American Idol Season 12 Top 7 Recap – Classic Rock
Last week, it was Devin who was sent packing, with the other remaining boys, Lazaro and Burnell, joining him in the bottom three, just as Jimmy Iovine had predicted. While many, including Jimmy, thought it would be Lazaro leaving, it was Devin, who had been in the bottom two for every week of the finals. It was also announced that the theme for the Top 7 would be ‘Classic Rock’, a genre that would generally favor the boys, but we all know nothing is done this season to favor the boys… Of course, with the group we are looking at, I don’t think the theme will be kind to Lazaro, nor to Burnell, who has not shown a great knowledge of music, or ability to adapt. On the other hand, Kree and Candice have shown great range already, and expect them to do well. But we must wait for the performances before we know for sure, as surprises are possible. After all, who saw Blake Lewis’ performance of “You Give Love A Bad Name” coming during Bon Jovi week in Season 6, Danny Gokey’s legendary scream in “Dream On” during Season 8, Crystal Bowersox delivering a memorable “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from Rolling Stone week in Season 9, or Paul McDonald’s manic “Folsom Prison Blues” for Rock &Roll Hall of Fame Week in Season 11. So, who will surprise us tonight?
The episode begins with a close up of someone plugging in their Les Paul, and showing pictures of some of the great rockers of the last 60 years, from Chuck Berry to The Who to Heart. Then we are introduced to the judges, and to Crusty. He reminds us that this is live, and that Rock means no ballads, and no slow songs. And the Idols will be joined in their performances by Orianthi, the rock guitarist of Greek and Australian roots.
Up first, it is Burnell Taylor on the hot seat, and to kill time (after all, they got two hours to kill, and sell advertising), the other finalists get to mock him, from his mumbling to his laugh. He will be singing “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi. From the start, he seems to miss his entrance, and never really catches up. But he stays in tune throughout the song. However, his performance is very karaoke to me, with very little of Burnell’s own personal style, not in the slightest. I was kinda bored. Keith starts off the critiques, pretty much agreeing with me that he phoned it in. Nicki still loves him, but agreed it lacked expression. Randy agreed with me that he was a bit behind the entire song, which bothers me to no end. I don’t want to agree with Randy…. Mariah loves Burnell, and loved that he had fun with the song. She thought it was great. Really, Mrs. Cannon? You’d call that great? Sigh… Before going to commercial, we are warned that we will be joined by Angie Miller and Lazaro Arbos singing a song by Queen. I am afraid. They will be singing “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. Lazaro begins the performance, and it is so in the wrong key, it is ridiculous. He doesn’t have the power to overcome the band, and really only delivers in the last two lines. When Angie kicks in, and her voice is not right for the song, and like Burnell, she falls behind the beat, for the entire song. And her voice was not meant to sing a lyric-intensive song like this, better suited for the slower songs, to elongate her vocals. The judges are polite, trying to point out Lazaro was not good and forgot lyrics, but called Angie’s performance wonderful as always – I haven’t really heard her sound really good yet. Thankfully, we will have a performance from one of my favorites, Kree Harrison. The video package mocks the way she is a nice person who actually knows the names of people around the show. Okay. So Kree will be singing “Piece Of My Heart” by the great Janis Joplin.
The song sits wonderfully in her range, and allows her to show off her strength. She really takes command of the stage, and owns the song. That was a wonderful performance, and she has a history now of picking great songs for herself. I can’t say enough about it. The judges also loved it, although Keith says he noticed a stiffness in her movement, and she admits she has a pinched nerve. I will honestly say I didn’t notice anything during the performance, but whatever. We are warned that after the commercial, we will be treated to another duet, this time Burnell Taylor and Candice Glover – “The Letter”, sung by The Box Tops in 1967.
