It’s hard to know who’s more tired at this point of the season: the contestants, the people watching at home, or the entire franchise. For the contestants, that was pretty clear from how they performed: while there were some good performances, there was an undercurrent of fatigue. It was like they could only do so much with a particular song and couldn’t go no more.
Okay, per round scores. For Jimmy’s choice, there was a clear winner: Angie. There was a decent amount of nonsense from the judges, but I sort of get where they were coming from, but I don’t blame her vocals. Here’s a thought: what if she’d done it a capella? I thought might have worked really, really, well. Overall, it was pretty good, but it wouldn’t have taken an awful lot to make it truly special.
Next best would be Candice. She got an interesting pick, and… she didn’t fully deliver. Frankly, her performance seemed off in a way I didn’t understand until later, when I found out she’d never heard the song before. Candice tried very, very, hard. It’s to her credit that this turned out semi-decent. But honestly, it wasn’t all that good.
Last… Kree. When she mails in a song, it is really, really, obvious. It was verged between the mailed-in or the awkward – the “walking up to the audience and weakly touching hands” part was particularly cringeworthy. Either way, not only was she the worst for this round, it was her worst song of the night.
Overall, I was not really that impressed with the song choices. Jimmy Iovine likes his song choices to be tough. Fine. But can at least he pick songs that fit the contestants well? It was like giving a nice, retired church lady in Florida a rapper’s blinged out Escalade as her new car. They were not Happy Feet terrible, but Kree got a poor fit and Candice got one that might have worked on a single-song night, with more time to tweak it, but not on the rushed night that is top three week.
Next round, the judge’s picks. Winner of that round: Kree. Easily. This was the difference between a Kree who knows and feels what she’s singing versus somebody who’s mailing it in. I’m not sure that was her best or cleanest vocal. Maybe it was partially due to a rather blatant and obvious attempt to sit emotions, but you know what – we got a connected Kree who genuinely felt what she was singing. I don’t know if it was her best, but it was pretty good. Well done.
Second was Angie. She can do a good job of impersonating a rocker. We know that. This… was not her best effort there either. It did fit her well, and she was comfortable out there commanding the stage. But… it seemed like she was a little bit tired, and the arrangement overall was a bit too much. It was almost like Angie was “featuring” on somebody else’s track instead of singing her own song. Oh, and she does look like Miley Cyrus, but then again Miley isn’t looking like the Miley most people know lately!
Last, sadly, was Candice. It was a very respectable, entertaining effort. She can legitimately take on anything and do a good job. I don’t know if I was blown away by it, but it wasn’t a bad effort. Unfortunately, it was also rahter forgettable and far from her best work.
I thought this round has the best song choices, with material that at least tried to work with the contestants and not against them. But, and this is a huge but… doesn’t everyone think that all three songs could have been great under better circumstances? Angie and Kree both needed some vocal rest, and it showed. Candice would have figured out how to put her own stamp on this somehow. They did their best under the circumstances, but I honestly can’t help but wonder what might have been.
And the producer’s picks… oy. There was a theme to these picks: it was Confirm The Stereotype. The producers basically picked the laziest, not-always-based-in-fact stereotype each contestant had, and gave them a song that exacerbated that. Except for Candice, they didn’t really work.
Best of the round, by an enormous margin: Candice. It was a vocal masterpiece. The song suited her perfectly. She sang it lights out, and it was right in her zone. The result was simple, unmitigated, brilliance. Maybe it’s not particularly current or relevant. I don’t really care. This was the sort of performance that made you realize the kind of passion, the kind of talent, the kind of commitment that Candice has. Well done.
If only the rest of the round was nearly as good. Angie had a very poor start, and it never really 100% connected either. Completely forgettable. The vocal was, to be honest, a little shouty in bits too. Easily the worst of her night.
And Kree was just as bad, if not worse. They (or, rather, Nigel) chose poorly. Idol traditionally likes its female country singers to be more uptempo (think Skylar Laine) or crossing over to pop/diva status (think Carrie Underwood). Fine. But that’s not Kree. Frankly, the kind of country/blues mix that Kree is is very unusual at this level of Idol competition. Somebody probably thought “hey, it’s a country song! And it’s a current one! It’ll work!” No, it didn’t, because somebody did not understand what kind of singer Kree was. A conspiracy theorist would say this was malicious, but I will call upon Hanlon’s razor and cite stupidity as the more likely reason. The kindest thing I can say is: at least she tried.
Overall, it was one of the better nights of the season. Everybody had at least one song which was great, the clunkers were more because of poor fit than any truly bad singing. It just felt like the contestants were all running on fumes. It’s always like that as the Idol season ends, but it’s much more obvious this year than others. Maybe it’s because of this persistent rumor that the winner’s album will be out six weeks after the finale, so the contestants are having to devote an enormous chunk of time to that. What I can see is that everybody’s vocals seem so much more tired – and obviously so – than any other season I can remember.
Whose cause was helped by this night? Nobody. In boxing terms, I thought this was a no decision. Candice had a good night, Kree had a slightly off night, but not to the degree that I think makes a huge difference.
You can make a good case for any top two scenario, really. Angie’s fanbase is powerful (she’s never been in a bottom group). Candice is the best singer remaining. Kree can go up head-to-head against both of them and it’ll be a fair fight. There’s not a lot to separate them.
That said, if there was somebody who was sort of lagging coming into this week, it was Kree. She needed a true knockout blow – the type of song that can be argued to belong in the pantheon of all-time Idol greats. Marvelous as Here Comes Goodbye was, that wasn’t it. The fact that her two other songs were not that great won’t help her cause either. Just one turkey can send you home even if you otherwise above-average the rest of the night. (See: You Oughta Know.) And Kree had two.
Kree’s more basic problem is that she’s been consistent. She’s had that smooth, collected, poised vocal since the start of the season. That’s great. But she never really improved much – if at all – beyond that. We never got taken to the next level. Kree is very, very, very good. But up against the voting juggernaut that is Angie and the vocal powerhouse that is Candice…. even that isn’t good enough.
The pick: Kree Harrison to go home.