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- American Idol 12 Recaps
Nicki Minaj missed the first performance tonight due to traffic (she said). It will be completely lame if she’s habitually late to live tapings. Having said that. She’s wackadoodle, in the best way possible. Her random meanderings on waffles and warm syrup after Kree’s performance brought back memories of loopy Pauler and had me howling.
Tonight’s theme “Songs of the American Idols” had promise. If only the Top 10 were willing and/0r able to dive deep into the winner’s catalogs. Were the Idols really able to pick any cover or post Idol song from the contestants? Or were they handed a limited list. That’s a good question for Friday’s conference call…
The problem with this theme, is that without some creative thinking, the contestants wind up with songs we’ve heard sung better. Period. End of story. Out of the 1o performances THREE were coronation songs. Other than “Home,” Idol coronation songs suck ass. Only a Kelly Clarkson or Fantasia Barrino has the ability to rise above the banality of a treacly winner’s song. I would say only Amber Holcomb pulled it off. But only sorta. There was very little futzing around with arrangements. But then–contestants change arrangements at the risk of angering Idol fans who love originals. Yes, definitely a theme fraught with peril.
The best song choice of the night goes to Kree Harrison who picked a classic song, perfect for her voice. Since “Crying” wasn’t one of Carrie’s iconic songs (like “Alone” for instance) it allowed Kree to change it up. It was a lovely nod to both Carrie and Roy Orbison.
Candice Glover chose well too. You can’t go wrong covering Shirley Bassey. And as Kree did, Candice was able to put her own stamp on her song, giving it an updated R&B sound. It stands beautifully next to Jordin Sparks’ emotional pop version and Haley Reinhart’s bluesy take. Candice is a contender.
The rest of the Top 10 performances were uninspired. Cocky Curtis Finch, Jr. thought he could take on Fantasia Barrino. He could not. Strip away his runs and fancy vocal tricks, and you’ve got nothing. He brings no real feeling or emotion to his performances. And tonight, he seemed off. His phrasing was really clunky and he was pitchy in spots. The National Enquirer broke a story about his arrest record today. That’s not going to help. Neither is performing first. He’s in real danger of going home.
Janelle Arthur, whom I generally like, was a real miss tonight. In theory, “Gone” was a great song choice, but her vocals were uneven and her performance lacked zip. She complained of a dry throat later. Something was going on there.
Devin Velez performed a sweet version of Carrie’s “Temporary Home,” but he didn’t even come close to delivering the emotional wallop the song deserves. His technique was good, but really bland.
Angie Miller was competent singing an overdone Celine Dion song. A really unimaginative choice from a contestant who has proven to be a savvy song picker. I don’t think it hurt her, though. The judges ate it right up.
Paul Jolley has been told to dial it back. And in his rendition of “Amazed,” he pretty much dialed it back into oblivion. He’s an average singer that lacks star quality.
Poor Lazaro Arbos. His likability and perceived courage will keep him in this competition past his due date. ”Breakaway” was a better performance than his last few, but his vocals are lacking. And what’s worse–I think he knows it.
And Burnell Taylor. I love his voice, but when he announced he’d be singing Ruben Studdard’s “Flying Without Wings,” I simultaneously groaned and said to myself “I’m stepping off the Burnell train.” The boy needs a coach and song picker.
What’s really sad? In order to ensure a female winner, Idol producers felt the need to fill the male half of the Top 20 with subpar talent. I’m not even talking about a lack of White Guys With Guitars. I’m talking a dearth of White Guys Who Can Sing and Entertain Me. Or Black Guys, Latin Guys, Asian Guys Etc. I miss the good old days, when Carrie Underwood could win an Idol season competing against the talented and entertaining Bo Bice and Constantine Maroulis. Or when Jordin Sparks could win Season 7 going toe to toe with the creative Blake Lewis.
Has stacking the deck with charisma-free males what we’ve really come down to in order to insure that elusive female winner? It makes me sad just thinking about it, because basically it’s KILLING THE SHOW. Two or three stellar contestants surrounded by cannon fodder does not make for an entertaining singing competition. I have a real sense of foreboding about the rest of this season.
With a little creativity, the Idol winner theme could have been an entertaining, satisfying homage to the wonderful legacy of music the show’s alums have left over the years. I would have preferred more original songs–specifically from more of the guys like Kris Allen and Phillip Phillips. And deeper cuts from Carrie and Kelly. If I were Nigel, I would consider the theme an experiment. No need to repeat. The end.
By the way, what happened to the sing off for the tour spot between the 6th place finishers Ryan announced last week? Is that happening tomorrow? Ditto the Idol Mic ceremony. There were a bunch of Idol alums at the Grove today. Maybe we’ll see some of the footage from the reunion tomorrow.
A couple more notes:
The Idol stylists have stepped in with varying results. It will be interesting to watch the finalists’ looks evolve over the course of the season.
