Only a few of the Top 10 stand out on 'Music of the American Idols' night; Nicki Minaj talks snacks

By Annie Barrett
March 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM EDT
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The guys and girls finally went head-to-head, and to honor this tremendous occasion, Idol created a “Music of the American Idols” theme that yielded some of the most boring, done-to-death Top 10 performances ever. But entertainment doesn’t really matter. What’s really important is that these people look fabulous, and that at least one of them has stimulated the sexual appetite of tardy-to-the-party Nicki Minaj.

Curtis Finch, Jr., Fantasia’s “I Believe” — This was just really bad — the self-proclaimed “modern-day Luther Vandross” (nope) was off-pitch with a cheesy delivery, and he was a step off the beat the whole time. Nicki Minaj was still in traffic at this point, rushing to the set after fighting off a crazy alien robot for its favorite sunglasses. So of course none of the three other judges straight-up told Curtis he was not good. Keith mentioned “so much adrenaline rushing on,” Randy complimented Curtis’ “fly jacket” (NO), and Mariah claimed she wanted more raw gospel vocals from Curtis. I guess his affinity for church music is the only thing about him she remembered (including his performance tonight).

“I know there’s more of you in your bag,” said Randy Jackson. Not fun to picture!

Janelle Arthur, Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone” — I’m glad Janelle went uptempo with this tune Scotty McCreery covered in season 10. This is probably the best performance she could have given considering she sang second (the worst spot) and needed to deliver something at least…visually memorable? I mean, she had good energy. Great hair. Cool belt. Denim vest. Much like that string of highlights, Janelle’s vocals definitely lost steam near the end (Janelle blamed “cotton mouth”), but at least she tried something different.

I wouldn’t vote for her to stay against the other girls, but she out-performed most of the guys. Is that a ringing endorsement? Nah, and neither is this: Nicki, Randy and Mariah all offered Janelle the exact same critique: The song choice was lacking…but YOU LOOK TERRIFIC!

Basically, I’ll remember Janelle’s amazing beaded skirt and that’s it.

NEXT: ‘I think I can sing it as well as Kelly did.’ WRONG. Devin Velez, Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” — Devin sounded placidly fine on this ambitious cover, when he needed to make us believe in his emotional connection to the song. It seemed like he was just getting through it, passing the time until next week. This is the Top 10, cried Randy. You gotta go for broke!

In a bizarre role reversal, only Nicki liked this performance from Devin and the others thought he played it too safe. Mariah Carey blabbed on and on about how “we expect so much of you because you’re that good,” then admitted this was not a show-stopping song choice, then of course backpedaled like always to finish things off with a singsongy compliment. She does this constantly! The whole “But I hope that America will get to hear you sing again because you have a lot to offer” is so unnecessary and brutal — it’s like she’s playing herself off during an award-acceptance speech.

Angela Miller, Celine Dion’s “I Surrender”Idol‘s turtle overlord Jimmy Iovine accused Angie of being too pageant-y in her performances — she shuddered at the thought during a confessional, and then what did she announce she wanted to sing? Celine Dion! Too perfect.

Angie started out the song still clinging to her piano — you might even say she was chained to it but no, those were just the chains on her leather dress. Great outfit tonight, but the ’80s hair is holding her back. Similarly, Angie’s vocal was very pretty and on-pitch and crystal-clear and everything you’d want aurally speaking, but something’s missing. I don’t know. A hair makeover, maybe. (You know it’s coming! I’m picturing sleek and straight with jagged, “edgy” long layers.) Angie’s voice is rather thin in the upper register, which made her prediction, “I think I can sing it as well as Kelly [Clarkson] did,” even more absurd after the fact. Girl, just don’t say things like that. Save yourself.

“Your legs are giving me everything I needed in life today,” said beauty pageant judge Nicki, who loves the way Angie walks in heels. “It’s weird — you’re, like, not stumbly in them. You’re just perfection to me on every level.” Great vocal critique.

Paul Jolley, Lonestar’s “Amazed” — Oh, wow, I already forgot Paul existed and it’s only been a few hours since the show aired. Come to think of it, this happens every single time. Jimmy Iovine gave Paul this really long speech about how he’s not supposed to be auditioning for Broadway and, just for good measure, “You’re not running for president!” Poor Paul looked so confused. This whole time he’s been running for VP.

“Amazed” was such a dud of a song choice, but I guess this was one of Paul’s better vocals. I’m still not excited by him at all, and I noticed mid-song that the auburn-haired fiddler lady also looked annoyed with Paul for not totally bringing it. I just don’t think he knows how. He has a decent voice and a nice face (perfect for quasi-seductive closeups during final lines) and he’s willing to take direction. But direction is pointless unless the subject truly understands why.

“This is the first time you’ve stimulated my sexual appetite,” said Nicki. WHY.

NEXT: Waffle Talk with Nicki Minaj Candice Glover, Shirley Bassey’s “I (Who Have Nothing)” — Finally! This segment was the most “alive” I felt all episode. (I barely have a pulse at this point and, much like Mariah, apologetically refuse to stand up at the end of great performances, because my jammie pants are too tight.)

