'American Idol' Recap: Rock Night Brings Pinched Nerves, Broken Toes, and 'Crack Juice'
After weeks of R&B balladry, American Idol’s top 7 wanted to show the nation they were ready to bring the rock.
But wasn’t this week's theme billed as a “ballad free week?” How is “What About Love” by Heart not a ballad? How did Amber Holcomb get away with this? Also, why tease us with Rush’s “Limelight” in the opening and not? I would have loved to hear someone try something from the Canadian-trio on Wednesday night. (Even Glee did “Juke Box Hero” this season).
In addition to the evening’s solo performances of songs by Bon Jovi, Queen, and Janis Joplin, the Idols once again were paired in group numbers. Burnell Taylor and Candace Glover handled “The Letter” by The Box Tops, and Mariah Carey inexplicably suggested they do “The Closer I Get to You” as a duet on Rock night. Why not have them do Peaches and Herb while we’re at it?
The lyric-challenged Lazaro Arbos performed not one, but two Queen songs. There was a duet of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” with Angie Miller and also “We Are The Champions,” famously done by Adam Lambert and Kris Allen with Queen during the season 8 finale. It’s safe to say after last night we won’t see Arbos fronting the band in Russia anytime soon (although he fared a bit better on “We Are the Champions,” which fit in his dramatic wheelhouse).
As for the girls’ group number of Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” Nicki Minaj once again pulled out a gem of a nickname for the trio of Kree Harrison, Holcomb, and Janelle Arthur, dubbing them Jem and the Holograms. But said that the song “put her to sleep” and was way too cheesy. She was sort of right on that one. The whole performance felt like it belonged on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour from the ‘70s.
Many times throughout the night, the judges seemed like they were moderating a different show: Fashion Idol. There were shout outs to shoes, vests, and boots. There were also comparisons to the jewelry worn by season 11 alum Hollie Cavanagh, who was in the audience with Joshua Ledet. Cavanagh, who just moved to Los Angeles, was graciously introduced to Carey by Seacrest at the judge’s table, where the two examined each others rings. Very cute.
So who gave the most authentic rock performance? With Orianthi offering her guitar skills on each song, who unleashed their inner James Durbin, Constantine Maroulis, Crystal Bowersox or Bo Bice on Wednesday night? Read on.
Burnell Taylor (“You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi): According to Taylor's Idol castmates, his laugh is ruining his vocal cords. That’s not it. Taylor’s voice is fine, but, like Arbos, he seems to have trouble with songs which are out of his comfort zone. Or more specifically, with music he's unfamiliar with. Keith Urban was right. The poor thing looked uncomfortable and stiff on stage. “I’m going to assume rock and roll is not your thing,” he said. Minaj still finds Taylor loveable, like a Teddy Ruxpin Bear (she is such a child of the ‘80s). "I still wanted to hug you.” Jackson pointed out an obvious flaw in the performance, saying “everything was so behind the beat. ...The timing was off." (The dawg was right on this one. Blake Lewis demonstrated exactly how to stay on the beat when he tackled this same song in season 6). Carey said the song “took me back to memory lane. ...I was proud of you."
Kree Harrison (“Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin): Harrison is the “mom of the group” and gives the most hugs. She needed a hug herself on Wednesday, performing with a pinched nerve. Although her take on the song was lovely, I sort of missed the Joplin-ish wailing that Melissa Etheridge does so well when she covers it. Jackson loved all her “bluesy inflections,” and gave us his two favorite cliches: "the show finally started tonight” and “this girl is in it to win it." Urban was sweet, asking “how easy is it to perform in those shoes? Because it seemed you were struggling to move around." Minaj paid homage to “Kree-dom, calling it "magnificent. "If I were tuning in and on my Idol app you would get all 50 of my votes," she said. Carey said “You have an innate ability to choose your songs."
Janelle Arthur (“You May Be Right” by Billy Joel): The Tennessee native just keeps getting better every week, doesn’t she? Country and rock are similar styles, and Arthur melded them beautifully on this song with a strong performance and stage presence. Urban loved her boots and how she worked the stage, calling her a “contender." Minaj wanted to borrow the boots, and rightly said Arthur has a “best friend” quality girls will love. Jackson bellowed “authenticity at its best,” praised the vest and called her a "great contender” while Carey gave the best technical critique (I have been waiting for this from her): “I really loved this key. It fit your vibrato. ...You took it up an octave.: Yes, Mariah. More of that, please.