Recap: 'American Idol' - Top 4: One Hit Wonders and Personal Choice Night
We're down to four on "American Idol" - Amber Holcomb, Angie Miller, Candice Glover and Kree Harrison.
I don't have a clue what that means in terms of the upcoming elimination schedule. It confuses me. It's the sort of thing that would keep me up nights, were insomnia not already doing the job.
Wednesday (April 24) night's show will apparently feature a pair of themes -- One Hit Wonders and Personal Choice -- as well as a pair of duets.
Click through and follow along as the magic happens.
8:01 p.m. ET. "American Idol" is a dream. But it's also reality. And was that a tease for an Angie/Candice duet? I'm there! Well, of course I'm there. Because I'm here. I'm always here.
8:03 p.m. Somebody has taken Angie's curls away and, apparently, given them to Amber. This seems newsworthy.
8:04 p.m. Once again, I got the themes backwards.
8:04 p.m. But no performances in the first segment. The members of the Top 4 went to a childrens' hospital. Or possibly Children's Hospital. The kids were inspired. The Finalists were inspired.
8:06 p.m. Ooops. I was wrong. First performance...
Singer: AMBER HOLCOMB
Song: "Power of Love"
My Take: This is the most stripped-down arrangement we've seen all season long. For the first 30 seconds, it's a cappella and then only a small musical swell joins in. Even when there's full accompaniment, it's relatively clean and modest, as is the stagecraft behind her. And it pays off, because Amber has the voice to pull this off. I think that the arrangement is a tiny bit sleepy and renders what's already a slow-build song even slower, but Amber makes it pleasant to listen to, despite the potential snooze-factor. I'm always in factor of people with good voices doing as much a cappella as possible, at least once or twice. That would be a good theme, frankly. Didn't they do a half-hearted version of that last year? Unplugged or something? Or was that "X Factor"? Gracious. It's all a blur.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "That was an amazingly perfect song choice for you," Keith says, praising her "poise and confidence." Nicki calls Amber "a big, sexy glass of milk right now," holding a moment of silence for how good she looks. "You are so current, outside of your amazing voice. You're so ready," Nicki says. Randy asks to see Amber's butt and calls her a black-and-white cookie. Never again, Randy. Never again. Randy says that Amber has had the most growth for the whole contest. Mariah loves that Amber did a Celine Dion song. "You took a classic song and you gave it flavor," Mariah says, granting her a "hashtag pow."
8:16 p.m. Go away, Jimmy. You're a Thursday thing. Jimmy heard some strain in Amber's voice. But he thinks the performance will be hard to top.
Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
Song: "Find Your Love"
My Take: Candice is surrounded by fog for her Drake cover and she seems to have an urban skylight behind her. Musically, though, it's mostly Candice and a piano. I'm liking this as a trend tonight. Rhythmically, it's a slightly problematic arrangement and Candice isn't exactly sure on the initial cadences. Pacing stumbles aside, it's a great, range-y R&B performance from Candice. It's almost funny how she's all, "Yo. Amber. You do it simple, but I'll do it hard and make it LOOK simple." Because of the arrangement, this doesn't seem like a performance of a song, so much as like a Candice showcase. The song gets kinda lost.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Nicki name-drops Drake. Nicki's decided she can't comment on Candice's voice anymore, so she's going to comment on where the artists fit into the landscape. Nicki worries that Candice made the song a little more old-fashioned than she needed to. "I don't want you to get lost in that 'old-fashioned' bracket," Nicki says. Randy thinks Candice oversang, though he's too wimpy to accuse her of oversinging. He says euphemistic things about Candice not always needing to sing like she's in church. Sigh. Mariah, however, felt like Candice took her to a place she needed to go, but she agrees that Candice made the song a little too "adult contemporary." Keith likes hearing Candice every week.
8:31 p.m. Jimmy thinks Candice's performance was the worst of the night.
