Here we go — it’s on like Donkey Kong on “American Idol” now. Janelle Arthur has lagged behind the other women some weeks, so we’d love to see her make smart song choices and make this a real dogfight for who moves on.
For theme, Round 1 is Year of Birth and Round 2 is Divas. Year of Birth has ceased to be that much fun anymore, now that everybody is like 12 years old. Kidding, kidding — but not really.
1. Candice Glover, 1989, “Straight Up”
She’s doing the slow-jam, R&B-bordering-on-reggae version of Paula Abdul’s big hit. It’s … interesting. We don’t hate it and her voice is smooth as butter, as per usual, but for that year, we wouldn’t have minded Candice having a nice ballad moment on “If You Don’t Know Me by Now.” Yeah, we wish she had done that Simply Red number.
That was a great vocal, we just weren’t in love with the arrangement. The judges disagree, but that’s fine. It’s personal taste.
2. Janelle Arthur, 1990, “When I Call Your Name”
Great song. Great, great choice. Well done, lady. The guitar is back, which is excellent. However, she has to really cheat on the low stuff on the verse, which is too bad — Vince Gill has a helluva range and to be able to reach the chorus stuff, she had to keep the key lower. But then she doesn’t soar on the verse as much as we want her to. Hmph. This is a great song, but maybe it was too big for her. Also, there isn’t enough connection to the song. This is like when that girl earlier this season did “Anymore” by Travis Tritt. These are heartbreaking songs and the raw emotion is much needed.
That’s the perfect type of song for her, but that particular song was too much of a stretch. And what illustrates this is that Keith Urban, the country guy, wasn’t in love with her performance. Yeah, he’s right, in this case.
3. Kree Harrison, 1990, “She Talks to Angels”
She exactly right when she says people won’t expect this from her. I was very surprised at her song choice — thought for sure she’d go “Black Velvet,” which would’ve been awesome. “Angels” is good, but it’s a little boring, too. Kree could’ve chosen better on this one — the aforementioned “Velvet” or some Heart or some Taylor Dayne, maybe. We appreciate that she went outside the box, but that was a little boring, to be honest.
The judges blather and Nicki and Mariah snipe at each other. Zzzzz. But the point is, they all loved it, while we found it a tad boring. Still a great vocal, mind you. I am Kree’s biggest fan, but I was hoping for something a little bigger.
4. Angie Miller, 1994, “I’ll Stand by You”
Great song choice for her, especially back at the piano. Plus, she’s got the Boston shout-out thing, which is nice and all, but yeah, that’s a heartstring-tugger. She’ll probably rocket to the top of the voting. Anyway. There are a few pitch issues on the song, actually. It’s not perfect, not nearly, but maybe that’s due to some of the emotions. It can be hard to sing if you’re letting the emotions get the better of you. She certainly won’t have any trouble getting votes. Not in love with the chopped-up arrangement, gotta say.
She gets a three-judge standing O. Not that they can be critical of her, after her Boston thing.
You know what we would’ve liked from Angie? “Shoop.” Just kidding. But for real, “Stay” by Lisa Loeb would’ve been kinda cool.
5. Amber Holcomb, 1994, “Without You”
That’s the song we would’ve picked for her! That’s exactly what we thought as soon as she said her birth year. Gotta give her an A for gumption, since it’s a Mariah song. Interestingly, it’s not as good as we expected. It’s still really good. Still so good and she goes for the high stuff, which is fantastic. And her degree of difficulty is off the charts. But that wasn’t quite as good as we were hoping.
What we’re hoping is that Amber is ending the show with some Whitney, whose voice she is much more suited for than Mariah’s.
6. Candice Glover, “When You Believe,” Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston
Bold choice and, frankly, she does Mariah better than Amber did. It’s a solid vocal up, then she gets to the bridge and it just takes off. Just takes flight, right up to the stratosphere leading into the final chorus.
Nicki sums it up nicely with, “That is how you do a Mariah Carey/Whitney Houston song.”
7. Janelle Arthur, “Dumb Blonde,” Dolly Parton
OK, Dolly is a great diva for Janelle to pick, but we aren’t sure this is the song. She really needed to try to recapture her “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” moment, maybe with “Jolene” or maybe with a Patsy Cline — could Janelle have handled “Crazy”? Hmm. Or maybe “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle? (Is Gayle a diva? With that hair, she probably counts.)
This was not a good choice for her. It didn’t show off any vocals. Janelle’s song choices totally mystify us every week.
8. Kree Harrison, “Have You Ever Been in Love,” Celine Dion
Interesting choice, it’s not one of Celine’s bigger hits. But Kree really kills it. The way she goes up to the high notes is kind of insane — so effortless. So, so good. She has such a beautiful voice. This was definitely a good comeback from her previous performance, which just didn’t wow us.
9. Angie Miller, “Halo,” Beyonce
Um, what? This is Angie’s choice? Oh no. No, no, no. We feel like this is going to be kind of a hot mess. When she starts singing, she’s cheating on the low stuff — that happens a lot on this show. The chorus gets better, but she’s … too heavy on some notes, like at the end of phrases? The “grace” and “face” and “halo.” Go back and listen, she is so … husky is the right word, maybe. But it’s not in a good way. Hmm. This is not the song we would’ve chosen for her.
What would’ve been nicer is some Alicia Keys. Stick to your bread ‘n butter with the piano. Keys is a diva, right? However, the judges go totally bonkers over it. Hmm. Are we deaf, tonight? Is it us? ‘Cause we were not in love with that.
However, we know first hand that performances in the studio live can sound very different at home, so maybe that’s what’s happening here.
10. Amber Holcomb, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” Shirley Bassey
Curveball choice. Wow. We’ve heard this song, but have most voters? Hmm. This could be a risky choice. But Amber absolutely, 1000% nails it. She’s so throwback at times, it’s beautiful. She’s like a Bassey or Holiday or Clooney. She’s exquisite. We are in love with this, but — will she get votes?
This is going to be tricky. Janelle was easily the weakest tonight, but Amber has been in the bottom several times and she stumbled a bit on her first number, then chose a really obscure song on her second.
She gets a standing O and the judges lavish her with praise, so hopefully that will help her with votes. Nicki says she’s giving her “young Whitney Houston” all the time and she’s right, plus Randy cites degree of difficulty. Yes.
Who do you think is going home, “Idol” fans? And regardless of who does, we maintain this is the most talented Top 5 the show has ever seen.