After 11 years on the air, American Idol still continues to surprise: In an upset that few saw coming, Angie Miller -- piano player, power singer and bright-eyed Miley Cyrus doppelganger -- lost a spot in next week's finale to rivals Kree Harrison and Candice Glover.
Ryan Seacrest, master of suspense, stretched out the announcement of the final two in the last 15 minutes of Thursday's results show, reducing the trio of talented sing-testants -- each deserving of the Idol title -- into quivering nervous wrecks. The first name announced: Candice! Because, duh. Because, that voice. BECAUSE I SAID SO. Then Seacrest cut to commercial break, further torturing Angie and Kree, who huddled together in anticipation as Seacrest milked the big reveal. When he said "Kree," a ripple of OMG OMG OMG's swept across the Idol-verse. Somewhere, distraught Angie fans captured video of themselves sobbing hysterically to post on YouTube and Adam Lambert, a supporter of the ballad-loving finalist, put down the guyliner and lit a candle to mourn the early exit of his soon-to-be duet partner. Kree's jaw dropped with legitimate shock, and instead of celebrating her victory, the maternal country singer comforted Angie as she struggled to keep it together while closing the show with Colton Dixon's "Never Gone."
"Sorry," Angie told the studio audience, forcing a smile through her tears. In a genuinely touching moment (even for this Idol cynic), her family jumped up onstage to support the 19-year-old Massachusetts native; Kree and Candice, both crying, embraced Angie in a group hug. After a standing ovation, the judges stepped up to offer condolences.
The mood: funereal. But life goes on -- and, given her dynamic musical chops and successful run on Idol, so will Angie's recording career. Also, ask Adam Lambert and Colton Dixon and Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry: Winning isn't everything. Sometimes it's better to lose (less expectations) and most runners-up earn some kind of record deal along with the insta-fame that comes with being on the teevee. The post-season summer tour is another chance for Angie to try out some new original material that could get traction and gain popularity.
Although her bubbly personality and passionate performances won regular raves from the panel -- leading to buzz that she'd be in the finals -- footage of Angie's hometown visit on Wednesday was nothing compared to the emotional gut-punch of Kree returning to her native Texas and the home where she grew up. Both of her parents died when she was a girl, an unthinkable loss and revelation that humanized the subdued 22-year-old and highlighted her best character traits: grace, compassion and professionalism, in the face of adversity -- whether it be childhood trauma or a high-pressure reality singing competition. "I don’t think people realize how much strength you have to have to be this young and have no parents. You sang it like a pro," said Nicki Minaj following Kree's rendition of "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts.
Mentor Jimmy Iovine concurred on Thursday, saying: "Kree had the perfect combination of home story and song. It was so emotional and it killed me, and therefore I gave her that round."
Next week's Candice-Kree match-up seems fairly even: Candice has the voice, but Kree has the backstory. It's a toss-up, IMHO, which means they'll need to be smart with song choices. NO BURT BACHARACH PLEASE.
Moving on: Hours ago, Randy Jackson is resigning from his post after 12 seasons as a judge. Eye rolls aside, I'm gonna miss Randy. Despite all his redundant gibberish ("for you for me for you," "yo dawg," etc), he is a familiar presence and reminder of the good old days as the laid-back buffer between iron-fisted Simon Cowell and high-strung Paula Abdul. "Maybe a heads up?" said Seacrest, ribbing Jackson on his impending departure.
Also on this latest episode of
The Hunger Games American Idol, a sound system failure during the finalists' performance of Selena Gomez's "Who Says?" that rendered the mics useless and the voices mute. (That's probably a good thing, though, since that D-list track is treacly and boring, much like an Idol coronation song!)
Idol alumna Lauren Alaina performed her single "Barefoot and Buckwild," and I can't say anything bad about her because she is SO NICE, and Alicia Keys tickled the ivories on "Tears Always Win" from her Girl on Fire album (which is great to Swiffer to, by the way).
One of the highlights of the night: the premiere of the cheese-tastic music video for "Beautiful," Mariah Carey's new single with Miguel. Writhing and preening atop a motorcycle, Mariah showed lots of skin and lots of leg in a bold, barely there ensemble that not even Amanda Bynes would leave the house wearing. Mariah: the new Madonna?
Other pertinent questions, Idol Worshippers: how do you feel about Angie's departure? Who are you rooting to win next week? What, if anything, will you miss most about Randy?