Last night's "Idol" featured the highs and the lows of competition. Literally, we had some of the best singing of the season, but also the worst of possibly ANY season. I was hooting and clapping so loudly at my TV screen that I realized: this season has actually somehow become amazing. Largely in spite of itself, but still, I will take it.
Because the show MUST be two hours, even with only six singers, each Idol sang two numbers last night. The first song had to be from the Burt Bacharach/Hal David Songbook (very topical!), and the second theme was "Songs the Idols Wish They Had Written." That's actually a great theme, and it allows these kids to really show us what they can do/how they want to sound.
Angie Miller opened the show with "Anyone Who Had a Heart." It is by nature a fairly tepid song, and Angie didn't really come alive on it until the last chorus. That sounded good, but up until then even Angie seemed bored by it. Keith Urban said that Angie has a great voice, but she needs to actually feel the songs - there was no passion there. She has repeatedly gotten that note from the judges. Nicki Minaj agreed, and called it old-fashioned. It's a Burt Bacharach song. That is an unfair critique. Of course it's going to sound old-fashioned. Randy Jackson picked up on Angie being better on the second part of the song, but Mariah Carey gave her the dreaded "too perfect" note about the vocal. To her credit, Angie took the critiques in the spirit in which they were given.
Amber Holcomb did the Dionne Warwick classic, "I Say a Little Prayer for You." The low notes were a bit too low for Amber, but she sounded terrific in the upper register. This was a very straight cover of the song, aside from some good runs here and there. There seemed to be a weird disconnect in the bridge, and Amber needs to watch her face when she sings because she looks like she's in pain sometimes. Randy said that the competition started with Amber. Mariah blathered on about how impressive it was that she did that in just one take. Mariah, dear - they all do that! Keith said that he loves that Amber never overperforms, and that the whole thing seemed easy. Then Ryan Seacrest did his gross thing where he talked about the personal lives of the contestants, asking Amber about her boyfriend (which, admittedly, Nicki brought up). She said it was Curtis, presumably a reference to the first axed member of the Top 10. I sure hope she and Curtis aren't dating, because that's not going to end well for either of them. Later they suggested it was Burnell. I would suggest that this entire line of questioning is gross and pointless.
LazaroArbo did "Close to You," and holy cats, it was terrible. WAY, WAY too low for him. The pitch was astonishingly off. This wasn't even a high-school talent show. This wasn't even karaoke. This was painfully bad in parts. The back-up singers and the band even seemed embarrassed. Randy said, "I'm actually kinda speechless." He said that he thinks that Lazaro as a person is inspiring, but as a singer, it was "horrible." He said this was the worst performance he's ever seen on the show. Mariah actually laughed, and then said ON CAMERA that the producers have "reprimanded" her for being too nice, and that she needs to judge. She said that on camera! She said that Lazaro continued singing in the wrong key after the key change, and if Lazaro can't hear that, "it's kind of a big deal." Her entire critique was a reality-television gem. It was like a coyote trying to chew off its arm. Nicki was literally looking at her watch while Keith was giving his critique and then just totally abstained from comment. And then Ryan went to Lazaro, and predictably, Lazaro had an excuse: "We kind of changed the keys a lot, low and high." This fucking kid.Worst.Performance.In "Idol" history. And I won't even discuss the horribly racist caricature they put into his "personality package."
Kree Harrison did "What the World Needs Now is Love," and she started out singing entirely a cappella. Smart choice, as it allowed us to hear the beautiful timbre of Kree's voice. Kree seemed to struggle a bit with the lyrics or the see-saw rhythm of the song up until the big chorus. I also had a bit of an issue with the "lilt" she added to the ends of the lines, but overall it was very good. I have no idea what Mariah was trying to say. She was truly at the top of her blathering idiot game tonight. Nikki said that next year Kree will be performing at the Country Music Awards, because she's ready. I think that's probably true. Randy took the opportunity to shit on Lazaro again, and also yell at America to stop voting for him. Good luck with that!
