On Wednesday night, the final four American Idol contestants were allowed to sing a song of their choice – plus one song by an artist who was labeled a "One-Hit Wonder."
But earlier in the week the final four contestants all visited the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles to make some new friends. Playing soccer on the rooftop of a building with Ford Fusions to bonding with sick children is quite an evolution; it seems like Clay Aiken really did rub off on them after all!
First up was Amber Holcomb, who kicked off the night in an absolutely stunning outfit that reminded Nicki Minaj of a glass of milk and Randy Jackson of a black and white cookie. A black and white cookie? You mean, an Oreo, Randy? Are the judges prohibited from speaking the name of any brand other than those who sponsor the show? But back to the stunning Amber and her earrings that she could have been used as hula hoops if she were so inclined. Amber, much to the dismay of those who were perhaps hoping for something that wasn't a dated ballad, selected Celine Dion's "Power of Love," and despite the misgivings we naysayers may have had about the song choice, Amber gave her best performance to date. The judges were once again in love with Amber only this time it was warranted. B+
Candice Glover was up next and chose to take Drake's song, "Find Your Love," and turn it upside down. (Or so I'm told - I've never actually heard the original.) Keith Urban was exactly right when he commented on the power in the quiet moments of Candice's voice. The early moments of Candice's songs always seem to captivate but in this performance those special moments didn't seem to last. Nicki said she wished Candice had stuck to the melody while Mariah Carey urged her to never stop taking musical chances. B-
The footage of Kree Harrison working with a musical therapist at the Children's Hospital and singing a lullaby to a premature baby was the most poignant clip of the night. But Kree's performance of Susan Tedeschi's "Hurts so Bad," left us cold. It's clear that Kree was attempting to offer more personality in her performance, something she has been lacking week after week, but a gritty, heart-breaking song such as, "Hurt so Bad," is not one you dance and smile to while performing. Vocally, Kree was off base as well – she was a poor man's Susan Tedeschi. Keith vocalized all that was wrong with Kree's performance when he complained that she didn't break his heart. Nicki on the other hand looked like she was ready to break "Kreedom's" neck, declaring, "That performance is not going to give you what you need for next week. Not a top four worthy performance." Nicki continued but her expletives were drowned out by bleeps. C
Angie Miller, ever poised to overcompensate when it comes to emoting, circled in for the kill after Kree's performance. From her bonding session with adorable Morrison at the hospital, to another piano performance that made this writer's eyes roll so far back in her head she was concerned she wouldn't be able to finish this article, to the crowning over-achievement of sweetness, her grandmother joining her onstage to weep with pride, all culminated to illustrate the problem with Angie. Angie is the human version of high-fructose corn syrup. While a little bit makes things taste good, too much leaves you sick to your stomach and no matter how much the producers of that corn syrup try and persuade you that its natural, deep down inside you sense it's inherent artifice. The judges felt the exact opposite and Nicki told Angie, "There's no one that compares to you when you're behind the piano." Let's give the judges an opportunity to recant their statements after reading the well thought out Angie analysis above. C
Then, just when you thought it was safe to listen to Amber, they give her and Kree an Adele song to sing. Really? There is no one who can perform Adele without paling in comparison. It wasn't quite the train wreck it should have been but pairing Amber and Kree does neither of them any favors since it highlights each of their weaknesses. Kree's superior vocals make Amber's sound even weaker and Amber's stage presence make Kree seem nearly comatose.
Candice and Angie then took on Rihanna and Mikki Ekko's "Stay," and no matter how good they may have sounded, the whole duet was ruined by Angie's theatrical over-the-top performance. The judges would be horrified to hear such harsh judgement since they thought that Angie and Candice were the best duet since Simon and Garfunkel.
Part 2: One Hit Wonders
Amber Holcomb selected the song "MacArthur Park," by Richard Harris/Donna Summer. And after one step forward, Amber took 12 steps back, 13 you factor in the color of her lipstick with that dress. Inexplicably, the judges loved her performance. Nicki called her a blooming flower and Randy used his favorite phrase, "In it to win it." Once again the judges feedback to Amber felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone until Jimmy Iovine chimed in and called it like it was: Corny. C-
Candice Glover hoped to achieve better feedback with her performance of "Emotion," originally by the Bee Gees and later by Destiny's Child and Samantha Sang. It must be said that the contestants are really punting with this song category. The version of the song that most people know was not sung by one-hit wonders. The Bee Gees? Hardly a one-hit wonder. When viewers voted for one-hit wonders they were hoping for sings like "Ice Ice Baby," by Vanilla Ice or "Sex and Candy," by Marcy Playground. Keith was frustrated by the lack of current music and complained that none of the performances ripped his heart out. (If he keeps saying "baby" over and over again, I might be willing to oblige him in that arena.) After Candice's rather forgettable performance, the judges, rather than offering any real critiques instead argued with Jimmy Iovine about his Amber comments. Ryan then pulled Jimmy out to defend himself and that he did. He said that Candice's performance was better than Amber's, when the judges said they agreed, Jimmy called them on it, "Then say it," he demanded. Thank you, Jimmy, for pointing out the judges' failure to accurately critique Amber. C
After all the judges-versus-Jimmy drama, Kree Harrison was just what the audience needed to calm down. Her performance of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" enveloped us all into her shadowy world of grey. Randy said she sang her face off, which is a blessing since next week she won't have to worry about her persistent lack of expression. Keith argued that she chose another middle ground song that didn't allow her to shine. Nicki said she loved it, but said it wasn't going to save her from the bottom two Thursday because something inside Kree seems like is is dimming. B-
It was then time for viewers to brace themselves for another overdose of saccharine compliments of Angie Miller (it's probably a good thing I opted not to watch the show from the Angie Miller rally at Beverly High School Wednesday night. Something tells me that my laptop would have been confiscated and I would have never been heard from again.) Keith called her performance, "mystical and celestially powerful." Nicki said honey-child was snatching wigs and declared that it was Angie Miller's night. The emotion from Angie as she was being praised after her performance of Julie London's, "Cry Me A River," was refreshing in its unaffected authenticity. B-
Hmmm, tough week for predictions, especially with Candice and Kree failing to live up to their potential. Nicki was probably right when she suggested that Kree may be in the bottom two. In a just world, it would be Kree and Amber in the bottom two with Amber taking her final bow.
Share your predictions in the comments below and then follow me on Twitter @JodiBWrites!