It was a wild, tearful night on "American Idol" as Candice Glover pulled out a showstopper to perhaps challenge Angie Miller as the favorite to win it all, while Glover and Kree Harrison's emotional homecomings prompted some of the most memorable moments of the year from a choked-up Nicki Minaj.
Everyone sang three songs tonight — one chosen by mentor Jimmy Iovine, then one chosen by the judges, then one by the show's producers.
Glover saved the best for last, getting the night's only standing ovation with a surprisingly stirring rendition of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story." Who knew she could sing Broadway this well — and why did it take us until the next-to-last show to find out?
Glover was the story of the night, with three strong performances and an emotional homecoming visit to St. Helena, S.C. A teary Minaj paid tribute to how she overcame a lack of self-confidence and lack of Hollywood looks to become a role model for girls with her fiery performances and determination. "You have come out swinging in this competition — I am so proud of you."
As Randy Jackson said, "this is one of the greatest things about 'American Idol,' that you can come from nothing and make it."
Harrison's visit home also left the judges in tears. She lost both her parents while still a teenager, with her sister calling the sight of their childhood home "bittersweet."
Harrison had to sing right after everyone watched the video; Minaj, whose raw honesty and bluntness has become a highlight of the show, paid tribute to "how much strength you have to have to be this young and not have parents."
Below's how I ranked everyone; put your thoughts in the comments, below.
1) Candice Glover's "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" prompted a giddy Keith Urban to yell, "Oh my goodness, what was that?! What happened, how do you do that?!" He finished with, "If you want to vote for Candice, dial the number on your screen. If you don't want to vote for Candice call your doctor, you probably don't have a pulse."
2) Angie Miller's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" was fantastic for me — crystal-clear, passionate yet not cheesy. Urban thought she could've controlled it even more, telling her, "you can break people's hearts singing gently, too."
3) Candice Glover's "One" was a great pick that let her velvety voice swell; as Randy Jackson said, she had room to "soar and sing."
4) Kree Harrison 's "Here Comes Goodbye" fit her voice well and let her emotion show through. Nicki Minaj told her flat out "this was one of your best performances to date because you felt every word."
5) Angie Miller's "Try" was a professional performance — she seemed like a pop star, not a contestant on a show Minaj compared her to Miley Cyrus' long-lost sister or something.
6) Kree Harrison's "Better Dig Two" fit her voice well, even though she seemed a bit tired or worn down doing it. It suited Mariah Carey, who said, "I like the sorrow more than the anger."
7) Angie Miller's "Maybe" was classic Angie at the piano — driven, smooth, energetic and compelling. As Carey said, "I have nothing negative at all to say about the performance."
8) Candice Glover's "Next to Me" was nothing special for me, but it was the impetus for one of the greatest moments of the season — Minaj paying homage to Miller making it to this point just by her voice and her drive, despite not being Hollywood glamorous.
9) Kree Harrison's rendition of "Perfect" was anything but — it was flat and totally not memorable. As Jackson said, it didn't have a lot of "pizzazz."