Sup nerds!! I missed you last week, and now we have SO much to talk about. Shall we start with how we’re about thisclose to seeing an actual, no-shit, all-female Idol top 5? Unprecedented doesn’t even begin to cover it. Prior to this season – and even through the beginning stages of the season, when the push for the female winner narrative became exceedingly transparent – common Idol sense was that we would probably never again see a female Idol winner. 4 weeks ago I felt bold in predicting a girl-on-girl finale. Now, I’ll be genuinely surprised if we DON’T see this all-girl top 5 actualized. The save is still in play, and at this point it might as well be called The Lady Save for all the chance the remaining two guys have of securing it. So America only needs to get it right one more time and then we’re golden. I’m not even worried about jinxing this anymore, it’s inevitable. That having been said, America: *ahem*
Was the decked stacked in the ladies’ favor? Maybe a little. I know I generally only talk about the ladies, but every season there are at least a couple guys I’m pulling for. (Well, ok, ALMOST every season… You’re a wanker number niiiiiiine!) This season’s guy finalists however have been completely uninspiring, and not just in comparison to the girls, just outright lacking across the board in talent, charisma or both. I believe that this week’s guy group performance sealed the remaining boys’ fate, and not because of the performance itself, but rather because of the aftermath of the performance. Call me nuts, but I actually found their performance itself to be kind of charming? At least in the parts that weren’t uncomfortable? Lord knows how painful it is for me to say this, but parts of it were actually much less of a hot mess than the Kree/Janelle Madonna thing. The important difference, I think, is that, as the ladies themselves said, when they (Janelle) faltered, they (Kree) picked each other (pshaw, Kree is flawless) up. There was a true sense of camaraderie between them, and even though it is a competition, even though they both know that Kree is kicking Janelle’s ass in this competition, they were both incredibly gracious, even when the judges tried real hard to pin them against each other. The boys took the opposite route, and it was painful to watch. Yes, to compare Janelle’s shakiness with the harmonies to Lazaro’s completely forgetting the lyrics and failing to connect with even the most simple choreography is silly, and yes, I’m sure my frustration with seeing Lazaro make it past worthier contestants week after week pales in comparison to the frustration of his actual competition, but come on now, boys. Play the damn game! If you want votes, you smile and shrug and stick up for each other, or else you don’t say anything. Don’t throw the poor, sweet, flailing, sweaty kid with the stutter under the bus. What are you thinking??
I was sad to see my favorite guy in the competition (after Honorary Lady Boddington, of course) pay the price on Thursday, but he made his bed, and much as I would’ve liked him to outstay his other male competitors, at the end of the day the boy had nothing on the Fab Five ladies. Speaking of whom, let’s get into it, shall we? Ranked as ever by my own, purely subjective preference? But first, a word on next week’s theme of “Classic Rock, No Ballads.” I’m both SUPER excited about and totally DREADING this theme. First of all, anything that has a “no ballads” caveat is a welcome change in my book. Secondly, I was raised on classic rock, and the classic rock catalog is very close to my heart. Because of that, almost all of my personal all-time favorite Idol performances have been classic rock covers – Haley Reinhart’s Bennie and the Jets, House of the Rising Sun, Piece of My Heart, What Is and What Never Should Be, and Rhiannon; Elise Testone’s Whole Lotta Love, I Want It All, and Bold As Love; Allison Iraheta’s Alone, Cry Baby, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and don’t even get me started on Slow Ride with Adam Lambert; Siobhan Magnus’ Paint it Black, Skylar Laine’s Stay With Me, and on and on and on… Herein lies the problem; because these songs are so dear to me, I’m going to be all the more pissed if they don’t kill it with them, and because those particular performances are especially dear to me, if the contestants should try and tackle those same songs again, they risk opening a can of my very own Music of the Idols-style, Hulk-esque rage. If the contestants are smart with their song choices, this could be an incredible week, but since smart choices are more the exception than the rule this season, it could likely go very, very wrong, which would totally break my heart. So, contestants: HEED ME!! Pleeeeease!!
5: Angie Miller
Angie, Aaaangie, what the frack, girrrrl?? I thought you was Walkin On the Moon, but these past two weeks, you’ve been Free Fallin! I know that this week was when the judges turned on Angie, but for me, the problem started last week and it’s just been spiraling from there. Angie’s Beatles week showing was, to me, one of those rare performances that manage to be simultaneously technically perfect and a spectacular failure. It’s annoying because Jimmy warned her in the intro package of literally the exact problem that was her eventual downfall, and either he failed to explain it properly or she refused to understand, but I just don’t understand what the point of Jimmy is if he can see the problem but he can’t fix it? Gaaah.