Janelle Arthur did "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." She sounded better on this than I expected. She still has a tendency to go flat, especially on the low parts. Her folksy performance thing somehow comes off as endearingly cheesy instead of annoying. On the whole, though, I thought she delivered her best vocal in recent weeks. Keith likes that Janelle shows different sides as a performer each week. Nikki said that Janelle is commercially viable, but found the number super boring. Randy said that Janelle found some really nice moments in the song, but she has to be more consistent. Mariah was blessedly cut off by the band. She and Nigel Lythgoe are going to have a really uncomfortable discussion...
Candice Glover sang "Don't Make Me Over." It started out good, but it became amazing as it went along. There was nothing that I didn't love about this, and Candice sang it like a m-f'er. She got a standing ovation from everyone except Mariah Carey. I just assume Mariah has people to do her standing for her, "dahling." Nikki said that it sounded like a new r'n'b song on the radio, and Candice's commitment and conviction made her want to have "a women's revival." Randy said that it was the best vocal of Round 1, and praised the simplicity with which she approached the beginning, and the intensity Candice unleashed at the end.
For Round 2, Angie performed "Love Came Down" by Kari Jobe, a fairly obscure song. She was back at the piano, which the judges have been telling her to do for weeks. And for once the judges were right, because this was Angie's best performance in months by a wide margin. She didn't seem to be overthinking, she seemed attached to the song (though obviously she would be, since it's a song with personal meaning to her). This is exactly how I want Angie to perform every week, because she really CAN be amazing, just like that. Randy and Keith gave her a standing O. The girls did not. Hm. Keith and Randy both said that Angie just seems more connected to a song when she's at the piano. Nikki gave her a very impassioned lecture, saying that that performance was exactly why they love her, and she doesn't know why Angie keeps running from what she's good at. Because when she's at the piano, she's doing something the other girls can't do. True.
Amber picked "Love on Top" by Beyonce, and it was a mess up until the first chorus. After that it got much better and I can totally see Amber recording this type of song in her post-show career. It was fun and bubbly and I immediately added it to my Spotify playlist. She had some pitch issues in there, and the beginning was rough, but overall it was fun. Mariah said it wasn't her favorite vocal from Amber, but Keith thought it was really cute, and Nikki said that Beyonce needs to watch out.
Lazaro went with "Angels" by Robbie Williams. I believe that Lazaro sang this song on the show before, but I could be wrong. It was dreadful. Dirge-like. The lyrics were completely unintelligible. He just waded through the verse before putting some gas into the chorus. And that was...fine. But it's amateur hour compared to every other contestants still in this competition. Keith said there were elements of the song that reminded them why they liked Lazaro, but he said that compared to the girls it's still clear who is an artist and who is on a talent show. Nikki again abstained - she has totally given up on Lazaro. Randy just said "it's a girl's race." Mariah said that Lazaro redeemed himself slightly from earlier. That is damning with faint praise.
Kree picked Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make it Through the Night." It's not a song I'm familiar with, a very pretty, slow country ballad. Kree's soulfulness was the star here, and it was a good showcase for her voice. She does have some off notes here and there, but the notes she really hits she hits beautifully. It was a bit sleepy for me, though. It was...pleasant. I want more than pleasant at this stage. The judges all loved it, and Keith predicted that Kree will someday sing at the Grand Ole Opry, saying that her voice is a real throwback to REAL country, and a reminder of why that music is so special.
Janelle went with Garth Brooks's "The Dance," which at age 11 introduced her to the concept of "layers." That's...sad to me. This was not great. The pitch went way off in spots, and the song just didn't fit her voice well. The whole thing felt forced to me. Sometimes we can love songs, but they aren't a good fit for our individual voices. That is true for basically every Adele song ever for anyone who is not Adele. There's no doubt that Janelle was feeling the song, but the vocal was not on point. Randy said it was not her best vocal, but he appreciated her commitment. Mariah had never heard the song before, but found Janelle's performance true. Keith wished that Janelle had performed the song with just a guitar and no backing band. Nikki oddly thought that Janelle stepped it up vocally here, but she also thought Janelle was still trailing the rest of the girls.
