'American Idol' Recap: The Top 8 Sing the Songs of the Motor City
'American Idol' Recap: The Top 8 Sing the Songs of the Motor City
Bill King
Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
I wanted to entitle this recap "Devin Velez Goes Home," because let's be honest, that's what is happening this week on American Idol. Painful as it might be to all the Devin lovers, the guys are just seriously underperforming this season (perhaps with a little selection help from the judges in Hollywood and Las Vegas). And, barring a miracle, Lazaro Arbos is destined to glisten our television screens for at least the next two or three weeks.

Janelle Arthur and Burnell Taylor are possible candidates for elimination, but seeing as how Janelle is this year's queen of country and Burnell is the best of the guys, either seems like a long shot to go home. Amber Holcomb made a surprising appearance in the bottom three last week, but the judges would surely save her were she to be America's shocking choice.

It almost seems like the performances don't even matter this week, doesn't it?

This Week's Theme: The Music of the Motor City

Yeah. Dat's right. Take cover, yall, cause we're headed to the mean streets of Detroit Rock City. And while I would beg, plead and possibly pay (or at least vote for the first time ever) for anyone to perform Kid Rock or Eminem, the real name of this theme is Motown Week. Which means a heavy dose of Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Jackson 5 and this week's special guest mentor, Smokey Robinson. Guess everyone was tired of just Jimmy Iovine?

I'd love to see some contestants take some chances this week, particularly Burnell. Rumor has it his parents were initially going to name him Burnel, but they realized you can't spell "ballad" without a B and TWO L's. He has an opportunity to show a completely different side of himself this week, but he seems to be in love with the slow songs. Here's hoping he changes it up a bit. 

What songs do you expect to hear, and who do you think will shine? Is there any chance Devin is not going home this week? I can't see the judges even considering using the save on him. As usual, we're blogging live, so keep those comments coming at the bottom!

The judges are once again here on time, which marks four in a row for Nicki Minaj. She's such a big girl! She and Mariah Carey are wearing dresses that are nearly identical in color, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them changes during the show. Or at least if an employee gets fired. Let's get started!

Candice Glover Heard it Through the Grapevine

Candice is kicking things off with Marvin Gaye's "Heard it Through the Grapevine." Smokey and Jimmy (taking a backseat) want her to hit the beat harder and think she she can continue to wow us.

It's another spectacular performance, without really any negative criticism. She puts her own spin on it, too, showing off her range and hitting all her notes. I can't say I was totally blown away or anything, save the final note, but it's typical Candice and sets the bar pretty high for everyone else.

The performance delivered everything Keith Urban could ever want, and he says it was her best performance so far (which is a bit of a stretch for me). Nicki liked her eyes and liked the rocky/bluesy vibe. Randy Jackson thought she showed America that she believes she deserves to be in the competition, and I don't want to diagram that sentence. Mariah wonders if Candice has anything else she can show us, and wants to "hear that thing that you do that you know how to do," but she doesn't want to elaborate on what that means.

Kree Harrison and Janelle Arthur Team Up

Not sure why we're having duet performances, when it seems like there's enough pressure having to perform one song solo for America's vote. Are we supposed to incorporate these duets into our rankings?

They're singing "Like a Prayer," by Madonna, and it really shows which one is the better singer. Kree blows Janelle out of the water, and I almost feel like she can tell and appropriately tones it down. That is, until they both kinda forget the words and phone it in. Which happens not too far into the song.

Nicki tells them they both look great. Then she adds that it seems like Kree flew in to perform with an American Idol contestant. And boy are her arms tired! Ouch.

Lazaro Arbos Responds to Jimmy

Smokey takes Lazaro under his wing, coaching him in the way that Jimmy can't, with compassion. America's favorite stutterer is singing Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life," and Smokey tells him to just relax and do his thing, because that's when he does his best. Be yourself, be comfortable and do what you like. Jimmy is on board, calling it a good interpretation. Even he realizes it doesn't matter at this point.

