On Wednesday night, to better match the country's sorrow after Monday's attack in Boston, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest started the show with a more subdued air. "With heavy hearts we are going to put on the best show we can for you," he said with compassion.
Perhaps it was the shared sadness, but most of the American Idol girls failed to really achieve the greatness that many of them are capable of.
Round One: Songs from the Year of Their Birth
The first round was the popular, "Year of your Birth," song choice. Something that gets harder and harder to watch with each passing year.
Candice Glover was born in 1989 and with the help of Janelle Arthur, she selected "Straight Up," by Paula Abdul. Her vocals were impeccable but the arrangement of the song seemed to constrain her. Sometimes songs are too big for the contestants; in this case, Candice was too big for the song. Nevertheless, the judges appreciated her performance with Nicki Minaj congratulating her on making it to the top five after not making it through last year; a fact that still continues to boggle the mind. B+
Janelle Arthur, also born in 1989, chose Vince Gill's, "When I Call Your Name." Unfortunately no one heard Janelle calling their name since they were asleep before the end of her dreadfully boring performance. Her vocals were fine but she failed to inspire any type of excitement. Judge Nicki liked that Janelle played the guitar and called her vocals angelic, and Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson agreed; Keith Urban was the sole voice of reason, who complained that he didn't feel the song. Record producer and Fifth Judge Jimmy Iovine, hiding off-stage, agreed with Keith, comparing her performance to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." C
Kree Harrison, aka Snow White, was born in 1990 and made an unexpected choice with The Black Crow's, "She Talks to Angels." Kree's performance was a bookend performance; strong in the beginning and the end but the middle seemed to drag on and was laden with slightly awkward movements. Mariah felt as though Kree wasn't emoting enough and Keith agreed that Kree's discomfort took away from the performance. When Nicki disagreed, she and Mariah had the first exchange they've had since the very first auditions. Mariah told Nicki that she disagreed with her disagreement, to which Nicki responded, "Simmer down, Sir."
It's good they don't acknowledge one another more; it's very difficult to recap their exchanges without it feeling like a high school gossip blog.
Angela Miller, born in 1994 (queue self-loathing) selected, "I'll Stand By You," by The Pretenders, which she dedicated to Boston. It should have been a moving and emotional performance, especially since she was behind the piano again but this was not Angie's night. The tempo of the song seemed rushed, she fumbled her lyrics and the faster tempo belied the intended emotion of the song. Three of the judges were on their feet but it seemed like they were applauding her dedication more than her performance. Jimmy called it the best performance of the night. B-
Amber Holcomb, who brought her own fan to the show this week, picked the1994 song, "Without You," by Mariah Carey. This was, hands down, the worst performance of the night. It started so low, that Amber could barely even keep the melody but even when she went higher, there was no relief because she screeched her way through. When it was over, three judges totally lost their credibility by getting to their feet. Only Nicki kept it real by saying it could never compare to Mariah. But truth be told, it wasn't bad by comparison, it was bad overall. With the second round being songs by divas, maybe this performance could count for both and we won't have to risk hearing another performance like the first? D
Round Two: Divas
Candice Glover chose to be diva squared this evening and selected, "When You Believe," by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Perhaps one needs to be a fan of this song to appreciate Candice's performance but, unlike last week, Candice didn't manage to move heaven and earth this week. Not a single note was out of place but she failed to captivate with this song. Of course, all the judges were on their feet – after Amber's performance Candice's voice was like a balm to the ears. Randy called hers one of the best voices in the known world. B-
Janelle Arthur chose Dolly Parton as her diva, selecting "Dumb Blond." With Angie, Candice, and Kree failing to hit their stride, Janelle had a small window of opportunity to shine brighter tonight but she missed her chance. The judges finally agreed with reason (me), telling Janelle she chose the wrong song and failed to showcase her vocal abilities. C-
Kree Harrison had a chance to redeem her previous lackluster performance, with Celine Dion's, "Have You Ever Been In Love?" For the first time, Kree's issue was more with her vocals than her performance. She struggled with the song's opening low notes and sounded off key more than once throughout. The judges once again dismissed reality and all got to their feet. Mariah said the song got away from her at one point whereas Keith said she was in control throughout. Nicki and Randy touted her versatility. C
Angie Miller, in the greatest dress of the season, opted for Beyonce's, "Halo." Finally, after weeks of missing my Massachusetts Miller, Angie was back! Mariah stayed in her seat but the others were on their feet and rightfully so. Angie was emotional, powerful and nearly flawless. She don't need no stinking piano. A
Amber Holcomb opted to go with the original diva, Barbra Streisand, and sang, "What Are You Doing With The Rest Of Your Life?" Before critiquing her performance, Amber deserves recognition for how stunningly beautiful she looked in her black and white gown. Burnell Taylor certainly never regretted being voted off more than he did after watching her tonight. Amber gave a really elegant performance and the jazziness of the song suited her vocals so much better than any of her more recent choices. The judges were all beside themselves with praise, solidifying the suspicion that producer Nigel Lythgoe has promised them a 10-percent bonus for each exaggerated adjective they can think of when describing Amber. B+
It almost doesn't seem fair to predict who the bottom two will be this week because it simply cannot be anyone other than Janelle and Amber. What is equally easy to predict is that unless Janelle gets the fewest amount of votes, no one is going home this week. The judges aren't ready to stymie their love affair with Amber. They'll use their save to keep her on the show.
What do you think about the judges' Amber addiction? Deserved or not? Sound off in the comments below!