American Idol got loud on Wednesday night. As the final seven contestants took on rock 'n roll music (Devin Velez should be thankful he went home when he did) the band and guest guitarist did their best to imbue the night with the loud and pulsating sounds of the genre, even if some of the contestants couldn't always quite manage to harness the essence of rock.
Although, struggling with rock might just be worth it considering that American Idol contestants were stripped of what so many of them cling to like security blankets, the ballad. Instead, they were forced to take to the stage and pretend to be tough and fearless - something that isn't always easy to do, especially in front of four judges and an audience full of screaming fans. In fact, it can be very easy to underestimate just how uncomfortable such scrutiny can be, especially from the comfort of your own home. When you are actually in the studio (as this writer was Wednesday night), the contestants take on a realism that reality TV can never replicate and suddenly the judges' critiques become something more fearsome, indeed.
This week, Burnell Taylor was the first to face the judges with Bon Jovi's, "You Give Love a Bad Name." To say that Burnell gave Bon Jovi a bad name would be taking things a little too far. Burnell, while not exactly harnessing his usual charm and affability was still entertaining to watch and didn't do anything horrible with the vocals. B
When Ryan Seacrest announced that Kree Harrison would be channeling her inner Janis Joplin (who, it turns out was born in the same hospital as Kree) with "Piece of My Heart," the future looked promising. It seems that you would be hard pressed to find something Kree can't do effortlessly, although sometimes she does struggle with enthusiasm. On Wednesday, Kree struggled with more than enthusiasm, she also struggled with a pinch nerve that limited her mobility on stage. But unless Kree pinches a nerve in her vocal chords, there is nothing stopping Ms. Harrsion. B+
Next up was Janelle Arthur, someone who was probably wishing she could join Devin who sat in the audience, next to American Idol producer . Nigel Lythgoe, with nary a care in the world. But Janelle, one of Idol's top seven, needed to mosey up to the ol' plate, whether she particularly cared for the genre or not. Perhaps sensing that her cover of, Billy Joel's, "You May Be Right," would not be quite right, Janelle opted to wow the judges with her outfit instead. Sparkly, crystal-encrusted cowboy boots and a shiny fringed vest were enough to distract the judges from really focusing on her failure to really connect with the song. B
If anyone needed a fringed vest and shiny boots to hide behind, it would Lazaro Arbos whose American Idol journey has been anything but smooth, especially after his duet with Angie Miller earlier in the night when he once again forgot his lyrics. But it turned out that Lazaro did what each contestant before him had failed to do: He really invested in the song, singing it as though the lyrics really resonated with him. Of course, it's not hard to imagine why the lyrics of Queen's "We Are the Champions," wouldn't inspire Lazaro. "And bad mistakes / I've made a few / I've had my share of sand / Kicked in my face / But I've come through." With this kind of conviction, Lazaro almost atoned for his repeat offenses with group performances. B+
Then came Candice Glover, who took on, "I Can't Get No Satisifaction," from The Rolling Stones. In the past, the question of how different a contestant might sound in person versus over the television has been posed. In Candice's case, it can be stated that as great as she sounds on television, in person, her voice is so incredibly strong and powerful that it instantly gives goosebumps. While "I Can't Get No Satisifaction," was not Candice's personal best, her vocal in the duet of, "The Letter," with Burnell Taylor more than made up for this not being the ideal song choice. A-
Before we even get into Amber Holcomb's vocal in her performance of, "What About Love," by Heart, it should be universally acknowledged that yes, Amber does happen to be a striking young lady, especially when her jeans are strategically torn to show off her legs or when she opts to be less conspicuous and takes to the stage in mini, skin-tight shorts. Could it be Amber's beauty that seems to be coloring the judges' opinions of her over the past couple of weeks? Amber was sharper than a tack on Wednesday night, at times her voice sounded like an ill-controlled shriek and yet when she finished, three of the four judges were on their feet, hailing her's the vocal of the night. Have they all been blinded by beauty? B-
Well, even if they were blinded by Amber's beauty, the judges don't seem to have that issue with Angie Miller, who endured a sequel to last week's underwhelming performance. Angie performed (performed being the operative word) Evanescence's "Bring Me To LIfe." The song was all wrong for Angie who Keith Urban complained seemed more concerned about how she looked than with connecting to the song. Well, who can blame her? It's been working so well for Amber lately. But beauty or no, Angie's performance of the song was overly theatrical and if you can't support the drama with moving vocals – all of it just felt pageant-y and disingenuous. B-
So who is going home this week? Well, based on the complex algorithm of a number of highly secret data points (otherwise known as this writer's gut-feeling) the predictions are:
- Lazaro Arbos
- Burnell Taylor
- Angie Miller
Unfortunately, Angie isn't ready to go home yet and Lazaro has a rabid fan base and he did particularly well, which might just leave Burnell Taylor as the odd man out. Do you agree? How did you feel about Rock 'n Roll week? Sound off below!