"American Idol" 2013: Top 7 Perform (Rock Week)


The theme was rock night, but the actual theme of the show as fashion trends. Seriously, I think the judges spent more time talking about the contestants’ clothes and styling than they did about the singing. That’s an exaggeration, but not by much. Anyway, people we expected to do poorly with this theme did in fact fall flat (Burnell), while people who should have aced the task came up short (Angie). An interesting week overall.

Burnell Taylor got a double whammy this week. The theme was not anywhere near his wheelhouse, and he got shafted with the Death Slot. He did Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Unsurprisingly, Burnell’s voice sounded completely out of place on this song. The back-up singers were making more of an impact than he was. He came in late on the first line. He seemed generally unsure of himself throughout the performance. He had some decent connection bits with guest guitarist Orianthi (who is fabulous, by the way), and I appreciated that he went out to the audience toward the end. But the whole thing felt forced and awkward. And that’s to be expected. Burnell would never, ever record a song like this. It’s so silly to force these kids to jump through these hoops. Keith Urban told Burnell that he has to make songs his own, even if they’re not his style. True that -- there is very little interpretation going on this season, just straight covers. Nikki Minaj still found him adorable, like a Teddy Ruxpin doll. Mariah Carey blathered on about how she loves that song and…whatever. Burnell admitted that this was the only song he knew of the provided options. How do these children have such limited musical awareness?

And then, terribleness: LazaroArbos and Angie Miller did a duet version of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Lazaro was just awful. Pitchy, lifeless, amateurish, and AGAIN he forgot parts of the song. Angie was also not great. I’m worried about her. Between last week’s huge whiff and this dud of a performance, she seems to be stalling and/or crumbling. Nikki was overly complimentary to Lazaro, but called him out on again forgetting the lyrics. Unacceptable. They all loved Angie. Lazaro admitted to never having heard the song before. Mariah Carey tried to argue that the problem was that the song was not initially a duet. No, the problem was Lazaro. Keith got cut off in his critique, but he found the whole thing too variety show.

Kree Harrison wisely picked Janis Joplin, specifically “Piece of My Heart.” That’s totally her vibe. At first she sounded a bit flat, but she was good on the higher notes. Kree obviously enjoyed performing this song, and interacted a bit with the crowd and threw herself into the lyric. Some good improvised notes in there, too. Randy Jackson did his tiresome “in it to win it” bit. Mariah said that Kree totally knows who she is as an artist, and she’s going to be fine no matter what happens with the show. Keith asked if something was wrong with Kree tonight, and Kree admitted that she has a pinched nerve and could not raise her arm above her head. It’s impressive that she was able to execute as well as she did. Nikki said that it was magnificent, and that Kree would get all of her votes right now.

Second duet, Burnell and Candice on “The Letter.” Burnell was so much better on this than in his solo number. Candice was terrific, as usual. Her stage presence has improved remarkably since this season started. I do wish that there was a better connection between the two of them, but the singing was good. Mariah was hoping for a song that had absolutely nothing to do with the theme. Sigh… Nikki said that Candice’s voice is “clearly superior,” but I couldn’t tell if she was saying that in general, or re: Burnell.

Janelle Arthur did Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right,” and marched on to the stage like she was pulling an ice wagon. I don’t know what was happening with that insane gold vest with mega-long fringe she was wearing. Janelle sounded fine on the verse, but the chorus was bad. Shrill, pinched, flat -- awful key for her. It got better on the second time through, but it was still her worst performance in weeks, and there was something really lame about the whole thing. Keith said that he likes Janelle’s performance commitment, and he thinks she gets better each week. Oh, come on, Keith. That was nowhere as good as last week. Nikki loved Janelle’s boots and apparently she’s going to borrow them. She thinks that Janelle is very relatable to young girls and Middle America. There is no question that Janelle (and to a lesser degree, Kree) is pulling big from the country vote. Mariah said that she actually loved the key because it showed off her vibrato. I suspect this sounded better in the studio than it did on TV.

