Nicki Minaj may have had a hard time getting to work at the appointed hour, but the top five female finalists on “American Idol” provided clear proof on Wednesday night that they know exactly what time it is: showtime!
As if further evidence was needed that girls, they run the “Idol” world, Candice Glover, Angie Miller and Amber Holcomb smashed it during the first live show featuring this year’s top 10. And the men? Well they were good, but if I were Lazaro Arbos and Paul Jolley I wouldn’t run up those room service bills.
With a theme focused on music of past “Idol” winners (sorry not you, David Cook, Taylor Hicks, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze), some soared, some scored and some just left me sooooo bored. Who made the grade and who is headed for summer (tour) school? Read on to find out!
Candice Glover: Looking and sounding regal, Glover left no doubt about her intentions with Ben E. King’s (via Jordin Sparks) “I (Who Have Nothing).” The march-like arrangement suited her voice and you could really feel the emotional connection. Effortless (and “crispy”) were the perfect words to describe it. Maybe the best performance so far this season. Grade A+
Amber Holcomb You have to have guts to tackle Kelly Clarkson’s coronation song “A Moment Like This.” Amber not only had the stomach, but her remake of the tune as a Whitney Houston-style ballad was basted with some serious soul. She got a standing ovation from the judges and well-deserved raves from Nicki Minaj. Grade: A
Angie Miller: If Angie was trying to break out of the pageant world, picking Clarkson’s cover of Celine Dion’s “I Surrender” wasn’t necessarily the path to righteousness. The arrangement was dull, but, as usual, Angie caught fire and poured passion on top of the mountain of instrumental cheese. And Nicki was right, that leather dress … man! So far, Angie’s looking like a lock for the finals. Grade: A
Kree Harrison: Harrison took Carrie Underwood’s version of Roy Orbison’s “Cryin'” and laid on some tear-in-your-beer country twang that was pitch perfect. It may have made Minaj crave waffles, but Harrison’s boxy 1980s sport coat and black pants took away any sultry sauce from what was an otherwise moving performance. Not everyone can pull off body-hugging leather, but you have to look like you came to play. Grade: A-
Curtis Finch, Jr. Tackling Fantasia’s “I Believe,” the singer we’re going to call Mantasia 2.0 stumbled out the gate with that eye-assaulting paisley jacket (you’re wrong, fashion icon Randy Jackson). While his vocals were shaky at first, Finch righted the ship by the mid-way point. He wasn’t as foot stompingly inspirational as Fantasia, but he probably did enough to stick around for another week. Grade: A-
Janelle Arthur: Tapping Scott McCreery’s breakout, Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone,” Arthur started out with an ace: she already looks the part of spunky country cutie. And her decision to go trad (with a touch of pop) might just do the trick. We gotta agree with the Big Dawg, though, the song kind of grinded in one gear. King Arthur? Not yet, but definitely a contender. Grade: B+
Burnell Taylor: Taylor might be the first person in history to voluntarily cover Ruben Studdard’s “Flying Without Wings.” Thankfully he ditched the nerdy glasses and baseball cap, but the snoozy arrangement didn’t do him any favors and he seemed to be straining at times to hit the high notes. Taylor’s got a winning smile and a generic Frank Ocean thing going on, but not enough charisma to make him stand out among an already monochromatic group of male finalists. Grade B-
Devin Velez: Mentor Jimmy Iovine was right to tell Devin to step out of the grandma zone and Velez’s choice of Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” was emotionally dead-on. His vocals were crystal clear, but stumbled in switching the twang in the original to a generic Bublé-like croon, missing his chance to have a breakout moment. Grade: C+
Paul Jolley: “Perpetually oversing” and “Broadway” are two things you never wanna hear from Jimmy. To his credit, Jolley clearly listened to Iovine’s advice and dialed it way back for his homage to Scotty McCreery’s take on Lone Star’s “Amaze.” Maybe too far back, though. His creepy whisper/smile singing was awkward and yes, less theatrical, but not that interesting. Grade: C
Lazaro Arbos: I half expected someone to roll out a lobster buffet and a 10–gallon jug of Purell during Arbos’ attempt at Clarkson’s “Breakaway” because it was just that cruise ship. From the blue jacket, two tone shoes, skinny tie and pompadour to the vanilla Disney channel backing, LA was a norovirus of blah. Grade: D
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