Randy Jackson was operating on 100% autobot tonight. The director should consider Nicki/Mariah split screens when one of them is talking. The look on Nicki’s face when Mariah was going on about her tight dress was pretty priceless.
I’ll be live blogging the Top 10 Performance right here! The Idols sing the music of past American Idol winners!
Oh. Jimmy sat down with the finalists to talk “strategy” heh.
Curtis Finch Jr. – “I Believe” by Fantasia – Curti OMG really Curtis? “I Believe” from Fantasia? REALLY? It takes a lot of guts to take on one of Fantasia’s great Idol performances. It’s a pretty terrible song otherwise. But Curtis certainly has the
hubris confidence to try! Guess what Curtis? YOU ARE NO FANTY. You aren’t even Joshua Ledet. Ooh at the pitchy vocals and awkward, boxy phrasing. Curtis is not in it to win it. Keith compliments his wardrobe before saying, more or less, that he oversang. Randy cautions Curtis to try something a little different next time. Mariah liked the gospel-tinged parts of the song. “I love what you did tonight.” No, Mariah. That was NOT good. - 1-866-436-5701
The finalists are living in “a rockstar type” hotel in Hollywood. Janelle tells Ryan that she ran into Steven Tyler and Gary Levox.
Janelle Arthur – “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry (sung by Scotty McCreery) Jimmy wants to know what separates her from other blond country singers. That’s vaguely insulting. Janelle responds that she wants to bring old school back to country. I appreciate Janelle going up tempo this week, but she’s not bringing as much sass to this performance as it needs. Her vocal weaknesses–an iffy upper register–is in evidence here. Oh. Janelle says her mouth is dry. She knows she had vocal problems. Keith liked her classic touches. Nicki arrives. She liked last week’s song choice better, although she notes her confidence. Randy says “the song didn’t lead anywhere.” Randy on autopilot. Zzzz. Mariah says her “aura” was giving off a star vibe…or something. She would rather hear a ballad or mid-tempo. - 1-866-436-5702
The theme is a “true celebration of our legacy” says Ryan.
Devin Velez – Temporary Home by Carrie Underwood – Devin feels ballads are his bread and butter. He name checks Josh Grobin as a current artist he aspires to be. Steven cautions him not to box himself into AC. There’s no doubt about it. Devin can sing. He’s always on pitch, and has a lovely tone. He might actually do really really well in the AC format . He has a pure sweet tone that lends itself to balladry. I find it boring as hell, but lots of people don’t. See the popularity of SuBo and that pint sized AGT singer. Keith didn’t think it was one of his better performances. He didn’t look confident. It was the wrong song. Hm. Nicki calls Keith crazy. She totally disagrees. “This is you, it’s your comfort zone.” Randy thought it was way too safe. Mariah says he has the ability, so the expectations are high. I’m #TeamNicki 1-866-436-5703
Angie Miller – “I Surrender” by Celine Dion (Performed by Kelly Clarkson) Ohhhh. Jimmy accused her of being pageant botty! It literally shocks Angie. DISS. BURN. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry Angie. You’ve made some smart song choices. This is not one of them. You sing a Kelly Clarkson song AND THIS IS WHAT YOU CHOOSE? An old fashioned ballad (One that Kelly would probably never sing again, like ever ever. She’s the Queen of Awesome Covers). Also, Angie does not have the vocal chops to pull this off. Pageant bot indeed. The crowd likes that. And the judges love it. So what do I know? Keith likes her high register. Hm. I thought she was pitchy. Nicki loves her dress. “Your legs are giving me everything I need in life.” She’s going on and on about her outfit. “You personify perfection…you are a superstar.” Randy says, “America the competition starts now…In it to win it…I think you can win anything.” Blah blah blah. Mariah calls her “stellar.” 1-866-436-5704
Paul Jolley – “Amazed” by Lonestar (sung by Scotty McCreery) Jimmy tells him that he “perpetually oversings.” Jimmy lumps all Broadway singers into the “oversinger” category. THAT’s a broad generalization. ”I’ve never even sung on Broadway,” says Paul, a little glumly. I’ll bet he’s never been told he oversings before. Jimmy tells him he’s not running for president. Dial it back. Paul actually takes Jimmy’s advice and dials it back. The result? A lackluster, charisma free performance. Maybe he needs to go back to oversinging. Kidding. The problem is, either way, Paul lacks star power. Keith thought it was one of his better performances. Nicki is sexually stimulated by Paul for the first time. TMI. She thought he did the song justice. Nicki thinks he’s in his head a lot, but not tonight. Randy liked the song choice, but thinks he should have maybe oversung a little bit. Mariah doesn’t want Paul to hold back. She reminds Jimmy that he kept broke the tie in Paul’s favor because he was impressed with his vocal prowess. 1-866-436-5705
