The Top 5 take on Birth Years and Divas; Nicki Minaj politely pays homage to Mariah Carey's status as a Royal

By Annie Barrett
April 18, 2013 at 05:49 AM EDT
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Tonight’s Idol did its best to downplay the undeniable reign of Candice Glover — she sang powerfully, but got the dreaded first slot. And the judges saved their fiercest standing O’s and April Showers of Praise for both of Kree Harrison’s songs as well as the second offerings of Angie Miller and Amber Holcomb. Janelle Arthur no longer exists.

Will any of tonight’s 10 performances from the Top 5 ladies stick with you longer than Nicki Minaj’s sartorial homage to American Idol‘s ovular logo? I didn’t even know they sold boobs that big! Impressive stuff. Her red dress’ majestic cutout somehow managed to make her boobs look like a bare butt.

As usual, I am learning a lot. Here we go!

SONGS FROM THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN

Candice Glover, Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”: Uh-do-do ya love me? I do! This was great. This one was more about vibe than vocal power — not that Candice doesn’t bring that every time, of course, but her downtempo twist on Paula’s upbeat pop classic was what set Candice apart in the first round. I liked the jazziness and think that if Candice had done a more straightforward cover it might have seemed silly coming from her. Keith Urban remarked on Candice’s “beautiful control of the runs,” which always sounds to me like a nice way to put a terrible digestive condition. Candice doesn’t choose her runs; she feels them. “It’s like the slow wink one gets across a bahhhhh.” Exactly!

Enter middle-aged stationary cringe-a turtle (sorry) Jimmy Iovine to harsh Candice’s flow with his backstage critique: Candice should have shown a fuller vocal range, he said. “She needs a big song at this point.” I’m not sure that’s even true — if Candice did only HUGE EVENTS, that’d get repetitive and they’d each be less special. Oh well.

Shades of Retta, anyone?

NEXT: Is Kreedom paradise? Janelle Arthur, Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name”: I liked the personal story behind this song choice — it was the only thing that could put baby Janelle to sleep — but I found the performance as a whole a bit boring and endless. Mariah, Nicki, and Randy went way overboard in praising Janelle while saying really nothing at all, while Keith dared to disagree, calling into question Janelle’s emotional connection to the song. “Your voice is angelic, beautiful, you were hitting all the notes…it was perfect…but I didn’t feel it,” he finally spit out as Janelle kept grinning wildly.

Mariah was quick to reassure the little marshmallow, “Maybe it’s just a girl thing, but YOU BROUGHT ME TO TEARS” — practically screaming over the crowd after time was up. Still, Janelle may have considered this a failure herself, as she’d promised America “the song that can hopefully make people stop crying.”

Kree Harrison, The Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels”: There were no vocal hiccups in “Kreedom”‘s performance, as usual, but I could not get over how she was smiling throughout a song about a drug addict. Was that what Mariah meant when she called out Kree’s “tendency to perform”? Keith, too, mentioned Kree’s understandable hyper-awareness of the TV cameras and suggested she’d be so much more natural while singing at her own concert. Nicki took this opportunity to hit her sweet spot in terms of musical critiques: people’s shoes. “Those are the heels, and he’s a boy, and he doesn’t get it,” she announced in an effort to redeem Kree from whatever Keith said, which had certainly been nothing about her shoes.

I’m sick of Kree wobbling around in those heels, but I wonder if she’d do anything that different with more foot-freedom? I just don’t think she’s a physical performer at all. Vocals: genius. Choreography: blah. Of course, it’s a singing competition. Does movement really matter? Age-old question.

Angie Miller, The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You”: Massachusetts native Angie dedicated her performance to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Maybe the emotion involved in her saying that choked her up at the beginning of the song — I thought this was all over the place and Angie even shakily missed some lyrical cues. She looked terrified about the missteps, but maybe I was looking for it too hard. I was really surprised, then, when Angie got the standing O. Jimmy even called this “the performance of the night” (so far). I just didn’t see it at all.

“I really look forward to you hitting the road,” Keith said without thinking about how that sounded. Bless him — he’s the only one who never speaks as if reading from a script. (He was talking about the tour!)

NEXT: ‘I can’t give anymoooooooooore…’ -Amber / ‘Hugs.’ -Candice Amber Holcomb, Mariah Carey’s version of Badfinger’s “Without You”: “There’s an Amber Alert going on!” cried Keith after this, and he definitely didn’t mean it like that. (“I don’t know why I said that. I wish I hadn’t.” Is it inappropriate to say I’m glad he did?) Amber really struggled with her lower register at the beginning. She pulled out a few moments near the end, but they were totally lower-case-m. In some spots she sounded like she was screaming.

Really, guys? Another standing O? Only Nicki remained seated before paying lip service to Mariah: “She was gonna give you something before she even started going high.” That’s a great way to put it, actually. Mariah serenely tipped her head to one side like a dainty queen, in thanks — probably the closest we’ll get to a group hug on this season’s disjointed panel. Soak it in.

“I don’t usually sing this song in America,” Mariah said, following this spot-on bit of critique: “I felt like maybe a little bit, not like…whatever.” Dahhhhling.

