There is a God, and oh does she LOVE American Idol.
My mother thinks that I’m a lunatic. She thinks that for a lot of reasons – some disturbingly valid – but the one she calls me on the most is my stubborn optimism that sometimes borders on absurd naivete when, for instance, I choose to take the L home from the airport with 2 weeks worth of luggage at 1:00 in the morning… Sometimes too much faith can get you into trouble. My faith in Idol is often tested. I’ve sat through entire terrible seasons (neeeein!), through painfully redundant theme weeks and obscenely stupid song choices, through Wednesday nights like these that preceded Thursday nights like these (#neverforget), and through 5 consecutive years of white male winners, and still, 12 years later, I’m here. Some, like my mother, or my friends who roll their eyes at me when I go radio silent for 2 hours every Wed night, may wonder why I put myself through all this. This week is why. Because however infuriating Idol gets, redemption is always just around the corner. After season 9 came season 10, and after a wildly frustrating couple of weeks of live competition, this Wednesday night gave us easily THE best performance week of the season, as well as one of, if not THE best single performances in Idol history. And not one year after we watched this beat out this AND this AND this, we’ve now gotten to witness an historic, first ever, all-girl Idol top 5. Yep, nerds, as of Thursday April 11th, 2013, American Idol season 12 WILL finally, OFFICIALLY produce a female Idol winner. And making that victory even sweeter is the fact that it was AMERICA, without even needing the help of the judges Save, that made all of this happen. File THAT under Don’t Stop Believing!
And with that I want to get right into the remaining contenders (and once again, because it’ll never stop being awesome, for the first time since I started this herre bliggedy blog, this is ALL of the remaining contenders!), ranked as per usual by my own personal, purely subjective preference. Next week the Idols are serving up Diva song as well as Songs From the Year You Were Born, aka that theme that makes me feel older and older every time they do it. (Janelle, Kree and Candice aren’t that much younger than me, but I was for realsies buying cassette tapes with my own hard-earned allowance while Amber and Angie were making their way down the birth canal.) “Diva” is a pretty vague classification – I’m just hoping that doesn’t mean we’ll be subjected to a quintuplet of Whitney/Celine/Mariah songs – so for my suggestions, I included anyone who has ever performed on VH1 Divas.
5: Amber Holcolm
How cute is this girl, man? So stupid cute! Major kudos to Amber for switching it up this week and going uptempo. Going into this week, “I Say a Little Prayer” was on my God-don’t-let-anyone-sing-this list, but incredibly I actually didn’t hate it? And even though it wasn’t necessarily the song I would’ve chosen for her, she went Beyonce on the second song just like I asked! Not only that, but Love on Top had never been performed before on the Idol stage (because it was written just a couple years ago! double points!), and “I Say a Little Prayer” had only been done once before, and not especially memorably. She looked and sounded great on both songs; there weren’t some minor pitch issues, but they weren’t especially distracting. I guess I’m just still not quite getting it. It’s very cool that Amber has this timeless quality about her such that when she gets dressed up in a light blue jumpsuit and sings Aretha I feel like I could be watching American Bandstand in 1960, and when she dresses up in jean shorts, neon, and shoulder pads and sings one of Beyonce’s funkiest jams, I feel like I could be watching an MTV music video in 1990. Once again though, what I don’t understand is her relevancy within the music industry in 2013. All four of her competitors have such distinctive voices and styles; I know exactly what kind of record each of them is going to make when they’re through with this and I’m getting more and more excited each week to buy those records. Amber needs to stop showing us what she can DO and give us some clue as to who she IS musically or she’s looking at a 4th place finish at best.
Diva Song: I’m going to carry over last week’s suggestion of If I Were a Boy, by Beyonce.
Song From the Year She was Born (1994): This is what I’m talking about, I have so much trouble every week picking songs for Amber because I just have no idea what she’s trying to do. That having been said, I’d have fun hearing her on All-American Girl by Melissa Etheridge, or Confide in Me, by Kylie Minogue
4: Angie Miller
Well first of all, I’m glad the judges finally woke up and gave Ang that much-needed feedback after her first performance, which was grating in the same way that a lot of her other previous performances have been. Hopefully she’ll have enough time to process that feedback before Diva week, because the combo of Angie+Diva week scares me. That having been said, again, as I’ve been saying week after week, Anyone Who Had a Heart is a beast of a song, and you can’t really argue that Angie’s delivery wasn’t pitch perfect. She’s got a hugely powerful instrument, probably the second most powerful in the entire competition, and she’s a beautiful girl. I think she can do whatever she wants after Idol, from fronting an indie rock band to acting/singing in musical movies/television shows. I kept getting annoying at how the judges were telling Angie week after week to go back to the piano, because between the original song and the Colton Dixon song we’ve seen that vibe, and I appreciate contestants that make an effort to diversify, but I must say, I’m really glad she did so in her second performance this week. After the past few weeks, I was really needing a reminder of why I even loved this girl in the first place, and “Love Came Down” was just what I needed. Angie has a natural dramatic urgency in her voice that, when misplaced, comes across as overwrought and false, but when she’s doing these kinds of performances – the kind that we all know she’ll be doing full-time in her post-Idol career – it’s so hauntingly beautiful. She’s absolutely, 100% NOT WELCOME in my personal finale, but as of this week she officially has my blessing to finish 3rd.
