Well let’s start with the good news: my faith in Idol’s voting populace (or okay, if you really want to take the cynical route, the power of the Idol machine to get what they want when they really work at it) was not misplaced. If the rankings disclosed in the results show are to be believed – and you know, silly romantic that I am, I’m inclined to believe until given compelling evidence to the contrary – the voters got it almost 100% correct. Should sweet, brave, brave, brave, but let’s-be-real-now-nowhere-near-ready-for-this-jelly Lazaro have placed 4th(!?!?) while the best guy left in the competition is left dangling in the bottom 2? Of course not, but that was about the only serious fault I could find in the rankings, and it was a pretty minor offense, seeing as how neither one of them is likely to make it past top 5 anyway. On the other hand, America correctly placed Angie, Candice and Kree in the top 3, and correctly chose to send Curtis home. And despite a “save me” performance that was so sublime it almost made me forgive the back-to-back travesties that were his past two performances, the judges correctly saved their save for someone with a better track record (thank God for you, Keith Urban). Plus, even though this is the first time we’ve ever officially gotten to hear the full rankings, does anyone doubt that an all-male bottom three AND and all-female top 3 is very nearly unprecedented in recent Idol history, probably going as far back as season 3? Hell to the no, amiright? So there was a lot to get excited about Thursday night.
Wednesday was a different story. The very promising new theme of “Songs of the Idols” got lost in translation somewhere along the pre-production line and instead of the fresh takes on never-before-covered Idol alum tracks or new twists on rarely-before-covered tunes we’d all been hoping for, we were treated to not one, not two, but THREE horrid, treacly reenactments of Idol coronation ballads, three direct replications of the arrangements of ambitious signature performances of Idols past, and one appalling desecration of THE most wildly overdone song in Kelly Clarkson’s entire catalog. Of the three remaining performers who actually did something unexpected, two were STILL unsuccessful, but at least Paul and Devin have my respect for trying.
I always have to wonder whether weeks like this with terrible song choices and arrangements pretty much across the board are the product of mass ignorance, bad mentoring, laziness (and by laziness of course I mean that these contestants are severely overworked doing things like publicity photoshoots and studio recordings, red carpet interviews, and preparing for awful group numbers, so then they’re left with barely enough time to scrape together a half-ass performance, when the performance is the whole reason for the show in the first place.)(What’s that you say? The whole reason for the show is to make money, and the music is just a pleasant concurrence? Touche.), or all of the above. Even so though, even if they’re overworked and exhausted and surrounded by incompetant assholes giving them the worst possible advice, you’re going to tell me that 8 of these 10 singers, who entered and made it to the finals of a competition that’s been around for 12 years, have no idea whatsoever how to play the game? And not only that but not a single person along the way could stop them from completely dicking themselves over? Not a vocal coach or their mother or a damn PA? Granted, I recognize that a lot of this is NERD RAGE coming from someone who watches this show a little too closely and yeah maybe takes this shit a little too seriously, but I MEAN. It can’t just be me, right? They had well over a hundred previously covered songs to chose from! Kelly Clarkson alone has one of the largest, most celebrated, diverse, and well-written catalogs in contemporary popular music, and you’re going to make me sit through another stupid butchering of Breakaway and an unwelcome reprise of A Moment Like This? For fuck’s sake.
On a brighter note, for all of the crap she’s gotten (and deservedly so) for being the first Idol judge in history to show up late to a live show, Nicki’s tardiness did confirm a couple of things for me, namely that she is the most indispensible person to grace the judging panel since Simon Cowell and can officially do no wrong in my book. This is going to sound completely ridiculous, but I’m not ashamed to say that at the very beginning of the show when I saw she wasn’t there, I was… I mean, it was almost like, you know that sinking feeling in your stomach that you get when you show up to high school and find out that the girl/boy you like is home sick? THAT’s how sad and disappointed I felt at the prospect of a show without her. And then she showed up in her A-Team finest, sporting those ridiculous fucking sunglasses, all defending Devin’s honor, and inventing the most elaborate and confusing waffle metaphor of all time, and speaking nonsense that’s actually the most sensible thing you’ve ever heard… gawd, listen to me… am I on my way to qualifying as a barbz? (an barbz? da barbz?)