It's probably Lazaro's best performance to date, but that unfortunately still puts him at the bottom of this group. We'll find out if anyone bombs, but at least Lazaro looks comfortable and actually sounds "good" for the first time in a couple weeks.

Randy says he didn't redeem himself totally, but that it was much, much better. Mariah again points out his courage and guts, because that's her standard Lazaro critique so that he doesn't get angry and send a tsunami from his forehead to take out the entire audience. Keith thought it was vocally in Lazaro's wheelhouse, and Nicki thinks he's back. But she also calls him Ricki Ricardo, which I'm over, and she takes credit for the performance. Lazaro seems completely indifferent to whatever the judges say at this point.

Janelle Arthur Rearranges the Supremes

Janelle is playing her guitar, singing her own country rendition of The Supremes' "Keep Me Hangin' On" that she arranged when she was much younger. I love the originality and, outside of some pitchy notes, I think it's her best in a long time, probably since she first blipped onto our radar. It's a real "artist" moment for her. 

Mariah calls it "Janelle at her finest" and says she just proved any critic wrong. Keith thought it was beautiful and loved the arrangement, which brought out the angst in the lyrics that he hadn't heard before. Nicki thought that Janelle focused too much on being happy and less on the vocals, while Randy absolutely thought it was incredible and that Janelle is in it to win it. Don't think we heard one of those at all last week. 

Devin Velez Pays Homage to Smokey

Devin is singing "The Track of My Tears" by The Miracles, written by Smokey Robinson himself. Smokey spends the whole intro explaining how he came up with the lyrics, then gives line readings while Devin is rehearsing. His biggest challenge is getting the word timing right.

He doesn't look entirely comfortable with the song, singing more than performing. His range is so good and he avoids my Devin pet peeve of putting runs on everything, but I don't think he had the moment he needed to in order to save himself. Just alright for me.

Keith thinks Devin lacked some confidence because he was singing a song he may not have ever heard before. Nicki doesn't jump on no bandwagon, and she calls Devin a ripe banana. She thinks he did an amazing job, and she thought it sounded smooth and loves every single decision he made. Randy thought it was his best in weeks, and Mariah loved it from the second she found out he was doing it. She even calls it flawless and hopes America understands how good it was. She want us to listen to her, and not our ears. I'm with Keith.

Amber, Candice and Angie Trio Up The Supremes

These three ladies are singing the classic "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," by The Supremes, and it really seems like everyone is phoning it in on the group numbers. There are good moments, but overall it's just meh. They don't seem like they really even know all the words or care that much, even though Mariah pulls out her trademarked "hashtag POW" (give it up, it's not catching on. Just because you know what Twitter is now doesn't mean you can set trends anymore). She heaps endless praise on them. 

Burnell Taylor Takes on Stevie Wonder

Yes!! Burnell is finally taking my advice and abandoning the ballads to sing Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour." My favorite part is when Smokey coaches him on how to sing the la la la's in the song. It's just so hardcore. (That was all sarcasm, if you were confused.)

It's fine. It sounds just pleasant and good and smooth. BUT IT'S THE EXACT SAME THING BURNELL DOES EVERY WEEK. He's got the most talent of all the guys, but at this point I don't care if he goes home, cause it's always the same. Go release your album of 12 ballads and let's move on.

Nicki was reminded why she fell in love with Burnell, and she can hear him back in that Motown time. Randy loves Burnell's choices, because they show that he doesn't have to do the same thing all the time. It's sad when a slight change in runs counts as showing a whole different side of yourself. Mariah thought it was splendid, and Keith can't critique him because he's so original. 

Again, not saying anything bad about the performance, I just NEED to see something different.

Angie Miller Preaches The Miracles

I'm really staring to think no one is going to rock out for us tonight. Charlie Askew would've sang Kid Rock, and it would've been splendid. But Angie is singing "Shop Around" by The Miracles, and Smokey just loves when people sing his songs. It's got a lot more swagger than the other songs we've seen, and she's dirtying it up a bit with some attitude. Jimmy tells her not to My Fair Lady too much and lighten up.

