Round one consisted of songs selected by in-house advisor Jimmy Iovine; round two was judges' picks (oh, why didn't someone film those deliberations?); and round three was producers' picks. During the first two rounds, the song choices pretty much made sense, but towards the end of the episode, one contestant was assigned a truly sabotaging song that all but assured that the third round would result in her going home in third place.
Overall, however, this was one of "Idol's" best episodes in quite some time, filled with heightened emotion (it was the girls' homecoming week) and some real Season 12 highlights. Here's how everyone did Wednesday:
JIMMY IOVINE'S PICKS
Kree Harrison - Jimmy gave Kree an interesting song: Pink's "Perfect," which definitely challenged the subdued and soft-spoken country crooner. Pink is so feisty and fierce, the kind of badass diva who performs advanced aerial stunts and never gives less than 100 percent. Kree's problem is she always gives about 75 percent. Would she be able to summon any Pink power for this performance? Not really. I appreciated her ability to convincingly countrify the pop/rock song, but this merely pleasant performance was still way too laid-back for me. (And I don't think that Kree's stylist-appointed high heels were holding her back, as Nicki Minaj claimed. I doubt the flat boots that Nicki recommended would have helped Kree loosen up much.) It's not like I'd expected Kree to wear a leotard and perform while hanging upside-down from the rafters, but I wanted more "pizzazz," as Randy Jackson put it, than this.
Candice Glover - Jimmy selected U2's "One" for Candice. This wasn't a bad choice--Mary J. Blige did a fantastic soul-sister version of this song a few years ago, as Nicki pointed out--but for some reason, this performance didn't showcase Candice at her best. Something about it fell a little flat. Her vocals were on point, but she didn't bring her usual onstage fire. Did a week of nonstop homecoming activities lead to Candice's exhaustion? Did the pressure of being so close to the finale, after trying out for "Idol" no fewer than three times, make her psych herself out? I'm not sure, but she didn't seem thrilled with her performance, which Mariah Carey noticed. "I'm a perfectionist," Candice admitted. Okay, so this wasn't perfection. But even an imperfect Candice is still pretty good.
Angie Miller - Jimmy picked Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" for Angie. Now, this was a great choice. The song totally played into Angie's penchant for torchy drama (drama that was only heightened by enough onstage dry-ice smoke to choke a unicorn), yet Angie's vocal was unusually restrained. And she didn't do that creepily Constantine-esque camera-staredown shtick of hers, which can be so disconcerting. Randy seemed disappointed that Angie wasn't at her piano (Angie admitted that'd been the original plan, but she was worried she wouldn't be able to learn the song in time). However, Mariah thought this was one of Angie's best performances to date. I agreed with Mariah on this one. Angie did a really lovely job here.
Candice Glover - Singing Emeli Sande's "Next to Me," Candice got her groove back. She strutted her stuff to this sassy song, looking confident and sounding killer. She took on a modern tune by an up-and-coming artist, and she didn't sound like an "old-fashioned church girl" at all. Nicki was so impressed, her tough facade crumbled and she started crying as she praised Candice, saying, "You seem to be the most confident woman on that stage every week. You own who you are. You're gonna inspire so many girls out there." Then Candice crumbled too, as she sobbed and told Ryan Seacrest, "I used to be the most insecure person in the world, and this show has helped me so much." Seriously, Candice has nothing to feel insecure about ever again. She's a star.
Angie Miller - Time for more Pink! Angie got Pink's "Try," and I don't know if I could have selected a better song for her myself, even this was another piano-free performance. Randy said the song "fit [Angie] like a glove"--and it certainly suited her more than that other Pink song had suited Kree. Keith Urban didn't mind one bit that Angie didn't play piano on this, and neither did I. For the first time this season, I really saw Angie as the rock chick she claims she is. This felt believable. Nicki told Angie, "You've never looked so comfortable singing an uptempo song"…before saying what America's been thinking all season and finally mentioning that Angie is "Miley Cyrus's long-lost twin." Ryan then thanked Angie for the "party in the USA." That was funny, but please, let's make sure no one ever makes Angie sing "The Climb."
