The American Idol Top 4 are back! Tonight the 4 remaining finalists will sing songs from Now and Then. More specifically, the girls will tackle the Great American Song Book AND tunes from 2013!
The delightful Harry Connick, Jr. is the special guest mentor! I’ll be liveblogging al of the fun right here.
The remaining finalists are in the home stretch of the competition right now, and they ALL look tired. At this point of the competition, it’s not unusual for the contestants to run out of steam. The grind really gets to some. Many an Idol has broken at the 4-3 week mark. It’s no wonder things are getting even weirder in the Idoldome this week.
Harry Connick Jr. was his usual hilarious self, and he gave some great advice as always. BUT the dude is a bit of a control freak. When he mentored the season 9 kids, he did all of the arrangements too, and it was his way or the highway. I’m certainly not a lover of indiscriminate runs in a song. Harry’s advice to keep it simple and to sing the lyrics like they mean something made perfect sense. BUT, is there only one way to sing a standard? Were the girls expected to perform in a standard style, even if it’s not the way they usually sing? What’s the problem with re-interpreting a song or updating it? When Harry mentored the girls on the current songs, he was a lot looser. But oy. Don’t mess with his standards!
If Kree had followed her gut, and gone with a bluesy vocal take on “Stormy Weather,” she might have fared better. I actually LIKED her singing in rehearsal, before Harry got into her head. Attempting to ape a style that’s not her own messed her up. And I didn’t get the problem with Amber adding a high note and a few embellishments to “My Funny Valentine.” I also thought it was unnecessary for Harry to throw shade on her performance from the audience afterward. I felt bad for her.
Randy was his usual inarticulate self as he attempted to explain that artists need to keep their identities intact. Suggesting that Kree sing the Etta James version of “Stormy Weather” and then insisting that Kree needed to be herself sounded contradictory on the surface. But I kinda got his point. Each of the girls should have been encouraged to stick to their artistic identities as they figured out how to interpret the songs.
The performances: Candice was STELLAR tonight. Her take on “You’ve Changed” was masterful, and I loved her powerhouse vocals on “When I Was Your Man,” made all the more intriguing because she COULD NOT change the pronouns. Kree did a beautiful, heartfelt job with Carrie’s “See You Again.” She sang it well enough to make up for her tentative performance of “Stormy Weather.” Too bad she didn’t sing the Carrie number first. I re-listened to Angie’s “Diamonds” and other than the pitchy stuff in the middle, I thought she did a solid job. Didn’t get the harsh critiques on that at all. Her style is a little too vanilla to do jazzy standards justice. “Someone to Watch Over Me” has been performed on Idol better by both the preternaturally mature, Allison Iraheta and Katharine McPhee (Standards are that girl’s THING). But although I preferred her first song, she had her moments. The Pink song, “Just Give Me A Reason” was completely out of Amber’s depth, emotionally. Her vocal on “My Funny Valentine” was gorgeous, even if she didn’t quite understand what it meant. Some of you suggested that Amber was crying during her critique after looking so foolish in her video clip with Harry. Could be. The thing is–that girl has a ton of potential, but she’s undercooked at this point. A few more years experience could make all the difference in the world.
The judges’ critiques continue to be inconsistent. NOW Candice is suddenly current in their eyes, after performing pretty much the same way as she always does. She was better this week than last, but stylistically, Candice’s performances have not changed. Ditto Amber, who got slammed for a performance that was better than that horrible “MacArthur’s Park” from last week–which earned her a standing ovation. And the harsh critique of Angie’s first song, “Diamonds” drove me to don my Tin Foil Hat. Were the judges making up for the criticisms they received for over praising Angie and Amber the previous week by coming down hard on them now? It hurts my brain thinking about it. When Nicki delivers critiques, she makes no effort to hide that she’s reading from “notes.” She better be careful not to pull a Pauler and read from the wrong script! Heh.
Mariah and Nicki were at it again tonight–arguing during both of Angies performance critiques. OK. I’ll admit, when Nicki offered Mariah a Q Tip to clean out her ears, and when Mariah snarked that not everybody gets to have a #1 record, I giggled a little. But, really, they embody the worst female stereotype there is. Powerful women whose insecurities drive them to hate on other powerful women bum me out. The “jealous cats” trope is one I’d rather not see played out on the Idol panel. It’s super-awkward.
Last week’s 38 million votes will be mixed in with tonight’s. Amber was clearly in the bottom last week, But I don’t think she did enough to climb out, even with the pity votes she surely received after she was criticized by Harry and the judges.
Ryan says tonight it’s…game on! Oh look Haley Reinhart is IN THE HOUSE. Ryan calls
Songs from 2013 are first, followed by Standards. Shouldn’t that be the other way around? ow, we watch a video package on mentor Harry Conick Jr. He was awesome when he mentored back in Season 9. He believes the audience is going to set back and REALLY be entertained!