She's definitely having fun with it, and she tosses in some sexy, throaty moments. She also shows off her range a bit, but it just shows another side more than it is a "moment" for her. 

It was a strange one for Randy, who calls it Angie's first pitchy performance on the show. Mariah would've preferred Angie at the piano instead of the rock style. She wanted "I'll Be There" while tickling the ivory. Keith thought the melody kept pulling her down, and it didn't match her energy level. Nicki says she tried to show another side of Angie that didn't need to be shown.

Amber Holcomb Sings One of Her Favorites

Amber is also singing Stevie Wonder, who is always a constant favorite during Motown Week. She's singing "Lately," and Jimmy thinks it's an opportunity for her to raise the bar. He and Smokey were both shocked she was in the bottom three last week, and Smokey wanted to turn off his TV.

There is no denying her voice is off the charts, and it's vocally one of the best of the night. But I still feel a disconnect between her and the lyrics, and she fails to pick up a couple intro notes at the right points. All that said, it's probably the top performance from her so far, at least for me, and I expect she'll move along easily this time.

Mariah calls it a Tour de Force, which I think means Amber is doping. Then she gets bleeped, because apparently words you can't say on television are the only ones you can use to describe this performance. Keith thought it was beautiful and praises Amber for how she felt the song. Nicki says it was out of this world and that God was showing off when He created her vocal cords. Randy calls it "crazy vocals" and says Amber has continually grown throughout the competition. 

The Guys Tackle The Four Tops
Devin, Burnell and Lazaro are singing "I Can't Help Myself," also know as Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, by The Four Tops. And Burnell does to the other guys what Kree did to Janelle during their duet. He is so far ahead of the other guys. Lazaro stops singing at times, and Devin forgets the words. It's a bit lacking and easily the worst of the group numbers, and probably the worst of the night.

Nicki felt like she was back in Hollywood week, and she's pretending she didn't see or hear it. She tells them all to get off the stage immediately. Burnell throws everyone else under the bus and says, "I did my part." Devin adds that he did everything he could to "save people." Easy, boys. Maybe save yourself first, Devin. Even Nicki throat-slashes them to stop. That was just mean, and I bet Lazaro feels like he's back in his getting-bullied days. 

Kree Harrison Sings Motown's Queen in the Pimp Spot

Kree is trying to bring some more attitude to the stage by singing Aretha Franklin's "Don't Play That Song." It's a big song for her to tackle, but it could definitely be a moment for her. Smokey assures her that Aretha will be happy that Kree is singing her song, and both he and Jimmy are very excited for this. 

She's wearing a sparkly silver jacket and huge heels to match, and her ease and relaxed demeanor on stage are just spectacular. I could've used a teensie bit more edge from her, but it's top 3 of the night. She's just consistent and solid all around.

Randy didn't think it was the perfect performance, but it was still unbelievable. Mariah and her malfunctioning microphone tell Kree nothing of significance, and in fact, I have no idea what she was trying to say. Keith loves that Kree reminds everyone of the soul roots in country music, and Nicki calls her a double queen with her song choices, says she can sing queen and is a queen. Does that mean she should sing Queen? Is that next week's theme?

That's it for Motown Week, and it's kind of funny that I said I wanted people to take chances, and then when they did, it didn't really work. Then Burnell, Amber and Kree stick to their guns and turn in great performances. I think poor Angie might have put herself into the bottom three, but I also think the judges would save her if necessary.

Who was your favorite? Who do you think was the worst? And while it seems like the same question, who do you think is going home? Do you think Angie is at risk? Also, how did a Madonna song fit into the mix? I know she was born in Michigan, but it seems like a bit of a stretch. 

Tune in tomorrow night to find out who is going home (Devin), as well as hear performances from Keith Urban and Colton Dixon. We'll be blogging live, so be sure to follow along!

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

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

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