When I heard American Idol was doing Beatles Night, the side of me that loves to hate-watch the show kicked in: grab the popcorn this could end in total disaster!
However, most of the remaining nine finalists proved me oh-so-wrong on Wednesday — in particular, Candice Glover, Angie Miller and Janelle Arthur, who gained back some frontrunner buzz with her sweet and soothing performance of "I Will."
Others were not nearly as successful. Here’s the lowdown on the good, the not-so-good and the near-meltdowns:
Kree Harrison ("With a Little Help From My Friends"): Everyone loves Kree: she has a stellar soul-blues-country voice and also the face of a nice person you might approach for directions to Graceland or whatever. Except that I’m nostalgic for The Wonder Years and so prefer Joe Cocker‘s overwrought, sweaty version of "Little Help" over Kree’s pleasant-enough take. For American Idol standards, however, it was an A-plus. Trainwreck averted!
Burnell Taylor ("Let It Be"): Restrained yet soulful, hipster yet heartfelt. Burnell’s geeky-cool vibe and endearing innocence — not to mention his undeniable talent — had the judges freaking out. "You didn’t even sing the song, you caressed it," purred Nicki. (Sidenote and message to Nicki Minaj: when you say you like someone’s unfortunate-looking leather jacket, and by someone I mean Burnell, then I don’t believe you.)
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Amber Holcomb ("She’s Leaving Home"): Although Keith Urban called this downbeat Sergeant Pepper’s track his "absolute favorite Beatles song of all time," it was clear Amber didn’t feel the same. As Nicki pointed out, she looked "defeated" onstage — indeed, Amber is one of those artists who feels everything and can’t fake anything. That said, she looked stunning in a printed dress and statement necklace, although her lipstick wasn’t pink enough for Nicki’s liking.
Lazaro Arbos ("In My Life"): Poor Lazaro! The shy ex-ice cream scooper struggled to resist breaking down onstage after getting panned by the judges — especially a ruthless Randy Jackson, who dubbed his off-key performance the worst he’d seen from the hopeful. Meanwhile, Nicki wondered where Lazaro’s confidence had gone and blamed mentor Jimmy Iovine for pushing him into a different, more unnatural direction. Cue the pity votes.
Candice Glover ("Come Together"): PERFECTION. If Candice doesn’t win, then I’m staging a walk-off.
Paul Jolley ("Eleanor Rigby"): Surrounded by a string quartet, the velvet-jacket clad aspiring country-pop star fell flat on the classic that David Cook performed to unanimous kudos several years earlier. In way-harsh feedback, Nicki slammed Jolley’s rendition as "very, very safe, very bland and forgettable" and — oof — she might as well have been talking about Jolley himself. BO-RING. Dude’s on the chopping block this week.
Angie Miller ("Yesterday"): With freshly flat-ironed locks and slinky rock-chick leather pants, the judge/fan favorite successfully pulled off an emo-intense cover of this best-loved Fab Four standard. Angie is the sing-testant I most look forward to each week, so if she fails to take home the Idol title, A) I will pledge allegiance to The Voice and B) move to Canada after C) writing a very stern letter to Pinot Grigio-swilling American mom viewers for crowning Lazaro the winner.
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Devin Velez ("The Long and Winding Road"): "I don’t know what Keith’s been sippin’ on today," sniped Nicki, arguing with Mr. Nicole Kidman‘s assertion that Devin wasn’t emotionally connected to the song. I ‘m with Keith on this one. Devin is a technically gifted vocalist, but like Ryan Seacrest, his robotic stage presence evokes calculated effort rather than genuine emotion. Plus, every time Devin sings, I want to take a nap.
Janelle Arthur ("I Will"): Her comforting butterscotch tone makes me want to light apricot-scented candles and contemplate life. In other words, AMAZING. "You’re pure, you’re true," gushed Keith, while Nicki went a strep further: "Janelle, can we renew our vows, tonight?" Apparently referring to Paul, the wannabe "Male Carrie Underwood" who’s more mainstream pop than Nashville-credible, she added: "You never have to say, I want to sing country because that’s what you give off."
In other news! Aubrey "Shoulda Been a Finalist" Cleland earned her rightful spot on the Idols Live! tour, beating Charlie Askew to win the most votes.
And so there you have it, Idol-Worshippers. In your estimation, who’s going home tomorrow? Which Beatles cover did you love and which did you loathe? Anyone else getting annoyed by Nicki’s obsession with pink lipstick? Sound off in the comments.