It was The Top 4: Part Deux on "American Idol"Wednesday (May 1), but the real fireworks were at the judges' table, not with the contestants.
Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, who despite sitting a few feet apart all season long only recently started acknowledging each other's existence, got in a pair of minor verbal skirmishes, one of which ended with Minaj trying to hand Carey a cotton swab "so you can clean them ears out!" And guest mentor Harry Connick Jr. got into it with Randy Jackson, telling the Dawg "Randy, Randy, stop!" — something viewers have wanted to tell Jackson for 12 seasons — after Jackson was caught giving bizarre mixed messages to Kree Harrison.
As for the contestants, the judges did their best to make this week interesting in terms of votes. Since no one went home on last week's show, votes from last week carry over to this week, with the two getting added together to determine who will be going home (for good) and who will be going home (for their "Idol" hometown visit) after Thursday's show. Amber Holcomb and Candice Glover were in the bottom two last week, and on Wednesday they wound up with the best reviews from the judges, while Angie Miller and Kree Harrison were given a tougher time from the panel.
Contestants performed two songs apiece: A current song and a standard. The night's biggest song came from Holcomb doing "My Funny Valentine," and although when she started the week she was clueless as to the meaning of the song — it's about "a guy, who I guess they're being like really funny and weird," Holcomb explained to a befuddled Connick — she knocked it out, "like a beautiful budding red rose," Minaj remarked. Holcomb was in tears at the end of the song, seemingly from the pressure of the show, and she was sharply critiqued after her first song, Pink and Nate Reuss' "Just Give Me a Reason." But she triumphed, even though Connick was critical of her vocal runs at "Valentine's" close.
Glover received strong marks for both her performances: Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" and Billie Holiday's "You've Changed." The latter brought the judges — yes, all four of them — to their feet, and led Mariah to say, "There is no critiquing. The only critique is I'm going to download that ASAP." Minaj chose not to say anything. "I'm not going to add anything else," she said, and gestured for host Ryan Seacrest. "Ryan, come on out."
Miller opened the show with a slowed-down, moody version of Rihanna's "Diamonds" that fell flat with the judges and was dubbed "bland" and "lackluster" by Minaj. (In her critique of the former #1 song, Carey slyly managed to shade Minaj, who has never reached that position on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.) Miller's second song, "Someone to Watch Over Me," went over better, with Jackson calling her vocals "amazing" and Minaj comparing her to a Disney princess. When Carey and Minaj disagreed about the direction of the song, Minaj offered Carey a Q-Tip and as the dust was still settling, Seacrest jumped in with a peace offering. "Are we still on for dinner tonight? All of us?"
Harrison, whose weak song choices hurt her with the judges last week but not the fans, weighed in with two more iffy songs: Carrie Underwood's "See You Again" and the standard "Stormy Weather." Urban was unsure on her connection to the first song and several judges criticized her direction — heavily influenced by Connick — on the second. That led to Connick taking Urban's seat on the panel and slamming Jackson for telling Harrison to both be herself but also to emulate Etta James. The spirited discussion was the most alive the judge's panel has been all season.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page where you'll find all the latest "Idol" news, interviews and opinions.