'American Idol' Recap: The Top 4 Sing to Stay the Top 4
'American Idol' Recap: The Top 4 Sing to Stay the Top 4
Bill King
Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Ohhhh, American Idol, why do you tease me so? And not the good kind of tease, like when I see a trailer for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, hear that Feeny will appear in the Girl Meets World pilot or listen to Michael Shannon perform a dramatic reading of the insane sorority girl letter (hint: none of these things disappoint).

No, Idol, it's the irking kind of tease, where you change things up without telling me simply in order to delay the inevitability of predictability. Like when my girlfriend took a pole dancing class at a bachelorette party and then never showed off what she learned.

I am talking, of course, about the save.

Everyone and their Katharine McPhee-loving little brothers (tease reference) assumed that no one was going home last week, because we were informed several weeks earlier that the top five was the last time the judges could use the save. So naturally, with America picking off the male portion of the top 10 one by one, it was natural to believe all the girls were safe and that we were in store for basically our sixth straight completely predictable week. 

But nooooo. Idol changed things up without a word, apparently deciding that the save can now be used whenever, as long as it's unanimous. And it wasn't unanimous for Janelle Arthur, who was sent packing. 

Now here's my problem with this, and it's not just for the uninformed shift. We all know they need a week in which no one goes home, for scheduling purposes in order to hit the finale date on time. And if we had known the save could be extended, we of course would have also known that the only way it wasn't being used was if Janelle was the one who garnered the fewest votes (I even predicted as much last week, that a situation like that would be the only non-surprising surprise -- so it still wasn't shocking when it happened). 

So the show did a disservice to EVERYONE by the way it handled things. Did the girls think they were safe, and did that affect some performances? Surely, with the save in play this week, the top four have to know that only a horrible performance will delay the save further. And if that were to happen, we've got a save in the top three? That's appalling. Because the save is designed to correct voter fraud (and not the kind prevented by requiring ID), and THE TOP FOUR IS SUPPOSED TO BE HARD. 

All the singers who have made it this far are extremely talented, but this is the point when the talented singers have to go home. Daughtry went home this week. It's never a "mistake" when you get to this point of the competition. It's just what America wanted. The save this late in the game is more to control who wins (I'm looking at you, Amber Holcomb) than it is to prevent voters from advancing a Lazaro Arbos whilst sending home a Candice Glover. 

If they were going to hold on to the save, they should've announced it ahead of time and possibly planned a non-elimination week with recording artists or all former contestants or something just fun. That way, at least, it would've kept all the performers on their toes, knowing they need to keep on their game to stay around. Because if last week's was called "A Top 5 Waste of Time?" what's this week called? It's not worth an attempt to blindside viewers (and the contestants) one week just to give them exactly what they expected the following week. 

In case you're wondering what the actual theme is, it's a song chosen by the singer and a theme chosen by America. I didn't vote, so I'm not sure what the choices were, but it appears One Hit Wonders was the winner. Maybe the judges will use the save to correct the theme, so we'll hear songs from romantic comedies or rap hits (I swear I would've voted if that were one of the choices). There will also be two duets, so 10 performances in total. Anyway, on to the show! As always, the blog is live, so keep the comments coming at the bottom of the page!

I hate that they tell us our vote means more than ever in the intro. It means nothing, America. I tell you, NOTHING.

Idol Actually Goes on a Mission

It's nice to see these girls finally give something back. The contestant took a tour of L.A. Children's Hospital and hung with sick kids, and we'll be getting each one's take as their first-round pre-song intros. They also performed a concert, and images of children in such sad situations are always a gut-wrenching thing to see. They're just so little and innocent. Idol needs to do this more often, as it puts all the ridiculousness in perspective. Well done.

