“American Idol’s” Sorta-Elite 8 paid homage to the music of Motor City on Wednesday night, and, as has been the case pretty much all season long, the girls charged ahead like a ’67 Pontiac GTO, while the guys sputtered like a Ford Pinto … and that was before the head-on collision that was their “performance” of the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself,” which may have set a new standard for MPH (mistakes per hour, that is).
Yes, the guys’ continued struggle is barely even a story line at this juncture, and no matter what Burnell Taylor might think , 2013 is definitely not going to be “a boy’s year,” but despite all that, last night’s “Idol” was so uneven that, truly no one separated themselves from the field … or sucked enough tailpipe to warrant instant elimination. Call it a Motor City Miracle or something.
So, on the night when “Idol” went to Detroit — Seacrest made sure to roll his windows up — who put it in drive, and who couldn’t pop the clutch? Read on for our report card.
Amber Holcomb: It looked like she wore pajamas to meet Smokey, which made sense the second you saw her performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Lately,” which she not only owned, but practically took up residence in. Simple and straightforward, it let her voice shine, and unlike some of her competitors, she didn’t rely on sexy stage moves or vocal histrionics to prove her point. Holcomb displayed plenty of control, but still managed to let it blow at several points, and, in the process, earned “best of the night!” kudos from Randy. She was also so good that Mariah cursed. Or, at least that’s what I think happened. Grade: A
Kree Harrison: Did Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Play That Song,” and still owned it despite knowing the Queen herself would be tuning in for the performance. That’s called being a professional, folks. Was this, like, mind-blowing? Of course not, but on this night, it was good enough to shine. “You’re a Queen,” Nicki exalted. Let’s hold off on the coronation until she owns a song, or shows some personality, folks. Grade: B+
Janelle Arthur: In what might be a microcosm of this entire season, Arthur dared to step outside the box with her moody, acoustic-laden version of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” yet she still never really managed to make this one memorable. It was kind of somnambulant throughout, but she did hit some impressive notes at the climax. Mariah declared it “Janelle at her finest,” which is still like “Lauren Alaina at her sorta okay-est.” I’m giving her props for taking a risk though. And I liked her styling. Season 12, everybody! Grade: B+
Candice Glover: In case you’re just tuning in (did you lose a bet or something?) she can sing the bejeezus out of anything, and this week’s take on Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” only further served to illustrate that point. Glover’s seemingly at her best when she can settle into a tune, find her center, and then blow it out of the box, and she did all of those things tonight, but, for whatever reason — the arrangement? — this one just seemed a bit sleepy to me. Still, miles better than some of the other stuff we heard tonight, but definitely not her best. Grade: B
Burnell Taylor: Said he wanted to put his own “touch” on Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour,” and, well, this one did come off as touched. The sumptuous strings couldn’t hide the fact that his voice wasn’t quite there tonight, and his vocals seemed pinched and nasally. Still, he did wear his Oscar Meyer suit tonight, and his hair was really shiny. This wasn’t terrible, but he’s been better, and perhaps I should just give up hope of him making the leap at some point this season. Also, Randy, we get it; you’re from Louisiana. Grade: B
Devin Velez: He turned in a squeaky clean version of the Miracles’ “The Tracks of my Tears,” which is to say, he did a complete disservice to the song itself. Nifty falsettos do not equal genuine emotions, dude. Having said that, he sung it well, and seemed to feel at home with the retro arrangement. Also, Lazaro performed, so he probably won’t go home. Smokey Robinson’s critique? “Good job.” Really earning those seats, Smoke! Grade: C
Angie Miller: Burgeoning smoke show decided to disobey her parents, get dirty on the Miracles’ “Shop Around.” This performance may have led to some pitched tents, but boy was it pitchy. Miller was subjected to her first criticisms of the season, mostly for failing to remain true to herself (a valid point), but she seems determined to keep “having fun,” much to the consternation of Nicki Minaj. And the inevitable “Did she peak too early” storyline begins. Grade: C-
Lazaro Arbos: Is there anything he can’t do? Just kidding, he can only do one thing: beauty-pageant ballads. Credit where credit’s due, he changed it up this week, as his version Wonder’s “For Once In My Life,” sounded like it was being performed on a cruise ship. He needed to prove that he actually belongs in the competition, and, well, he didn’t. Tip your waitresses, everybody. Grade: D
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest “Idol” news, interviews and opinions.