The wheels are officially coming off the “American Idol” bus.
Pretty much everyone looked bewildered during last night’s show, from the Final Four contestants to the feuding judges to even normally unflappable host Ryan Seacrest.
It was a mess. Just in time for the first show of the May ratings book! And for its first head-to-head battle of the year with “The Voice”! (“The Voice” aired only a recap show last night, but next week its results show will go up against the “Idol” Top 3 episode.) Coincidence? Who knows?
“Idol” producers did seem to address two of the biggest complaints from recent weeks in one fell swoop last night.
They made one of the evening’s themes “Songs from 2013” and brought in guest mentor Harry Connick, Jr., adding some youth and humor into the proceedings. The licensing cost to do some of the hottest songs around certainly had to bust the show’s budget that they’ve been trying to rein in so far this season.
It was worth it for Candice Glover, who got to show, with Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” that she could certainly be on radio today given the right song. The theme also helped Kree Harrison, who tackled Carrie Underwood’s “See You Again” in a way that Connick said was even better than the original. However, it tripped up Amber Holcomb, who seemed nervous during her take of Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason.” Angie Miller’s decision to turn Rihanna’s “Diamonds” into a bland piano ballad was even worse.
"Diamonds" did spark Part 1 of the weird Nicki vs. Mariah battle, where Nicki sought a “so I agree with Nicki” acknowledgment from Mariah and got a snipe about how not everyone has a No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 instead. (Minaj’s biggest hit so far “Super Bass” only reached No. 3, while Carey has had a string of No. 1s, including the two longest-running chart-toppers, “One Sweet Day” with Boyz II Men for 16 weeks and “We Belong Together” for 14 weeks.)
Angie sparked Part 2 of the fight as well, during the “Standards” half of the show, with her messy version of “Someone to Watch Over Me.” That’s when Nicki offered Mariah a Q-Tip out of her purse to help her clean the wax out of her ears, after she felt Mariah misstated something she said. (Actually, Nicki was right.)
However, that was just the warm-up to the real battle of the evening, between Randy Jackson and Connick. As a mentor, Connick made a good point to the Final Four about skipping a lot of the runs for their standards and just singing the melody. Jackson also made a good point about how the Final Four shouldn’t let outside people get in their heads about their performances. Then, of course, Jackson’s poor choice of words got the best of him, saying that Kree should be herself and lean more toward the Etta James version of “Stormy Weather” instead of Lena Horne’s version. Connick pounced, saying that it made no sense to push her toward one version or another if her goal is to be herself. The battle went on until Seacrest tried to break them up with, “You’re making Nicki and Mariah look benign.”
Connick did mess with Kree’s head and her version of “Stormy Weather” suffered because of it. She seemed tentative and uncomfortable as she sang. Worse, though, was Amber Holcomb’s reaction to watching Connick’s mentoring of her on tape, where he points out that she has no idea what “My Funny Valentine” is about. Amber did a lovely version of the song, but afterward broke down in tears, as the pressure seemed to become too much for her. She was clearly the one with the lowest vote totals from last week and was worried that she had not done enough to dig out of that hole to avoid elimination. She may be right.
Candice Glover was apparently third last week and she stepped up her game last night with a stunning version of “You’ve Changed” that should definitely keep her in the competition.
Will Amber stick around? It depends on how much “My Funny Valentine” and her tears motivated people to vote for her and whether people have finally had enough of Angie. As bad as Angie was last night, I think they may have.
Candice Glover, “You’ve Changed”
Amber Holcomb, “My Funny Valentine”
Candice Glover, “When I Was Your Man”
Kree Harrison, “Stormy Weather”
Kree Harrison, “See You Again”
Amber Holcomb, “Just Give Me a Reason"
Angie Miller, “Someone to Watch Over Me”
Angie Miller, “Diamonds”
BOTTOM TWO: Amber, Angie
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Angie
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Angie
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Amber