Candice Glover – “I Who Have Nothing” by Shirley Bassey (sung by Jordin Sparks) – The Idol producers festooned her hotel room with photos of her family. And of course whipped out the camera when she saw them for the first time. Hm. Once again, Candice kills a song dead. This girl can’t go wrong. She’s more than a singing machine. Sure, she can do those runs and hit those big notes. But I’m never bored. She crawls inside a song, finds it’s emotional truth and reveals it with her glorious voice. Truly. Gifted. Thank you Candice for waking me out of my reverie. The audience goes wild. Keith says Candice has Bassey’s command and never gets pulled out of the zone. Nicki believes Candice now owns that song. It’s Nicki’s favorite performance. She felt it was current and refreshing. The Barbz love her, apparently. Randy says, “You really worked that song out. ONE OF THE GREATEST PERFORMANCES ON THE SHOW. SEASON 12 Idol!” Oh Randy. Mariah is transfixed and mesmerized. 1-866-436-5706
Lazaro Arbos – “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson – Jimmy works to put Lazaro at ease. But he probably makes him fell worse after warning him to learn the song and suggesting that the young singer needs confidence. Kudos to Lazaro for staying (mainly) in tune. But this is just OK. He’s still sweaty and nervous and not taking the song anywhere. His vocals are not up to the task. Cover Kelly at your own peril. Keith asks him why he chose the song. Lazaro loves the words. He relates as a small town boy. Keith could feel it, but didn’t’ think the song was in his wheelhouse. Lazaro agrees. Hm. After Nicki initiates a mini Spanish convo with Lazaro (“No se” he answered. I wonder if he stutters in Spanish?) she tells him he looks like a cuddly Ricky Ricardo. Nicki picks up on Jimmy’s intimidating advice for Lazaro–she calls out the record exec for trying to break the contestants confidence during their little sit down. She thinks Lazaro lost his confidence today as a result. Nicki…Lazaro ALWAYS seems nervous! Flop sweat FTW. Randy thought the song was too big for him. Mariah says people are falling in love with his courage. Woah. Is she saying he’s more backstory than talented singer? Mariah wasn’t mad at the song choice, but felt he could have done better. 1-866-436-5707
Kree Harrison – ”Crying” by Roy Orbison (Sung by Carrie Underwood) Jimmy says she has an incredible shot, but she should not over sing. WHAT? She doesn’t over sing! Carrie is one of Kree’s favorite Idols. I am OBSESSED with Kree’s deep rich tone. This is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a lovely and emotional rendering of an old classic. Yep. Kree puts her own spin on it. No Carrie comparisons necessary! Keith thinks Kree could sing the phone book. He loves her voice. “You’re there…get the songs and go into the studio.” Nicki says, “Hello Harry” and then begins babbling about frozen waffles. Uhm. She’s comparing Kree’s voice to waffles. “Smooth, delicious, fun. I would enjoy that if I was in front of the TV eating waffles. ” Randy loves that she puts feeling into everything she does. Nicki wants to know if Kree makes him feel “tingly”. Mariah loved the song choice. Kree was so excited, she called Ryan Randy. 1-866-436-5708
Burnell Taylor – “Flying Without Wings” by Ruben Studdard – Jimmy warns him not to overdo the R&B ballads. He’s so right. This is basically the Worst Song Ever. I love the tone, and as Keith says, the timbre of Burnell’s voice. However, I wish his musical sensibility was as unique as his vocal style. He needs a producer and A&R people to guide him. As far as the contest is concerned, if we can expect mundane after mundane ballad, I’m gonna be hopping off this train quick. Keith not only loves the timbre of his voice, but his and his “Burnellisms” as well. Nicki loves that song, and believes he’s well on his way. He puts his own twist on his songs, she says. “Very nice,” says Randy. And he’s “back in the zone.” Mariah loves the choices he makes in his songs. 1-866-436-5709
Amber Holcomb – “A Moment Like This” by Kelly Clarkson – Jimmy tells Amber what a pretty, pretty girl she is. Creepy. THREE FRIGGING CORONATION SONGS TONIGHT. What the hell? Again, out of Kelly’s large repertoire THIS IS WHAT AMBER PICKS. I love Amber’s voice, the girl can sang, but this is just SO PAGEANTY. All that’s missing is the tiara and the pageant speech. SO SO BORING. And if I’m being honest, there are pitch problems in spots. Keith loved the song for her. Really Keith REALLY. He called her performance “effortless.” Nicki calls it the best performance of the night. DON’T EVEN NICKI. Candice and Kree had the best performances of the night. She compares her to Whitney. Sigh. Nicki doesn’t like her outfit. Randy loves Amber, and calls her song choice the “greatest Idol winner song ever.” NO. He says, “It was so beautiful. So perfect.” and “Dudes the girls are all killing you tonight.” Mariah says, “Hashtag…Pow.” Ryan invited Amber’s step mom to come onstage to give Amber her gift. 1-866-436-5710
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