By the time American Idol ended last night, the clear front-runners were Candice Glover, Kree Harrison, Amber Holcomb and Angie Miller. Up for grabs for the fifth young lady going through, in my opinion, would be Breanna Steer. Sweet little Janelle Arthur is good but the cards are not in her favor. Kree Harrison trumped Janelle’s country sound and raised her a voice range. But since you never know how the capricious public will vote, no one can predict with any amount of certainty. What I can do is offer up who SHOULD be going through based on the degree of giftedness, personality, and quality of entertainment.
Unless voters come from totally off-the-wall, Zoanette will not be going through, though she gets an A for Entertainment over some of the following contestants. If Zoanette had voice lessons for a couple of years to keep her consistent, she might find a place somewhere. But surely not this year on American Idol up against so much obvious talent.
But talent in itself is not enough. Though the voices were beautiful, the songs and arrangements were BORING except for the four listed above. Louisiana native Breanna Steer has the most unique voice in the femme competition, but Nicki and Keith disagreed on the quality of her performance, which was, indeed, safe and boring. Mariah Carey called her voice: “unique, raw, and real” and I agree. But it didn’t keep the performance from being ho-hum.
Mariah may have indulged in a bit of hyperbole when she said Aubrey Cleland had “multi-platinum potential”. Though all of the judges gave the girl her due on singing ability, it was obvious that none of them were jumping up and down over her performance of “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, saying they hoped voters remembered her rendition of “Funny Valentine”. Aubrey is the long-legged lovely who wore the Egyptian-print dress last week. Last night she went for every possible ounce of advantage by displaying every possible inch of her long legs during the pre-song interview with Ryan Seacrest.
Janelle Arthur has the chops for classic country, but didn’t stay true to it last night, obviously trying to compete with all the bluesy runs, warbles, trills, and balancing bar acts that American Idol female singers drown their songs in to the detriment of both song and singer. Which is why I think the male singers have dominated these past years (among few other reasons). Their singing is usually more simplistic and easier to connect with audiences. I’m glad Keith reminded Janelle she was there because of her classic country voice. And then there was Nicki with her “my little marshmallow” (which apparently means she likes Janelle a lot), who wants to hear “a real traditional country record” from the girl from Tennessee. Seacrest was in fine form last night in picking up on word plays – advising viewers to vote if they want “S’more” of Janelle. Maybe his new, Elvis Presley, dark pompadour hair style, has enlarged his brain as well as his wit. What’s with that, anyway? Is this a new men’s hair craze and I’m behind the times AGAIN?
Tenna Torres came on stage wearing Auburn University football colors which tastefully highlighted her cleavage. Though she did a Faith Hill song “Love”, which Randy Jackson called “very nicely done”, it was a lukewarm comment for a tepid performance. Though Tenna has one of the beautiful voices on American Idol this year, and Mariah loved the “richness and fullness” of her voice, her performance took a backseat to Nicki’s comment that she loved her “dress and her boobs”. Again Ryan grabbed the comic lead with the observation that “Nicki and Mariah have both finally agreed on something – they both love your fullness”.
Angie Miller wanted her fans to know that, not only was she back, she was never really gone. The 19-year-old who blew everyone away with her performance of an original song as she played the piano, did not live up to the high expectations in her following performance, done sans piano and wearing Mickey Mouse looking shorts. She was not as comfortable then and it showed. This time around she went back to the piano wearing something that flowed gracefully behind her. Then she sang former American Idol contestant Colton Dixon’s “Never Gone” with true emotion, feeling, and confidence, causing Nicki to enthusiastically intone that “the trumpets should sound when you walk into a room.” There was a consensus of agreement that she should stick with the piano. She seems in her element there.
The evening shot to the heights, however, when 18-year-old, small-town girl Amber Holcomb took on Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me”, bringing the audience and the judges to their feet. Judges called the challenging song choice “effortless” and “perfect”, with Mariah Carey getting a high-five from me with her observation that Amber was not “taking on” the legendary Whitney, but “paying her homage”. Best quote of the evening from a judge who has an awesome musical background, but comes off as rather the wallflower of the judging panel. Mariah is obviously uncomfortable with being critical, remembering her own hard-won efforts to break into the business, and always couches her negatives in a positive light. I like her for it, but it’s reminiscent of Paula Abdul without the cute, quirky personality. Mariah, though beautiful, is more the matronly mother of American Idol. Amber Holcomb got the blood pumping last night during a rather anemic evening and everybody knew it.
Kree Harrison brought Keith Urban to his feet last night with, “You’re the I Do in American Idol. I DO love to hear you sing.” For her rendition of Faith Hill’s “Stronger”, she was compared with classic country music greats with her rich, smooth, effortless sound. Keith commented that she “would fit right in”, Mariah said she could “make a record today”, and Randy said she was “another one who was in it to win it”. Hopefully, viewers saw and heard the star-quality in Kree and voted accordingly.
The baby of the bunch was 16-year-old Adrianna Latonio, the petite Filipino with the big voice from Anchorage, Alaska. But she got crowded out by bigger, more mature big voices. Judges felt she took too long to get to the big sound and was nervous about her song choice, “Stand Up For Love”, calling it very safe and pageantry. Mariah was “more used to a soulful moment from you” and felt she should try again when she had gained more maturity and experience.
Candice Glover ended the evening with fireworks, giving “Ordinary People” some extraordinary soul paired with a new vitality. This young lady from St. Helena, South Carolina, had Keith on his feet again. Keith called it “old soul blend but oh so current,” and left Nicki nothing else to add except a salute. Randy was blown away with “that was ridiculous”, citing unparalleled ranges and notes. “One of the best singers in the whole competition,” he said. There were so many great voices, if not great performances, among the ladies, that Randy was prompted to say they “might need a wild card”.
I hope everyone noted the change in voting requirements on Idol this year, limiting them to 50 votes per phone. It’s about time. Maybe it will help curb misuses of the system from voting blocks by crazies and kids trying to skew the outcome. Whether that’s what happened on season 8 or not, I’m still seething over the injustice done to Adam Lambert, whose singing voice was one of the most unique ever to appear on Idol, and whose range was in the stratosphere. Even the winner, Kris Allen, who was nowhere near Adam’s star quality, was obviously shocked.
And though it takes time for her to grow on you, Nicki Minaj is a breath of much needed fresh air on American Idol. Once I became aware that her crazy antics were off-set by some very astute comments, I began to see her in a whole new light. But only time will tell if American Idol’s trolling for viewers in the sea of TV ratings will bring them a big haul this year. Let’s hope so. I love the show warts and all.