Okay, so here’s what happened. The girl sang Yesterday, which is one of the most beautiful songs in the Lennon-McCartney songbook, and she just interpreted it all wrong. As a songwriter, it was uncomfortable for me to watch. It was like Angie had watched Candice the week prior on I Who Have Nothing and decided she wanted to emulate that performance, but Yesterday is not the vehicle for that. Reinterpreting songs is great, as a musician you can take a song and show a new side of it, bring out an element that lays dormant, make it more relatable. But in order to do that, you have to understand the material. You have to grapple with it. I don’t know if Angie ever really listened to this song, but she certainly didn’t get it. Yesterday is not a melodrama, it’s not heavy and dark, full of conflict and passion, it’s not equipped for that. It’s understated; it’s wistful and contemplative, and ultimately hopeful. Lyrically and musically that’s how it’s written. The verses all start in a minor key with sad sentiments, but always end in a major key with the worlds “I believe in yesterday.” It’s a song about being in a dark place but believing deep down that you can get back to a good place, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. To see her completely miss the point was so very off-putting. Like I said, I recognize and appreciate that it was a technically proficient performance, but I couldn’t enjoy it on its technical merit alone.
So, for her to go from that to this week, with her first ever technically off-the-mark performance… it’s troubling. I want to give Angie credit for attempting a change of pace, but ultimately I have to agree with La Minaj that it was an unwelcome one. I want to believe that she’s better than this – I mean, I KNOW that she’s better than this last outing… – but I’m finding it hard to Keep the Faith, and I must admit, Ang, I’m starting to feel like I can live With or Without You in this thing.
I don’t know where they’re drawing the ballad line, but if Angie’s smart and if they’ll let her, she’ll go U2 this week. Where the Streets Have No Name or Pride (In The Name of Love) would both fit her and her melodramatic tendencies beautifully. Or, if those are deemed too ballad-y, I’ll take some Carry On Wayward Son, by Kansas (cut out the long guitar solos and that’s a beautiful singer song, right in the sweet spot of her range!).
4: Amber Holcomb
Well For What It’s Worth, Amber has had two weeks in a row now of solid enough performances that I think I’ve just about forgiven her for the AMLT catastrophe. That having been said, I’d love to say that Amber moved up from 5th to 4th place in my rankings, but the truth is that Amber pretty much just stayed consistently solid while Angie fell down to the bottom of the pack. I definitely appreciated her song choice for Beatles week – She’s Leaving Home is a beautiful song, it was a smart choice for her and her voice, it was a song that was hitherto untouched on the Idol stage, and she sung it beautifully. Lately was a gorgeous performance and certainly among the best vocals of the night. I don’t know why but this girl just isn’t connecting with me, even though I thoroughly enjoy hearing her sing and she has an incredible instrument. It’s that Hollie Cavanagh conundrum, where you’ve got this adorable, gifted vocalist who is so endearing in candid moments, but every time she gets on stage I feel like she’s this little girl playing dress-up. And it’s getting frustrating, because I love her voice so much, but I’ve been trying for weeks to find something there to connect to and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. She needs some up-tempo, age-appropriate material, stat.
To which end, I prescribe darling Amber 20ccs of Pat Benatar! Pat’s lyrics transcend the specific time period she’s known for; they speak of a young girl’s heartbreak in terms Amber might actually be able to relate to. I know Heartbreaker and Love Is a Battlefield have been done, but at this point I’ll take ’em, though if she really wants to make a play for my heart she’ll hit me with some Hit Me With Your Best Shot. And if not the Lady Benatar, how’s about some Rolling Stones, in the form of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction? Thus far on this show it’s only been done by white dudes (Adam Lambert and Bo Bice), but it’s been done by many a lady over the years (including the likes of this lady). Amber would sound great on the track, and it’d be a cool departure from her. Plus it’s one of those songs you can’t help but feel when you’re singing it, and that’s the main thing missing in Amber’s performances
3: Janelle Arthur
Janelle!!! Oh, Sweet Child O Mine, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy. That’s All. Ser-i-ous-ly, I’m so proud of my girl. Sure, sharing the stage with Kree this week didn’t do her any favors, but I refuse to let that put a damper on the Great Janelle Comeback that’s been happening these past two weeks. I’d almost given up hoping she could bounce back, but bounce back she did, and how! Last week, oh my god, her take on I Will (another one never-before-tackled on the Idol stage – bonus points!) was stu-nning (0r as Kree might say, studding). For the first time in weeks she didn’t let the stage and the audience overwhelm her, she contained her emotions, she remembered to breathe (because, as she so sagely noted: “if you’re not breathing correctly during a song, you’re just gonna run out of air!” Have I mentioned I fucking love this girl?) and she delivered a sweet, subtle vocal and a lovely, emotive performance. This week, she took it one step further with a refreshing new take on Keep Me Hanging On. Unlike a certain other contestant who I’ve already ripped into enough in this recap, Janelle’s interpretation of the classic Supremes song tuned into the very heart of the song and found a new, cool, and fun way to express the haunting angst at its core. I loved the arrangement, I loved that she came up with the arrangement in high school (were you a little dark and twisty once upon a time, Ms. Janelle?), I loved the vocal, I loved the guitar, I loved the presentation, I loved the emotion… she did great. Was it technically perfect? No. Is there room to improve? Of course, but We Can Work It Out. Janelle is back, friends; she’s learning and growing and getting better every week, and ba-ba-ba-baby, You Aint Seen Nothing Yet.