Singer: KREE HARRISON
Song: "It Hurt So Bad"
My Take: I don't know this Susan Tedeschi song, but this is the sort of blues-infused song that Kree has always been best at, even if the judges have tried to squish her into an understandable country-shaped box. Kree has some fine guitar playing surrounding her and she plays off of that musicality with some of her rawer, more powerful vocals. I don't know why Kree teased that poor kid by promising to dance. She barely shook her hips. But she definitely looked like she was having more fun than either Amber or Candice. But... ummm... Should she look like she's having fun on a song that's about something that hurt so bad? Or is about a smile-y kind of hurt? Because Kree is giving more dimples than tears.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Randy knows that Kree isn't just country, calling it "tremendous" vocally, even if it wasn't the best vocal he's heard from her. He wanted something more and better. Mariah enjoyed certain parts, but it doesn't sound like she enjoyed all of it. Mariah praises the moments Kree lost herself. Keith says they can all sing, so it's coming down to song choice, performance and emotion. He wanted a little more rawness and emotion from her actual performance beyond the vocal. I can buy that. "That performance is not going to give you what you need for next week," Nicki tells Kree, adding "That is not a Top 4-worthy performance." That seems a wee bit harsh. I mean... Tough love works.
8:44 p.m. Jimmy didn't like the song.
Singer: ANGIE MILLER
Song: "Who You Are"
My Take: Angie has definitely got the piano memo. Going 50/50 for the rest of the way is just smart business for her. Because when she does this, it makes me forget entirely about whatever she's going to do next, which I assume will be fine, but not anywhere near as emotionally connected as this is. I simultaneously love and am amused by Angie's total perpetual camera awareness she knows exactly when her eyes should be closed and sincere and when she should be flirting with the camera. Frankly, her concentration is absurdly good. She's playing an instrument, she's singing well and she's manipulating the medium with complete confidence. Great performance. When Angie does that, nobody's better. When she stands and doesn't play the piano, she's No. 3. So... Piano uber alles.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "The caliber of that performance was beyond," Mariah says. Mariah suggests that Angie should have sung an original in this slot. Interesting call, Mariah. I agree. Keith says that Angie gets cooler and looser as she goes along in performances like this and tells her it's OK to let go. "There's no one that compares to you that's in this competition when you are behind the piano," Nicki says accurately. You know what's crazy to Randy? That made Randy forget it was a Jesse J song. Randy adds that Angie is in it to win it and calls it the best performance of the night. Awww... Angie's grandmother comes on stage and hugs her and cries.
8:58 p.m. Jimmy thinks Angie and Amber are neck-and-neck.
Singer: AMBER & KREE
Song: "Rumor Has It"
My Take: It's amazing that it has taken Kree so long to see Adele this season. Plus... tribal drummers. I fear that tonight is solidifying Kree's position as the season's No. 4 contestant. Actually, I'm not sure why that should be "fear." Somebody has to be fourth. But this song should be Kree's to dominate and Amber holds her own completely. Or at least she does until a closing when I feel like there was supposed to be some dueting happening and Amber vanished entirely. Strange.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Keith gives it up for the drummers. "Somehow you've found this commanding stance. I don't know where it's come from," Keith tells Amber. Keith, however, is desperately waiting for somebody to cut loose. Nicki compliments Keith on his ability to close with sweetness after a complaint. But Nicki wants Kree to get connected. She wanted more of a conversation between the two. This all seems to be directed at Kree again. Poor Kree. Nicki's beating her up tonight.
Singer: ANGIE & CANDICE
My Take: Oh. Rihanna's "Stay." Not Lisa Loeb's "Stay." Boo. In the wings, Angie and Candice may have heard Nicki's complaint about the lack of interaction between the previous divas. Angie and Candice are looking at each other and at one point, Candice even touches Angie. Crazy, right? Of course, this is fundamentally unfair, because head-to-head in a circumstance like this, nobody beats Candice. Now maybe if Angie had been able to roll a piano onto the stage? Instead, a bit too often, Angie is left making her "fierce" faces while Candice actually sounds fierce. That doesn't mean Angie doesn't sound good. She does. This is a much better and much truer duet than our first duet and at the end, they're actually feeding off of each other in a totally organic way. The judges stand in appreciation.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "That's how you did it right there," Randy screams. Mariah appreciated that they were able to do it in the smoke.
9:16 p.m. In case you didn't see the headline of this article, the second half of this episode is One Hit Wonders.