I’m just glad they made sure to get a nice shot of the thick purple fog, and nothing else, on Amber’s last glory note. “Just beautiful,” said Steven Tyler.

DIVAS!

Candice Glover, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston’s “When You Believe”: Candice looked amazing in the closeup with the purple galaxy behind her, and I thought the drama of the “curtains” opening up to reveal more backup singers while she hit a high note could potentially classify as an “Idol Moment.” It’s just that she’s had so many better ones than this, and the song choice was just blah for me. We’ve heard it so many times! So had Nicki, while locked in her room, crying — when she was “little,” she made sure to point out.

Oh well — double divas. Mariah’s sitting right there. Whitney is no longer with us. I guess it makes sense. Just saying: I prefer Candice when she’s more creative.

Seacrest had an Idol Moment himself! “THIS IS THE AMERICAN HUG RIGHT HERE,” he said while deciding if he should attack Candice with his meaty paws and get some of the G-rated lovin’ he so deeply deserves. People are not hugging Ryan enough this season, in general.

Will this be Candice’s consolation title when it’s all over? Most Huggable? God, I hope not.

NEXT: ‘You’re iconic. You are Adele. You are Celine Dion.’ Janelle Arthur, Dolly Parton’s “Dumb Blonde”: Janelle delivered so much spunk and sparkle on this that it could have worked, had the judges not already written her off for the night/the season. Randy’s argument was basically that Janelle’s vocals aren’t on par with the rest, even if her performance quality is up there. And he’s right. But that “light inside you” can get you pretty far, Nicki made sure to remind him and Janelle. Especially if it’s neon and infused with collagen.

Hmm. I like Janelle. I’m not sure she’d fare higher in my mind with better song choices tonight, though. Have I been brainwashed? Maybe.

Anyway, like Mariah, I didn’t know that song. I AM that song.

Update: My next-door neighbor is finally watching Janelle’s performance about four hours later, and it sounds fine through the wall. Like any country music awards show. Really important update there. I’m gonna go ahead and press play on a Mariah Carey YouTube video again.

Kree Harrison, Celine Dion’s “Have You Ever Been In Love?”: This didn’t seem like a very Kree-esque song choice, but maybe that’s the power of Kreedom! I actually love when she stands perfectly still (it’s better than the teetering…kree-tering?) and just sings sweetly. If physical dynamics are not your forte, why push it? Her high note and unique run on “touch the moooooooon-light” was just gorgeous.

Ready for some hyperbole? “You’re not country. You’re worldly. You’re iconic. You are Adele. You are Celine Dion,” said Nicki, in the throes of an epiphany. “You just, to me, elevated even your NET WORTH.” Oh mah God, y’all — net worth, Kree’s favorite thing! I love when Nicki gets carried away and treats American Idol for what it really is: $$$$$$$$ $$$$.

Keith brought everything back down to Earth: “You’re gonna inspire so many girls who come into country music — your poise and elegance and such a beautiful way of singing. So thank you for that.” Thank you, sir! Simmer down, sir!

NEXT: From Beyoncé to Barbra Angie Miller, Beyoncé’s “Halo”: Angie started out timid — was the whispering on “Didn’t make a sound” intentional, or just too low for her? — but then cranked out the power vocals for the last half of the song, which was pretty much one roller-coastering holler. This was a strong song choice. Everyone knows “Halo,” and it’s a singer’s song. I think Candice or Amber could have annihilated this one too, maybe even better than Angie did. But Angie did it, and it was might have been her best performance yet (not counting the original song on Hollywood Week) at just the right time.

Can I pretend Angie’s enunciation of “wriT-Ten” didn’t annoy me? NoT quiTe. But she did a lot more with “Halo” than I expected. So good for her.

Amber Holcomb, Barbra Streisand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”: Oooooh. Yes. If someone asked me for the most compelling two-song sample of the episode, I’d yank off both bookends of tonight — Candice’s “Straight Up” and Amber’s perfectly toned cover of Babs’ standard. The old-fashioned vibe just works so profoundly well for young Amber. With the elegant, elaborate setting (I particularly loved the “shot through the harp”!) this was even better than “My Funny Valentine” during Top 20 Girls week.

“You are so good. A young Rihanna with this giant voice, to me. SO the thing, right now. So the thing.”

And now, a moment of silence for how decrepit and old we all are. A young Rihanna? Good God!

I’ll tell you what’s SO the thing…

Happy Hump Day: Here’s what I had playing pretty much the entire time I wrote this: Mariah Carey’s live performance of “Without You.” Look at her! LISTEN TO THAT! Jump ahead to 2:30 if you’re in a hurry. If you must. WOW. I can’t liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive if living is without this video.

Who will go home tonight? Do you anticipate a non-elimination week?

Follow @EWAnnieBarrett

Read more:

Which 2013 ‘American Idol’ judge is your favorite? — POLL

All ‘American Idol’ recaps on EW.com

Mariah Carey gets the Nicki Minaj phone call: A dramatization

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