I have a feeling Classic Rock, No Ballads week will be right up Janelle’s alley, just so long as she doesn’t try to go too crazy such that we have another Gone situation on our hands. Something along the lines of Can’t You See, by Marshall Tucker Band or I Won’t Back Down, by Tom Petty would just fit Janelle like a glove.
2: Kree Harrison
God dammit, placing any number besides 1 next to Kree’s name is so Hard to Handle, but Take It Easy, y’all, because I’ve still got a Whole Lotta Love for this Lady. Much like with my #4 and #5 girls, the change in placement of my top 2 gals was not about Kree slipping into second place so much as Candice rising to the top spot. Kree’s Beatles and Motown performances were both rock solid. and as mentioned before she even crushed a Madonna duet so hard she (completely unintentionally) made Janelle look like a whimpering puppy dog at her side. I don’t want to go too much into that duet, because I love Janelle and I kind of hated the position they put the two of them in, but it is worth mentioning that the duet managed to highlight Kree’s effortless ability. Performers like Kree are often under-appreciated because they make it look so easy that the audience fails to recognize just how difficult the thing they’re doing actually is! The girl is an incredible, natural vocalist and performer, and I hope to God America doesn’t forget how good she is just because they can’t see the literal sweat on her brow (Whaaa? That is most certainly not a thinly-veiled jibe aimed at a certain Sweaty-Brow McArbos! You’re a thinly-veiled… oh forget it.). She’s also making really smart choices in this competition, which is so lovely to see. I said going into Beatles week that I missed that gospelly thing in her voice and wanted to see it back, and I got that and then some with A Little Help From My Friends. After Beatles week I was thinking I’d love to see a little bit of that Top 10 Reveal “Evidence” bluesy-swagger, and that’s exactly what I got with Don’t Play That Song. She looks good, her vocals are impeccable, she’s the most compelling performer in the whole competition, she’s playing a smart game, I really don’t know what else to say at this point, except that Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic? And I Love Her Madly?
Oh my god, okay, for next time, ready for this: What’s Up, by 4 Non Blondes. I’ll wait a minute for that to sink in. Got it now? Can you hear it? Holy shit, ENGAGE TELEPATHY! HEAR MEEEE KREEEE! I WANT IT!!! I could also hear CCR’s Down On the Corner. But I’m pretty sure What’s Up is the best idea I’ve ever had.
1: Candice Glover
And then there was One. One performer who has been so ridiculously on FIRE! these past couple weeks, there were moments when I genuinely thought we might be at risk of her just fucking Burning Down the House. And no, I’m not just excited that Candice finally broke down and took the advice I was giving her two weeks running in taking on Come Together, though it’s nice to know that somebody’s picking up all this free knowledge I’m dropping (Hey Candice! Tell Kree to sing What’s Up! Do it do it do it!!). I Who Have Nothing was such a jaw-droppingly sick performance you would think whatever followed would’ve been a letdown, but instead Candice was like, “Hey, what’s the one thing that could possibly make me even more awesome than I already am? Oh yeah, P.S. Y’ALL: ASIDE FROM HAVING THE VOICE OF AN ACTUAL ANGEL, I CAN ALSO ROCK YOUR FUCKING FACE OFF.” Holy shit, girl, fine! You win! Numero uno! Geeeeeeez! I want to get serious and talk about all of the perfect little intricacies of both Come Together and Heard it Through the Grapevine, but I fear that if I start I’ll never stop, so I’ll save it for the next time, and the time after that and the time after that, because Trust Me, Candice is going to Break On Through to that finale, or else she’s going down in a Blaze of Glory.
The only thing remotely critical I could say with Candice is that her past three song choices have all been multiple repeat offenders. This bothers me more in general than it does specifically in Candice’s case, because Candice is in her own league on her own damn show and she can do whatever the fuck she wants. That having been said, I humbly offer these fresh suggestions for next time: Here I Go Again, by Whitesnake, Home Sweet Home, by Motley Crue, Sweet Child O Mine, by Guns and Roses, or Rock and Roll, by Led Zeppelin.
That’s all for now, here’s hoping for a rockin’ good Classic Rock week!
Til next time,