Songs from 2013
Angela Miller – “Diamonds” by Rihanna – Harry’s family loves Angela. BUT HE DOESN’T. He’s just kidding! Harry was worried about Angie’s song choice, initially, but he feels she broke it down into a beautiful love song. Angela sits at the piano, like she’s been told! Her version of “Diamonds” is a ballady arrangement that speeds up on the chorus with the help of some congas. I’m not a fan of the original and I actually like what she does here with the song. Well. That is, until she tried to hit a high note and failed. Erp. Vocally, she lost it a bit in the end, but she still managed to pull it off. The judges? They no likey at all. Keith didn’t love her arrangement. He was waiting for something to happen, waiting for her to soar. Hm. I’m not sure I agree with that. I don’t think “soaring” was the point. It wasn’t about hitting big notes–but connecting to the emotion of the song, and I think she mostly managed that. Nicki didn’t feel she was connected. She calls it “bland and lackluster.” Randy didn’t feel it went anywhere. But he does like her leather shorts *eyesroll* Mariah expected Angie to change the arrangement, but felt she was playing to the camera rather than singing from her heart. When Mariah repeated said “playing to the camera,” Nicki was all “SO YOU MUST AGREE WITH NICKI,” and Mariah waves her off and rolls her eyes and makes a passive aggressive snipe about #1 hits and how “not everybody has that.” Oy. SHUT UP. Keith and Randy laugh. 866-436-5701, 866-436-5705
Amber Holcomb – “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink & Nate Ruess – Amber gets a few moments with Ryan before her performance and they chat hometown visits. She misses the food! In her mentoring session with Harry, Amber admits that she’s iffy on the song lyrics. But he couldn’t care less, what matters is connecting emotionally, and he’s impressed even with her half forgotten words, because when she stopped concentrating, the emotion kicked in. Never fear, she learned her words! Amber doesn’t sing with the gutsy passion of Pink, but the vocal has some nice moments. But if a singer covers Pink, they better be prepared to spill their guts. That level of emotion is beyond Amber at this point. What results is a pleasant performance with no punch. Nicki wants to know what happened to the funny, relaxed girl in the video package. Randy asks her if she’s having fun. “Something’s a little different tonight. That was not stellar.” Mariah wants to see that confident Amber from the video. Keith has empathy for Amber and her nerves. He can’t bring himself to diss her–telling her he loves the “clarity and bell” in her tone. 866-436-5702, 866-436-5706
Candice Glover – “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars – Harry thinks it’s going to be hard to sing a song without changing the pronouns. But he feels she pulled it off. The truth is–she was UNABLE to change the lyrics for legal reasons. Candice said so on twitter. I don’t think the gender thing is a big deal at all. In fact, I kinda dig the gender bending thing. And here, it doesn’t make a bit of a difference. Candice inhabits the character in the song, delivering her usual powerhouse vocal. The best of the night so far. Easily. When she hits the bridge, I could feel the roof raise. YOU’RE A MAN BABY. Yes, I believe and worship at the house of Candice! Heh. Randy says “This girl right here…that’s how you sing a song! That was amazing!” Mariah agrees. Candice has the musicality to change a song to suit her. Keith didn’t care about the gender either. “That’s a winning performance right there. Nicki says the performance deserves a standing ovation. EVERYBODY STANDS UP. “You gave me every single thing I asked for last week,” Suddenly, Candice is a current singer and could be ON THE RADIO RIGHT NOW. Uhm. Actually, Candice is doing the thing she always does. 866-436-5703, 866-436-5707
Kree Harrison – “See You Again” by Carrie Underwood – Wow. Kree sounds GREAT in rehearsal! Harry says he wouldn’t change “a frickin thing,” and adds that he would help Kree with her record if she called him. He went so far as to say her version was better than Carrie’s OOPS. I wouldn’t go so that far. Actually, I wouldn’t compare them. Kree doesn’t have Carrie’s powerhouse pipes, but with her warm voice and soft edges, she’s able to pack emotion. It’s the simple way she phrases a line, and the vulnerability of her delivery. She really has something special. Mariah felt her, especially at the beginning of the song. She loves her authenticity. Keith notes that it’s hard to do the newer songs, when folks have current versions fresh in their minds. Keith was waiting for the performance to get bigger, but notes that her vocal was beautiful. Nicki loved her “Kreedam” performance. Nicki feels that Kree took her notes from last week and sang from her heart. Randy calls it was an amazing performance. The song would be a great blueprint for where she could go, he says. Harry comes out from backstage to congratulate Kree personally. 866-436-5704, 866-436-5708
Angela Miller – “Someone to Watch Over Me” – Harry and Angela have a snark-a-thon going on here. Get a room, kids! It’s really cute. Harry cautions that you don’t have to do much to a perfect song. DON’T sing notes that aren’t in the chord progression. Angie is a good pop singer, but she has vocal has limitations. Harry gives her good advice, which she follows–toning down the theatrics and extra stuff. Keeping it simple. Particularly, in the first two verses, she brings a quiet vulnerability. She doesn’t have the vocal chops to make it a stellar performance, but it’s a solid, sweet performance. Keith wants to know why she picked the song. Didn’t he watch the video package? “Does a song from then have to be so then,” he wonders. WHAT? Randy is laughing at him. Angie reminds Nicki of a Disney princess. She imagines her on Broadway or singing in Disney films. Better than her first performance, says Nicki, who prefers her in her upper-register. Randy didn’t like parts of the arrangement, but felt she made it work, regardless. “This girl can sing and that was an amazing vocal.” Mariah’s mom is in the audience, and goes on about how her mother uses to sing the song to HER. And again…Mariah makes it all about herself. Snatching the opportunity to take a swipe at Nicki, Mariah says she disagrees with “a certain judge.” Angela shouldn’t always sing at the top of her range. “Clean them ears out, clean them ears out…that’s not what I said,” shouts Nicki. OMG. She tries to hand Mariah a Q tip from her purse! This sh*t is stupid. Ryan is a saint, he smooths things over so well. “Somebody’s going to go to the corner. We have to finish this show!” and “We’re still having dinner together after the show, right?” asks Ryan. YES all four answer in unison.
