The contestants sang three songs apiece: one chosen by "Idol" producer Simon Fuller, one that will be their winning single and one chosen by the contestants themselves as their favorite song of the season.
Harrison was up first with her version of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," and Glover followed with Adele's "Chasing Pavements." Randy Jackson called the round for Glover — "at least she took the song and tried to make more of it," he said — but he wasn't blown away by either performance. Both songs were "a little sleepy, if I'm being honest," Jackson said.
In round two, Harrison debuted her would-be single, a country ballad called "All Cried Out." For a winning "Idol" song, it was a decided downer, with a chorus of, "I'm all cried out, I let it run like a river but I'm empty now." ("A Moment Like This," it wasn't.) Glover's song, "I Am Beautiful," was more melodic, more immediately catchy and more uplifting and was given a grander presentation, with images of fireworks bursting behind her as she sang the song's empowering chorus ("I am beautiful, I'm not alone," she sang). Keith Urban, who wound up giving the round to Harrison, said both songs were "tailor-made" for the contestants. Nicki Minaj — who said she felt Glover won the round — said Harrison's song made her "reach down in the gut" more than ever but thought Glover's song spoke more to her personal journey on the show.
Harrison saved her biggest fireworks for her final performance, a revival of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain." Backed by a full choir, she belted the song and brought the four judges to their feet. "That right there is a winning kind of performance," Jackson told her, while Urban called the song "absolutely beautiful."
Glover brought the house down to close the show with her version of "I (Who Have Nothing)," opening the song a cappella while enveloped in smoke before lighting up her full scorched-earth vocals. "That girl can plum-flat-out sing!" said Jackson, offering his final "Idol" critique. "This is how you do it. You just shot this whole night to a whole 'nother level, and that's what I've been waiting on. Because it's about singing, and baby, you've got it all!"
After praising Glover's "powerhouse" vocals, Urban told her, "That song is like a planet exploding to life."
Voting lines were set to be open for four hours following the show. On Thursday, "Idol" will crown its first female winner since Jordin Sparks in 2007; the question is whether the title is headed back to Texas with Harrison or to South Carolina with Glover.
Also on Wednesday's show, Carly Rae Jepsen debuted her song "Take a Picture," which was part of a season-long contest sponsored by Coca-Cola.
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