'American Idol' Recap: The Ballad-less Top 7 Sing Classic Rock
'American Idol' Recap: The Ballad-less Top 7 Sing Classic Rock
Bill King
Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
America complained, and American Idol listened. After weeks and weeks of mostly mind-numbing lullaby ballads (or ballabys, as my word-inventing self has decried), the Top 7 are rocking out. The theme this week is "Classic Rock, No Ballads," probably in an effort to keep the audience awake.

The choice should prove very interesting for a few of the contestants, which is good because the ever-predictable results haven't been lately. After finally making an appearance in the final 3, Lazaro Arbos SHOULD be going home this week. And that is irregardless of how he sings, though classic rock in general doesn't lend itself to his particular brand of (sorta) talent anyway.

Speaking of which, I'm also a bit nervous as to what, exactly, constitutes "classic" rock. When I was growing up, the Eagles being in that category was probably blasphemous for people who were the age I am now. So I think the Poison era, perhaps with some late 80s Van Halen, might be as far back as I'm (generously) willing to go. But considering most of these kids weren't alive when Nirvana and Pearl Jam burst on to the scene in the early 90s, I am old speculative about whether such artists might make the cut.

Back to the singers, I loved when Kree Harrison broke her ballad streak and banged some heads a few weeks ago, so I expect a lot from her. And Candice Glover should shine as well, provided she can get sufficiently gritty enough to not sound karaoke-ish. Janelle Arthur could struggle a bit, but considering the ability she showed last week to really make a song her own, she could surprise.

The real wildcards for me are Angie Miller and Burnell Taylor. Angie has the vocals to melt faces, but she has to tone down the theatrics and really connect with the audience. Song choice is going to be crucial in determining whether she lands in the top spot or the bottom three. There's a big opportunity for her to pull off the sexy rocker vibe.

As for Burnell, this theme may have been picked just to get him out of his comfort zone. He's settled so much into his balladry that people consider it showing a whole different side of himself if he holds the microphone instead of using a mic stand. I also don't recall him moving during any of his performances this season. Outside of his arms. He sometimes moves them.

Since this week is basically Lazaro or no one goes home, Burnell is singing to ensure he is the recipient of the judges' save should he need it. Any girl who would be eliminated is guaranteed to stick around, but Burnell could be in danger. He's destined to be in the bottom three regardless, likely with Lazaro and whichever chick is the least good, but he needs to prove himself worthy in case of disaster. 

Who do you expect big things for? Who do you expect to struggle? And most importantly, what do YOU consider "classic" rock?? As usual, this blog is live, so keep the interaction coming at the bottom of the page. Let's get started!

You Gotta Fight For Your Right

The only rule this week is "no slow stuff," yet I worry Burnell will try to find a loophole. Does Lionel Richie count as classic rock? Still, I'm more excited for this theme than I have been for any other this season. 

For the second week in a row, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey are wearing nearly the same color, and I'm convinced they planned it this time. Now, let's make fun of each other!

Burnell Taylor Gives Love a Bad Name

Instead of going through each contestant's rehearsal time with Jimmy Iovine (are they trying to phase him out?), we're getting treated to the "What everyone thinks about the Idol contestant." Burnell is up first, which doesn't bode well for him. Everyone talks about Janelle's accent, but apparently no one can understand what Burnell is saying. He is also one of expressive hands, and his laugh apparently sounds like he is dying/hurting someone. 

Burnell is singing Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name," and it's clear why he's been singing ballads the whole time. Dude just looks uncomfortable. It's funny that people talked about not being able to understand him, because he enunciates every word in a way that would make Bon Jovi wonder if this was rock. It's nice to see him around move a bit, and his vocals are good, but it's total karaoke. Poor guy. At least the musicians will have a ton of fun this week. 

Keith Urban calls Burnell's last kick "a dare" and guesses that rock is not Burnell's thing. He says Burnell has never looked more uncomfortable (yaay me!) and suggests that next week, if he's uncomfortable, make the song his own (Burnell = Save!). Nicki says Burnell reminded her of a Teddy Ruxpin doll, because she still wanted to hug him. Randy Jackson tells him to "ride the beat harder," and Mariah was proud of him for having fun with it. VERY interesting that they put him first, knowing it wasn't going to be a strong point.

Lazaro and Angie Make Burnell Look Adequate

After everyone phoned in the group numbers last week (and Devin Velez and Burnell threw Lazaro under the bus), it only makes sense they'd follow up Burnell's weak performance with an awkward duet between Lazaro and Angie. They're singing "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," by Queen. Angie just looks annoyed to be performing with Lazaro, who at least appears to have fun.

