By “American Idol” finale standards, Wednesday was pretty sleepy. Neither Candice Glover nor Kree Harrison are megawatt personalities who are going to bowl you over with their charm; both are pretty cold to the touch.
When the two came out onstage to open the show, they both made generic statements about how overwhelming it was to be there on finale night, and they both sounded about as convincing as a teenager saying he was excited to go spend the weekend with his grandparents. This wasn’t Ruben vs. Clay, or Taylor vs. Katharine, or even Jordin vs. Blake. “American Idol” has had its share of problems this season, from spats at the judges’ table to ratings-challenged issues (getting beat by “Grey’s Anatomy” had to hurt), and the low-simmer Candice vs. Kree showdown isn’t the kind of duel that is going to overshadow the show’s troubles.
As has been stated time and again, their vocal abilities aren’t in doubt. But after Angie Miller was voted off last week, it seemed like she took the show’s chances at producing a relevant pop star with her. Can Candice or Kree prove us wrong? Let’s go to the tape and weigh in on each contestant’s performance Wednesday night.
It was immediately apparent that producers wanted Candice Glover to win. Why? For Harrison’s first song, chosen by “Idol” producer Simon Fuller, she was saddled with Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” which for years has been most closely associated with McLachlan’s campaign to end animal cruelty. Gee, nothing gets out the vote like conjuring up images of battered dogs! Harrison’s version, aided by a weeping slide guitar, was routine, nowhere near finale material.
Exhibit B in the producers’ plot against Harrison: Her potential winning single “All Cried Out” is about being, well, “All Cried Out.” The country weepie finds Harrison singing, “I’m all cried out, I let it run like a river, but it’s empty now,” which explains how one might feel after watching a few of those Sarah McLachlan PSAs. Not every winning “Idol” single has to be “A Moment Like This,” but look at Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” which had a huge chorus and an uplifting, universal message and went on to become a global smash. Although “All Cried Out” gave Harrison a chance to open up her voice, the song is a dud.
Harrison’s reprisal of “Up to the Mountain,” the only song of the night she had any input on, didn’t match her own performance of the song earlier in the season, which sort of underlines the problem with Kreedom all season long: She peaked early and stayed the course, and didn’t display the sort of week-to-week growth it takes to win it all. Overall Grade: B-Randy Jackson’s ’Idol’ Exit ’Bittersweet’ For Ryan Seacrest.
For her opening song, Glover was handed Adele’s “Chasing Pavements,” which allowed her to flex a little vocal muscle while singing a song that has nothing to do with sad dogs. Glover’s rendition had an ’80s R&B feel to it, like Anita Baker was taking her turn on the song, and she coolly, confidently nailed the song without going over the top. It was a classy performance.
Glover’s would-be single “I Am Beautiful” seems like a sort-of update of Christina Aguilera’s self-empowerment anthem “Beautiful,” but the power of the song is neutered by the words “he says,” which come right before “I Am Beautiful.” “He says I am beautiful” is a much different statement than “I am beautiful,” and for a figure as powerful as Glover to be transferring all the power of her self-image to a man’s words felt like a betrayal of her character. Can’t she just decide herself that she’s beautiful? That said, Glover’s performance — backed by images of fireworks exploding on the video screens around her — certainly felt like an “Idol” championship performance.
Her final song, “I (Who Have Nothing),” was a vocal home run, and Glover’s phrasing was confident and assured. She sang it like a coronation song, and who knows? It just might have been. Overall Grade: A-
Who will win? All signs point to it being Glover’s contest to lose.
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