The Top 9 of American Idol
are back Wednesday night, singing for your pleasure and your votes after Curtis Finch, Jr., was sent home in a bit of a shocker last week. It wasn't a HUGE surprise, as the ladies are very far ahead of the boys this year. Still, it probably should've been Lazaro Arbos, who somehow managed to garner the fourth-most votes of everyone.
We could probably just skip the next six or seven weeks and just let Candice Glover and Angie Miller sing for the crown. But then again, we have to let Amber Holcomb and Kree Harrison stick around as long as possible. And with the country vote that Janelle Arthur gets, it's possible the final five will be all girls. The sympathy vote will have something to say about that though. And maybe Burnell Taylor (But I doubt it, unless he comes up with something innovative).
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Poor Curtis is watching this week's live show from his couch, presumably looking smug and over-confident (It's his FACE, people, not his personality!).
The theme this week is the infamous "Songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney," which notoriously allows some contestants to shine (usually whoever sings "Imagine" or "Let it Be") and others to bomb miserably (usually whoever sings "Imagine" or "Let it Be").
Personally, I think the theme is phrased that way just to make sure no one sings "I've Got My Mind Set on You," which I think could be a great Idol song under the right circumstances and with the right singer. Poor George Harrison gets no respect. And don't even get me started on Ringo. It's like, if they had a "Songs of Justin Timberlake and Joey Fatone" theme, would no one be allowed to sing JC Chasez' "Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)"? I think we can all agree that would be a travesty.
As usual, we're blogging live, so keep the comments coming at the bottom of the page! Let's find out who of the nine remaining contestants is going to sing "Imagine" and "Let it Be."
And as an added bonus, Nicki Minaj is on time this week (as are all the judges), so we're already off to a better start that last week. Nothing incredibly noteworthy about the wardrobe choices this evening, except that Randy Jackson's leather jacket goes almost to his knees. It's a bit too The Matrix to go along with his bright red shirt.
Ryan Seacrest is getting a little ahead of himself with a preview of the finale, featuring Carly Rae Jepsen and lots of Coke (a-Cola). The "Call Me Maybe" (it was honestly my ring tone for awhile, partly because it was always stuck in my head and partly because it pissed people off) singer will debut her new single "Take a Picture," and America will get to help her finish the lyrics to the song. That's a bad sign for a single, when you let US decide the words.
Who is Joining the Tour?
But before we get to any performances, we're first getting the results as to which sixth-place finisher will be joining the American Idols Live tour. Will it be Aubrey Cleland (please, please, please) or Charlie Askew?
Glad to see Charlie is still rocking his turtle necklace and Indian feather earring. It's all for naught though, because the AT&T Idol Fan Save winner is Aubrey Cleland. Thanks, America. You make everyone's day (except Charlie's, I guess) a little brighter. Now don't go doing anything stupid, Chuck, at least not on TV. Probably why Ryan didn't ask how he was doing afterwards. Lesson learned.
Kree Harrison Kicks Things Off
Kree was 12 when her dad passed away and 19 when her mom died. Afterwards, all the kids bonded together, and it was Kree's sister who convinced her to audition for Idol. Now, her parents are her guardian angels. It's a big sad sobfest that will hopefully distract people from Lazaro's stutter.
Kree, who has never performed a Beatles song before, is singing "A Little Help From My Friends." And Jimmy Iovine expects her to have a huge night with it.
Kree looks prettier than she usually does to me, which is a good sign for her stylist. I find it ironic that she drops a touch out of key when she sings "What would you do if I sang out of tune," but other than that, it's pretty spot on. It's typical Kree, solid all around, but I actually feel like she's a bit less emotional than usual. Kind of like she's just walking through it. Nails it vocally, though.
Keith Urban thinks it was a great way to start, and he loves that Kree is just Kree no matter what she's performing. He calls her all the fun parts of country. Nicki adores that she always puts her on "Kreedom" on it and that she always picks the perfect song for her voice. And the 5-inch heels. Maybe that's why she looked prettier to me. Randy also thought it was the bomb, and Mariah Carey thought it was "fan-freaking-tastic." Mariah throws in that it was "Kreely amazing," just to one-up Nicki in the pointless name pun contest. Let's see them try that with Lazaro.
Burnell Taylor 'Lets It Be'
Burnell and his little sister are very close, as they formed her from the pounds he shed since his audition. His whole family has made American Idol-themed T-shirts, and it's all very endearing. Burnell is singing "Let it Be," (ding ding ding), which is a challenge for him because HE DOESN'T KNOW ANY OF THE WORDS. It's as frightening as it is shocking, but I guess that's what happens when you're a '90s baby. Jimmy thinks Burnell can have a moment if he memorizes the lyrics, but it will be an utter disaster if he forgets.
It's another quality performance from Burnell, with the backdrop opening up to a choir halfway through the song. He gets all the words right, and his voice (minus the whiny inflection he puts on some of the notes) is sweet and pleasant. I put him slightly behind Kree, but I imagine the remaining seven performances tonight will go on either end of Burnell, who is steadily emerging as the best guy in the competition.