Kree Harrison - Kree, to her credit, never exploited her "sob story" on this show, even though many other contestants with less tragic tales totally would have gone that route. Many "Idol" viewers probably weren't even aware of her sad past until this Wednesday's episode. Kree lost both of her parents before she was even out of her teens, and this made for a very emotional homecoming this week, when she visited the house she'd lived in with her parents as a little girl. Kree performed Rascal Flatts' "Here Comes Goodbye" (trivia alert: a song co-written by Season 6 finalist Chris Sligh) right after her homecoming footage aired, and this seemed to help her dig in emotionally, in a way she hardly ever does. This time, she did not hold back. Her performance was gorgeous, goosebumpy, and totally heartfelt. When she was done, there wasn't a dry eye in the studio. Kree was crying, Keith was crying (in his own manly way), and Nicki once again got all verklempt, saying, "You can't underestimate the power of a truly genuine emotional trigger. When you went back home, you were able to regain something you could really feel. It was palpable." It really was. The only thing that ruined this touching moment? When the camera cut to Kree's friends in the audience, and one of them was exaggeratedly rolling her eyes as Nicki spoke. But you know, that was kind of funny, and maybe the show needed a little comic relief at this point.
Angie Miller - Time for more Emeli Sande! Angie was finally back at her piano for Emeli's "Maybe," so she was definitely in her element. Yet somehow, this didn't have the impact of Angie's other two songs. I expected to be more wowed. However, I did agree with Mariah that Angie's ability to sustain a song in such a high key was impressive. I also agreed with Nicki's praise that Angie no longer seemed "pageanty." All in all, Angie had a very good night; this just wasn't her best performance of all three rounds.
Kree Harrison - The Band Perry's "Better Dig Two," an uptempo country-rock song, was NOT a good selection for Kree. She was so much more amazing and authentic on "Here Comes Goodbye" than on this middle-of-the-dirt-road rocker, and it definitely seemed like the producers had sabotaged her with this choice. "I like the sorrow more than the anger," said Mariah, who'd understandably preferred the previous song. "I don't know if that's the place for you; it didn't feel right to me," shrugged Keith. "That's not your comfort zone. Whoever ever picked that song for you should be stoned," drawled a displeased Nicki. Randy complained that the song was "too ordinary" for Kree's big voice. Too bad the performance order wasn't different tonight. Kree just peaked too early in the episode, and it was unfortunate that this was the last impression she left on voters before the night ended.
Candice Glover - "Somewhere" from West Side Story was an unexpected choice for Candice, and I wondered if she'd try to turn the Broadway classic into an R&B song--and if she'd succeed. But instead, she did a straightforward, Streisand-ish rendition, and this was a smart move, because it proved that Candice really CAN sing anything. This was the performance of the night, and the perfect way to close the show. A standing ovation from the judges ensued. "If you want to vote for Candice, dial the number on the screen; if you don't want to vote for Candice, call your doctor, because you probably don't have a pulse," declared Keith. Randy said that this, along with Candice's "Lovesong" from a few weeks ago, was one of the best vocals in "Idol" history. Nicki said, "Four words: See ya next week." I've got three words to add to that: CANDICE MUST WIN.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we find out who wins, who will make it to next week's finale? This is a really tough one to predict. Round one definitely went to Angie; round two, to Kree; and round three was obviously all about Candice. Any one of these girls has a shot of making the top two, and, if you look at it in a glass-half-empty sort of way, any of them has a chance of getting cut. But here's my prediction: Angie will make it, because she's been unstoppable all season, and so will Candice, because her pimp-spot performance was everything. Kree's final performance will hurt her--though it wasn't her fault that she got such a lame song choice--and she will likely go home in third place.
Tune in Thursday to see if I'm right! Until then, Parker out.
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