Amber and the Power of Love

Amber's choice is Celine Dion's "The Power of Love," and it's a diva-riffic experience. She's rocking 1980s Whitney hair and hoop earrings the size of Pluto, stays in control the whole time and shows off her huge voice in all the Celine big-note glory. Great way to kick things off, even though Amber has now gone from Barbra Streisand to Celine Dion. And once you go Canadian ... I guess you thwart a terror plot?

Keith Urban thinks the song choice showed off all the best parts of Amber's voice and her crazy range. Nicki Minaj calls her "a big sexy glass of milk" (if such a thing existed) and says the song was made for her. It's bizarre to say that effortlessly singing Celine Dion shows how current Amber is, but that, indeed, is what Nicki says. Randy Jackson practically drools as he oozes praise, and Mariah thought she took a classic song and gave it 2013 flavor. Hashtag Pow, no one tweeted ever.

Jimmy Iovine heard some strain in her voice, but thinks the performance will be tough to top. It was great, but with nine more to go, I seriously doubt that statement will hold up. 

Candice Glover Takes on Drake

Already a much more current choice than Amber's, and I don't even know what song she picked yet. Her hospital experience was highlighted by Demi, a 5-year-old who is the best hide-and-go-seek player ever, and Isaiahas (I'm guessing at these names), who motors around on his little scooter. Seriously, Idol should give back more often.

Candice chose Drake's "Find Your Love," and this girl really can sing anything nearly flawlessly. I didn't love her performance of "Straight Up" last week, but I certainly wouldn't argue it was bad. She is far and away the front runner, and this performance reiterates that. You can see what kind of artist she is going to be, while Amber singing Celine is like what Jessica Sanchez did last season before she suddenly started recording awkward pop songs with Ne-Yo.

Nicki is judging now based on how she sees the singers as artists, and she wishes Candice had stuck to the melody more. She thought it sounded old-fashioned, which is strange because she thought straight-up CELINE DION sounded current. Randy doesn't think she needs to put a run on every note and has to ditch the church girl routine from time to time.

Mariah is rightly outraged, telling Candice she "took her to a place" even Nick Cannon hasn't found. She tells Candice to just sing whatever she wants. Keith loves what she did with the song and consistently hears "Candice" in every performance. 

Jimmy Iovine is judging the girls against each other and not themselves, and he thought this was clearly the second-best performance so far. 

Kree Harrison Hurts So Bad

Kree sang lullabies around the hospital, including to tiny prematurely born Billy. She also gave a present to the ever-inquisitive Nathan, who has more questions than we have seen performances this season. Rock on, children's hospital!

She's singing Linda Ronstadt's "Hurts So Bad" (originally by Little Anthony and the Imperials), and it's country and bluesy. She lost me a bit during the first verse, but she comes into her own more during the chorus. It's typical solid Kree, but it didn't blow me away. And that's what you need at this point.

Randy was reminded that Kree wants to do everything, but found it disconnected and not the best vocal performance. Mariah was not familiar with the song and initially thought it was going to be right in Kree's wheelhouse, but there were only parts where she felt a Kree connection with the audience. She also puts Kree "performing" in air quotes, whereas I put it in actual quotes.

Keith says that since all the vocals are great at this point, it's all about song choice and emotion. And he didn't get enough emotion out of this performance. Vocals alone can't carry a song in the competition, and he wanted Kree to break his heart. Nicki says Kree looks sexy, but this one didn't deliver. Kree needs to go home and meditate, because this wasn't a top four performance. 

Jimmy Iovine agrees with Nicki again, saying song choice will doom Kree and that 99 bluesy songs out of 100 are better than that one. 

Angie Miller Sings for Morrison

Angie is amazed that the hospital realizes the healing power of music. She fell in love with little Morrison, who played the piano with her. His T-shirt reads "Tough Little Dude," and his dad promises they'll be dancing along to her performance. 

She dedicates her rendition of Jessie J's "Who You Are" to the little guy, and she's back behind the piano. It is easily the most emotional performance so far, and while I don't think she quite has the vocal prowess of some of the other girls, it was the first goose bump moment for me. 