Burnell starts out the performance, and is much more into this than his solo. But he does struggle to allow his voice to carry over the big sound of the band. Candice comes out and immediately owns her part, and then some. She also manages to give Burnell some energy, helping the rest of the song. I felt his performance got a bit lost in the song, which distracted me from Candice a bit. Their styles are kinda exact opposites, with Candice having power and aggression, while Burnell has a laid back, easy way of singing. However, the judges loved it, and thought both were great. They thought Burnell was better here than in his solo, and Candice was heaven sent. While this was no where near the train wreck of the first duet, I still couldn’t get as excited as I might have liked nor as much as the judges seemed to be inspired. After the commercial break, we will be hearing the solo performance of Janelle Arthur. Not a surprise, they make fun of her Country roots. I am also not surprised they included a clip of Lazaro making from of toothless rednecks, in hopes to get rid of him this week. She will be singing Billy Joel’s big hit, “You May Be Right”. She certainly puts a Country spin on the song, and it works nicely. While she is good, she falls well short of being fantastic. In fact, the song, particularly in the chorus, showcases a weakness in her voice, and her issues with breath control. She keeps moving across the stage, trying to cover up a few shortcomings. And it seems to be an effective ploy for the judges, and they loved it. From wardrobe to performance, they thought it was fantastic. After a break, once again Lazaro Arbos returns to the stage, and once again he is going to be taking on Freddie Mercury. That is just not a battle he will ever win. First, we have to see Randy wearing Janelle’s fringe vest, which isn’t pretty. In the video, the ladies mock his wardrobe of bright colors, and his melodramatics. Finally, he comes out to sing Queen’s “We Are The Champions”. While I have to say the band was drowning him out much of the time, this was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. He stays on key for the most part, and kept up with the tempo. The judges are amazingly nice to him, while still keeping a cool distance. But he was way better on his solo than he was on his pitiful duet. Another seemingly endless break comes back with a trio, Amber Holcomb, Janelle Arthur, and Kree Harrison. They sings Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me”. For me, it is Kree who once again stands out, although the performance lacked energy and drive. Janelle was a bit weak, and Amber had a few errant notes. It became instantly forgettable. Randy, Mariah and Keith loved it, thought they were great and amazing. Nicki hated the performance, but loves the girls. That made me smile. Next up, we have the solo performance by Candice Glover. First, we hear of the April Fools prank gone wrong, as she broke her toe. In the video, we learn she has her own room, and everyone is jealous. And she and Burnell have a strange sibling relationship. She will be singing the Rolling Stones iconic song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.
The song kicks off with that familiar guitar riff, and Candice bringing her usual great vocals. Only the first couple of bars are a bit weak, and scared me a bit. But when she started the chorus, she brought it home, and she owned the performance, and took control of a classic. I am not sure, but this could be my favorite of the night. Mariah loved it, but said nothing in particular. Keith loved it, and thought Orinanti was great, too. Nicki loved Candice, but not the song. Randy loved her, and thought it might not have been the best choice of songs, but thought she still killed it. After a break, we discover that Amber Holcomb talks to herself a great deal, and everyone thinks she is beautiful, especially Burnell. She will be singing “What About Love”, the great song by the great band, Heart. She starts off the song well, but in the chorus, there is a certain thinness to her voice that grabs me the wrong way. I don’t know, but she tends toward the sharp side for me. And I really feel like this is a power ballad, and we were told ballads were not allowed. So I am confused. I am even more confused when Keith talks about how great it was, and the rest chime in accord with him. Mariah ends the discussion with a plea that people vote for her, and Crusty even points out her soldier sister in the audience. They are working hard for Amber tonight. However, this leaves us with only one performer left to take on a Rock Classic. But first we chat with Joshua Ledet and Holly Cavanaugh, both of whom are working in the studio on new music. Angela Miller first has to hear from the other contestants, who laugh at her getting excited about everything. And how she works the camera with her eyes… She is on the piano to sing the song “Bring Me To Life”, written by Evanescence and performed by them and Paul McCoy.
She starts out so very well, with the simplicity of the arrangement perfectly suited for her vocals. As soon as the rock part kicks in, she is pretty well drowned out by the band, and as she pushed to be heard, she struggles with staying in tune. There is a wind machine, and the production takes over the performance. This is not a great choice for her, showing the frailness of her voice. Amy Lee has such a strong vocal, and this came off like a karaoke performance to me. There was way more focus on form than function, looking more like a girl playing at being a rocker. Once again, the judges don’t feel the same way, as they loved this mess. They gave her high marks for just about every aspect, except Keith made a veiled reference to her worrying more about the production than the feeling of the song. As the recap plays, we all know that the bottom three will include Lazaro and Burnell, and the trick will be identifying the young lady joining them. I think it will be between Janelle and Amber, and they might have pushed her hard enough to score safety for Amber, even though I thought both performances were on the weak side. Honestly, this was not a great show for just about anyone, for no one truly embraced the theme, and only a few managed to not sound like frat party karaoke material. The power of Kree and Candice allowed them to shine more than the others, who don’t have the talent to compete. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I would say Lazaro was the weakest of the night, but also surpassed expectations. Burnell, on the other hand, was disappointing, although his vocals were stronger than Lazaro’s. And could it be time to eliminate a young lady, or will the audience do as they are told, and get rid of all five guys first? Guess we will have to tune into results show on Thursday night at 8PM on Fox. But check you local listings to be sure, or stop back to Rickey.org to get your fix. Former contestant Casey James and winner Carrie Underwood will be featured on the show, as well as the tribute for who ever is going home.
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I've mentioned this before, but this show, with all its tired themes and so forth, does do one great thing that the other singing shows dont really do: it gives each contestant a hella lot of time and it hypes them. The show isn't fancy, it doesn't have any pace, it pretty much gives the microphone to the contestants and says go for it. But that gives them a chance to shine. And I'd say that somehow, as dreary as this show has been this year, with inexperienced and unimaginative contestants, it will again produce a few careers. Candice, Kree and Janelle have a chance to do something after the show--especially Candice, because she's a bd who can also sing uptempo. She's actually better than Jennifer Hudson.