Let’s be honest. “Motor City Night” was one big car crash for “American Idol.”
Yes, we should start with the most glaring problem – when Lazaro Arbos, Burnell Taylor and Devin Velez stumbled through “I Can’t Help Myself.” Arbos missed a cue and stopped singing, leaving Taylor and Velez singing harmonies to a non-existent lead vocal. They were all shaken after that and Arbos missed another cue. It was a mess.
Nicki Minaj scolded them, calling the performance something they’d expect from Hollywood Week. “I don’t know what that was,” she said. “I’m gonna act like I didn’t see it or hear it. Lazaro you fell as flat as a pancake.”
She ordered them from the stage, but Ryan Seacrest kept them from leaving, asking for an explanation. As both Taylor and Velez tried to point out that they weren’t the ones who messed up, Minaj was giving them the “cut it out” signal. She understands how the voters’ minds work – they don’t like complainers or excuses.
Because this was an “extra” performance – also known as, you know, padding to fill out the two-hour show – it’s not supposed to count with voters. But how can it not? When he advanced after last week’s terrible performance, Arbos showed he has enough voter support to weather a few storms. However, what he should have done was say, “I messed up, not the other guys.” Instead, he just tried to play the collapse off like it happens all the time, which it really doesn’t.
Of course, “Idol” is hitting weird new lows all the time now. They now regularly show Mariah Carey on her smartphone while Seacrest is talking. (Is she really that bored with the show already?) Someone missed a tape cue because Seacrest ad-libbed something and the booth wasn’t listening to what he was saying and cut to tape and then back to Seacrest. Last week, its results show fell behind “Grey’s Anatomy” in the ratings on Thursdays for the first time and this week’s return of “The Voice” will pass it overall.
Last night’s show kind of reflected all of that upheaval, as the contestants all seemed a little unsettled.
Candice Glover, who admitted being unsettled by opening the show, was the best of the night with her bluesy take on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” that showed how her voice could go from gritty to pretty in no time flat.
Kree Harrison sounded good, but not great, on her countrified version of Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Play That Song,” perhaps because she didn’t quite tap into the intensity of repeatedly singing, “You lie!” Amber Holcomb was also good, but not great, on Stevie Wonder’s “Lately.”
Velez seemed nervous, but his voice sounded sweet on “Tracks of My Tears.” He may not get that the song is supposed to be bittersweet, though the “Tears” part should have clued him in, while Taylor was inventive, but slightly wobbly on “My Cherie Amour.”
Janelle Arthur was also inventive in her country version of “You Keep Me Hanging On,” but the outcome was a little lifeless. “It brought out the angst in that lyric in a way that I’ve never heard it before,” Keith Urban said. (Can that really be possible? Has he not heard the original?)
Arbos rebounded from last week with a nice take on “For Once in My Life,” though that was probably forgotten by the end of the show.
And Angie Miller, once a front-runner, is now showing signs of coming apart, as she mistakenly tried to make “Shop Around” more fun by enunciating all the words like she was in “My Fair Lady” and then going off key at the end. “You tried to show a different side of Angie that didn’t need to be shown,” Minaj told her.
Candice Glover, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Kree Harrison, “Don’t Play That Song”
Amber Holcomb, “Lately”
Devin Velez, “The Tracks of My Tears”
Burnell Taylor, “My Cherie Amour”
Janelle Arthur, “You Keep Me Hanging On”
Lazaro Arbos, “For Once in My Life”
Angie Miller, “Shop Around”
BOTTOM THREE: Burnell, Janelle, Lazaro (actually Burnell, Devin, Lazaro)
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Lazaro
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Burnell
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Devin