Mariah labels the caliber of the song as "beyond," which is closer than here, but not quite as far as out of this world. She says it was stunning and professional, and she encourages Angie to write more original songs (because still, nothing will compare to that original song. Jeez, move on, Mariah!). 

Keith calls it "a mini-short representation of why [he has] so much confidence in [her] as an artist." It started out prim and proper, then she got looser and more carefree, and it's okay not to be okay. Nicki says no one compares to Angie when she's behind the piano, and Randy forgot it was a Jessie J song and thought it was a Angie Miller song. Oh, and she's in it to win it. 

LOL. Jimmy is "thrilled to see Angie get control over that powerful instrument that she has," and he has her neck and neck with Amber. Of course he does. Because the judges aren't even the slightest bit transparent about who they want to move on. 

Amber, Kree and Adele

It's our first duet of the night, and Kree and Amber are singing Adele's "Rumor Has It." They're both really uncomfortable with this song, and it's straight up karaoke. There are definitely some pitchy moments, as well. Amber stands out a bit more, and while there are some good vocal moments, this is going at the bottom of the rankings for the night. No chemistry.

Keith gives props to the drummers and points out the differences between their singing demeanor, taking note of Amber's "powerful stance." He wanted them to cut loose, but he could tell they were trying to remember choreography and who sang what. Nicki thought the beginning sucked and the end was good, but adds that she never thought she'd see the day where "shy Amber" out-personality'd Kree. Which again, is bizarre, because the biggest knock against Kree has been her lack of personality while "performing." Then she yells at Kree for a bit, because if you can't outright say "don't vote for this person," you sway it anyway you can.

Candice and Angie Make Me Want to Stay

Our second duet is Candice and Angie singing Rihanna and Mikky Echo's "Stay." It's sooooo much better than the first duet, and Angie hangs with Candice the whole time. I may have to revise my previous statement about Angie's vocal prowess. Their harmonies are also much, much more pleasing to the ear than Amber and Kree's were, and their interactions are head and shoulders more engaging. They nail it emotionally, as well. This may actually be the top performance of the night, and that's why these two are my picks for the final. 

Randy says, "that's how you do a duet!" (while Nicki screeches her echoing of that sentiment) and calls it unbelievable. He also didn't realize Angie had those kinds of twists and turns to her voice, which he believes makes her stronger. Mariah appreciates how they blended their different styles for the sake of the performance. Teamwork, people!

Amber Takes Us to MacArthur Park

Ryan Seacrest officially reveals that the theme America chose is one-hit wonders, and Amber is leading off round two with "MacArthur Park," by Richard Harris and then Donna Summer. First of all, how anyone can hear this song and not immediately think of Weird Al's "Jurassic Park" is beyond me. Second, this pick is just horrible for me. I don't care how well she sings it, there is no way to deem this current in any way, shape or form. Third, how does any song that was a hit for Donna Summer count as a one-hit wonder? Amber's voice is great, but this doesn't work for me at all. And will the judges point out that she forgets some of the words?

"Good Lord, what is going on? This is crazy. It's like summer has set in, and it's here to stay ... You are dominating tonight," Keith says. Incredible performance (from Keith, that is). Nicki calls her a blooming flower and says that of all the contestants, Amber is the one she wants to know. Randy says "If y'all don't know Amber, y'all should know tonight," and he calls "MACARTHUR PARK" current. He wants to sign her RIGHT NOW. Mariah loves her inner glow, confidence and star quality.

Oh my God, holy hell, did that really just happen? Wow. I don't even have words for that nonsense. Vote for Amber, America! The judges demand it! But wait, Jimmy to the rescue! He completely disagrees with the judges, calling the song corny and saying he didn't believe it when Richard Harris sang it, didn't believe it when Donna Summer sang it and not even Amber could save it. JIMMY! JIMMY! JIMMY!

