It was a showdown between the judges and Jimmy Iovine on tonight’s “American Idol.” The discerning record producer who should have been a judge for the last few years has been upgraded in recent weeks to giving his commentary after commercial breaks instead of on the Thursday night results show. As usual, he was pretty much spot on in his commentary, including when he criticized Amber Holcomb for a performance that the whole panel of judges loved.
Amber sang “MacArthur Park” as part of the audience-voted theme of One Hit Wonders. To summarize: according to Ryan Seacrest, America willingly chose for the contestants to have to sing ANOTHER category of songs that couldn’t possibly consist of contemporary music. And on top of that, Amber supposedly chose to sing an aged disco number with absurd lyrics about baking. Well, whoever chose it, be it Amber or some behind the scenes prankster, it was total cheese. I mean, even cool as a cucumber Amber couldn’t hardly keep a straight face while lamenting the loss of the famed recipe.
But the judges raved about it. It was the last of Amber’s three numbers tonight, in which she showed a streak of confidence heretofore unseen. And that’s what struck the judges—not the implausibility of someone leaving a cake out in the rain.
In Jimmy’s post-commercial commentary, he said Amber couldn’t pull off corny of that level. And so while commenting on Candice Glover’s amazing, contemporized performance of Samantha Sang’s “Emotion” in the next segment, Nicki Minaj segued back to Amber and Jimmy. She said that Jimmy “clocked” the judges, but that they weren’t commenting on the song, just the singing.
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So Ryan brought Jimmy out on stage—while poor Candice is there, patiently waiting for her numbers. Jimmy tells the panel they’ve been “smoking a little bit of the green icing on that MacArthur Park cake,” and then accuses them of not being willing to say that Candice did better than Amber. Nicki says Candice was better. “Then say it!” Jimmy hollers. Nicki marches right up to the stage and pretends to strangle him. Funny that she’d go to bat like that for a girl that only moments earlier she addressed as “Angie.”
There was more than Candice’s victory over Amber that the judges wouldn’t address tonight. They seemed to unanimously agree that tonight was not a night to talk about vocals, only about performance, look, star quality, etc. Nicki, usually sitting sideways toward Keith Urban (why?) gave a considerable amount of business advice, telling the girls to think about marketing themselves in various ways.
The judges especially zeroed in on Kree Harrison with their commentary, repeatedly telling her that she’s lost her soul. “Something about what’s on the inside of you seems to be dimming a little bit,” Nicki told her at one point. The disaffected, too-cool-for-school thing Kree’s had going on all season has finally caught up with her and gotten in the way of her performances. Her two solos, a blues song called “It Hurts So Bad,” and one-hit wonder “Whiter Shade of Pale” were well sung but lacked emotion, and her duet with Amber of “Rumour Has It” was robotic.
During the last two weeks, the judges have pretty heavy-handedly delivered their criticism with precision: they were responsible for Lazaro Arbos’s dismissal two weeks ago, and last week, basically wrote Janelle Arthur off before she had time to even finish her second song. If those are any indication, tonight is definitely Kree’s last night. The judges words have power. Which is probably why Jimmy gets so mad at them.
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The theme of the first half of the show was contestants’ choice, and the video intros showed the contestants visiting a children’s hospital, which was as treacly as you think. Amber opened. In a black and white wide-legged pantsuit, and a staggering jheri curl, her stylist was really pushing for the young-Whitney look, and it worked. Her choice was “Power of Love,” and Nicki compared her to “a big, sexy glass of milk.” To go with Kree’s waffles.
Candice did a Drake song, “Find Your Love,” and admitted to being kind of an obsessive fangirl. Mariah Carey took the opportunity of this performance to hearken back to last week’s “Straight Up” and thoroughly diss Paula Abdul for getting famous off a song that “wasn’t really meant for a singer-singer.”
Angie Miller went and picked a song she already sang in Hollywood, Jessie J’s “Who You Are.” She’s back on piano, and so it’s as good as it gets from her. Randy Jackson essentially continues trying to trademark a cliché by shouting repeated that Angie is “in it to win it,” underscored by a hashtag with that phrase under him, for the first of oh, about 50 times tonight. According to Randy, I don’t think there is anyone who isn’t in it to win it. Which makes sense, this being a competition and all.
In between categories we got two duets—the ill-fated “Rumour Has It,” and a much better duet between Angie and Candice of Rihanna’s “Stay.” While Kree and Amber acted like the other person wasn’t there, Angie and Candice interacted, with Candice seeming to bring something out in Angie vocally. It was like a battle. Candice of course would win that battle, but Angie gave it her all, too.
For the last two performances of the night, Jimmy faded back into obscurity. He got neither stage time nor post-commercial time after Nicki tried to kill him. So who knows whether he would have been able to save Kree after her last song, which Keith added to her growing list of “middle ground” songs that don’t really show anything about her, other than her so-good-it’s-boring voice.
Jimmy also didn’t get a chance to ruin the moment for Angie, who closed the show with “Cry Me a River,” a song that is more classic than one-hit wonder, as Mariah put it. It was a solid non-piano performance, and Nicki felt like Angie was out to “snatch some wigs off some heads.” That’s actually a compliment. In the final commentary of the night, Randy vocally tweets his catchphrase, and somehow gets paid for that.
I’m not a big fan of Angie so she’ll never top the pack for me, even if she does for everyone else in America. Tonight, I thought Candice dominated vocally—even if the judges weren’t talking about that. And Amber’s newfound confidence definitely moved her up to the top. Kree’s in trouble.
Here are my placements, plus Twitter followers.
1) Candice Glover/63,590
2) Amber Holcomb/38,148
3) Angie Miller/116,843
4) Kree Harrison/60,608