Hey guys, Nick here for another installment of Week In Review, in which Trey M. and myself go over the developments in this week of American Idol, while looking ahead to next week.
Check out the column and then sound off in the comments!
We’re pretty much in agreement that Candice Glover‘s “You’ve Changed” was everything a top 4 performance should be. Vocally, she owned it, and the song itself was a perfect choice for her voice. As the competition winds down, song choice matters more than ever, particularly when one lousy or underwhelming performance could send you packing. What’s interesting about Candice is that right when you think she’s finally hit the ceiling of what’s possible, she finds new ways to kick things up an extra notch. Although she received exuberant praise, “You’ve Changed” was significantly underrated in many ways, as it really was one of the season’s best pure vocals. Candice undoubtedly made a case for the win here, which matters in a competition where consistency can often be the difference between a win or an early elimination. For her part, Candice has been consistently remarkable when it comes to sheer vocal prowess.
Whose chances have improved/decreased?
Some of these questions have become more and more challenging as the pool gets smaller, and this is one of them. It’s even harder to say since we don’t know who was the top, middle, and bottom vote-getters out of the finals 3. However, smart money says that Candice’s stock has risen greatly with the ouster of Amber. This leaves the question of whose chances have decreased, and when you couple Candice’s upswing with the fact that Angie has never been in the bottom 2, it seems as though Kree Harrison just might be on the outside looking in. However, this remains the tightest final 3 race since season 8, as any two of these three girls would be a no-brainer for a finale spot. We’d prefer a Candice/Kree finale, but Trey is predicting a Candice/Angie face-off. I’m sticking with Angie/Kree though, but there’s really no way of knowing. Seriously, just flip a coin and you’ll probably be as close to the truth as you would be if you’d made an informed prediction.
Most disappointing performance?
While I, personally, really enjoyed “Diamonds,” Trey and I ultimately came to the conclusion that, overall, Angie Miller really underwhelmed this week. Maybe expectations wouldn’t have been so high if she hadn’t so handily taken last week, but Angie really dropped the ball on “Someone to Watch Over Me,” a performance that had no reason not to be her personal best. While Angie does bring a certain artistic sensibility to each performance, we just didn’t get her choices in that performance, as she indulged her worst melodramatic impulses, and ended up coming across like a high school drama student in the spring production of The Chorus Line. In Trey’s opinion, it would be unfair to not have the vocal prowess of Candice or Kree in the finale – particularly since Candice puts just as much creativity into her renditions as Angie. And I don’t disagree with him one bit.
Should Harry Connick, Jr. be added to the judging panel for season 13?
With rumors that Nigel is looking to sweep the panel next season, we could be looking at some huge changes. With this week’s mentoring session, and his stellar mentoring to season 9′s top 5, Harry Connick, Jr. seems like he’d be a natural fit for the panel. However, the question of his mainstream relevance seems to be the argument against adding him to the panel, and that always seemed like a B.S. argument to me. For some reason, there’s this sensibility spreading across reality talent competitions that suggests that the judges need to be current, relevant mainstream artists to be effective on the show. It’s more than likely a byproduct of The Voice being such a huge smash — one look at their panel, and you have four mainstream coaches, each one more relevant to current music than the next. And it works for The Voice, because their format is actually as much about the judges as it is about the singers themselves.
But that star-driven approach doesn’t/can’t work for Idol, because it becomes an inherently phony show when the spotlight is placed entirely on the judges. Even Simon, in his prime as an Idol judge, knew well enough to make it more about the contestants than about himself. Sure, he reaped a huge cultural profit from his acerbic personality, but his hype was all about the things he’d say to the contestants, and how fans would rush to those contestants’ defense. And here’s the thing: Nobody knew who the hell Simon was when this show started. Hell, Randy was only known to people within the industry, while Paula hadn’t been relevant for years. Yet the show became a massive success, and remained unchallenged for close to a decade, despite panel shuffling that included the less relevant Kara DioGuardi, and the utterly perplexing choice of Ellen DeGeneres. So why not Harry Connick, Jr.? The relevance argument is a poor argument to make against somebody who’s this good at what he does. It’s an even worse argument when you factor in that this has been one of the most relevant judging panels Idol has ever had, yet it’s largely been a failure. Sure, things were top-notch in the early part of the season, for the most part; they were certainly a huge improvement over the previous regime. But now they’re simply a confederacy of bickering automatons who don’t know when to stop beefing with each other and simply get back to doing the jobs they’ve been paid upwards of $15 million to do.
Trey also has a rant built-up in him, which I’m going to post for his benefit, as anyone who reads his posts knows that he’s one of the most tirelessly positive Idol viewers on this site. However, even he’s been worn down by this season to where he simply wants it to be over, much like many other viewers in the Idol populace:
I still love Idol. I still prefer it tenfold over The Voice. But between the different pool of contestants and the judging situation I’m just over it. I loved Nicki to begin with and loved her criticisms, but now even she is getting on my nerves. Idol truly needs a new, fresh start next year. These numerous half-assed attempts since Season 9 aren’t cutting it. If Idol truly wants to try to regain its former glory, it’s going to have to reinvent itself. I will say that it was a very good attempt this year that didn’t turn out so well in the end. Maybe if Nigel didn’t have so many manipulations it wouldn’t have been as bad. I don’t even know how the panel should look next year. Also bringing Jennifer Lopez back is a horrible idea – more horrible than the current state.