Singer: AMBER HOLCOMB
Song: "MacArthur Park"
My Take: Remember the utter surrealism of Carrie Underwood trying to wrap her head around this one? Yeah. This is like that. I mean... Somebody left that cake out in the rain and Amber will never have the recipe again. Huh? She doesn't have a clue what to make of that lyric, so she half mourns her cake and half smiles at the memory of the dripping icing. I guess that's all you can really do. I mean... This is a fundamentally silly song. And Amber's treating it like some sad, serious thing. The parts that are too low here are a smidge too low for Amber. And the notes that require her to have endless lung power may have been carried out a bit too long. Yeah, of all the one-hit wonders ever, I don't get this song choice, but I guess she did the best she could.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "It's like summer has set in for you and it's here to stay," Keith says, making a Richard Harris joke that only Randy gets. "You're just like this blooming flower," Nicki says, praising Amber's lipstick, but questioning the need for her necklace and shoes. Nicki adds that of the girls in the competition, Amber's the one she wants to be friends with. "If y'all don't know who Amber is, y'all should know tonight," Randy says, adding that Amber is apparently in it to win it. Mariah is seeing an inner glow. She also likes Amber's low notes. "Am I wrong?" Mariah asks. Well... I'd say so. I didn't love the low notes.
9:27 p.m. Jimmy didn't like the song and he didn't buy it. He's much closer to correct than the judges were.
Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
My Take: So far, I'm not sure that I'm loving the way that our finalists are interpreting this bit of the theme. I feel like Candice is giving Randy what he wanted and she's just singing this song in the most straight-forward way she can. The result is flawlessly sung and basically lifeless. I can't tell if Candice is trying to make things close with KRee? Shrug. That wasn't interesting for me.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "That's a classic song, but I still was grooving to it," Nicki says, before backtracking to defend the judges against Jimmy's criticisms. "Yes, Candice. Yes," Randy says. Mariah Carey makes sure we all know that Candice has a cold. That would explain the NyQuil performance. Keith accurately wonders if there are any one-hit wonders from the past decade. Keith wanted better song choices.
9:35 p.m. Jimmy comes out. He accuses the judges of doing drugs. Nicki comes up and chokes him. Mmm... Trumped up drama.
Singer: KREE HARRISON
Song: "Whiter Shade of Pale"
My Take: I think Procol Harum is being sold a little short here. And I'm pretty sure Kree could have chosen a better song. If her problem is sometimes not connecting to songs, why would she be singing a song with lyrics that even the members of Procol Harum don't understand. I mean, wasn't it a running joke in "The Commitments" that this song makes very little sense? Frankly, this is 0-3 on One Hit Wonders for me. Bad theme choice, America. You made the second half of this episode mediocre.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "You know what will never be your problem? Singing," Randy tells Kree, inexplicably calling the performance "brilliant." "Kree, I have no words. Feel good about what you just did honey, because you did it," Mariah says. Keith just isn't feeling it tonight. Keith wants Kree to think more about her songs next week, sketching out a middle ground that doesn't work for her. Nicki loved that performance, but she doesn't think it will keep Kree out of the Bottom Two. Nicki worries that something on the inside of Kree is dimming.
Singer: ANGIE MILLER
Song: "Cry Me a River"
My Take: I'm not sure I know Julie London's original to this song. I know 10 or 15 different top-notch covers. So I can't say if this is really the Julie London arrangement. This is the first good song choice of the second round. Angie has definitely moved herself towards the front of the pack tonight. She's connected in a way that none of the past three singers were and it may be her most connected non-piano performance in a while. I really just don't understand how she was the only one able to make a smart pick in this category. In general, she made the two smartest song selections tonight and that's sure to benefit her.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "How is that even a one-hit wonder?" Mariah ponders, before accusing Angie of holding out on them vocally. "Mystical and celestially powerful," Keith says. "You came out tonight to snatch some wigs off some heads," Nicki says. That may be my favorite Nicki comment ever. "The best of the night. Angie wins the night hands down," Randy says.
8:58 p.m. Yeah. Angie's night. I guess Amber gets second place entirely on the basis of the first 30 seconds of her first performance?