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Contestants “Come Together” on American Idol

Janelle Arthur
photo by Frank Micelotta/FOX

It was Beatles night on American Idol performance night tonight (March 20), which afforded the remaining nine contestants a plethora of excellent material from which to choose. Of course, they chose the most obvious, overdone songs instead. Most of which were ballads. Because why on earth would anyone want to hear "Please Please Me" or "Good Day Sunshine" or "Revolution" or "All You Need Is Love"?

It's going to be a long season.

But once again, the girls on this show pretty much destroyed. Nashville local Kree Harrison was in the dreaded opening slot, but ably proved her staying power with a soulful take on Joe Cocker's arrangement of "With a Little Help From My Friends." What would we do if she sang out of tune? Considering we haven't heard it yet, we may never know. Judge Keith Urban correctly observed, "All the cool things about country is what you are." Mariah Carey thought it was "fan-freakin'-tastic."

The top guy's performance went to Burnell Taylor, who opted for "Let It Be," even though he had never heard the song before. You'd never have known it from his performance, which added a touch of gospel to Sir Paul's ruminative classic while remaining distinctly Burnell. This guy is very interesting to watch and hear, but sometimes the choices aren't always so good. Tonight was a winner. "You didn't even sing the song, you caressed it," said judge Nicki Minaj.

The left-field choice of the night came courtesy of young Amber Holcomb, who I previously faulted for not having the experience or taste of a fully-formed artist. She chose "She's Leaving Home," with which she was not familiar, and gave it a fully fresh spin. She's also emerging as a much more intriguing artist with the information that she grew up on a farm with a huge family in a remote part of Texas. "You made it sound as fresh as if it was written this week," said Keith of the 46-year-old song.

Lazaro Arbos, unfortunately, did not fare so well with his choice of Rubber Soul's "In My Life." His timing felt off, and he was struggling with his pitch throughout. I love his story of overcoming adversity with music, but he's really just outmatched by better singers in this competition. It was almost funny to watch the judges tiptoe around it. "I'm just starting to wonder, where did the vocals go?" asked Randy Jackson. 

We got a sweet reprieve from the balladry from Candice Glover, who turned in a rocked-up take on "Come Together" that blended Tina Turner's sass with Aerosmith's crunch. I didn't really realize just how much I was missing the up-tempo stuff until she did this. Her ad-libbing was also stellar. Keith praised her rock 'n' roll chops, saying, "I loved seeing you in this whole other vibe." More of this, please.

Paul Jolley has had some trouble oversinging, and choosing the stately "Eleanor Rigby" helped him. Until it didn't. Things got theatrical with the addition of smoke and dramatic backdrops, but Paul's voice was strong. "Very, very safe, very bland, and forgettable," sighed Nicki. Both Keith and Mariah also made a case that he might not be a country artist, but instead something more pop-rock. We'll see how that plays if he gets to hang around.

The early favorite Angie Miller probably didn't lose any ground by choosing the oft-coverred "Yesterday," keeping it subtle until one excessively long note in the middle. "You did a very respectful version of the song. You showed simplicity," offered Mariah. Angie's still going to be tough to beat.

We stayed on the interminably slow pace with Devin Velez, who was looking to get some of his mojo back after a bottom two finish last week. He chose "The Long and Winding Road," a particularly schmaltzy Beatles tune, but actually sounded confident and back in charge doing it. "I've been wondering where that swagger was," said Randy.

And hey, the money performance slot went to country girl Janelle Arthur, who made a creative choice with "I Will." It was a perfectly gorgeous performance that treated a delicate song with care, giving it a little country sheen and let Janelle show off some little vocal tricks that we haven't heard so much as of yet. Pretty flawless, and one of my favorites. "Oh my God, you are great, little girl," praised Nicki. "You pulled us in with such a subtle performance."

Top three guess: Candice, Angie and Kree.

Bottom two guess: Paul and Burnell.


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