Was Amber a casualty of the judges’ pimping, or was it the reason she got as far as she did?
Trey and I went back and forth on Amber Holcomb this week. My immediate impulse has always been to be fair to her, to call her out on a bad performance, praise her for a good one, and give her the benefit of the doubt when circumstances warranted. For 85% of her time in the competition, I just didn’t get it. Yes, she could sing, but I didn’t see what separated her from, say, Paige Miles or Lisa Tucker, Camile Velasco, Leah Labelle, Trenyce, Vonzell Solomon, Syesha Mercado or any other beautiful young R&B/pop singer in the finals, some of whom sang better than she did. Yet even if I didn’t get what was so much better about her than those other contestants, I never really begrudged her outlasting the guys. Sure, I might have preferred Devin or Burnell to have stuck around longer, or even Lazaro, just so we’d have something to talk about. But I thought she basically deserved to outlast them, given the performances she was turning in, relative to theirs. I feel as though, for the most part, she made it to the top 5 on merit, even if I felt that she was the weakest of the girls in the competition. And when you think about it, how much farther did the judges’ pimping really get her, if we’re operating under the premise that she made it to the top 5 on merit?
Of course, Trey isn’t operating under that assumption, and I think he’s actually right not to, as he makes some good points. He states that while this week’s performance show reminded him how talented she is, the constant praise from the judges probably made her think that she could have gone farther – and without it, she just might have. The beginning of the season saw Amber burst out from the pack as a good find after we’d seen and heard so much about Angie and Candice in the early stages. She was the dark horse then. Fast-forward to just before the mid-point of the competition and she’s suddenly being shoved down our throats. Had she gotten fair critiques, audiences might have viewed her differently. Hell, Trey thinks that if Amber had gotten the Haley Reinhart treatment, viewers might have rooted for her as an underdog, recognizing that she was coming from behind and improving on a week-to-week basis. But that didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite happened. As she got worse, the judges’ praise grew more effusive. That praise might have carried her farther than she should have gone, but it also could have kept her from going farther than she could have, if that makes any sense. Then again, this is an immensely talented final three, so we’re both having a hard time thinking of a scenario where she gets through to hometown visits.
Song Suggestions for Judges’ Choice/Jimmy’s Choice/Free Choice:
Well, we can’t really give suggestions for what the Judges or Jimmy should pick, since they probably made up their minds a long time ago. I can’t speak for the non-Randy judges, so who knows? But Jimmy’s past choices have been pretty hit-or-miss, usually picking well for two of the contestants, while s***ting the bed on the third. Last season, he gave Phillip “We’ve Got Tonight”, and picked “No More Drama” for Joshua, but then gave Jessica “I’ll Be There,” which was such a lifeless, anemic song choice for her. In season 10, he gave Scotty “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”, and picked “If I Die Young” for Lauren, but then picked “Rhiannon” for Haley. While not a bad song choice, per se, it didn’t really give her the chance to show much of what made her unique and interesting. It was just a bland choice performed in front of a wind machine. So I’d be worried if I were one of the contestants, since he’s going to make a lousy choice for at least one of them. That said, in at least one case, a crummy song choice didn’t matter, since Jessica still made the finale and Joshua still went home. As long as no one gets Syesha Mercado’d and given a penguin song, it should be a pretty level playing field.
Anyway, onto the Free Choice song suggestions:
Angie: Now is the time for a reprise of “You Set Me Free” or another original song from her pre-Idol days. I also think she could nail a piano version of “Who Knew” by Pink, similar to what James Johnston from Australian Idol did for Pink Week (a theme that really should have happened by now, stateside). If neither of those choices suit her, I think she could hit a homerun with —
AND WE INTERRUPT THIS ARTICLE FOR A SPECIAL REPORT!
Okay, so apparently The Idol Pad is reporting that the “Free Choice” part of the theme has been changed to “Producer’s Choice,” which just SUCKS. Simon Fuller can’t pick a decent song to save his life, saddling Phillip with “Stand By Me” and giving Jessica “I Have Nothing” last season. Neither is a bad song, they just were terrible choices for their contestants, as “I Have Nothing” is overdone, and “Stand By Me” was a terrible fit for Phillip’s vocals. He’s also the guy who saddled Syesha Mercado with “Hit Me Up,” the aforementioned “penguin song” (since it was from the soundtrack to “Happy Feet”), in one of the most blatant examples of sabotage I’ve ever seen on a reality show, talent competition or otherwise. So it looks like the fix may be in. I guess it’s our own fault for sending the producers’ favorite home.
But who knows? Maybe the night will be salvageable still. Perhaps Keith will pick something genius for Kree while Nicki or Mariah give Candice or Angie something stellar while Randy just sits this one out. We have no way of knowing how it’s going to go from here, but I’m considerably less excited now than I was before. I know that song choice would move to the judges/producers in the top 3 round, as it’s been that way since the early days of Idol. But recent years at least allowed the contestants one free choice in recent years, starting in season 6. I think I’d be considerably less annoyed about this if it had been announced from the beginning that it would be Judges/Jimmy/Producers’ choice. This retroactive change just smacks of last-minute manipulation.
Ah well, at least they won’t catch hell for song choice. Right, Syesha?