Candice Shows Some Emotion

These one-hit wonder picks are total weaksauce. Candice is singing "Emotion," originally by Samantha Sang and then famously released by the Bee Gees. One-hit wonders are not released by music legends, people! This is supposed to be the song you LOVE by the band or singer who NEVER HAD ANOTHER HIT. With so many great ones to chose from, why are we getting "MacArthur Park" and a BeeGees song? Where is the 2013 vibe here? It's not as bad as Amber's, but picking a song from 70s is a terrible idea.

Nicki was grooving along and didn't feel like it was 50 years ago (because it's only 35), and then she turns her attention to Jimmy's comments. The judges defend their outlandish comments by saying they were talking about Amber's vocals and growth and "not about the song," which is complete and utter bullsh*t. They were bashing everyone else for their song choice with a disclaimer that "everyone's vocals are great at this point," but then they HEAP praise on Amber and claim the song choice wasn't relevant? This is disgraceful.

Back to Candice, Randy unenthusiastically thought it was another great performance, but stresses that all the judges strongly disagree with Jimmy's comments about Amber. Mariah asks if Candice has a cold, while Keith has my same issues with the one-hit wonder picks. He says at this point, every song choice matters. EVEN THOUGH THEY JUST SAID IT DIDN'T MATTER WITH AMBER. Ugh.

Kree Harrison Takes Us Even Further Back in Time

What the hell, Kree! "A Whiter Shade of Pale? Really?? Procol Harum, fine. One-hit wonder. But this song is from 1967! 1967!!! Is this a generational thing? Do these kids not understand what a one-hit wonder is? It's a guilty pleasure!

Her performance is better than the other two throwbacks, but this had the potential to be such a fun theme. 

Randy thought she redeemed herself, while Mariah wants to go download the song immediately, likely to help her twins sleep. Keith thought this was another middle ground performance that didn't separate Kree. She shines with emotionally-connected ballads and kick-ass rock songs, and this wasn't either. Nicki loved her performance and her vocals, but doesn't think this one will keep her out of the bottom two. 

I can't believe how disappointing this theme has been so far. Save us, Angie!

Angie Miller Proves America Got it Wrong

Double ugh. Angie is singing Julie London's version of "Cry Me a River," released in gosh darn 1955, the same year Marty McFly traveled 30 years into the past to visit 28 years ago. I'm really trying to hold back my anger right now, but these have to be the most poorly chosen songs for a theme in American Idol history. I really thought Angie would be the one to break the mold and give us something rocking and current, but instead she took us back the furthest, a full 40 years BEFORE she was even born. 

It's the best of round two, but I don't care. Every performance in this theme is going at the bottom of my rankings, purely on principle. Boo to round two. Good day. 

Mariah says this is more classic than one-hit wonder and that it was beautiful and elegant. Keith only gets three words, so he goes with "mystical and celestially powerful." Nicki calls him out on "and" being a word, then struggles to pronounce the word "celestially." He is limited, but Nicki can say, "Hold on, hold on, hold on" (more words than Keith got before she actually says anything), "you came out to snatch some wigs off some heads, honey child!" Randy proclaims Angie the winner of the night, hands down.

There weren't any bad vocals to speak of, so it really comes down to song choice and overall performance. Do you agree that Angie easily won the night? Do you think Amber's apparently current version of a Celine Dion song was enough to make up for her apparently current version of "MacArthur Park"? Will she ever have that recipe again?? Did the judges really love it that much??? Was ANYONE wondering why all the dinosaurs are running wild???? (Hint: It's because someone let T-Rex out of his pen AND because someone turned the fence off in the rain).

Who do you think is in the bottom two (Amber and Kree) and do you think anyone will be going home? Tune in Thursday night to find out, as well as to hear some songs from former Idol contestants who have yet to be announced. See you then!

You can watch American Idol every Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm on FOX. 

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(Image courtesy of FOX)