Candice picked "Love Song" by The Cure, which was such a cool song choice for her. She interpreted it as a languorous jazzy number backed only by a piano. It was FABULOUS and so goddamned sexy. Absolutely perfect performance, and combined with her first number, a total home run for Candice tonight. Absolutely killed both numbers. Standing ovation! Mariah came up on stage and threw SOMETHING at Candice - glitter, I think - and Candice could not retain her composure and burst into tears. I am falling in love with Candice! It is happening! I've liked all the girls up until this point, but Candice has captured my heart (and my votes). Randy called it one of the greatest performances in the 12-year history of the show.
Recap: Angie was meh on the first number and fantastic on the second; Amber was bright and bubbly on both; Lazaro turned in a disastrous first number and barely hit passable on the second; Kree was lovely on the first and soulful but sleepy on the second; Janelle sounded worse in the playback on both songs; Candice is a superstar already. Give her all of the prizes.
Prediction: It's obvious who SHOULD go home. Lazaro. But will he? I am dubious. His fans will absolutely rally for him after the drubbing he got after the first number. I'm betting Janelle and Amber in the B2, with Amber going home (Janelle will get a boost after her B2 appearance last week). Interesting to note that the judges HAVE to use the Save this week or next, as the number of episodes to get to the finale have a non-elimination episode built in.
With just five queens remaining it was time for the annual makeover challenge. This time the task was to turn gay veterans of the United States military into drag queens for a day. These vets ranged from fairly young to of-a-certain-age, from stick-figure twinks to bears. It may have been the most mixed bag of makeover candidates the show has ever seen. But all of the vets were game for the experience, and it did give the show an opportunity to discuss the realities of being gay in the military before, during, and after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Personally I like it when the show ventures into gay politics/history, because these are things that need to get passed on through the generations.
The episode began with a silly calisthenics mini-challenge that was good for only two reasons. First, we got to see the Pit Crew again after what seemed like weeks of absence. Second, we had a fairly cute personal trainer putting the queens through their steps. Spindly Alaska won and was given the opportunity to assign the vets to the competing queens. Ever the diplomat, Alaska merely paired up the military men with the queens who happened to be standing opposite them. If Alaska doesn’t win Miss Congeniality this season I’ll be floored. The only other two possibilities would be Jinkx or Alyssa (not because she’s nice, but because she’s a freaking hoot).
In addition to transforming these dudes into ladies, the queens also had to choreograph a color-guard routine for themselves and their partners. We saw only snippets of these. The show regularly throws a performance curveball like this into these kind of transformation challenges, but rarely shows us all of the finished products. It’s a little odd.
Here’s how everyone stacked up, best to worst:
Roxxxy Andrews nabbed her second win of the competition, and she really needed it. Roxxxy has been struggling for weeks now, and been all but begging for a look-based challenge. This fit that bill, but she had to transform her (very cute) bear companion Izzy into Isabella Andrews. Not easy, but the two of them totally pulled it out. They really did look like drag sisters, and Roxxxy’s make-up and padding jobs on Isabella were well done. They both seemed at ease with one another and had fun with the project.
Jinkx Monsoon had arguably the toughest transformation with her veteran, Dave, an older gentleman with significant physical limitations. Dave also seemed to have an air of drama about him, but it’s understandable -- the guy has apparently been through a LOT. The two of them seemed to mostly work well together (my friend said that she was glad the two of them were paired together, because she doubted any of the other queens would have been as understanding as Jinkx). Jinkx played very heavily toward camp here, doing a Liza/Judy thing for herself and her drag mother, Fortuna Monsoon. (Dave actually claimed to have possibly killed Judy Garland, which spawned the amazing Twitter hashtag, #IKilledJudyGarland.) The whole shtick worked. I also noticed that Jinkx’s make-up has improved significantly over the past few episodes. She is taking the criticisms to heart.