Diva Song: Hometown Glory, by Adele
Song From the Year She was Born (1994): Zombie, by The Cranberries (RIGHT??), or Say It Aint So, by Weezer
3: Janelle Arthur
Oh, my sweet, sweet little Hufflepuff… I don’t know if always getting singled out as the least favorite girl by the juges/Jimmy/TPTB and being constantly outshone by Kree is finally starting to get to Janelle, but something about her whole demeanor this week was so defeated! Her song choices this week were both painfully dull, and her performances had a perfunctory feel to them that’s so out of character for Janelle, who always brings that adorable, bright-eyed joy to everything she does, no matter how she actually sounds. I don’t really want to go too much into this week’s performances, because really they just make me sad, but I hope that this was just an off week and not the shape of things to come for Janelle. All of the remaining contestants are so talented and so DIFFERENT that it’s just impossible to compare them in any way other than subjective preference. I think the comparisons between Janelle and Kree are really unfair because even though they are both country, they’re VERY different kinds of country, and they’re both great at what they do. Kree’s thing may be more impressive than Janelle’s thing, but that doesn’t mean that Janelle isn’t great at what she does. Is Kelly Clarkson a better vocalist than Taylor Swift? Of COURSE she is. But Taylor is pretty awesome in her own right, and a LOT of girls out there connect with Taylor in a way that they never will with Kelly. I hope Janelle will continue to fight and keep her head up for the rest of her time in this thing, because she’s got a lot of fans out there – and I count myself among them – who love her for exactly what she is, for better or for worse.
Diva Song: Jennifer Nettles performed on VH1 Divas once, so I’m saying Stay by Sugarland should be fair game…
Song From the Year She was Born (1989): I want a fun, countrified pop cover with guitar of Eternal Flame, by The Bangles, or Listen To Your Heart, by Roxette
2: Kree Harrison
I’m going to keep this one short. I don’t know why but I just don’t have much to say about Kree this week. In part I guess I’m just running out of words to say how awesome she is, but also, I don’t know, I feel like she hasn’t given me much new to feel/talk about lately. I’m not mad at her for it, she’s consistently, solidly excellent, I love her voice, I love HER, she’s absolutely in my finale, it’s just that there’s another contestant in this thing that come in on par with her and just keeps getting better and better and better and Kree is just still really great, which is great. Look, every nice thing I’ve been saying about Kree for weeks still applies, I love her to death and I enjoy her just as much now as I ever have. I’m excited to go out and buy her record. I think she’s going to be a big deal one day. I’m just saying, for the purpose of American Idol, the televised entertainment show, I wouldn’t mind seeing something new, something a little bit different, something to get excited about.
Diva Song: Shake it Out, by Florence and the Machine
Song From the Year She was Born (1990): So Close, by Hall and Oats, or Freedom ’90, by George Michael
1: Candice HOLY FUCKING WHAAAAAAAT???? Glover
Last week, Janelle and Candice both failed to make the top 3s of Jimmy, the judges, and America. Janelle responded like the adorable little puppy dog she is, all “Oh, sorry, am I in the way? I’ll just sing quietly over here with my tail between my legs and try not to bother anyone…” Candice was not about to do any of that. She didn’t come back after last season just to see how much farther she could get or to make what she could of the Idol platform. She came to win, and she’s not fucking around. Those two performances… there are no words for those two performances. Breathtaking. Numinous. Transcendent. Unless y’all just stumbled in here for the first time, you know that I am not prone to hyperbole and I do not say things like this lightly, so please know how for serious I am when I say that after this week, I would place Candice Glover amongst the very best singers to ever grace the Idol stage. Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia Barrino, and now Candice Glover. I need this girl to win, because she is the superstar we’ve been searching for. I need her to win because people have been talking shit about Idol for too damn long, and Candice Glover is going to wipe their smug grins off their damn faces.
Diva Song: You Know I’m No Good, by Amy Winehouse
Song From the Year She was Born (1989): Maybe this is a little cheat-y, but Ella Fitzgerald covered both The Nearness of You and Dream a Little Dream of Me in All That Jazz, released in 1989… How sick would either of those be on Candice??
Wow, so I guess when we meet back next week we’ll definitely have to say goodbye to one of these ladies, ey? I for one will be sad to see any of them go!
Til next time,