Nicki believes Burnell caressed the song like a newborn baby, and unlike me, she loved the raspy-ness. Randy says that making a song you don't know from a band you don't know your own is the sign of a talented artist. And if that band is The Beatles and that song is "Let It Be," God help the next generation.
Mariah was worried initially, but she was proud of the heartfelt performance. Keith goes last, so apparently we're staggering judges this time? He calls Burnell's voice the most instantly recognizable in the competition.
Amber Holcomb Murders a Song
Amber introduces us to her dad, who introduces us to his farm. He may be the most uncomfortable person we'll see on camera tonight, as he stands perfectly still and speaks as monotone as can be. Amber is tackling "She's Leaving Home," which I don't know, but Jimmy assures as that she's not going home because she "murders the song." Hopefully not like Joe Carroll murders everyone on The Following (Or Murderville, as I call it.)
I never noticed that tattoo on her left bicep before. Hmm. I love Amber, but for me, this is just not good. It's boring, and she sounds like she's going in and out of key, maybe because she's forgetting some words? This is not typical blow-us-away Amber. There's a nice run near the end, and the last note kills, but otherwise it was completely forgettable. The only thing Amber murdered was her spot in the rankings.
Randy thought it started a little slow and unsure, but thought she came into her own and ended it well. Mariah could tell Amber didn't know the song (Mariah didn't either), but she thinks she did a beautiful job in spite of that. That's Keith's all-time favorite Beatles song, and he liked that Amber made it fresh. Nicki thinks Amber's vocals are unmatched, but saw the uncertainty she felt.
C'mon, judges, I know you don't want to trash your golden girl and influence America, but this one just wasn't good. Amber has a Katharine McPhee thing working, where she has all the ability in the world, but just can't put it all together in a performance. Last week was good, but rushed, and this week was sloppy. McPhee had her moment with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but she lost more than Taylor Hicks won that season.
Lazaro Arbos Keeps Living the American Dream
American Dream on American Idol? You don't say! Lazaro's stutter and his mom's lack of English make it one of the more awkward yet entertaining introduction montages. His family came from Cuba, and that's really all I got. Jimmy thinks Lazaro is taking a risk with "In My Life," and he has trouble keeping the rhythm of the song during rehearsals.
That criticism is evident in the fact that his background singers sing at different times than he does, and it makes the whole performance sound off. I'm mostly bored by it, and there are some pitchy moments, too. I think that on his best day, if he REALLY knew the song, Lazaro could do it justice. But you can tell his confidence is wavering, and he was beneath the song the entire time. He also should start wearing face glitter to distract from the sweat. Where's J'DA when you need him?
Mariah commends Lazaro on his bravery, but she thought it's too intimate a song to have such a musical and vocal backing. She wanted just an acoustic guitar, and also thought the key was too low. Keith wanted the higher key all along as well, and Nicki comments on the nerves. She wants him to ditch Jimmy, and I want her to ditch the Spanish and the Ricky Ricardo references. That's for me to do, Nicki, not you! Talk Spanish to Devin. Randy calls it Lazaro's worst performance ever. Like not even in the show. Just ever.
Candice Glover: The Talk of St. Helena Island
Candice is the oldest of seven children, which means she's basically already a mom, and she's already a big-time celebrity in her hometown. She's singing "Come Together," and I really think this is an awesome choice for her. There's an edge to this one, and that's a side I like in her. She has some trouble connecting to the lyrics, and Jimmy tries to help her through it. He says she's going to kill it, and he MUST be watching The Following.
The vocals are off the chart, as usual for Candice, and she shows off her full range and puts together a spectacular run on the final note. My only criticism is that I didn't feel any of that edge or dirty grunginess that goes with the song. She needed to get nastier.
Keith loved the new vibe and the "rock chick" side of Candice, but he thinks she could've gone crazier with it. Nicki loves her vocals but sometimes wants her to wear the attitude on her face. Randy doesn't know about her face, but thought the vocals were CRAZY. Mariah calls her a prize fighter.
Paul Jolley Bores with His Backstory and His Song
Paul is from Palmersville, Tennessee, which is in the middle of nowhere, as evident by the deserted road that leads to every town in America that's not a big city. He grew up in a trailer, but then his parents bought a farm. They chopped down trees on that farm and used the wood to build a house. Now, he's happy to call that house his home. Congrats, Paul. You win the award for most meaningless introduction so far.
Paul is singing "Eleanor Rigby," and he and Jimmy kind of butt heads on how to handle the notes. Jimmy enjoys watching Paul's evolution and thinks he could slay the song (another murder reference!) if he keeps learning when to hold back and when to belt it out. During the warmups, Paul's voice sounds very natural and pop star-ish.
Then he starts singing, and it's waaay too high. That makes it blend in too much with the background music, and he's certainly not standing out. He's also blending in with the set, because of excessive smoke machine use. The three big notes he hits are beautiful and totally stand out, but I don't know if the contrast makes up for the rest.