Alaska inadvertently screwed herself by picking the young, skinny pretty boy as her partner. The gent who became known as Nebraska had to make serious changes to his clunky high-heeled walk, and the two of them biffed the color-guard challenge. But the real issue here was that Nebraska ended up outshining Alaska. I think part of that is because Alaska’s aesthetic is always slightly off -- that is a deliberate styling choice on her part. But Nebraska simply looked flawless on the runway, a truly gorgeous queen, and as one of the guest judges put it, she was more intriguing than the actual contestant. (I did like the cat-burglar theme Alaska had going for the two of them.)
Detoxended up in the bottom for the second time, and if editing is to be believed, it’s because she spent so much time fawning over her vet. Detox’s veteran was indeed cute, and probably the most…naturally inclined to this challenge. (I am thoroughly unconvinced that he had never worn heels prior to filming this episode; dude was panthering the room in seconds flat.) Detox and Alaska probably had the most to work with, and so expectations were naturally higher for their transformations. I didn’t care for the looks worn by either Detox or Beth Adone (high marks for the name, though). Their ambitious flag routine was a disaster. And Detox looked miserable on the runway. That dour expression has become fairly standard for Detox, and honestly I just don’t think she’s enjoying this experience in any way. I’m also going to just say it: Detox hugely overestimates her lipsynching abilities. She seems to think the jaw waggle is the be-all and end-all. It was old the first time we saw it weeks ago, and it was beyond tired here. She busted out some dance moves that made her look the fool. But no way did she actually win that LSFYL.
Coco Montreseoutperformed her, but with her fourth appearance in the Bottom 2 (and third straight B3 appearance) there was basically no way she was sticking around. She performed well in that lipsynch -- and I can’t stand Coco, so please understand that it takes me a lot to stick up for her -- but she basically bombed that challenge, as she has many others over the course of the competition. Her partner, Steve (Horchata Montrese), seemed like he was trying, but there was nothing he could do to overcome the tacky styling and tragic make-up Coco put on him. Coco admitted in the work room that she doesn’t paint other people’s faces. Steve looked rough on that stage -- the eyes looked practically Picasso-esque. And Coco didn’t look much better. The hilarious thing is that Coco's been bitching for weeks that the challenges have favored the comedy queens; that she needed a look-based challenge to really shine. And still: pfffft. And then she had the audacity to get tight-lipped and pissy on stage, and throw an actual temper tantrum backstage for being criticized. Goodbye, Coco! I am absolutely thrilled that you are gone. You stand out as one of the most infuriating queens to ever appear on this show. Enjoy your delusions, dear.
That leaves us with one more elimination before the finale. Detox got a lot of character development this episode, with the discussion of her family and the awful-sounding car accident that she survived. It was a very humanizing episode for her -- which makes me think she’s out next week. It appears to be another look-based challenge, which favors Roxxxy and puts both Alaska and Jinkx at risk. Although it’s worth pointing out: neither Alaska nor Jinkx have yet lipsynched for their lives, which is rare at this stage in the competition.
Allons-y, Alonso! The City Entertainment Blog is going to take a crack at reviewing non-reality shows, starting with “Doctor Who.” Before we jump into this week’s new episode, a bit about your humble blogger. I’m a fairly recent “Who” convert, having devoured almost all of the reboot episodes in the past three months (I missed a Christmas special or two). I’m now going back and watching as much of the classic stuff as I can find. I love the show and its mythology, but admittedly I’m nowhere close to an expert.
However, I have my own “companions,” a viewing party that includes several die-hard fans of the Doctor. Between them they have a fairly encyclopediac knowledge of the series. I mean, Anna dressed up as a full-sized Dalek for Comic-Con. That’s dedication.
Anyway, on to “The Rings of Akhaten,” in which our dashing, bowtied hero tried to discover more about The Impossible Girl, his new companion, Clara Oswald. The beginning of the episode answered at least one mystery surrounding The Girl Twice Dead, as the Doctor went back in time to watch Clara’s parents meet thanks to the serendipitous arrival of a lone leaf. It’s the same leaf that became “page 1” of Clara’s travel book, which we saw last episode.
