Angie Miller had never been in the bottom two or three this season of "American Idol," and she had been hyped as the girl to beat ever since Hollywood Week, when she wowed the judges with her original song, "You Set Me Free." Although she never gave a performance quite as amazing as that again, Angie still seemed like a shoo-in for next week's finale, and she always seemed superhumanly confident...until this Thursday, when, much to the shock of the judges, she unexpectedly went home in third place. And she unexpectedly broke down.
Less than 24 hours before Thursday's most important "Idol" results show of the season--the one that would determine the top two moving on to the finale--Angie had told reporters, "I feel confident that I'll make it." But when Ryan Seacrest informed this year's token golden child/chosen one that it would be Candice Glover and Kree Harrison advancing to the finale instead, her pageanty facade suddenly slipped away.
Angie's swan-song performance--a reprise of her cover of Season 11 finalist Colton Dixon's ironically titled "Never Gone"--may have been one of the most emotional goodbyes in "Idol" history. Angie could barely even warble the power ballad through her tears, though she fought her way through it as best she could, continuing to sing-sob even as her family and friends ran up onstage to comfort her.
In an odd way, this was one of Angie's most memorable and impactful performances of the season. While Angie always had the looks and vocal chops of an Idol, her overly theatrical, Disney-princess style often seemed fembotic and inauthentic--almost a little too perfect. And in the end, I think this was why America didn't connect with her enough to vote her into the top two. If only Angie had been able to show real, raw emotion like this before, she may have been crying happy tears this Thursday, because she may have made it through.
Conversely, this season's final two girls really emotionally connected this week. Candice actually made the tough Nicki Minaj cry with her gorgeous cover of Emeli Sande's "Next to Me," and when Nicki lavished her with praise, Candice sobbed as well. Kree had an even more intensely emotional week. After revisiting the Texas home where she'd lived as a child before her parents died when she was in her teens, she channeled all that heartache into a stunning, pretense-free performance of Rascal Flatts' "Here Comes Goodbye" that more or less secured her spot in the finale.
Obviously, both Candice and Kree could have made it to the finale on talent alone. And the fact that they are both from the South, while Angie is from Massachusetts, probably didn't hurt their chances either. (Eight of "Idol's" past 11 winners have been Southern, while none of the winners have hailed from the Northeast.) However, Candice and Kree's vulnerability no doubt helped them prevail over someone who really never let America see her sweat.
Angie, with her Miley-clone good looks and ability to write and play music, may very well have a successful career after this (she certainly deserves her own record deal). But hopefully she'll learn from this experience--and as she moves on from "Idol," she'll channel the pain she felt Thursday night into her original music.