On Wednesday night, American Idol celebrated the music of Detroit and this writer, for one, was disappointed not to hear any Eminem. How great would it have been for Lazaro Arbos to break out into, "Lose Yourself?" Ah well, Stevie Wonder is a nice alternative because no one else has ever done Stevie on American Idol before.
Color me bitter.
The evening started with a visibly nervous Candice Glover. After Smokey Robinson told her that she made him cry with her version of, "I Who Have Nothing," she was not only feeling the pressure to perform at the same level but apparently starting the show off gave Candice even more anxiety. It seems that the realization that she is one of the best, if not the best of this season, hasn't quite sunk in yet. Candice chose to perform, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," by Marvin Gaye. In all honesty, the California Grapes have ruined the chance for that song to ever be taken seriously again, but Candice was flawless as usual. Keith Urban opted to channel Paula Abdul when he told Candice that it was her best performance of the night. Technically it was. A-
As the weeks progress and contestants start to dwindle, American Idol begins their group performances. In seasons past, some of the duets have become highlights, like Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery's Season 10 performance of, "I Told You So." On Wednesday, Idol paired up Janelle Arthur and Kree Harrison for a duet of Madonna's, "LIke A Prayer."
Kree's vocal sounded effortless but her performance looked effortless, which isn't necessarily a good thing. With Kree looking as though she was half-asleep, Janelle's natural exuberance seemed almost manic in contrast. After their performance, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson opted to compare the two; a comparison that did not work out in Janelle's favor. Nicki said that it seemed like Kree had just flown in to perform a duet with an American Idol contestant. Ouch. Judging from Kree's energy level, it must have been a red-eye.
Perhaps no other contestant could identify with the frustration Janelle was feeling better than Lazaro Arbos, who was so beat up by Jimmy Iovine and the judges last week that he seemed in danger of an emotional breakdown. This week, Jimmy seemed to go easy on Lazaro although it may have just been for Smokey's benefit. He said that performing, "For Once in My Life," by Stevie Wonder seemed to be in Lazaro's wheelhouse. Taking the stage in leather pants and jacket, Lazaro gave one of his best performances in weeks. Lazaro, perhaps embarrassed by his vulnerability last week, overcompensated with a cocky, defiant attitude toward the judges - especially when Randy mentioned pitch problems and Lazaro shrugged it off with a feigned nonchalance. Nicki, not prepared to let Smokey get all the credit for Lazaro's comeback reminded everyone that she was the one who told him not to listen to Jimmy. Let's hope Nicki never intends to work with Jimmy in the future as he'll no doubt have her blacklisted the moment the finale ends. B
It was clear that Wednesday night was a night of comebacks when Janelle returned to the stage to perform an arrangement of "Keep Me Hanging On," by The Supremes that she came up with the when she was 14. Janelle delivered a moving performance and an inspired vocal. As Mariah Carey later said, it was Janelle at her finest. Nicki, always the contrarian, said something silly about Janelle being in too good of a mood to sing as good as she normally does but both Keith and Randy dismissed her foolishness and gave Janelle the compliments she so well-deserved. A-
Devin Velez, hoping to have a comeback of his own after some lackluster performances over the last few weeks, took to the stage channeling Pee Wee Herman in his red jacket and stiff posture. Devin performed, "The Tracks of my Tears," by Smokey Robinson and somehow the judges loved him. Nicki said it was an amazing job and Randy declared, "Devin is back tonight, y'all!" Perhaps the song sounded better in person but Devin's personality certainly didn't shine through the television set. He seemed emotionally disconnected from the song and almost as bored as Kree was in her duet. C
Candice, Angie Miller, and Amber Holcomb joined forces and performed, "I'm Gonna Make you Love Me," by The Supremes. In addition to looking absolutely breathtaking, especially Amber, the girls brought three of the four judges to their feet.
Burnell Taylor didn't need a comeback this week, which is a good thing because his performance of "My Cherie Amour," by Stevie Wonder, didn't have quite the impact some of his earlier vocals had. The good thing is that Burnell doesn't need to be great to make an impact. His unique qualities make him endearing even when he sets a song to a dreadfully old-fashioned arrangement. The judges enjoyed Burnell's originality and his ultra-white ensemble. B
Smokey was delighted to hear that Angie Miller was going to be singing, "Shop Around," but wasn't quite as delighted with her "My Fair Lady," enunciations. He and Jimmy tried their best to get Angie to relax and have fun with the song but straying from her piano and emotional performances didn't serve Angie well. Nicki summed it up best when she complained that Angie was trying to be something that she wasn't and that if Motown isn't her thing, she should have switched things up. Janelle's performance was a perfect example of making a song suit her style. Angie tried to keep a stiff upper lip but hearing Randy say she was pitchy throughout after consistently being showered with compliments can't have been easy. C
Amber Holcomb may have been transfixed by Smokey Robinson's eyes but it ended up being the judges who were transfixed by Amber. After performing, "Lately," by Stevie Wonder, the judges were all on their feet. Mariah called it a tour de force and Randy exclaimed that it was the best vocal of the night. It seems like what the judges are hearing must sound better than what viewers are hearing because though her high notes are gorgeous, Amber always seems to struggle with her lower register. She probably won't end up in the bottom three this week but it might be fun to watch the judges throw a fit if she did. B
Devin, Lazaro, and Burnell then performed "Sugar Pie Honeybunch," and Burnell put the others to shame – especially Lazaro who continued to fumble the lyrics. Unfortunately, after Nicki went off on them for their wretched performance, Burnell then put himself to shame by claiming he did what he was supposed to do. "I'm not trying to throw anybody under the bus, but this is a competition." Word to the wise Burnell, if you feel the need to begin a sentence with, "I'm not trying to -" then do yourself a favor and just don't. Not trying to be a jerk is not the same as trying not to be a jerk.
Kree Harrison chose, "Don't Play That Song," by Aretha Franklin. Smokey was definitely a fan, claiming he was going to call Aretha and have her watch Kree's performance because she was so great. It was quite the build-up to a performance that was good simply because it was Kree and she's always good, but it wasn't great. Someone should have told Kree, "Don't wear those shoes," since her inability to walk in six inch heels was a constant distraction from her performance. B+
It's amazingly difficult to make predictions, especially since the voters seem to be ruled by their emotions far more than their hormones this season, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. So here it goes:
- Candice Glover
- Janelle Arthur
- Kree Harrison
(Burnell destroyed any chance of a spot here after disparaging his fellow contestants. Seriously Burnell, have you not noticed the power Lazaro has over the hearts of people?)
- Devin Velez
- Lazaro Arbos
- Angie Miller
Do you think it's crazy to predict Angie will be in the bottom three? How did you feel about Burnell's behavior? Share your thoughts in the comments!