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It was like Separation Sunday on American Idol tonight (April 10). Except not Sunday, and not really like football. So really, something totally different. But it did give some pretty clear indication of who might have a shot in the larger music world, and who isn't ready yet. Hint: not Lazaro.
The remaining six contestants sang for two rounds tonight. First round was a selection from the Burt Bacharach and Hal David songbook, followed by songs the contestants' wished they had written.
Early favorite Angie Miller has been slipping somewhat recently, but her elegant performance of Dionne Warwick's hit "Anyone Who Had a Heart" likely won her some favor, though the judges thought it was lacking some passion. "You have such a great voice, and all I ask is that you don't rely on it alone," implored Keith Urban.
The Dionne party kept going when Amber Holcomb chose "I Say a Little Prayer," which was actually quite perfect. She looked cool in her retro pantsuit and had an impressive run at the end. Nicki Minaj was blown away. "What in the hell just happened right now? I am bowing down for you right now, little girl." Keith thought she was like a "summer breeze that just blew in."
Lone man Lazaro Arbos showed up in one of the craziest suits ever on the Idol stage, some kind of chameleon green-purple-blue multicolored thing, and sang The Carpenters' hit "Close to You." And alas, he wasn't anywhere close when it came to pitch. Randy Jackson thought it was "horrible" and Keith thought he "didn't quite catch the key change."
Kree Harrison got things back on track, starting off "What the World Needs Now Is Love" completely a cappella and being right on key when the music came in. (That's how you do it, Lazaro.) It was less "country" than some of her previous songs, but still lovely. Keith pointed out that when Kree sings, "it's the humanity and the compassion that comes through."
Fellow country gal Janell Arthur opted for "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and seemed to be struggling a little bit up front, but settled down a little bit for the ending. It wasn't one of her finest, but it was certainly better than Lazaro. Randy thought it was "lackluster."
Then Candice Glover, who I admit I kind of love. She sang Dionne's "Don't Make Me Over" like a champ. ad-libbing like a pro and doing all these crazy technical things she can do, but remained so connected and committed to the song. The judges were on their feet. Nicki called it "exquisite" and told Candice, "This is what you were born to do. You didn't learn how to do this."
To kick off round two, Angie chose Kari Jobe's "Love Came Down" and returned to her spot at the piano. This one was right in her wheelhouse, and a glimpse at the kind of artist she wants to be. "There's something about you at the piano," Randy said. "I think you just feel it more."
Then we got—gasp—an up-tempo song from Amber, who wished she'd written Beyoncé's "Love on Top." This one was nice enough, but it failed to grab me like her first-round performance. Still, she seemed to be having fun. Nicki loved it, however, and praised Amber's "stallion legs."
Lazaro tried to right himself with Robbie Williams' hit "Angels," but he was still all over the place, further making me question America's sanity for putting him this deep into the competition. He was more confident on the choruses, but those low notes were just a killer for him. Randy said, "It's a girls' race right now."
Oh, but back to country. Kree took on Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" (very classy) and nailed it. The arrangement was simple and uncomplicated, allowing her to start quietly and build to some of those power notes in the chorus. Stunning, beautiful. Nicki said she could "sing a song I've never heard and make me fall in love with it." Keith predicted she would one day be a Grand Ole Opry member. Here's hoping!
Then country fans got to hear Garth Brooks' "The Dance" one more time this week after his ACM performance, when Janelle chose it. The softer first part was strong, but she lost her way a little bit when the drums and background vocals kicked in. And the sharp last note—ouch. Nicki didn't think it was "enough to get a leg up over the other girls."
They truly saved the best for last. Candice wished she had written The Cure's "Love Song," which tickles my inner music nerd to no end. It was a pretty naked arrangement (like Adele's), and afforded her the chance to just knock everyone sideways with an honest delivery and those amazing little trills she does, as well as a fantastic soft ending of her reaching up to the stratosphere in falsetto. Just incredible. The judges were sitting, but the crowd was going bonkers. Randy spoke on behalf of the judges, calling it "one of the greatest performances in the history, 12 years of American Idol." No argument here.
So there you go. Bottom two, I predict Lazaro and Janelle, but this is where it gets weird. The judges will almost certainly have to use the save on tomorrow's show (April 11), because next week is the last chance they'll have this season. My guess is Janelle gets voted out and they bring her back with the save, because otherwise they might have to use it on Lazaro next week after basically saying he doesn't belong on the show anymore. And that would be kind of lousy.
America, he's a nice kid and all, but he's not ready for this. Do the right thing.