After months of whirlwind press, memorizing songs, and essentially sacrificing themselves on the altar of pop culture, only two girls remain on American Idol.
Kree Harrison, the country girl who stole America's hearts last week when she and the producers used her tragic past to inch her one step closer to the finale and Candice Glover, the small-town, soul singer who, despite more than one failed attempt, never gave up on her dream of becoming an American Idol. With just one more night to prove to voters that they deserve the title, Wednesday night the girls took on three songs each: American Idol creator Simon Fuller's song choice, the songs that would become their singles if they were to win, and finally their favorite songs of the season.
Round 1: Simon Fuller's Choice
For Kree Harrison, Simon chose, "Angel," by Sarah McLachlan. Not a surprising choice considering American Idol's penchant for playing the sympathy card for Kree. It's almost as if they have some vested interest in who wins or something. Kree was dressed in all white, a la angel, and even had wings projected on the screen behind her as she sang. Her voice was completely competent but enough with the "sad sack" routine. We know Kree lost her parents, Idol needs to stop the pandering and let Kree's talent earn her the title. B-
Simon chose "Chasing Pavements," by Adele for Candice Glover. One might argue that assigning Candice an Adele song was setting her up for failure. One might contend that giving Candice one of Adele's least impactful songs was another indication of sabotage. Heck, one might even point out that the lyrics of the song, 'should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements,' subliminally made viewers view Candice as someone who has been defeated. Of course, anyone who suggested those things would obviously be a hair-brained conspiracy theorist. American Idol would never seek to manipulate the outcome of the show, right? The fact that producers gave Season 11 winner, Phil Phillips, the best single ("Home") any finalist has ever received on Idol for his final performance while Jessica Sanchez was forced to perform what could possibly be the worst, was surely just an anomaly. Wasn't it? B
Randy Jackson stated that both of the songs that Simon chose were the wrong songs for the girls and a little too sleepy. But surprisingly, Randy gave Candice the edge. As Ryan Seacrest pointed out, Randy is obviously going all rogue now that he's announced his decision to not return to American Idol next season, marking the end of his 12 season run.
Interlude: Coca Cola Perfect Harmony Program Performance
It was finally time to hear the final product of Coca Cola's "Perfect Harmony" program. Throughout the season viewers have participated in choosing both the lyrics and various elements of Carly Rae Jepsen's, performance of "Take a Picture." To say that the song did not quite live up to the hype we've been subjected to for an entire season goes without saying. Of course, since apparently we are all responsible for this creation either by participating – or opting not to – there's no need to rub our noses in it. We've clearly all suffered enough.
To help ease our suffering, Ryan Seacrest, the consummate host that he is, laid on the charm by kissing a swooning fan and then plucking her from her seat to stand by his side as he announced Kree's next performance. (As a side note, it must be said that while Ryan's act of kindness with this dear woman was charming, it certainly does not detract from the genuine and magical moment that he and I shared during my visit to the studio last month. Sure, Ryan never swept me from my seat and wrapped his arm about me but clearly that was the only way for him to protect himself from the flood of emotions he felt whilst staring into my eyes for that brief moment. He is only human, after all.)
Round Two: Contestants' Potential SIngles
Kree then performed the song that will become her single if she wins. The song was titled, "All Cried Out," a sentiment that viewers could certainly relate to after Kree's morose hometown visit and Angie's heartbreaking departure last week. It was a strong vocal but felt like much of the same from Kree, a sad country lament. One could understandably start to suspect that Kree uses heavy, sad lyrics as a way to deflect from the fact that she struggles to exude any real personality during her performances. There's a very fine line between sad and dull, Kree would do well to distinguish the two more clearly.
All of the judges, save for Nicki Minaj, were on their feet after Kree's performance. Keith Urban stated that Kree's music had just as much soul as Candice's despite the fact that it's technically country. Nicki commented that she felt as though Kree dug deeper into her soul during her performance than she ever has before. B-
Candice Glover then performed what would be her single, "I Am Beautiful." It was a song that could easily be on the radio and although it certainly wasn't enough of a vehicle for her powerful voice, Candice performed it well enough.
All four judges got to their feet for Candice. Keith said the song fit her like a "glover," (so cute and so witty) and Nicki said she particularly liked the message of Candice's song. B
Round Three: Contestants' Favorites
Kree went "Up to the Mountain," again for her final song and it was a smart decision. Her performance of this song during the Las Vegas auditions was one of her strongest and it allowed her to shine again Wednesday night. The stunning red dress certainly didn't hurt matters either. The judges all loved her. Keith said that she tapped into spirituality and soulfulness and Randy called it a winning kind of performance. (Ah, the lamb doesn't stray too far from the flock, after all.) B+
For Candice's last song, she chose, "I Who Have Nothing," which she originally performed during "Top 10 Week" and, once again, Candice absolutely took our breath away. Her decision to begin the song a capella, was a brilliant one and elevated the performance. Nicki said that she exuded superstar quality and commanded the stage. Randy said that Candice "shot the whole night to another level" and that her's was a winning performance. Hmmm. Does that mean that Candice and Kree's winning performances cancel one another out? Or maybe Randy didn't really know a winning performance until he heard Candice sing? Either way, in round three, Candice achieved the Holy Grail of Idol performances, she had a "moment., and she had that moment at, not just the end of the show, but the end of the season. In a way, it made everything that came before this performance, Candice's opening act. A+
Will Candice's final performance be enough to earn her the title of American Idol? Will it be enough to trump the notoriously strong country voting base and make viewers forget about Kree's heartbreak? This cynical side of this blogger is predicting it won't, but please help me to believe by sharing all the reasons you disagree in the comment section below.