"American Idol" 2013: Final 2, Candice vs. Kree Sing-Off!

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Finally, the Final 2! Candice Glover vs. Kree Harrison. This was not the finale I was expecting, and I doubt I’m alone in that. I expected Angie Miller to be going up against Candice. I felt the whole season was building to it. And Angie’s ouster last week really did surprise me. I had pegged Kree as a silent threat about a quarter of the way into the Top 10, but she had a wildly inconsistent final third of the competition.

Regardless, as Ryan pointed out, it’s our first all-girl finale since Season 3. And if you think that wasn’t at least engineered in part by the producers, who REALLY wanted to break the White Guy With a Guitar winner streak, happy belated birthday. Because you were clearly born yesterday.

Kree won the coin toss and decided to go first. The first round was "Idol" creator Simon Fuller's choice: “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. A good pick for Kree, because Kree’s voice just soars on those high notes. She still bumbled around the low ones, though, and I thought she was weirdly disconnected from the song. This is right in Kree’s wheelhouse content-wise, but it was merely good. No judges’ comments whatsoever, which was strange.

For Candice Glover Fuller picked Adele’s “Chasing Pavements.” Show, please: NOBODY sounds good when compared to Adele. Nobody. Especially not with this bo-bo lounge-lizard arrangement. The first verse was amateur hour as Candice struggled with the low range and the rhythms. Once she hit the chorus she opened up and from there she changed up the melodies a bit. She wrestled that train back on to the track and it ended up more than solid by the end.

After that we got some judge feedback. Traditionally at this stage of the game the judges just blather on about how amazing the singers are. So it was perfect for Mariah Carey, who continued to be absolutely useless. Randy Jackson -- who is out the door -- said that Fuller’s picks were not good, as they were too sleepy. True. But Randy gave Round 1 to Candice, because she actually did something with the song. Mariah countered that Kree made “Angel” “delicate.” When is that song ever NOT delicate, Mariah? It is primarily known as “that song that makes you cry when they show footage of abandoned puppies and kitties.” It's not exactly bombastic.

And then, the premiere of the song Carly Rae Jepsen “created” with Coke that was Frankensteined together by viewer input. Where to begin? The insanely lame still-photo graphics (the song is called “Take a Picture,” GET IT?!). The incredibly boring song that Carly sang with all the vigor of a sleepwalker? Her Six from “Blossom” Realness? The fact that someone is still trying to make Carly Rae Jepsen happen in May 2013? Yes, I know she had an absolute mega-smash hit last year. Huge! That song was everywhere FOREVER. But she is the very definition of a one-hit wonder. She’s tried to release several other songs since then and America is not having it. Let us be, music industry. And Carly, save that check from Coca-Cola. Invest it. I’m still worried about the financial security of Paula Abdul. I cannot be nervous about your fiscal solvency as well.

After the break Ryan did the typical, “Let’s walk amongst the masses” bit, and fatefully made overtures to one lady of a certain age in the crowd. He was playing to the show’s current average viewer, but things backfired when that woman turned out to be basically a creeper. She kept making all these uncomfortable gutteral noises. Ryan noticed she had a cast on her foot and you could practically see the panic building on his face as he saw the situation going pear shaped. And then she kept getting in front of him and staring at him in the most cringe-inducing way. The whole thing was deliciously awkward and I LOVED IT. That’s what you get, Ryan. That’s what you get.

Round 2: Potential Coronation Single. Kree’s was called “All Cried Out.” That’s a bit on the nose, no? Kree really put herself into this song. There was fire in the belly and gas on the voice. It’s a pretty standard pop-country ballad, but it’s certainly not bad. I could see myself wailing along to it in the car while stuffing my face with apple pies in a McDonald’s parking lot at 1 a.m. after a bad break-up. So if that was the market you were going for, Kree, you’re golden!

Candice’s would-be coronation song is called “I Am Beautiful.” It’s an r’n’b ballad about a woman in a loveless relationship who is being courted by a guy who appreciates her (or possibly it's about Jesus). I wanted to love this, but it’s way too generic to make any kind of impact on modern radio. I realize that’s ironic, because mainstream radio is nothing but mediocrity. But this song just doesn’t hook you, despite Candice’s very good vocal. You could tell that she was on the verge of tears after singing the song. Candice, I still love you. I just don’t like the song.

Round 2 reactions from Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. Nicki loved Kree’s composure and understated performance, and liked how the song allowed Kree to tap into her gut a bit. She really liked the message of Candice’s song and said it was perfect for Candice. I agree with the logic of that, but not the execution. Keith made some lame jokes. Nicki gave Round 2 to Candice.

Final round: favorite number from the season. Kree picked “Up to the Mountain,” which was definitely one of her shining moments in the competition. The smoke machine was working overtime and she had a back-up choir. Very well sung, although again a bit lacking in energy. I cannot for the life of me figure out what was going on with Kree over the past month on this show. She just seems so ambivalent. When she’s up there does she seem like someone singing for a $1 million contract?

Candice actually had several great performances she could have picked from, and she went with “I Who Have Nothing.” Can’t argue with that. But this time she opened it completely a cappella. No instrumentation until after the first verse -- I believe that was new this time. Now THIS is a woman singing to win this competition! The vocal was flawless, the soul was there, the presence was there -- she did not seem like a reality-show contestant. She seemed like a star. Candice left it all out on the stage. She can go home tonight knowing she did everything possible to win that title.

Recap: I thought Kree threw away the first number, was better than Candice on the new song, and was very good on her third song. Candice pulled it together on the Adele song, did the best she could with an oddly uninspiring inspirational song, and totally killed it in the final number of the show.

Personally I give the win to Candice. I think she won rounds 1 and 3 handily. Kree did have the better coronation single, and the truth is she IS much more marketable, simply because her type of music is still very much current. But I personally hope the win goes to Candice. And I suspect Kree is going to regret letting Candice go last…

So let us have it: who do YOU think will win Season 12?

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