesn’t have leading guy qualities. Keith, however, thinks that Paul is listening to the criticism, and that this was one of his better performances. Nikki said that, “This is the first time you’ve stimulated my sexual appetite.” What do you say to that? Randy thought it was a great song for Paul, and then he totally misinterpreted Jimmy’s notes to Paul. Mariah told Paul to forget about everything that people are telling him and just go for it. Again, great contradictory advice from our esteemed panel.
Candice Glover seems really sweet, and she looked tremendous tonight. She did “I Who Have Nothing,” performed by Jordin Sparks back in Season 6. Candice sang the shit out of that song. She did a very straight version of it, but made it sound much more modern than it actually is -- it sounded like a Mary J. Blige joint in parts. I also thought her performance was authentic. This to me was a breakout performance for Candice. She got a standing ovation. Keith said that Candice evoked Shirley Bassey’s effortless command with that performance. Nikki said it was her favorite performance Candice has ever done -- it was current and fresh. Mariah finds Candice mesmerizing, saying that a singer of her ability can really do anything she chooses no matter what genre.
LazaroArbos went with “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson, which was certainly ambitious. The jacket Lazaro was wearing was doing no favors to his figure, I’ll just say that. As usual with Lazaro, the verse was too low for him, so he was just marking time until he could let loose on the chorus. But even that was pretty unimpressive. Typically Lazaro has one or two moments in his performances that are pretty special. But this was almost exclusively karaoke-grade. The last note was nice. That’s about all I can say. Keith said that he didn’t think the song was in Lazaro’s wheelhouse, and Lazaro agreed with him. Then why did you pick it, dear? Nikki said it was her least favorite performance thus far by him, saying that Lazaro usually seems comfortable and calm. Nikki, are you watching the same thing I am? Because Lazaro NEVER seems comfortable on that stage. Randy said the pitch issues were prevalent, and the song was simply too big for him. Mariah again tried to make it less about singing and more about Lazaro overcoming obstacles. This isn’t Perseverance Idol, dear. How much longer will Lazaro continue to advance because of what he’s gone through, not what he’s actually doing?
Kree Harrison picked “Crying” by Roy Orbison, which Carrie Underwood sang back in S4. Love that song, especially k.d. lang’s version. Kree looked ravishing -- whoever is doing her make-up deserves a raise. I loved the beginning of it, but it felt a little rushed once it hit the chorus. But Kree handled the very challenging high-note section of this song beautifully, and it was believable. Absolutely lovely. The best I think she’s ever sounded. Keith said that he simply loves Kree’s voice, and she’s “there,” ready to record. Nikki started talking about eating buttermilk waffles for breakfast with Aunt Jemima syrup. This was all so she could say that’s what Kree’s performance reminded her -- smooth, delicious, and she could enjoy it at home by herself. Did Nikki stop at a bar on her way to the show? Is that why she was late? Randy said that Kree’s voice makes him feel good all over, and he loves that she puts emotion into everything she does.
Burnell Taylor gave S2 winner Ruben Studdard some love -- somebody needs to -- by picking “Flying Without Wings.” Jimmy Iovine wisely warned Burnell about picking only mid-tempo r’n’b ballads, because people are going to get sick of that fast -- it’s simply not going to bring in votes. Burnell started the song by emerging out of a huge cloud of purple haze. Hilarious. This song is so goddamned boring, but Burnell sounded wonderful on it, up until he hit the really high notes. Then it got pinched and uncomfortable sounding. But when he’s in his sweet spot, nobody sounds better than Burnell. Keith talked about the unique timbre of Burnell’s voice, and the eccentricity of his performances (those flapping hands!). Nikki loved Ruben’s first album (!!!) and was glad Burnell picked one of his songs, and thinks Burnell is “well on his way.” Randy blathered on and kept talking about Louisiana. Randy Jackson: shut up about Louisiana. We get it. We know where you’re from. Mariah said nothing of consequence.
Amber Holcomb is more charming than I initially expected. She did “A Moment Like This,” the S1 coronation song for Kelly Clarkson. It’s funny; when that song first came out I kind of hated it, but it stands up remarkably well -- especially when compared to most of the other coronation songs. (It still makes me laugh that poor Lee Dewyze couldn’t even get an original song of his own, he had to cover U2.) They played with the tempo here, and Amber struggled to keep on the beat up until the chorus. I had some issues with the other minor changes she made to the melody, but overall it was a solid performance. Not deserving of the standing ovation she got, and nowhere near as good as Candice, but it was good. I suspect it sounded better in the studio. Keith loved how easy it seemed for Amber, even in the super high notes. Nikki called it best performance of the night -- no. She also said that Amber’s voice and aura remind her of early Whitney Houston. Again: no nono. Amber is good, but she’s not there yet. Randy summed up the night succinctly by saying that the girls absolutely killed the guys. Mariah again said nothing of consequence. I really think the judges praised Amber way too excessively.
Recap: Curtis was fine but not great, and the recap highlighted his worst moment -- interesting; Janelle is really pretty bad; Devin can sang but was terribly boring; Angie was great; Paul was arguably the best of the guys, which is a terrifying statement; Candice jumped to the front of the line in a big way; Lazaro is in living in a high -- school talent show, or perhaps an episode of “Glee”; Kree was gorgeous but oddly I found I forgot her; Burnell sounded good but sang another boring-ass song; Amber was really good, but still a bit overpraised.
Predictions: It has to be a guy to go home, right? Aside from Janelle all the women did really well. My personal Bottom 3 areLazaro, Janelle, and Devin, but I think both Devin and Janelle have fan bases that will save them for a few more weeks. Burnell and Curtis will probably split votes, and Curtis’s first slot can only hurt him. But if we’re talking strictly vocal, it should come down to Lazaro and Janelle for the boot.
Tomorrow: Bon Jovi, Phillip Phillips, and a sing-off for a spot on the tour.