The Top 3 returned to their hometowns on “American Idol,” and everyone was crying and feeling things. The contestants, Nicki Minaj, and me, we were all waterworks tonight. All that emotion brought out some of the best performances yet for two contestants. But there was only one clear winner: Candice Glover.
Perhaps the heartfelt mood in the studio healed some open wounds. There were no spats between judges tonight, just some effusive praise and some solid advice.
The competition at this point in the game removed all power from contestants’ hands, having three songs chosen for them by Jimmy Iovine, the judges, and the producers, in that order. The three girls rotated their positions in the lineup, much like the way the judges deliver their critiques.
Kree Harrison kicked off the night with Jimmy’s ill-suited pick of Pink’s “Perfect.” It was really low-key and super short—felt like maybe a minute. Keith Urban laughed when he asked her what she thought of the song. Kree tried to play it off like she loves and believes in the message, but she admitted she would never choose that song for herself—ever. Nicki suggests Kree tries wearing flats for once, to maybe help her get into it. And Mariah Carey brought it all back to her, saying that when she started out, she insisted that she sing only her own songs, and that no one choose any material for her. “Fortunately, they allowed me to do that, so…” she trails off, realizing that, hm, maybe Kree is not quite Mariah Carey in the vocal department, and that might be why she is on this show letting an impish record producer make a horrible decision on her behalf.
For Candice Glover, Jimmy picked “One”—not the U2 original but the Mary J. Blige version. It was gorgeous. It was gospel. It sounded new. It was short, but it packed a punch the way Kree’s song did not. Nicki says she didn’t think Candice could have touched Mary J’s version, but she is on her way. Mariah expresses her disbelief that Candice was a travel agent. Ryan Seacrest mentions that Candice didn’t actually know the song, either version, when she got the assignment. (Which is just, ugh, why doesn’t she know this song?! But anyway…) He asks her how she prepared, and in a slap in the face to the humiliated Amber Holcomb of last week, says she looks at the lyrics and studies them and tries to understand them first. See, now, Candice would know what a “figure less than Greek” means.
Jimmy gives Angie Miller Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” Randy Jackson rightly points out that the expectation for Angie doing Elton John is that she sit at the piano, but Angie feared she couldn’t play well enough to do it justice, and instead stood stiffly at a mic stand. She sang best in the beginning of the song, sounded kind of angelic when she didn’t break into her monster belt. The judges all commended her on holding back, and Keith Urban suggested she hold back even more.
Round 1, says Jimmy, goes to Angie. But in my assessment, Candice, hands down.
This was the round of tears—the home visits. Candice starts us off going back to her South Carolina island, visiting her old job and riding a moped. When she pulls up to her family’s house, she starts crying and it doesn’t ever stop. She visits a historical Gullah Geechee site, where everyone’s speaking in dialect. Gov. Nikki Haley proclaims it Candice Glover Day. Candice sings “Girl on Fire” and is just looking and sounding completely triumphant.
For her second song, the judges chose Emeli Sande’s “Next to Me.” Candice did a million runs in this song, but she did them all great. Mariah calls her “A+mazing” and Keith felt like Candice was having a conversation with the song. Nicki couldn’t speak, she was so emotional, and only managed to get out that she is proud of Candice. Randy Jackson takes the opportunity to congratulate the institution of “American Idol” and how people who come from nothing can become something. Finally, Nicki regains her composure somewhat, and tells Candice she is an inspiration to all women around the world, to the women who are insecure. Candice says she used to be so insecure until this show. Nicki’s crying, Candice is crying, it’s so beautiful.
Angie’s visit to Massachusetts was very Boston-centric. She shows up there in a fancy private jet and tours the city for the first time since the Marathon bombing. She then meets up with a group of girlfriends who are all exactly like her—bouncy, giggly and with at least one facial feature that’s too big. She spends a few minutes clapping giddily, and then takes her friends home with her. Her house is more modest than it looked last time on the show, when it got a brief flash a few weeks ago. Angie beelines for her black kitty cat, and then sings her original song with her brother for the fans.
The judges give her Pink’s “Try” and Angie performs it with a verve we’ve never seen from her. She’s without the piano again, but she’s actually moving around comfortably. All the judges are shocked and amazed. Also Nicki says she ran into Miley Cyrus at the Met Gala and (hello I’ve been saying this for months) she and Angie look exactly alike. In the “how can this be about Mariah” series, Mariah says she gets the whole “festive” clapping thing, because she’s like that, too.
I lost it during Kree’s home visit. Super sad. She and her sister go to their old home where they grew up, before both parents died tragically in different accidents. The house in the woods in Texas is dilapidated, but remnants of their parents are still inside—a t-shirt of their dad’s. It’s a wreck, but it’s a “piece of our parents,” Kree says. Wahhhh! Don’t worry, things pick up around here, when they pass a business sign that says “Kreem always rises to the top”—weird—and then Kree rides a mechanical bull. But then it gets sad again, when she sings “See You Again,” and talks about how the lyrics connect to her parents. She cries in the middle of the song, which is highly unusual for someone so composed. It’s everything we ever wanted from her.
For her judges number, Kree sings Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye,” and you can tell Nicki’s crying throughout. Kree herself looks like she might just shed a tear. It’s the most emotionally connected she has ever been on the “Idol” stage. The judges eat it up. Keith is sniffling. Mariah says she is overwhelmed with emotion. Nicki tells her her parents are watching.
Later on, Jimmy tells us Kree won that round. She did, handily, even though it was a breakthrough for Angie.
The songs chosen by “the ‘Idol’ production,” or as Mariah likes to refer to them as the “powers that be, were an odd bunch.
Angie starts out with Emeli Sande’s “Maybe.” Anyone care to tell me why this artist got featured as much as Pink tonight? Anyway, Angie’s finally back on piano, and oddly, it doesn’t really work. She’s definitely doing great, for her, but it’s not as good as her last performance. Mariah was glad Angie ditched her “theatricality.” Nicki said Angie is finally out of her head. And Keith tells her to sing next week “under the piano.”
Kree got The Band Perry’s “Better Dig, Too,” one of those angry country rock anthems with no melody. It’s a dumb song choice, and it doesn’t matter that Kree’s vocal was good. None of the judges liked it, and it was an unfortunate (or perfectly planned?) way to end the night for her. On the bright side, I noticed Kree has AMAZING eyebrows.
Candice closes the show with “Somewhere,” from “West Side Story.” It’s not something I ever would have thought of for her. She’s going for an elegant thing. There’s a harp and an orchestra. She’s in a gown and loads of jewels. And it’s an incredible moment. Basically, Candice sang the hell out of that song. The judges were out of their seats before it was over. Keith: “Oh my goodness, what was that? What happened? How do you do that? What is that?” Randy calls it one of the greatest vocals in “Idol” history. You know Mariah loves it when she talks only about herself: “That was my parents’ song. I got even more emotional, so thanks for making me cry YET AGAIN.”
Jimmy declares that Candice wins not only the round, but the night with that song.
I still stand by my prediction that Kree is the next to go. I think the powers that be engineered the song choices so that she would do the worst tonight, and she did. Come on—Pink? For Kree? That angry foot-stomper at the end? They gave her a special moment in the home-visit round, and were otherwise preparing us to say goodbye.
Angie had a turning point night. She was truly comfortable without the piano for the first time ever. And she still dominates in social media fans.
Candice vocally outperformed everyone else, and her home visit backstory rounded her out into an inspirational person. I agree with Jimmy—she wins the night.
My ranking/Twitter followers
1) Candice Glover/81,778
2) Angie Miller/147,002
3) Kree Harrison/76,622