Nicki calls them "Ken and Barbie," then reluctantly says she had fun watching it before pointing out that Lazaro again forgot the words. He keeps up his complete disregard for everything, as well, and I really think he does not care at all anymore. At least everyone loved Angie. She also really sticks by him in the post-performance interviews, which makes me like her a bit more. She's not bullying him.

Kree Harrison Gives Us a Piece of Her Heart

Kree is the mom who holds the Idol family together, even ironing for other contestants. She also made a point to get to know the name and story of everyone associated with the show, which makes everyone else feel like they suck as people. Because they do (in that regard). She also dispenses a great number of hugs and tells everyone she loves them. Aww.

Kree is singing Janis Joplin's "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart," and that is some RED lipstick. She is a star, hands down, and continues to emerge each week, but this one wasn't the best for me. Vocally, it was spectacular, but I thought she missed out a tad bit on the connection with what she was singing. 

Randy says the show has finally started, and I hate when I waste a half hour. He loves the bluesy side of Kree and says she's in it to win it. Has such a generic phrase ever lasted this long? Mariah praises Kree for her innate ability to choose her own songs (she doesn't say "choose them well," just that she chooses them) and thinks she'll be a success no matter what she does. It was Mariah's favorite so far.

Keith felt like she was holding back and asks if it's because of her studded boots, and she admits she has a pinched nerve and was doing her best. Nicki is the queen of overused phrases, but she thinks Kreedom was magnificent and she's obsessed with her. I can't wait until she calls Lazaro Ricki Ricardo and calls someone a butterfly. 

Candice and Burnell Write a Letter

If you ever wondered what Candice Glover and Burnell Taylor would sound like singing a pseudo-rock song together, you can wonder no longer. Or ever again. Candice sounds SPECTACULAR. Burnell still can't sing rock. They perform "The Letter," by the Box Tops, and Burnell is seriously not doing himself any favors, though it's really not his fault. 

Mariah says they have proven that they can both sing anything, even though she wanted to hear a ballad (c'mon, Mariah, don't bash the theme!). Keith thought it was a great song for both of them, and does anyone else notice that Candice standing next to Burnell makes him look like Frodo? Nicki points out that Candice sounds about a billion times better than Burnell, who I don't think would have any gotten praise had he done this by himself. Still, Nicki thinks he was more himself than in his solo. Randy felt Burnell was better than before, but "oh my God, Candice." 

Janelle Arthur May Be Right

Janelle's hometown has turned out to the Lincoln Grill in Tennessee to watch her perform, and apparently the other contestants have noticed that she has an accent. Corn and horses and a lack of missing teeth are some of her staples, as is her intense passion. She apparently tries to get Burnell to eat more, because she's concerned with his well being. Maybe that's why he only moves his arms?

Janelle is taking on Billy Joel's "You May Be Right," and while I might not be a huge country fan, this take fits the song title. Janelle rocks out in this southern version of the Piano Man's hit, and while she is clearly not as vocally talented as the other contestants, she is solidifying the fact that she is an "artist." She gets more and more solid each week. Kris Allen was nowhere near Adam Lambert's vocals, but I was pulling for him the whole time, as the majority of America apparently was as well.

Keith loves how Janelle works the stage and thinks she improves with each performance (go me again!), but he doesn't think it was her best. Nicki loves Janelle's boots (which are apparently a TINY sized 5 1/2), and she praises her for the performance and for her relatability. Randy felt like he was at "concert Janelle," while Mariah loves the key and how she kept the crowd involved.

They stripped off Janelle's clothes afterwards so that Nicki could wear her boots and Randy could rock the fringed vest. Idol fun.

Is Lazaro Arbos a Champion? 

Lazaro wears brighter colors than than every girl in the competition, and Candice doesn't understand why he likes pink and turquoise so much. They also make fun of his dramatic poses and hair flips. I really hope they like him as a person. 

It's Queen's "We are the Champions" for Lazaro, and while it starts off a bit rough, I'm not gonna lie, I got some goose bumps during his performance. During parts of the song, particularly the chorus and the big notes, he sounds better than he has at any point this season. There's a good Freddie Mercury vibe about it all, and I think Burnell might be in trouble.

Nicki got a Hispanic tease that she loved, and she calls it "crack juice." It's one of Randy's favorite songs of all time and he expected a train wreck, but he thinks Lazaro did a good job. Mariah was concerned as well, but she loved the choice of a recognizable anthem. Keith thought the dramatic motions fit in too, and Nicki changes her opinion from Ricki Ricardo to Ricky Martin.

Side note: Anyone else LOVING the chick rocking out on the guitar? Probably my favorite part of this show!

Amber, Kree and Janelle Go to the Age of Vibe

Billy Joel isn't my first thought when I think of classic rock, but I guess "It's Still Rock and Roll and Roll to Me" fits. Didn't expect double Billy Joel tonight, either. Honestly, the most interesting part of this performances is Amber's outfit, which has more holes than Swiss cheese. Love the mini Legion of Doom shoulder spikes, too. But as for the performance, it's just BAD. Like worst of the night bad.