And on that note, let’s get to our girls, ranked as always by my own personal, purely subjective preference. And because again TPTB have released next week’s theme ahead of time, and also because these contestants clearly need all the help they can get with song selection, I’ll once again be including song suggestions for next week’s Lennon/McCartney-themed outing:
5: Amber Holcolm
I’m gonna be straight with you: I’m so beyond furious with Amber for picking this song that trying to discuss the details of her performance would be counterproductive. I hated it before she ever opened her mouth, and there’s nothing she could’ve possibly done to make me not hate it. First of all, let me say that I have but one rule in my car, and anyone who knows me knows it’s for serious for serious, and that is that if Kelly Clarkson comes on the radio, you’re never allowed to change the station. Never. But even I have to make an exception for A Moment Like This, because it’s TERRIBLE. It’s a terrible song. Unless I’m literally watching Kelly Clarkson win season one of American Idol, I NEVER want to hear that song. I mean holy fuck, who thought this was a good idea? And yeah okay, I’m going to go there: Idol has some fucking nerve letting Amber sing it in the first place. It may be a shitty fucking song, but it’s Kelly Clarkson’s shitty fucking song. That’s her property. She owns it. It’s fucking sacred, okay? I mean, if you owned one of the original pairs of Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, would you let just any punk-ass kid throw em on and go for a fucking stroll? Heeell no. Ughhhhhh. I’m sorry, I just caaaaan’t.
The good news is, literally anything Amber could possibly choose to do next week or any week in the future will be infinitely better than this. Like, she could walk out onto stage, taking an actual shit, and walk away, and it’ll be a step up. I’d love something with some energy, like Got to Get You Into My Life, or if that’s too much to ask for I’ll settle for some Across the Universe.
4: Angie Miller
Alright, so technically, Angela sang circles around Janelle this week, and after seeing Janelle first, I thought I was finally going to have to give the #3 spot to the girl most likely to actually take the #3 spot. Then Angela chose a Celine Dion song that Kelly Clarkson Hulked the fuck out on back in season 1, and had this to say about it: “When Kelly sang it, you could see her passion in it. She sang the song amazing, but I think that I can sing it as well as Kelly did.” Um, excruse me? As well? AS WELL????? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE???Giirrrrrrl, that’s Kelly Clarkson you’re talking about. Kelly. Fucking. Clarkson. Do you have any idea how many people alive can sing AS WELL as she can? Reeeeeally not many. And I’m sorry, but you’re not one of them, you’re not, and to claim otherwise is the picture of blasphemy. Listen to me and believe me when I say that this is not an insult, far from it. In fact, you know what, my dear? You sounded AWESOME on that song. Sure, I would’ve liked to see you diverge from the Celine/Kelly arrangement, to get behind the piano where you belong and do something creative with it, but no question this was by far your best vocal ever. You had one of the best vocals of the night, absolutely in the top 3, hell, probably top 2. Not a lot of people can do what you can do. Be proud of that, take risks, but don’t be an idiot. Don’t go around claiming to sing AS WELL as Kelly Clarkson. Shoot.
Next week let’s start by checking our hubris at the door, then maybe go about redeeming ourselves with a some Eleanor Rigby or Maybe, I’m Amazed .
3: Janelle Arthur
Oh Janelle… This week, Janelle gets the Nymphadora Tonks Memorial Award for giving it a good ole Hufflepuff try. Alas, as much as I love Janelle, I can’t sit here and pretend like that vocal wasn’t a bit of a hot mess. Janelle does get partial credit for her intention here, because Gone was half of a good idea (which is one half more good ideas than most people had this week). She didn’t pick a terrible song – it wasn’t a coronation song THANK GOD, and while it was certainly a signature performance of Scotty’s, there is that kind of unspoken rule where you’re allowed to do shit like that if you’re the opposite gender of the original performer – it was just a little ill-fitting, and a poor choice of vehicle for delivering the caliber of performance we needed from her. I am glad it occured to her that eventually she’d need to take a stroll outside balladville, and despite the cringeworthy vocals I couldn’t help but enjoy watching her grinning and dancing and having a good time up there. I’m not sure what she was talking about with the whole cottonmouth excuse, but what I heard was her adrenaline getting caught in her throat, which I know from experience is a real problem that can be very difficult to overcome. The good news is, she’s a way better singer than we’ve been seeing in her live performances. If you don’t believe me, check out the studio track of Gone – it’s fucking hot. Perhaps even my favorite studio track of the week? And as has been proven time and time again live on the Idol results stage, many talented and successful recording artists don’t perform well live. The bad news is, unless she figures out how to overcome this and fast, Janelle is not going to be the next American Idol, no matter how ridiculously adorable and talented she is. Of course I had higher hopes for Janelle than this, and I’m still holding out some of that hope she might pull it together and make a miraculous comeback, but until then I’ll enjoy having her around as long as she’s here, and I’ll be rooting for the girl, no matter what happens.
For next week, I’m going to suggest a little You Can’t Do That or I’ve Just Seen a Face.
