“American Idol”: Top 5 Take On the Divas

Kree Harrison
Photo by Michael Becker/ FOX.

It's all down to the ladies on American Idol now, so it was only appropriate that one-half of tonight’s (April 17) show be devoted to diva songs. Because as we all know, this lot loves a big ballad from a big diva.

But the first round for the remaining five—Candice Glover, Janelle Arthur, Angie Miller, Amber Holcomb and Kree Harrison—featured songs from the year they were born. Which in some cases wasn’t all that long ago.

Songs From the Year They Were Born

So Candice is a Sagittarius, like yours truly, which may explain one reason I like her so much. You know, aside from being really talented and whatnot. To further cement the connection, she sang a funky, stripped-down version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” which is an all-time favorite song of mine (I was a teen in the ’90s, OK?).

Nicki Minaj enjoyed it, saying, “You showed that you are the boss.” Keith Urban said she “set the bar high for the other girls.”

Jimmy Iovine, who for the first time got to add his commentary between performers, didn’t like it. “She needs a big song at this point in the contest,” he said. “What she should have done was a song that could show her full range of vocal. She’ll have to kill the next song.” Oh Jimmy, just you wait.

Janelle the marshmallow is also a Sag, so that's pretty cool. When she was young, the sound of Vince Gill’s voice would stop her crying so she sang Vince’s “When I Call Your Name” and played the acoustic guitar as she did.

Her voice sounded great and it’s such a beautiful song, but there was something off about this. Maybe she wasn’t in it? Mariah Carey loved it, praising her for being “raw and real,” but Keith wasn’t thrilled. “As far as hitting all the notes, it was perfect,” he said. “But I didn’t feel it.” Jimmy also agreed, saying it “wasn’t enough.”

Fellow country lady Kree stayed with the soulful country thing by singing The Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels.” It started a little slowly, but let her build up to a full-throated finish. Not a game-winner, but still solid.

“I don’t know if it was flawless,” Randy said, “but emotionally I felt that and got that from you.” Mariah told her she could “sing anything.”

Angie dedicated her performance of The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You” to her hometown of Boston, which was pretty savvy in addition to being touching.

It felt a little rushed, but the judges liked it overall. Nicki and Randy both agreed it was a great song choice. And Mariah loves Chrissie Hynde, apparently. The more you know, people!

Amber closed out round one with Mariah’s version of the Nilsson song “Without You,” which was a little low for her in the early parts. But it’s a big rangy song and when it got wound up to the high notes, she had a chance to shine.

“Your singing has grown in leaps and bounds,” praised Keith. Jimmy thought she was “second best” at this point.

The Diva Round

For the Diva round, Candice decided to overachieve by singing the Mariah and Whitney Houston duet “When You Believe,” which was a big, insane maneuver.

And mostly, it worked, because Candice has an appropriately huge, expressive voice that recalls Whitney’s greatness and that allowed her to take charge of the thing. Randy called it the “best vocal of the night” and Mariah said she could “sing anything in front of anybody, anywhere.”

Janelle stayed true to her country roots and picked country diva Dolly Parton’s “Dumb Blonde,” goosing it a little bit for a more rowdy presentation.

Her vocals were a little shaky, but overall it was a charming performance. Mariah thought it was “cute,” but Nicki thought she might be in “jeopardy of going home.”

Kree also made a bold choice by singing Celine Dion’s “Have You Ever Been in Love” and looked beautiful on the twinkling stage all in black.

It wasn't a technically flawless performance, but man, she can sing anything and sound like she means it. Mariah appreciated her “versatility,” and Keith loved how she “stayed in control of the song the whole time.” Nicki went a step further, saying, “You’re not country, you’re worldly. you’re iconic. You are Adele, you are Celine Dion. You are one of those divas that we can watch when they’re 20 and when they’re 50, stand on a stage and just sing.” Right on.

Beyoncé’s “Halo” was Angie’s Diva choice, which she knew was a risk. She even stepped away from the piano for this one. She hit the first chorus full stride and this actually felt like a good choice, like something she would possibly record.

Keith said it was in the top three for him. Nicki agreed. “You just did that song justice like a queen could,” she said.

And finally, Amber showed off a jazzy, smoky side by singing Barbra Streisand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” which proved to be gorgeous and dramatic.

Nicki called it “perfection” and noted that she doesn’t get enough credit. Randy pointed out how difficult a song it is to sing, and how current she is. Mariah loved it. “Classic, beautiful, elegant. If America doesn’t get this, I don’t know.”

Once again, Candice and Kree delivered a couple of the night’s strongest performances, and Amber really stepped up her game. I’m afraid to say, Janelle might be in trouble.

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