Of course, Randy calls it "unbelievable" and "so good." He says they could be a group and that their voices blend so well. Mariah says America will have a tough time choosing between them, and Keith thinks all the Billy songs are just so cool. Nicki was put to sleep by the song choice, thought it was cheesy and that no one stood out. She absolutely hated the performance, and I can't believe me and Ms. Minaj are on the same page! Holy hell, what could happen next??

Candice Glover Can't Get No Satisfaction

Apparently Candice broke her toe while teaming up with Burnell in a "the house is on fire" April Fools joke that Lazaro didn't even fall for. So if she doesn't move around much, that's why. She thinks she's a boring person and has no idea what the other contestants could say about her, so they just rail on the fact that she has her own room. She and Burnell have a love-hate sibling-type relationship, and I can't tell if it's a flirty thing or not. You always want to punch the one you love ... when you're 8. 

Candice is taking on The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and I'm torn on this one. It's easily the best vocally so far, and I feel she goes back and forth with actually connecting with the song. The slight lack of attitude is masked by how amazing she sounds, but she still fell into the pitfall I described earlier, at least a bit.

Mariah says every single performance brings a different and mesmerizing part of Candice to the stage, and she again mentions the song she wants that she is desperately waiting for. You could call it her "precious," which would fit with Burnell being her hobbit. Keith says her voice is "so freaking good," and that she has so much power that allows her to wail with ease. Nicki can't come up with extra things to say about her voice, but she fell asleep. Then Nicki boos herself. Randy thinks she brought a Tina Turner "girth" to the song, but doesn't think it was a great song choice.

And I heard them mention her at the beginning, but I didn't realize that Orianthi was the one on the guitar. Little hearts above my head. According to me. 

Amber Holcomb Shows Some Heart

Amber apparently talks to herself all the time and constantly takes pictures of herself, or "selfies," and Burnell apparently finds her quite attractive. Smitten seems like an appropriate word.

It's Heart time, as Amber is singing "What About Love." The years have certainly shown more than anyone probably expected what a home Heart has on American Idol. I really, really wanted to like this performance more than I did. Vocally, I rank it as the best so far, but I was missing an emotional connection that I desperately wanted.

Keith thought it was a great song choice and that her spiked heels were awesome, and says it brought out the best in her voice. Nicki doesn't know where to begin, because it was striking and she was sucked in and melted in a non-karaoke sort of way. I guess the connection was easier to pick up in the audience, and it's her favorite of the night. Randy loved that she didn't lose "Amber," and Mariah thought she pushed the rock angle to the perfect point.

Amber remains one of the most perplexing contestants for me. She might be the best vocally, but I still haven't been sucked in like I want to be. This will probably end up in the top 3 of the night, but I still find myself wanting more. 

Angie Miller Brings it Home with Evanescence 

The other contestants think Angie gets excited and goes nuts over everything, and she claps like she's trying to kill a million gnats at once. Candice speculates she may own the world record for clapping, but we all know that belongs to Vanna White (look it up). 

Angie is singing "Bring Me to Life," by Evanescence, which while an awesome song choice, seriously bucks the classic rock theme. This song came out in 2003, when ALL the Idol contestants were alive and well and cognizant of the music world. It's just an excuse to get her behind the piano, and while it's good, it's still not my favorite. The wind machine adds a bit, but I still want more energy and emotion. She crushes the last note, though.

Nicki tells the audience to shut up before praising Angie's outfit and song choice "given the circumstances." Next week, she wants more of where Angie shines. Randy loves her rock vibe, Mariah isn't quite sure Angie made it her own and Keith wants to make sure that she "feels" the songs she picks and focuses on the emotion instead of how she thinks she looks.

I'm sad that rock week is over, particularly because no one absolutely blew me away. I think the bottom half of the performances is pretty easy to determine, but the top is all muddled together. Thankfully, no one at the top is danger of going home. Like I said, it's either Lazaro or no one, though I think Burnell is in serious danger after two underwhelming performances. It will be hard for the judges to justify saving him, particularly if they have another week or two to use it. 

Who was your favorite? Did Lazaro pleasantly surprise you? Who do you think will go home?

Join us for the live results show Thursday, as the Previous Idol tour continues its perilous journey through the Top 10.. There will be performances from Season 4 winner and current country superstar Carrie Underwood, winner of the "former contestant least likely to upstage Carrie Underwood" contest Casey James and, hopefully, Lazaro Arbos. But after tonight, I'm not sure I even feel that passionate about his departure anymore. See you then! 

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

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(Images courtesy of FOX)

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