In the present, the Doctor took Clara for her first official spin in the TARDIS. She wanted to see something amazing. He gave it to her: the Rings of Akhaten, the celestial satellites spinning around a massive red star (presumably Akhaten, although I don’t know if that was ever explicitly stated). The Doctor explained that the two of them were there for a specific reason: the people of the seven planets that orbit the star believe that this is the birthplace of all life in the universe, and that every thousand years they gather for a ceremony honoring their god, which sleeps in a gleaming pyramid on one of the asteroids circling the star.
The two of them end up in a bazaar full of all manner of aliens -- I feel like we haven’t had a fun menagerie scene like that in a while -- and two intriguing narrative nuggets were casually dropped. First, the Doctor mentioned to Clara that he once brought his granddaughter to this place. Second, Clara again evaded discussing her past when the Doctor asked her for something of personal/emotional value, which is used as currency at the bazaar.
Looking back at the three iterations of Clara that we have met thus far (the one in the future from “Asylum of the Daleks,” the one from the past from “The Snowmen,” and this current present version), every one of them has shown an impulse to redirect the conversation as soon as the Doctor starts inquiring about her past. Typically this is done via Clara flirting and subsequently befuddling the Doctor. Given that we learned this episode that Clara’s mother died young, it may simply be a defense mechanism on her part. But I remain highly dubious of Clara’s alleged origins.
At the bazaar Clara ran into a little girl, Merry, Queen of Years, who was trying to hide. Merry explained that she had a big part to play in the upcoming ceremony, and was terrified that she would get it wrong. Clara assured her that she would do great. But when the ceremony started, with Merry singing to the pyramid that supposedly contained their sleeping god, called Grandfather, something went wrong -- Merry messed up. Suddenly Grandfather started to wake up and Merry was snatched in an energy field and dragged toward the pyramid. The Doctor and Clara grabbed a space motorcycle (lots of motorcycles in the second part of S7; my friends suspect Steven Moffat’s going through a mid-life crisis) and zipped to her rescue.
In the pyramid our heroes discovered a few things. 1) That Grandfather is essentially a parasite that feeds on other beings’ stories/life experiences; 2) That Merry was in fact always going to be sacrificed, whether she screwed up or not; 3) That Grandfather is not the mummy alien in the pyramid. That’s Grandfather’s “alarm clock.” Grandfather is in fact the star at the center of the rings, or possibly some sentient force that dwells within it.
That last part raised a few interesting questions with me. The Doctor said that the people that live on the seven planets in the rings of Akhaten believe the location to be the starting place for all life in the universe. Clara asked if that’s true, and the Doctor shrugged; what matters is that they believe it. But several things said throughout the episode suggest that there may be something to that belief. Merry made a few references to the fact that once the entity inside the star gets angry, it expands and consumes everything in its path. That sounds an awful lot like the Big Bang to me. And the Doctor specifically referenced the Big Bang when explaining that Merry (and everything else in existence) was created out of the stuff that launched out of that cosmic event at the dawn of time. Ultimately I don’t think it matters, but I did think it interesting that that idea was floated and then vaguely supported throughout the episode.
Ultimately the Doctor tried to stop Grandfather by force feeding him all of the stories and experiences he’s consumed over the thousand-plus years he’s lived as a Time Lord. But it wasn’t enough. Clara came in and offered up her leaf as an offering -- the leaf that brought her parents together, and which symbolizes not only the experiences her mother lived, but all of the possible experiences she COULD have had, had she not died. The leaf apparently did the trick, and Grandfather -- the entire star at the center of the rings of Akhaten -- folded in on itself and collapsed into nothing. The Doctor speculated that all of those possible realities represented in that leaf were simply too much for the parasite to digest.
A few thoughts on this. First and foremost, when the star collapsed in on itself my initial reaction was, “Um, what is going to happen to the various planets/asteroids orbiting that star?” Clearly there was a complicated gravity system at work there, and now the center of it is just…gone. Secondly, stars are kind of important for light and energy. There were seven planets with species living on them in that system. They are now living without any source of light. And possibly drifting out into space. The physics of that conclusion terrify me.