2: Candice HolyMotherFuckingHell Glover
Remember last week, when I said how I hate Candice’s guts because she doesn’t even know what she’s doing, she’s just naturally, instinctually gifted? Well this week, Candice proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was 100% tripping balls wrong, wrong, wrong. Turns out Candice knows ex-actly what she’s doing, and I’m just a stupid asshole. I don’t know why I had this weird misconception from the beginning that Candice was this 19 /20 yr-old wunderkind, but yeah, she’s actually 23 and one of the oldest gals in the competish? Soooo, whoopsie daisies! Also, the way she talked about her impressions from seeing Jimmy give advice on past seasons, and about watching Jordin’s season 6 performance of I Who Have Nothing, that tells me that this is a girl who actually did her homework and knows exactly what show she’s on. She understands and does not in any way underestimate the size of the shoes she’s setting herself up to fill. The fact that she took IWHN on at all, after it not only served as THE iconic performance of Jordin Sparks’ Idol career, but was also reimagined and similarly knocked out of the park not two years ago by the Incomparable Ms. Haley Reinhart, should have been incredibly stupid. Rule #1 of Idol is you don’t take on Big Diva Ballads unless you’re drastically switching them up. You don’t want to be drawing comparisons between yourself and Whitney Houston, because 99.999% of the time, you’re not gonna out-Whitney Houston Whitney Houston. So here comes Candice saying “Hey, Jordin Sparks, Haley Reinhart, Shirley Bassey, Gladys Knight, Roberta Flack, Liza Minelli, and every other legendary diva who has ever dared take on the beast that is this song: I’m here and I’m worthy of being placed in your league.” and so naturally we as audience members are like “Who the fuck do you think you are?” except Candice isn’t being cute. She’s not playing games. She knows exactly who she is, what she can handle, and the caliber of talent she wields. She knows that she is that .001% that can actually step up to the plate and blow a song like this to kingdom come, so she just walks out all cool like and goes: “I’M CANDICE MOTHERFUCKING GLOVER! HEAR ME ROOOOOAR!”
For next week, I’m going to carry over my suggestion from last time of Come Together, or else some Oh Darlin’ could be hawt.
1: Kree Harrison
Remember last week, when I said whatever song Kree picked for herself would probably be better than anything I could pick for her? Well this week, Kree proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was 100% correct. So thanks for that, girrrrl, I fucking love being right, and after I realized that I’d spent so many weeks heinously underestimating Candice, I really needed a win. Oh man, ok, so as if it even really needs to be said after that rant I just wrote about Candice, Candice and Kree are thisclose in my estimation. Technically and by virtue of vocal performance alone, Candice blew Kree out of the water this week, no question. But really that’s an unfair comparison to be making, because Kree and Candice are two very different types of singers, and also unless I was mistaken, I do believe that Kree was a bit under the weather this week. She seemed noticably subdued, not to mention just a wee bit pale and sweaty, and then there was her intro package, in which she called Carrie Underwood “studding.” Regardless, Kree wins this week by virtue of being the one and only contestant willing to do what I expected them all to do: she took an unpredictable song that has been performed exactly once (and not especially memorably) on the Idol stage, and then worked with it so that it provided her with the strongest vocal and performance possible. I mean look, when she said she was doing this song, I audibly groaned. The night that Carrie performed this song, it was the weakest of three abbreviated performances that she did in one night, and both of the other two performances were uptempo (including a cool, countrified Air Supply cover) so she didn’t have to do much with it, because it was just one part of a larger dynamic performance. I was unconvinced that as a stand-alone 2min Idol performance this song could be anything but a sleepy trainwreck for Kree, but it wasn’t, because Kree was smart about it. She was given good advice (as seen in the intro package where they told her to take moments when and whereever she could) and she rearranged it to make it dynamic, and also she’s just a naturally dynamic performer with the benefit of years of real world performing experience under her belt. Oh ok, speaking of which, hey Jimmy, what the fuck are you TALKING about warning Kree about oversinging? Are you maybe confusing Kree with, I don’t know, anyone else in this competition besides Kree? Are we watching the same show? Get it together, Iovine!
I’m going to carry over my suggestion from last week of Something, or else maybe some Let It Be. I love Kree no matter what she does, but my favorite is when she goes all gospel-hand-bluesy, and since a lot of the Lennon/McCartney songbook allows for that, I think she’s gonna have a good week. (Ha. As though she’s had a single not-good week.)
That’s all for now, y’all. I’m headed out of town so I won’t be around to recap next week, but I’ll be back the week after, and with SO much to discuss!