Rarely have I entered an Idol week with the kind of low expectations I did this week. The highlights were… few and far between. Too many bad song choices. Too many ballads, again. This is the sort of week that makes Idol pundits wonder: why do I engage in this annual bout of masochism?
Before I get down to critiquing the performances, let’s get into song choices: they were near universally awful. Three people chose coronation singles. Why? Did they lose a bet? Idol coronation songs only work because of when they were performed – in the charged atmosphere of a finale. Out of it, they are pure diabetes-inducing dreck. Singing the phone book is a better idea. I thought picking a previous contestant’s Idol highlight or one of their post-Idol hits was bad enough, but I was not prepared for this level of stupidity.
There was exactly one performance that I really liked: Candice Glover’s I (Who Have Nothing). Given how three different singers have all had fantastic success with this song, I almost feel like it ought to be taken out of the Idol rotation – we’re overdue for an epically bad version of it. I’m pretty sure that this particular song will be one of the best performances of the entire season – she sang for power without screaming, and really made the song her own. It’s a worthy companion to Jordin’s innocence-wronged version and Haley Reinhart’s wrath-of-seven-hells version. Well done.
Two other performances I’d consider okay. Angie Miller’s choice of I Surrender slightly mystified me. She’s not a power ballad singer the way somebody like Candice is. So why Celine, the queen of power ballads? That’s not to say she did it poorly – she’s a good enough singer that she did okay. It was perhaps the most… controlled version of Celine Dion I’ve ever seen. Angie is good enough that she made it okay, but it didn’t feel special. (If Angie was pre-disposed to do a Carrie ballad, her songbook actually had some compelling choices. Let’s say Temporary Home was still taken by Devin. Something like Don’t Forget To Remember Me, Just a Dream, or even I’ll Stand By You would have been interesting.)
Kree Harrison’s choosing Crying was one of the better ideas of the night. It was a very well restrained, but emotional performance. My main knock on it: this was the very definition of a safe performance. It was a competent, emotional peformance – with not an iota of real risk of excitement. Overall, like Angie, I’d call it okay, but not special. (Like Angie, I thought raiding from the post-Idol Carrie songbook would have been interesting. How would a Kree-fied I Told You So fared?)
The most overpraised performance of the night, by far, was Amber Holcomb. It was a bad song choice, and the logic didn’t help – you’re comparing being in the top 10 to Kelly winning? Really? The performance itself didn’t help – there was no emotion, no connection. Everything that was in that one moment so many years ago… was missing here. The good part is: Amber’s got great natural talent. That kept it actually tolerable – but only just.
The other performances… they ranged from the dull to the disastrous. Let’s just go down the hall of shame in performance order.
Curtis Finch, Jr. made one of the worst song choices of the night. I Believe really only works because Fantasia… gets emotional. But Curtis… isn’t. The vocals were just off, he utterly failed to connect to the song… it was a giant mess. All he has is vocal gimmickry. His song choice only highlighted how outmatched he was.
I give Janelle Arthur for picking an upbeat song. Yet somehow even her version seemed slowed down, as if somebody had put tranquilizers in her preshow Coke cup. This was one of the more entertaining songs of Season 10, where this one just went nowhere. I’m not sold on the song choice either; it would have been interesting to see her pick something like, oh, Sin Wagon.
I sort of like the idea behind Devin’s song. – pick a relatively unknown song from an Idol winner’s album (Temporary Home was a single, but not one of Carrie Underwood’s iconic songs). However, the execution was missing. Technically, it was okay – maybe even good. But it was just dull as dishwater. Temporary Home is one of Carrie’s most emotionally packed songs – if you can’t connect with it, you are exposed. And Devin was. The song was, simply put, too big for him.
Paul Jolley wins the crown of Most Ironic Song Choice. One thing I was not was amazed. It was a different kind of tedium than, say, Devin. That one at least got a reaction. This one… didn’t. It went absolutely nowhere. The reaction here was: that’s it? Really? It was a completely unremarkable performance. And I don’t mean that in a good way.
Another performance that went nowhere: Lazaro Arbos. The vocals were… acceptable. It’s not bad singing, but it’s not great singing either. As Mariah noted, perhaps people are falling in love with his “courage” (read: backstory). He might get further than he deserves to, but to be honest: he’s not the worst in this field either.
The smoke for Burnell Taylor’s performance was appropriate – because somebody was smoking something when this was chosen. Everything I said about crappy winner’s songs? It’s here in overwhelming numbers. That said, the actual vocal was not nearly as bad as, say, Curtis’s. But all that effort went towards singing such a horrific song that it was a painful performance to watch and listen to anyway.
Overall, it was another dismal night. Too many ballads, too many mediocre singers, too much glurge. If this is going to be the way things are all season… it’s going to be a very taxing season.
Too many candidates: One thing for sure: there’s no shortage of people who ought to be in the bottom three. You can make a compelling case for Janelle, and… all of the guys, really.
That makes picking the bottom three – and the final boot – rather hard based on performance alone. So you have to look at the non-singing factors.
That rules out Lazaro – his backstory will keep him in for now. Janelle will be in the bottom three, because despite Idol‘s attempt to load the voting dice there’s still a strong bias towards voting off weak girls at this stage. Singing order will come into play, too – very bad for Curtis Finch. That said, my picks are:
Bottom three: Janelle, Curtis, Paul
Going home: Curtis