Nicki flat out says she didn't like it, and it's clear who she wants gone this week. She calls it safe, bland and forgettable. Randy thinks the sweet notes were exciting, but he felt a disconnect. Mariah thought it was a great song choice and that the big notes were undeniably good, but she thinks Paul needs to put the same emotion into the soft notes that he does into the top of his range. She also wants him to be dance and pop instead of country. Keith didn't like the falsetto, but enjoyed the pop-rock points in the middle. If you can't influence song choice, might as well try and make someone a different artist than they want to be. Also, I think he just referred to Carrie Underwood as the "male Taylor Swift."
Angie Miller IS the Next American Idol
Not for real, but according to her high school yearbook, where she was voted "next American Idol." She grew up 30 minutes outside of Boston, and her family is hilarious. Her mom refers to her as a fatty when she was a baby, which she can only do because Angie is clearly hot now.
Angie is singing "Yesterday," and I'm hopeful for a pulled-back, toned-down moment. Jimmy urges her to practice restraint and thinks she's a natural if she just puts the right amount of emotion into it. I'm disappointed she's not behind the piano for this one, but we'll see.
Just like Candice, it's great vocally, but she ignores Jimmy's advice and really belts it out. I would've loved more restraint and even more emotion. It was really good, but I'm still disappointed. She's singing about the most devastating heartbreak there is here!
Randy says Angie is one of his favorites because she listened to Jimmy but still showed off her firepower, and he urges her to show her rocker side more. Mariah thought it was a very respectful version of the song and that Angie showed off her voice, but I don't think that's what she was supposed to do with this one. Keith says it drifted in and out between over-thinking and just plain singing. Nicki calls it amazing, then gets bleeped out, then says something about sustaining the key all along. For me, it was great, but it stopped short of goose bumps. And that's a song where you can get the chills.
Devin Velez Loves Cleanliness and Structure, Unlike His Runs
Devin is a military brat from Chicago, and he likes to keep things OCD. He and his family play Uno together, and his mom matches her eyeshadow with her hoop earrings. Devin's little brother votes 50 times, which means he calls once. Not quite the same effect as years past.
Devin is singing "The Long and Winding Road," which Jimmy thinks is a great choice. He says altering a Beatles song is only okay when you get it right, and he assures us that Devin does.
It kicks off really nicely, and Devin looks quite stylish. It's very pretty, but he falls back into my early pet peeve of letting the runs get away from him. He keeps his voice in check, so he's not over-singing, but sells himself short by continually adding too much to the runs. He could've done better with it.
Mariah doesn't have words, likely because she already used up her allotted amount for the show, but she really liked it. She says it'd be a travesty if he is sent home (since he was almost eliminated last week -- hear that America?). Keith makes the same joke for the sixth time this episode, then calls himself Devin's champion. Still, he wants more heart. NIcki gets bleeped again, and I'm wondering what's in those plastic Coke cups. She disagrees with Keith, saying Devin is ALL heart, and Randy agrees, saying, "Devin is back!" But then he reminds Devin he doesn't need a run after EVERY phrase. I feel like I'm on point tonight!
Janelle Arthur in the Pimp Spot
Interesting placement to put Devin and Janelle at the end of the show. The lowest-rated guy from last week and the least-talented girl going last? They're trying to get rid of Lazaro or at least Paul. Does this mean Janelle is going to sing "Imagine"? I don't think they're allowed to do a Beatles show without it.
Janelle's parents are adorable, and her cousins love her. She sure is making Oliver Springs, Tennesee, proud, and this show feels like it's dragging. Maybe that's why the judges seem like they're losing their minds.
Janelle is singing "I Will," which is a very subtle song. Jimmy urges her to work on her breathing, which seems like a perfect way to distract her from the performance. Hopefully, the judges won't spend the whole time talking about how great she looks (and she does look great).
It's one of her better performances, but I still don't get the same feeling from her I got back in Hollywood. She makes an emotional connection, but parts of the song sound rushed and there are a couple of breathless moments. Overall, though, she does a good job. No "moments" for anyone for me this week. Didn't get a single goose bump.
Keith thinks she made her hometown proud, and he loved that she rocked the cowboy boots with the fancy white dress. Nicki calls her a beautiful swan goddess and asks her to renew their vows, because she is once again obsessed. Randy thinks that, like Devin, Janelle is back, with one of the best performances of the night. Pander much? Mariah says she's sweet and gorgeous and had a beautiful, elegant performance.
Man, oh, man, this is a tough one. No one really stood out head and shoulders above anyone else during Beatles week. The only thing that's easy to determine is that Lazaro was the worst. Everything else is a toss up, as they mostly blended together. Angie and Candice showed that they are so far ahead vocally, but both of their performances left something to be desired. Then you have someone like Janelle, who kept it together but doesn't have the same type of chops.
Who did you think had the best performance? Who is in your bottom three? I think with Lazaro all but guaranteed to advance, Paul is the one most likely headed home. Do you agree? If not, who? Tune in Thursday to find out who is packing their bags, as well as live performances from last season's runner up Jessica Sanchez (with Ne-Yo!) and Casey Abrams. We'll again be blogging live, so be sure to watch along with us!
You can watch American Idol every Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox.