Because if you watched Wednesday night's top four performance episode you'd be forgiven for thinking the producers were trying to fire themselves. The show was a microcosm of everything that has gone wrong this year for the once-unstoppable ratings juggernaut. From the corny, retro song choices for the crowd-sourced One-Hit Wonder category, to Nicki Minaj snacking and cursing on camera and Mariah Carey texting (and not standing up to offer an ovations because, ahem, her dress was caught under her chair ... for two hours), it truly seemed like nobody was left on the bridge of the S.S. "Idol."
It almost distracted you from this season's really big issue: the remaining ladies have a serious swag deficiency, and that is a huge problem.
With just three weeks left before the May 15 finale, we break down who served up the brie and who had nothing but pasteurized processed cheese food. This is your "American Idol" Report Card!
Candice Glover Finally! Someone on the show gets the importance of interpreting a song instead of just doing karaoke. CG's cover of Drake's "Find Your Love," like her smash version of the Cure's "Lovesong," showed flashes of artistry and musical smarts. The bossa nova lounge take on Drizzy's hit was dead-on and if Glover can figure out how to young up her appeal, it's game ovah. She stumbled on the '70s Samantha Sang/Bee Gees hit "Emotion," which was her weakest, cheese puffiest effort yet. Even her smooth delivery couldn't overcome the lame backing vocals and bongos. Grades: A, B-
Angie Miller: Lil Ange still seems like the only halfway contemporary singer in the bunch. She was smartly back behind the piano for a moody run through Jessie J's "Who You Are," tweaking the melody more than necessary, but likely locking eyes with every teen girl out there and connected in a major way. Maybe we were watching a bootleg, alternate broadcast, but despite the judge's raves, her show-closing rendition of Julie London's 1955 hit "Cry Me a River" aced the piano, and with it Angie's groove. The leather dress was #pow, but Angie sounded like a little girl singing karaoke in her aunt's Wisconsin rec room for the family at Thanksgiving. Best of the night? Put down the magic mushrooms, dawg. Grades: A, C
Amber Holcomb: Amber, Amber, Amber. We want to buy into the judge's claims that you're the next Rihanna, but we can't find any evidence that you have a gear other than low. (And there's no way you'd ever post a pic like this.) Amber's cover of Celine Dion's "The Power of Love" made her sound like the best cruise ship crooner in all of Carnival-Dom. Her voice was strong, but it was bland and old-fashioned and, sorry Nicki and Mariah, #zzzz. On a night when nobody picked a One Hit Wonder song that was within spitting distance of the past three decades, A-Hol's Donna-Summer-by-way-of-Richard-Harris' "MacArthur Park" was disco lite fluff that belonged on the Lido deck. When did this become the Eurovision contest? Jimmy Iovine was right, it was mad corny. Grades: B-, B
Kree Harrison: Nicki has been pretty good at predicting exits this season and after Wednesday's show, Kreedom might be going for a long walk off a short pier. Her take on Susan Tedeschi's "It Hurts So Bad" was yet another example of a female finalist with a powerhouse voice but a completely retro, baby boomer appeal. Then again, it should land her the opening slot on every Bonnie Raitt tour from now until forever. Kree's cover of the 1967 Procol Harum hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was in the pocket and had some appealing, sultry Sheryl-Crow-meets-Norah-Jones spunk, but made Harrison seem as relevant on today's charts as, well, Procol Harum. Grades: B, B
Duets: Miller and Glover owned Rihanna's "Stay." They may not have always been in perfect harmony and stood a bit stiffly on stage, but both brought some serious stank face and palpable chemistry as they cemented their spots in the finale. Grade: A-
In contrast, Amber and Kree (and a stage-ful of Taiko drums) did an acceptable job on Adele's "Rumor Has It." If nothing else, it allowed Harrison to loosen up a bit and just barely outshine Holcomb on a song she should have owned. Kree's smoky voice was perfect for the tune and their voices meshed nicely, with Amber finally flashing a spark of now-ness. But, once again, Minaj was right, it's time they added some personality and attitude to their performances. Grade: B+
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