American Idol Recap: Divas' Advocates [Updated]
Yes, folks, this week on American Idol, Jimmy Iovine surrendered his “mentoring” role and pre-performance “advisory” sessions and instead put on his Justin Bieber Bigboy Collection (TM) cap to bark like a snake-oil salesman and rally a nation of speed-dialers behind Angie Miller and Amber Holcomb after their Round 1 “Songs From the Year They Were Born” numbers.
Did Jimmy possibly pre-tape his commentary before the live Top 5 telecast? It sure felt that way, considering his effusiveness about Amber’s moderately successful stab at Mariah Carey and Angie’s vocally dubious Pretenders cover that seemed to connect only because she’d started by dedicating it to the bombing victims in her home state of Massachusetts. C’mon, though, if we were judging this competition on sentiment, Lazaro Arbos would be poised to inherit Phillip Phillips’ crown and sash.
If Jimmy’s #TeamAmber t-shirt and #TeamAngie placcard weren’t enough to sway the public, the judges added four exclamation points during Round 2 (a drearily executed “Divas” theme). Keith, Nicki, Mariah and the foolio who’s always yapping “in it to win it!” all got on their feet for Angie and Amber, as well as Candice Glover and Kree Harrison.
Had this been a kindergarten singing lesson, then poor Janelle Arthur was playing the role of the cheese, standing alone, waiting for the Uncle Nigel Great Symbolic Tours Bus to pull up and carry her directly to the summer tour, without passing go, and without upsetting the pre-ordained order of How Things Were Meant to Be*. (*Unless there’s still a “Save.”) (There’s probably still a “Save.”)
To be fair, Janelle had arguably her weakest night in all of Season 12, but her shortcomings weren’t a magic elixir that fixed Angie’s intermittent pitch problems.
Anyhow, let’s get down to reviewing the evening’s set, shall we?
Songs from the Year They Were Born
Candice Glover: Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” | I’m a hardcore conspiracy theorist when it comes to Idol — and tonight I was struck by a bone-chilling realization while suffering through some shoddy camera work that too often focused on the back of Candice’s head. No matter how much the judges praise Candice’s performances, they never mention looking forward to her post-Idol albums or concerts. In their feedback, Candice only exists within the confines of the competition, and it makes me worry that it’s a not-so-subtle campaign to undervalue the most creative, most daring and most vocally spot-on woman in the Top 5. (Hmmm…didn’t Haley Reinhart get the same treatment back in Season 10?) All that aside, “Straight Up” proved to be yet another masterful interpretation of an unexpected number from The Lady Glover: In her hands, Paula Abdul’s chirpily delivered earworm became a swaying jazz ditty, muscled up with upright bass and bongo drums for good measure. As Keith noted, Candice’s expertly placed runs were like slow winks from across the bar, and her “buh-buh bye-byes” were so saucy and expressive, I let out an involuntary whoop of delight in response. Jimmy jumped on to the screen to yap that Candice needed a bigger song with a broader range, but that made no sense. I mean, did he miss the part where Candice lifted Paula’s narrow vocal line like a baby up on her shoulders and took it on the journey of a lifetime? Sheesh! Grade: A-
Janelle Arthur: Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name” | There’s not a whole lot to say about Janelle’s performance this week: It was a pretty but somewhat pedestrian rendition of a Vince Gill chestnut about the unexpected end of a love affair. And as Keith pointed out, the central pain and loneliness were absent from the performance, like a juicy hamburger that’s void of even salt and pepper: If you eat it on auto-pilot while reading emails at your desk, it’s perfectly acceptable; but once you close your eyes and pay attention, you can’t help but be a wee bit disappointed. Grade: B
Kree Harrison: The Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” | Kree’s opening number prompted the first live argument between Mariah and Nicki all season, one that ended with Nicki’s madcap plea of, “Simmer down, sir!” But hey, at least the neophyte lady judges are acknowledging each other’s presence again, right? You’ve gotta start somewhere. But I digress… Kree’s vocal was supple and inviting as always — like a nice glass of Pinot Noir that you end up topping off, even if you don’t need to — but Mariah was absolutely right in noting a lack of organic-ness in the actual performance (even if she buried it under more “keep doing what you’re doing” blatherspeak). Kree kept smiling at the most inopportune moments — and then added to the weird vibe with a series of head shimmies that almost made it look like she was dismissing the notes that had just come out of her mouth. Was it the stupid spike-heel boots she wore for Nicki? Come on, Kreedom, boots or barefoot next week! Grade:
A- B+ (hate to downgrade this from my original mark, but it’s a televised performance — and visuals count!)