Last Thursday, Paul Jolley was shuffled off to his eventual Broadway career… and we’re left with eight singers to compete over the Motown songbook (for the umpteenth time, as Idol’s announcement that they’d scale back on [trite] themes this season is now officially dead)… three fairly weak male singers, and the five women Idol will be pushing to the moon. They absolutely want – and need, perhaps – a woman to win this year… but will the voting audience cooperate? I suspect that sympathy for Lazaro’s stutter will translate into him picking off some of the girls… possibly starting tonight? We’re back at Television City for Mariah Carey’s birthday… because…
THIS! … is American Idol!
This year, Motown Week is built around Smokey Robinson, as he narrates the intro and is seated front-row for tonight’s performance show.
But… it’s not Motown week after all. It’s The Music of Detroit – which allows for non-Motown singers from the Motor City (if anyone does Eminem, they win one Internet)… and, as always when we have more time than singers, there will be group numbers (probably a duet and two trios) tonight. And we jump right in…
”I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye)
Also done by the Miracles (unreleased) and Gladys Knight and the Pips, among many, many others… This one has been done so often that Candice needs to really come up with something special… she does have the pipes for it, though… and it’s been arranged in a somewhat slower, more bluesy tone for her. It’s a good choice, as it puts more focus on her voice than the background singers. She didn’t quite get off the official Idol Note, but that’s a minor quibble, really, as the performance definitely set a high bar for the evening…
It appears that the duet/trio performance may be the non-Motown songs, at least if the leaked song list is any indication…
DUET: Janelle Archer & Kree Harrison (yes, the Country Girls)
”Like A Prayer” (Madonna, via Sugarland)
The girls get the Product Placement Zone interview… they credit the inspiration for the arrangement to Jennifer Nettles’ version… and, to absolutely no surprise, they do a terrific job. Although this isn’t officially part of the competition, it can only help them get votes… for some reason, the judges get to run their mouths about the group/duet performances, which generally hasn’t been done in the past (as I recall). The effect, it seems, is to back the Idol bus over Janelle. as somehow it’s decided that she didn’t hold up her end of the duet…
Off to break… after which it’s Lazaro time (early enough in the show that I’m sure Idol is hoping he’ll get lost in the shuffle)…
We get a quick interview with Smokey Robinson, plugging the duets album he’s working on now and “Motown: The Musical”.
”For Once In My Life” (Stevie Wonder)
I was prepared to completely hate it… but this week, he seems to be a bit more under control… certainly more comfortable with the song than he was with last week’s last-minute switch. Thing is, if Simon Cowell were here, he’d pull out the “lounge singer” critique, and he’d have a point. It was good, but not terribly pop. I think he’ll hang around (unless everyone else kills their songs).
Another break… and a quick turnaround from duet to solo for Janelle…
”You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (Supremes)
She says it’s an arrangement she did herself way back when she was 14 (about 20 minutes ago?)… and she’s on guitar (so is she now a WGWG – white girl with guitar?). It’s definitely a more country arrangement. It’s a risk. And it may be the best performance of the season so far. This was just beautiful in its simplicity and emotion and power – really, go find it if you weren’t watching the show. This was an Idol Moment. And Nicki Minaj is a nitwit.
I will not forgive Seacrest for his “does Janelle reign supreme?” line. That’s a really bad pun (and I know bad puns)… one of the weaker links does a Smokey song? Devin’s next…
”Tracks Of My Tears” (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
What’s going on with the guys and the lounge-style performances tonight? He’s got a good voice, and he did showcase it, but I’m not a fan of how he interpreted the song… it was just kind of there. I suspect he went far enough afield that he’ll get another seat in the Bottom Three… and could well go home tomorrow night.
Halfway home… and Seacrest says that three of the girls are doing “one of the most iconic trios in music history”. Hmmm… it’s Motor City Week… I couldn’t possibly figure out this riddle…
TRIO: Amber Holcomb, Angie Miller & Candice Glover
”I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” (Supremes)
This is a somewhat more mismatched grouping than the Kree/Janelle duo… Angie and Candice had their moments, but Amber seemed to struggle a bit with her parts… pretty good, but I’m not sure it was quite standing-ovation material. Fortunately, we seem to be up against time as only Mariah spoke…
”My Cherie Amour” (Stevie Wonder)
Ooof… off to a rough start on the song, with some odd phrasing that stands out like a sore thumb. OK, I guess, but it was a mix of a little too karaoke at some points and a little too weird at others… I don’t think he’s going home, but I’m also not going to be surprised if he does.
Off to the break, as Angie has to do another quick turnaround to her solo track.
”Shop Around” (Smokey Robinson and The Miracles)
I don’t know that this was her best choice… While she got a chance to show off her stage presence, it’s almost like the song got lost somewhere. She’s done better, and will have the chance to do better again – she’ll get through, but doesn’t have the luxury of too many mid-level performances like this.
AFTER THE BREAK! A performance that will shape the results for the show. Amber really needs to nail this one…
”Lately” (Stevie Wonder)
You know how there are some singers you just never quite warm up to? Amber’s that singer for me this season. She has a really good voice, but I never get the sense she’s connecting to the song, the audience, or anything. Don’t get me wrong, she’s talented, but for me, it’s just not coming together. That said, the standing ovation and the judges’ overselling will probably help her avoid the Bottom Three this week.
The guys get their group song next… which means Idol has moved Kree from the Death Spot last week to the Pimp Spot this week. I really don’t pretend to understand how they decide the show lineups…
TRIO: Burnell Taylor, Devin Velez, & Lazaro Arbus
”I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” (Four Tops)
Wow, was this awkward. Not the song, they actually did OK, but they couldn’t synchronize their nearly dance-like moves at all. And this was where Nicki Minaj decided to be feisty and ordered the guys off the stage. Then the guys took turns throwing each other (and the show) under the bus, so VFTW will absolutely enjoy this segment. Nobody else did, I suspect – but really, the singing wasn’t bad. Just everything else was.
Turning for home with the singer I think the show wants to win…
Someone needs to clue Seacrest in on the difference between a birthday and an anniversary, as he wished Mariah the wrong one…
”Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” (Aretha Franklin)
Originally performed by Ben E. King, Kree chose to work off the Queen’s cover… in the pre-tape, she said she was nervous doing an Aretha song… if she was, she didn’t show it. Another solid performance from the singer who, at this point, does have the fast track to a confetti shower in late May. Yeah, she’ll be back.
Bottom Three: Amber, Burnell, Devin
Singing For His Spot: Devin (and there won’t be a save)
Janelle gave the best performance, Kree solidified her status as the prohibitive favorite, and the guys have sunk so far that two hours after writing the opening paragraph, I no longer believe that any of the three remaining guys can make a Sanjaya-like run to the top. We could have 4 girls in the top four. There’s almost no way we’ll have less than 3 girls there.
I have plans tomorrow night, so the results recap arrives late in the evening. I’ll be SO looking forward to OneRepublic teaming with Katherine McPhee (who has come running back to FOX just as fast as NBC buried Smash), and Colton Dixon performing… well, at least Keith Urban’s going to try to save the hour. See you tomorrow.