For weeks on "American Idol," the judges worked tirelessly on a campaign that I'd like to dub Operation Make Amber Happen. Amber Holcomb was an "Idol" underdog really ever since she squeaked into the top 10, but the judges and in-house advisor/Interscope Records exec Jimmy Iovine really believed in her--frequently praising her as the most "marketable" and "current" contestant in the competition, even when she sang the most old-fashioned ballads imaginable.
But this Thursday, Operation Make Amber Happen came to an end. It didn't happen. Amber Holcomb went home in fourth place.
This outcome was hardly a surprise, given Amber's several past showings in the bottom two or three, not to mention "Idol's" overall history of the judges' aggressive contestant-pimping spectacularly backfiring. (Amirite, Joshua Ledet, Pia Toscano, LaToya London, Tamyra Gray?) But just because it wasn't surprising didn't mean it wasn't emotional.
As Amber sang her goodbye song, a reprise of Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me," at first she sounded surprisingly screechy, making it seem like America had really gotten it right with this vote. But soon it became obvious that Amber was just struggling to sing through her welled-up tears. In the end, she couldn't even get through the song, breaking down as soon as her father walked up onstage to hug her. As she sobbed and Ryan Seacrest told her, "Keep your chin up," the cameras panned to the judges' table to show both Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj crying. Well, at least those two finally agreed on something.
The night was rounded out by triumphantly returning Season 7 winner David Cook, reuniting with his old "Always Be My Baby" mentor Mariah Carey; giving me some Mike Ness realness with his pompadour and tats; and performing his jaunty new single, "Laying Me Low." Then we got a "where are they now?" segment from another much-missed "Idol" rocker, the Tony-nominated and newly mutton-chopped Constantine Maroulis, still making eye-sex with the camera lens in ways that the stare-happy Angie Miller could only imagine.
As for lowlights, I wanted to like the performance by this week's otherwise awesome guest mentor, Harry Connick Jr., much more than I actually did. Talk about not being "current"! The dude is just so much more exciting when he talks than when he sits on a stool and croons…and if he was using this week's guest spot as a screen test to be a judge in Season 13 (something I'd still co-sign), he might've blown it with a snoozy song that only further scared off that important 18-49 (or heck, 18-89) demographic.
But the absolute lowlight of the night was the Great Gatsby infomercial (um, I mean the "Bang Bang" performance) by will.i.am. I don't know why it took so long for Will to show up on "Idol" this season--the "Voice U.K." coach and frequent "X Factor" mentor never met a reality show he didn't like, and ever since his buddy Jimmy Iovine took over this particular show in Season 10, he has pretty much loitered on the "Idol" set until security guards have threatened to drag him away. I wish they'd dragged him away this evening. Suffice to say, this Gatsby wasn't so great, and made Taco's "Puttin' on the Ritz" music video look like something directed by David Fincher. Will's tuneless, tap-dancey, robots-time-travel-to-the-1920s performance was such a fail, I really wish Nicki Minaj had shouted, "Get off the stage!!"
But next week, the Season 12 top three--Angie Miller, Candice Glover, and Kree Harrison--will return to the "Idol" stage, and they'll also return to their hometowns for heroines' welcomes. As for Amber, well, she will be returning her hometown on a more permanent basis…but I have a feeling this isn't the last we'll see of her.
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