What struck me tonight, beyond Candice’s effortless vocals — “it’s like skiing downhill with you, crazy” said Keith — is what a good little actress she is. I love how she knows exactly when to let loose and when to rein it in and show restraint, and the evil eye she was tossing toward one camera was so delicious — sly, subtle, not too much. As Keith said, she never lets the audience put her out of her zone. But it’s not like there’s a distance between Candice and the crowd — it’s because she truly believes in her zone and twists and turns so compellingly within it that the audience gets naturally drawn in. Tonight’s and last Thursday’s performances have been her most confident, and seemingly effortless, yet.

There’s Candice’s family in the audience. Her dad was nervous to come because he’d never flown before! “The plane should be afraid of YOU at that size!” beamed Ryan. (Plane = Ryan.)

Lazaro Arbos, Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” — Agggggggghh. No. Bad. Not only was he off-pitch, but Lazaro was way too practiced in all of his movements, looking dramatically yet cautiously at this camera, then that one, then that one, then oh, the singing, oh no, make it stop! At least the judges didn’t praise him — although I’m getting so sick of them coming down on song choice instead of condemning sub-par vocals when they hear ’em. I mean, of course Lazaro couldn’t handle a Kelly Clarkson song, but too often the judges are using the whole “this was maybe not the BEST song choice for you, for me” shtick as a way to avoid telling people “You are really not that great!”

Kree Harrison, Roy Orbison’s “Crying” — Oh, man, do I love me some Roy Orbison. As subtle as Kree’s performance was tonight, she really jazzed things up visually with a severe smoky eye and an Orbison/Elvis-esque jacket. My love for “one of the prettiest melodies I’ve ever heard” (Kree and I agree!) may be clouding my judgement, but this performance was just shy of the top (Candice) tonight. It was restrained and simple, yet just enough — it reminded me of Haley Reinhart covering “Blue” in season 10. I think Kree’s shown the most variety so far among the Top 10. She’s almost too perfect — where can she go from here? I can’t wait to see.

“Hello, Harry. Sometimes when I wake up every day, like if I’m not working, I’ll eat waffles — like, buttermilk — and I’ll have to have Aunt Jemimah syrup on it,” began Nicki. “Wow!” said Kree. But there was more.

“I’ll put it in the microwave and warm it up a LITTLE bit. That song…I would’ve enjoyed it if I was by myself in front of the TV. Just by myself eating waffles.”

First of all, how sad is it that this pretend day Nicki’s described in which she’s “not working” almost exactly mirrors all of my days in which I “am working”? Become a TV recapper, Nicki! It’s hedonism at its finest. Just by yourself. The glamour never ends. But more important: I need to look into this ingenious process of applying butter and syrup to waffles before heating them up. Like, where the f— have I been this whole time? Eating sub-standardly infused carbs in front of my crap TV, apparently.

Thanks to Clown Bangs for showing me the gateway to a better life.

Esteemed Colleague Email of the Night:

Good questions. The answers are easy: Yes, and you just haven’t been watching American Idol. It happens.

NEXT: The Ruben Studdard cover no one’s been waiting for Burnell Taylor, Westlife’s “Flying Without Wings” — Ruben Studdard’s victory song in season 2? Really? I was bored before he even started. Standing still on a pedestal amidst a ridiculous amount of purple fog doesn’t exactly scream “current” to me, but what do I know? I can’t even waffle correctly.

Hmmm….I liked that Burnell ditched the glasses this time — it allowed for a better connection to the camera (that thing got REALLY close) and now I know that Burnell has super-long eyelashes. And I still dig that unique timbre in his voice, that “eccentricity that’s really pure” and magnetic, according to Keith. The hand choreography has got to go at some point, even though I think we all know that it won’t. Overall I just couldn’t get into this song. Dullsville.

Amber Holcomb, Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” — I like Amber, but I’m annoyed that anyone would choose the original, unbeatable American Idol victory anthem and expect anything other than a tepid “good job!” and a solid high five. I’m even more annoyed that Jimmy suggested Amber go uptempo with this song — why? How? WHY. And then the 18-year-old was all covered up in a billowing printed evening gown (hey, wind machine), surrounded by what seemed to be an impressionistic painting of hundreds of glowing candles…I don’t know, it almost felt like she was being set up for a letdown.

Like I said, I’m still very into Amber despite all these weird choices. Those crazy big notes really are easy for her, and she has this all-natural plucky vibe I think voters can get behind. Sometimes people would rather see a contestant evolve into a star than begin as an established frontrunner. That’s the advantage Amber could have against Candice, Kree, and Angela down the line. For me, it’s pretty much a four-way competition at this point.

In other words: “I’m like dude, guys — where y’all at? The girls are killing it tonight!” –Randy Jackson. Subtle!

Who goes home first? Curtis? Lazaro? Janelle? Discuss.

Follow @EWAnnieBarrett

Read more:

All ‘American Idol’ recaps on EW.com

Mariah Carey gets the Nicki Minaj phone call: A dramatization

Video reply time! Ask Annie anything about ‘Idol’ — or whatever — below.

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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