Beyond that, I’m not convinced that the Doctor’s explanation about what stopped Grandfather was what actually happened. Why that one leaf? Surely there had been other mementos offered by the crowd at various ceremonies that belonged to people who died unexpectedly. It just doesn’t make sense.
I am still totally unconvinced that the version of Clara currently traveling with the Doctor is who she says she is, and that her history is what is being presented to us. This is the third version of this exact same person that the Doctor has encountered in time. Who knows, there may be other versions of her out that he hasn’t yet encountered. She can’t be some normal girl. Something is going on there, and the Doctor knows it. It’s obvious that he likes Clara, is drawn to her. But he is also distrustful of her, as evidenced by him investigating her origins this episode. He is curious at best, suspicious at worst, and I think he has every reason to be.
So what is Clara? That is the big mystery surrounding this second half of the season. There are countless theories, of course. Our little band of viewers is collecting our observations. Disagree? Have something to add? Let us have it in the comments!
-The dates that are popping up around Clara line up way too closely to “Who” lore to be coincidental. According to Clara’s tombstone at the end of “The Snowmen” she was born on November 23. That’s the date the first episode of “Doctor Who” premiered in 1963. According to this episode, Clara’s mother died on March 5, 2005 -- the date that Rose Tyler left with the Ninth Doctor in Season 1 of the reboot. Character endings surrounding Clara are lining up very closely with beginnings for this show. It’s either a very subtle nod to fans or a deliberate trail of breadcrumbs.
-The TARDIS does not like Clara; it would not open its doors for her this episode. (I also notice that the Doctor keeps leaving the doors to it open since Clara has shown up, and it drives me NUTS.) For whatever reason it is reacting more negatively to her than it has with any other companion I’ve ever seen.
-Clara has repeatedly shown, in all of her incarnations, several defining characteristics. 1. She is drawn to the Doctor and actively follows him (or, in the case of Oswin, guides him). 2. She has mother/child issues. 3. She has a strong desire to travel and see the world. 4. She is a very quick learner.
-This is the first episode in recent memory that the Doctor has brought up Susan, the granddaughter the First Doctor traveled with during the first season of the show. The Doctor left Susan in the future to get married, and said he would come back for her. So far as we know, that has never happened. And Susan has been barely referenced since she departed in the original Season 2, in 1964. There was absolutely no reason for the Doctor to mention Susan here, because as far as I know, the adventure with Susan on Akhaten was never shown or mentioned previously. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) This is a classic case of a gun showing up in the first act. Expect it to go off in the third.
-The rumor is that everything in the second half of this season leads up to the 50th anniversary special on November 23 of this year. Given that there are only six episodes left before that, it’s highly unlikely that the Clara mystery won’t somehow tie into that. My guess is that Clara either is Susan regenerated, or possibly her offspring.
- If nothing else, I bet she’s related to the Time Lords. Notice that the Doctor is wearing his fob watch again (it was dangling from his vest this episode). The last time I remember prominently seeing that watch was when the Master came back during the Tenth Doctor’s run. Those watches carry the personality/memories of a Time Lord for safekeeping. We don’t know that Susan was biologically a Time Lord, or adopted, or mixed species, or what. But the fact that the pocket watch just pops back up just as this new character joins the Doctor… Again, too many “coincidences.”
-There are some interesting things happening with numbers. The number 11 keeps appearing. We learned this episode that Clara’s mother was born on September 11. Last episode Clara told the child she was nannying that Chapter 11 in Amy Pond’s book would make her cry. And, of course, she’s running around with Eleventh Doctor. There are other interesting number things going on. Ages 16 and 23 were missing from Clara’s book, as shown in the last episode. That’s a difference of seven. Sevens have been popping up (such as the seven planets in orbit around the sun in this episode, or the number first shown on the cubes during the Slow Invasion in “The Power of Three”). This may be a lot of hooey, and certainly the least concrete of our observations. But it sure is fun to think about.
Next: Submarines! DavosSeaworth! Underwater intrigue!
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.
For an amusing Social media slant:
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