Amber Holcomb – “My Funny Valentine” – Amber has barely begun singing when Harry stops her to ask what she thinks the song is about. “A guy…who, I guess they are being really, like, funny and weird.” Uhm. No. He calls her out on being clueless, and then forces her to break down the meaning of the song. She’s very surprised to find out it’s a love song to a homely person. She doesn’t understand the “greek” analogy. Amber is just too young to get it. Harry did feel her interpretation improved once she understood the words. But still. Wow. This is the song that put her on the map during the Las Vegas round, but I’m not sure it’s wise to repeat at this stage. Like the first time she sang it, it’s a beautiful vocal performance, with a couple of really gorgeous adlibs. Nicki compares her to a red rose. Amber begins to tear up, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. Nicki tells her not to worry about votes. She’s a superstar. No matter what happens, she has a lifetime ahead of her. Nicki is very sweet. Randy loved the last half of the song. “Unbelievable” and “Stellar” are words he uses to describe her performance. Mariah feels her spirit is bigger and better than ever before. Keith feels the room is too quiet. When the audience reacted to her, her performance began to soar.
Candice Glover – “ You’ve Changed” – Harry, from the audience, insists Standards DON’T need runs. “Hitting high notes at the end of ‘My Funny Valentine’ doesn’t make any sense. I love Amber, I think she’s going to be a big star, but I disagree…” OUCH MAJOR SHADE FROM HARRY. Again….he urges Candice to SING THE MELODY. Forget the runs, he says. Whoa. Candice is KILLING THIS SONG. Her jazz inflections are SPOT ON. She follows Harry’s orders–no runs. But she makes the song her own with tempo and that amazing instrument. She slides into her upper register with ease. So effortless. The song builds slowly, until we can literally hear her heart break in two as she laments her distant lover in song. Bravo Candice. She gets a well deserved standing o for that. Randy says you can’t tell a church girl not sing runs, what matters is the emotion (but she didn’t sing any runs.). Mariah calls Candice “anointed”. She loves the subtlety and the textures. Keith loved her power and control. Nicki decided not to speak. Hm.
Kree Harrison – “Stormy Weather” –Kree listened to the Lena Horne and Etta James versions. Again. Harry told Kree to can the licks. There should be NO showboating on this song. He suggests that she listen to Lena, rather than Etta. SING the Words. Pay attention, he says. I actually liked the way she sang it in rehearsal, with a little blues bending. But what do I know? Well, she’s throwing in the embellishments anyway. Oops. Her performance is tentative. You can see the wheels just turning in her head. It’s as if she’s TRYING to sing it Harry’s way, but isn’t comfortable. I’m not sure what’s going on, but there’s a major disconnect going on here. She never relaxes into the song. Mariah thought she could have been bluesier. “God Bless the Child” may have been a better choice. She has a point. Keith would have also chosen a different song. He asks her to never lose the things that make her voice special. Yeah. Harry got inside her head, I think. Nicki more or less, says, she should have stuck to her guns. She thinks the girls should have paid more attention to song choice. Always stick to who you are! Randy feels the Etta version would have been better. Harry is responding: She has to learn the melodies first. Randy reminds Kree to “be who you are.” Harry calls out Randy on the contradiction of telling her to sing the Etta James version, while insisting she be herself. Randy is his usual eloquent self, but I think he’s got a point. The singers shouldn’t ever take advice that messes with who they are as artists.
Amber Holcomb, Angela Miller, Candice Glover, and Kree Harrison – “Wings” by Little Mix – And the evening ends with a little trifle. A crew of girl dancers join them on stage. GIRL POWER.