In American Idol’s Sudden Death, one chance, no mercy round Wednesday night, 18-year-old Amber Holcomb of Houston, Texas, resurrected an entertainment evening that desperately needed a spark of life. Coming at the very end, her performance literally took the show out on a high note.
After coming all this way, knowing this was their do-or-die ticket to America’s vote, a few of the girls tried to blast life into their solos by doing CPR with a bellows. Some chose wrong songs coupled with forgettable performances. Amber just came on stage and sang “My Funny Valentine” so sweetly, clearly and cleanly it took my breath away and into the heart of her song, voice, and emotions. And in spite of other good performances, I felt the first thrill of the evening. She brought the judges to their feet.
Another standing O went to 22-year-old Kree Harrison of Nashville, Tennessee, who was indeed a standout in an evening that “had not been kind to country”, as noted by host Ryan Seacrest. After her rendition of “Up the Mountain“, Keith Urban said she embodied authentic country and was a natural-born singer, a sentiment which was echoed by Randy Jackson who also noted that she connected with the lyrics. Nicki Minaj went for the soul of the singer, saying there was “a mystery” in her that apparently came out in her singing. Mariah Carey said she got “lost in the song”, and that it was a beautiful thing to watch. Kree is the singer who lost both her parents in separate fatal accidents. Possibly the key to the mystery in her voice?
It was an evening for some standing O’s, although not always 100 percent. One went to 17-year-old Adriana Latonio, a five-foot Filipino out of Anchorage, Alaska, prompting Nicki to call her a “tiny little thing who commanded the stage from the time she walked out“. Keith liked Adriana’s rendition of “Ain’t No Way” so well he said it was really hard not to react now that she had “started channeling all that soul“. Because it was an Aretha Franklin song, Mariah was inspired to add “THAT’s Aretha Franklin!” Okay, Mariah. The girl can sing. But she’s no Aretha Franklin. Give her a few years.
Eighteen-year-old Massachusetts native Angela Miller, who wowed the world last week with her original song performance, came across as a little desperate and overblown this week singing “Nobody’s Perfect“. Nicki offered the best critique of Angela’s time in the spotlight by telling her, “Nothing is going to compare to that original song. Don’t force it. Don’t overdo it,” followed by Keith who said, “You have a huge talent and big gift. You can do with a little” [less vocal gymnastics in the song, I think he meant). Mariah just wanted the world to get a chance to hear that [original] song from last week. (Amen to that, sister. It was beyond awesome). Randy called her “the real deal“.
Between Tenna Torres and Brandy Hotard, viewers were treated to another of those upside-down, inside-out judging calls. One girl for being too sad during a serious song, and the other for being too happy during a sad song. Huh? Okay. I’m confused. But, American Idol is really good at that. Can we say “inconsistency”, boys and girls?
Tenna Torres is a 28-year-old New York model whose age makes this her last season to grasp for the brass ring on American Idol. After she sang “Soulmate“, Keith praised her for her “deceptively big diversity of voice“. Randy said she connected with the emotion of the song, which was echoed by Mariah Carey. Nicki asked why she seemed so sad, to which Tenna replied “I’m not sad“, meaning she was getting into the feel of the song. Nicki praised her for her R&B tone and suggested she “lose the hair. It makes you look older“.
So hats off to these top five girls who made it out of Sudden Death alive: Amber Holcomb, Kree Harrison, Angela Miller, Adriana Latonio, and Tenna Torres.
All in all, I think the judges got it right for these five contestants. And . . . okay . . . I’m going out on a limb here . . . but . . . Nicki looked good, sounded almost like an earthling, was halfway entertaining without being totally insane, and actually gave the best judging comments of the night. Whew! There! I said it. Let the screams begin.