It’s funny when “American Idol” gets caught up in which contestants are being “real” and “natural,” when so much of the show is wrapped up in behind-the-scenes fakery.
So let’s start with the most important bit of realness from “Lennon and McCartney Week”: The contestants don’t get to choose from the entire Beatles catalog. They only get to choose from a handful of songs, most of which have been sung to death (not “murdered,” in the good way the “Idol” judges and mentors keep mentioning).
When the judges complain about how there isn’t much of a connection between the finalists and their songs, that’s probably because they really only started singing them last week. In some cases, they may have only heard the songs last week. Somehow, 19-year-old Burnell Taylor has never heard “Let It Be” before. Yeah, I don’t know how that’s possible either, but it made his stirring version of it that much more surprising.
At a certain point, it really seems that some of the contestants got stuck with a song because there was no other option. Lazaro Arbos said he ended up switching to “In My Life” the night before the show because producers couldn’t get the song he had initially practiced cleared for performance.
The other bit of fakery is that all of these finalists develop their arrangements and staging and styling by themselves. There are teams of people on the show to help them out. Sure, sometimes the singers have their own original ideas, but a lot of the time they don’t.
And congratulating a singer for picking the right key for his or her voice at this stage in the competition is like complimenting their fashion sense because they decided to wear shoes. The fact that some of them don’t know the right key for their voice isn’t just a break down of their own training, but the whole behind-the-scenes crew.
So let’s get real. “Idol” is becoming increasingly hard to watch for a variety of reasons. And more and more people who aren’t required to watch it are, you know, not. (According to Deadline, ratings for last week’s results show were the lowest in the series’ history.) When “The Voice” returns next week, that’s only going to get worse.
There weren’t any truly bad performances last night – aside from Lazaro’s rushed, ill-prepared, off-key version of “In My Life.” But for the show, the results were actually much worse. Long stretches of the show were safe and boring – kind of like the way Nicki Minaj described Paul Jolley’s performance of “Eleanor Rigby.” (She wasn’t wrong.)
I was worried when they decided to lead off the show with Kree Harrison, but it seems the producers realized they can’t really save the best stuff for last because the viewers won’t stick around. Harrison’s take on basically the Joe Cocker version of “With a Little Help from My Friends” was good, but not great.
Only Candice Glover’s raucous version of “Come Together” came close to greatness and was only held back, ever-so-slightly, when she lost her “rocker chick” persona in a momentary lapse of concentration that Minaj properly pointed out. On a night where the judges kept harping on “realness,” they also complained when she was momentarily real. They also somehow praised Angie Miller’s overwrought version of “Yesterday,” where she tried to turn the mournful, restrained classic into a painful Evanescence nightmare complete with unnatural, longing stares into the camera.
No wonder so many of these singers are confused. Poor Lazaro really seems like he has no idea what to do. Mariah Carey complimented him on his “perseverance and courage.” Minaj said he needed to stay away from Jimmy Iovine.
Jolley really was bland and un-dramatic because he listened to the judges who keep telling him to be less dramatic. They also really don’t want him to be the male Taylor Swift like he says he wants. Carey suggests he should become a dance artist. Right, because singing songs in a genre he says he has no interest in would surely make him seem more natural and real.
And speaking of Mariah realness, we did get a rare glimpse of her true feelings about Minaj when she shouted out her Lambs (a.k.a. her fans) “for the first time,” a dig at Minaj’s regular mentioning of her Barbz. Sometimes dysfunction makes for good TV and sometimes the results are just all too expected and, well, real.
Candice Glover, “Come Together”
Kree Harrison, “With a Little Help From My Friends”
Burnell Taylor, “Let It Be”
Janelle Arthur, “I Will”
Devin Velez, “The Long and Winding Road”
Amber Holcomb, “She’s Leaving Home”
Angie Miller, “Yesterday”
Paul Jolley, “Eleanor Rigby”
Lazaro Arbos, “In My Life”
TOP THREE: Candice, Kree, Angie
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Lazaro
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Lazaro
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Paul