American Idol Performance Finale Recap: Yes It's Ladies' Night and the Feeling's Right [Updated]
Tonight’s American Idol Season 12 performance finale began with a moment of pure F/X foolery: Candice Glover and Kree Harrison standing nose-to-nose with stern-eyed, tight-lipped, prize-fighter solemnity. Were we about to witness the unleashing of body-blows and hair-pulls, or had mischievous Uncle Nigel merely patched together two individual camera shots to promote the idea of a duel to the death for Phillip Phillips’ glittering tiara and confetti shower?
Um, of course it was the latter scenario — which became all too evident when Kree and Candice took the stage hand-in-hand, like sisters in The Hunger Games headed for a lottery draw that could change their lives forever. And if you needed a villain in the scenario, there were the SwayBots — who’d been dormant almost the entire season — invading the front rows of the Nokia Theater like so many rhythmless vermin. Candice and Kree, though, they didn’t care: They held steady to the beat, sang from their guts, and didn’t miss a single note over the course of three performances (Simon Fuller’s Pick; Coronation Single; Repeat of a Favorite Performance). Also on the plus side, the chatter from the judges was kept to a merciful minimum.
Still, as congenial as the Candice-Kree relationship may be, and as evenly matched as the ladies appeared through the course of the night, it was Ms. Glover who ended the evening with a brutal (musical) left hook that should (but might not necessarily) put her in the history books alongside Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood and Jordin Sparks — the franchise’s four previous female winners.
Indeed, Candice’s reprisal of “I (Who Have Nothing)” — with an opening verse delivered entirely a capella — was the kind of spectacular brazenness that the otherwise lovely performance finale was missing. And it emphasized the differences between the two vocalists: Kree, the smooth glass of pinot noir that’s perfect for just about any occasion, versus Candice, the eight-course haute cuisine meal that leaves your jaw on the floor, your heart in your throat and your brain as scrambled as a freshly whisked egg.
But that’s just one man’s opinion. And speaking of which, shall we have a quick rundown of the night’s festivities? (I’ll be back overnight to update with full reviews of the final two performance, so bookmark this URL, refresh and enjoy!)
TONIGHT’S SET LIST & LETTER GRADES
Kree Harrison: Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” | I hate to say Randy was right, but since this was his final Idol performance show ever — unless his “stepping down” announcement was Part 1 of a cruel/elaborate hoax that will arrive like a lump of coal in our stockings come the holiday season — the dawg had a point that Simon Fuller’s picks for both Candice and Kree were “a little sleepy.” I mean, wouldn’t you think that, as a TV producer, Fuller would’ve attempted to give Kree a different kind of mood (i.e. something uptempo and deeply bluesy) from the other two numbers in her finale set? Plus, “Angel” just got covered on The Voice by Sarah Simmons — albeit not as effectively as Kree — last week! (So if he was just on a Lilith Leader bender, why not, say, “Building a Mystery”?) Anyhow…I digress! None of this is to say Kree didn’t deliver “Angel” with gossamer delicacy and a hauntingly straightforward approach to the melody. I liked that she didn’t mimic the angsty cry of Sarah McLachlan’s delivery — and yet managed to retain the song’s core of sadness. Yeah, I kinda wished she’d opted for a less piano-driven arrangement and amped up the steel guitar and harmonica, to put the ditty more squarely in her country pocket, but perhaps that’s just nitpickery. Grade: A-
Candice Glover: Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” | Candice, too, had to try to find a way to force some Red Bull down the gullet of a song that — while pretty enough — has a melody that never pulls out onto the highway and seriously opens up. I did enjoy hearing the muscularity of Candice’s lower register on the opening verse — no pitch problems at either end of her range, mmkay? — and she added some nice jazz inflections to the proceedigs (while managing not to be distracted by those foolios in the front row, clapping out of time with the music). All in all a good effort, but later this summer when you’re painting misty water colored memories of the way Season 12 was, I suspect this performance probably won’t make it onto the canvas. Grade: A-