View the original article at: http://www.countryweekly.com/blog/idol-ladies-look-champions
Fear struck deep in my heart at the start of tonight’s (March 13) episode of American Idol, when judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey and Keith Urban walked out and Nicki Minaj was nowhere to be seen. The freshman Idol judge has consistently proven herself as delightfully unpredictable and wacky, as well as capable of giving tough love and helpful feedback. In short, I needs my Nicki. Thankfully she was just stuck in traffic, and appeared a few minutes into the live show.
Tonight’s theme was songs previously performed in competition or recorded by Idol winners. And apparently there’s a lot of slow ones, because that’s pretty much all we got. Seriously, folks, would a little tempo kill you? As AC/DC so eloquently said, "Rock 'N' Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution." But I digress . . .
Gospel singer Curtis Finch Jr. got the unfortunate duty of going first, which can be deadly if you don’t bring it. He opted for Fantasia Barrino’s season three finale song, “I Believe,” so between this and his earlier song “I Believe I Can Fly,” I think we can say with some certainty that he is a believer. He sang fine, and stood out in a bold red paisley jacket, but it lacked the fire of some of his earlier performances. Randy wasn’t totally floored. “Try something a little bit different because I feel like it’s always these kinds of things you sing. I know there’s more in your bag," he said.
Janelle Arthur was next up, and undoubtedly got some love from CW readers by remarking that “country music is becoming so watered down.” She then broke a bit with her typically traditional roots and sang Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone” a la Scotty McCreery, which unfortunately proved to be a bit ill-fitting. Randy thought it “didn’t lead anywhere.”
Nashville got a little more love when Devin Velez took on Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home.” It was a tad slow, but this guy is such a great singer that it hardly mattered. The judges split on it, with Keith Urban saying he didn’t feel like Devin had confidence, and Nicki arguing that it really felt like him.
Things officially got into gear with Angie Miller, who sang Celine Dion’s “I Surrender” in homage to original Idol Kelly Clarkson. She looked and sounded every bit the future star, working the stage and hitting all the big notes with confidence. Mariah thought it was “stellar” and Nicki called her “perfection on every level.” At this point, I’d put money on her being in the final three.
Country boy Paul Jolley’s taken a few knocks for being too “theatrical,” and it seems like he took the advice to heart, dialing it back for a polished performance of Lonestar’s “Amazed,” which Scotty did a couple years back. “This is the first time you’ve stimulated my sexual appetite,” quipped Nicki. Voters love someone who can listen and grow, so this was a big moment for Paul.
Then Candice Glover pretty much made me forget about everything that happened before, singing Ben E. King’s “I (Who Have Nothing)” in the vein of Jordin Sparks. Holy cow, y’all. I know she isn’t a country singer, but this girl is ridiculous. Every performance feels so real, so connected, and she knows just the right moments to insert those dazzling technical runs. The judges loved it. “Every time you’re onstage, I’m mesmerized,” summed up Mariah. Me too.
Lazaro Arbos seems like a charming fellow, and has won a following by overcoming some big obstacles in his life. But singing Kelly’s single “Breakway” didn’t do him any favors, as he just got lost in its lower ranges without being able to show off his power. Still, don’t expect him to be going home this week.
Our local gal Kree Harrison took a page from the Carrie book and reprised Roy Orbison’s “Cryin’,” which came out totally effortless and beautiful. She’s definitely got a knack for bringing out the emotional core of a song, and the judges responded with approval. Nicki felt it was like eating buttermilk waffles with syrup (yum!) and Keith praised her, saying, “If you made a record tomorrow, I would go and buy that record because I love your voice.” Agreed.
Burnell Taylor stayed on his R&B path singing season two winner Reuben Studdard’s “Flying Without Wings,” which was unfortunately just a snooze. I really want this kid to be like a Frank Ocean or something, because he’s got interesting movements and vocal tics, but I’m not sure the taste is quite there. “You always seem to stay in your lane,” noted Nicki.
The money performance slot went to young Amber Holcomb, who tackled Kelly’s coronation song, “A Moment Like This,” and basically nailed it. She’s a tough one, because she’s cute as a button and a great singer but I don’t feel like I know anything about her in the way that I do Kree or Candice. Maybe that’s the whole youth vs. experience thing, I don’t know.
So, on the whole, it was pretty strong night, especially if you’re female. I’d put Candice, Kree and Angie as three very strong front-runners right now. As for those in trouble tomorrow, I’d say maybe Janelle, Burnell and Curtis.