American Idol Recap: Oh I Can't Believe This Theme Is Happening to Me [Updated]
Don’t get on Nicki Minaj’s case for showing up late to American Idol‘s Top 10 performance night. Let’s be honest: If you had known you were going to have to endure her fellow judges heaping praise (with a side dish of almost imperceptible criticism) on Curtis Finch Jr.’s dreary, off-key Fantasia cover, you’d have tuned in 10 minutes past the hour yourself.
Okay, okay…maybe we should throw a little shade at Nicki. I mean, how many millions of dollars is she paid for working three hours per week at The House That Kelly Clarkson Built? I’d show up three hours early for $200 and a bottle of Trader Joe’s sauvignon blanc.
Still, by the end of the two-hour telecast, The Lady Minaj’s tardiness became a mere footnote to the real headline story: Season 12 of Idol isn’t merely shaping up as a woman’s year to win, it’s looking more and more and more like we might get ourselves an all-female Top 4 — something that hasn’t happened on this show since Season 3.
Honestly, if this was a horse race, Candice Glover, Kree Harrison, Angie Miller and Amber Holcomb would already be coming around the bend, with the weakest of the male contestants still standing in the starting gate. Come on, fellas! The doors have already sprung open…and the ladies have hit the ground runnin’ (yep, that’s a Haley Reinhart reference) (click here if you don’t get it) (you can thank me later) (holla!).
The biggest disappointment of the night? The GHASTLY song choices that came from a new (but not necessarily improved) theme: “Music of the American Idols” encompassed the songs previous Idol winners covered during their respective seasons, and also the songs that these champs have released in their post-show careers. Somehow, though, this translated to syrupy coronation themes, stale Idol staples, and nothing remotely funky. (Well, at least you could line dance to Janelle.)
With that said, let’s get to tonight’s set list (with letter grades for every performance)!
Curtis Finch Jr.: Fantasia’s “I Believe” | You knew Curtis was toast the minute
he put on that wretched paisley jacket his intro package found him uttering, “it’s not my goal to top [Fantasia's] performance.” Um, if you’ll allow me to go all Cher in Clueless for a moment: “AS IF!” Interestingly enough, though, Curtis’ usual brand of outsized confidence/hubris seemed to abandon him once he took the stage. His runs in the opening verse were consistently off pitch and laced with nervous jitters; plus, his cadence never quite lined up with the rhythm of the song. That peculiar dolphin squeak on “very best” and the bum glory note on the final “belieeeeve” were the proverbial wilted lettuces on a sandwich that had been sitting in the deli case a few days too many. And despite Keith, Randy and Mariah failing to directly call out the vocal woes — Keith at least hinted that “adrenaline” might’ve had Curtis singing above the melody “a lot” — dude is so getting the prize for Most Likely to Make a Bottom 3 Appearance come Thursday night. Grade: C-
Janelle Arthur: Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone” | Janelle almost had me hooked before she’d even sung a note: I mean, not only was she the lone member of the Top 10 to choose an uptempo track, but she was also rocking a shirt with a rearing mustang silhouette and a sassy beaded skirt that might rank in the 10 Best Idol Outfits Ever. Alas, though, the pre-performance sit-down with Jimmy Iovine, where he asked what would differentiate Janelle from all the other pretty blonde country singers in the market today (inappropriate much, Iovine?), proved all too prescient. There wasn’t anything memorable about her vocal — aside from the fact that she was covering a song usually performed by a dude — and what’s more, Janelle seemed to struggle with breath support as she worked her way through the wordy ditty. When she finished up and told Ryan she felt like there was cotton in her mouth, it seemed to be her way of telling viewers, “I know this wasn’t great, but can I get one more chance?” Seeing how she drew the dreaded No. 2 spot in the lineup (aka the Death Slot) and that she was the fifth-best out of the night’s five females, her chances of cracking the Top 9 look a tad tenuous. Grade:
C+ upgraded to B- for not being a ballad