LazaroArbos got read for filth by the girls for his ridiculous performance moves. Rightly so. He did Queen’s “We Are the Champions” for his solo number. Typical Lazaro performance: started out too low, troublesome diction. But here’s something new: this song was also too high for Lazaro in some points and he was flat on some the upper notes. But there were certain sections that actually sounded better than Lazaro has in weeks. I wasn’t embarrassed for him or the show by the time he got about halfway through. So…good on Lazaro? The crowd response was a little ridiculous. Nikki was picking up a Spanish vibe, which I didn’t get at all. She thought Lazaro did the song justice, and I guess he did. Randy was also clearly surprised that Lazaro didn’t butcher it. There was some talk of Lazaro having “Ricky Martin sexiness.” You have GOT to be kidding, Nikki. Lazaro is pretty, but he has zero machismo.

The trio of Amber, Janelle, and Kree did Billy Joel’s “Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me.” What a weird group, what a weird song for them. I found Janelle barely intelligible in her lines. Amber was ostensibly wearing pants, but they were at least 40 percent holes. Kree again pulled focus here, just like last week. The girls also seemed confused about who was singing what part, and there were some biffed lyrics. Are they giving these contestants any time to rehearse these group numbers? Randy lied and said it was “unbelievable,” saying that they sounded like a real group. You’re terrible, Randy. Nikki hated the song choice and got roundly booed by the audience. She just thought it was cheesy, but responded to Amber the most.

Candice Glover apparently broke her toe in an ill-conceived April Fool’s joke on Lazaro. Lazaro ruins everything! Candice did “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. Candice knows how to build a song. The beginning was fine, but by the time she got to the chorus she was putting her brand of stank (a good thing) on it and throwing in some great little runs. Man alive, she has become sensational. I think she’s my favorite at this point. The judges all loved it, and at this point Nikki even said that she has run out of different things to say about Candice’s voice. She did find the song boring. Say what? I don’t get that AT ALL.

Amber Holcomb did Heart’s “What About Love.” I was pleased with the costume change, and even more pleased with the strong, assured vocal. I didn’t get Amber the first few weeks of the competition -- I wasn’t seeing the sparkle or presence the judges were talking about. I see it now. This was a solid performance on a very challenging song, and the vocal was excellent up until a few bum notes right toward the end. But even those were just slightly off. Keith Urban loved the song choice, and specifically talked about the key change, which was sublime. Nikki felt very emotionally connected to Amber and her performance, and called it her favorite of the night.

Angie Miller got back behind the piano for Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life.” Smart song choice for Angie. But she fled the piano quickly, and that disappointed me. This was still a decent performance from her, and one she really needed after last week’s total bomb. The vocal was solid, and ended very nicely. But the elements didn’t connect as completely as I was hoping. Angie has the ability to electrify, and she should have with this song. But it was just good. (We’ll take good.) Nikki said that she sounded amazing, but really wants Angie to actually go back to the piano stuff that we originally saw her doing. Yes, exactly. I suspect that Angie is deliberately staying away from that during the middle part of the competition so that she can return to it toward the end and propel herself into the final. That’s just a guess, but I cannot fathom why she repeatedly ignores the judges’ pleas to do so otherwise. Keith had a moment of clarity when he said that Angie didn’t really let go and feel the song -- she seemed to be thinking throughout it.

Recap:Burnell was bad on a song that was never going to fit him; Kree was very good on a song perfectly suited to her; Janelle tried too hard and had a dip in the vocal; Lazaro surprised everyone by not bombing; Candice was funky and great; Amber nailed a very challenging song; Angie was comparatively not as good as she should have been.

Predictions:Burnell is toast. He was the weakest of the night and he doesn’t have a very strong fan base to begin with. The question is who joins him in the bottom. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Angie in the B3, which is a bad sign for her. This theme, that song, and the Pimp Slot should have catapulted her to the top of the pack, but I don’t think that’s at all what happened. And although I think she’s great, I bet Amber joins her. The show continually seems to ignore her and I suspect she and Candice are competing for votes -- and that they’re going to Candice. The country girls will probably be safe, although Janelle’s performance should put her in B3 at this point. Lazaro will coast to safety after his near-exit last week.