All of the finalists on this season of "American Idol" have been called a great number of things. In the case of many, cries of "old-fashioned" have abounded; despite their young age, the song choices and overall vibe of certain contestants have caused a disconnect. One can imagine, say, Candice Glover singing virtually anything and doing it great justice. But in terms of keeping it current? Whole other story entirely, and she's certainly not the only one.
That's why the first half of Wednesday night's (May 1) top four show held intrigue. Rather than going for songs that were written and recorded in this new decade, the 2010s, "Idol" producers went one step better. All songs had to be from 2013, either in terms of album or single release. If the viewers of "Idol" pay even the slightest attention to the biggest songs in major music genres since January, they're going to know the song. This has worked wonders in the past -- remember some of Haley Reinhart's turns? It would be nice to hear the remaining ladies doing some more recent numbers, to perhaps gauge their placement into popular music once the show ends.
Well, the first half of the show certainly did its job in that regard, but were the individual results beneficial to the singers?
The answer to that is one big shrug of the shoulders and a nonplussed "ehhhhhhh?" Wednesday night didn't create a star we can imagine on the radio a year from now, but it did establish the contestants as more current than they've seemed since basically the beginning of the show. "Idol" hasn't been known for showcasing the stars of tomorrow singng the stars of today this season, and that's probably not going to change. It was a nice respite, though.
The second half was comprised of "standards," which is a really strange term that basically means all the songs are going to be classics in both the "this song is great!" and the "this song is old!" senses. So, you know, the usual this season.
Who came out on top this May evening? Read below to see the rankings and toss up your own in the comments. There's only four left, so it shouldn't be too tough, right?
1. Candice Glover - "When I Was Your Man," "You've Changed"
It might get old to hear folks gush about Candice Glover every week, but on the basis of this being a singing competition, it's totally deserved. Each week, Glover comes out and is at least a step, if not more, above the rest of the field in terms of overall talent, be it raw or otherwise. Her only downfall at this point is the aforementioned question of "Is she current enough?" "If I Was Your Man" certainly did her justice. Taking the song on from a man's point of view rather than changing some of the lyrics, Glover was just as good as Bruno Mars on the song, taking a soulful approach that highlighted all her tones, low and high. Sung right, it's the type of performance one could actually imagine on the radio.
"You've Changed" solidified Glover's standing as the best of the evening, though it didn't necessarily do any favors in terms of answering the question of Candice Glover getting onto the radio or really connecting with enough listeners willing to support her musical career. It was fantastic, but we already knew she could do exactly what she did, so it wasn't necessarily anything new. It's funny to feel so underwhelmed by the best performance of the night, but while something beyond simply singing well really clicked on the previous song, it wasn't there to the same extent on "You've Changed." Still, sublime.
2. Angie Miller - "Diamonds," "Someone to Watch Over Me"
Hearing that ANYONE was singing Rihanna's "Diamonds" could cause concern because that song is just so weird in terms of its melody, but Angie Miller has proven lately that she's pretty fearless as long as she's behind her piano. She needed to be fearless, because while she was solid (aside from a few iffy notes), that arrangement wasn't doing her any justice. This probably could have been way more intimate, with just Miller playing piano and singing and nothing else. Alas!
In terms of the most beautiful song of the evening, the trophy goes to Miller with her second song, "Someone to Watch Over Me." It was very much a performance transported from another era and very Broadway. The string arrangement behind her was lovely, too. But the best part of the bit was a comment from Randy Jackson I had to write down immediately: "I was like, yo, where you going with all this music?!" On a singing competition. Randy Jackson is the king of everything.
3. Amber Holcomb - "Just Give Me a Reason," "My Funny Valentine"
Another night, another up-and-down show for Amber Holcomb. She started out with "Just Give Me a Reason," the Pink song with fun.'s Nate Ruess that you've probably already heard about five times today on the radio. It wasn't great, though not horrible either. There were still some pitchy moments, she didn't really know all the lyrics and there wasn't a big vocal moment she usually dispenses that gets the crowd and judges all riled up in support. A throwaway, basically.
"My Funny Valentine" was much better, but guest mentor Harry Connick Jr. definitely nailed it when he kind of grilled Holcomb for not understanding what the song meant. How many other times has this happened this season? Is this the reason some don't feel that connection to Holcomb despite the fantastic singing voice? Mr. Connick, you might have saved us a thinkpiece. She ended up crying afterward, something you didn't want to see from a girl who's had noted confidence issues.
4. Kree Harrison - "See You Again," "Stormy Weather"
Here's the thing about Kree: I LOVED "See You Again," her first number of the evening. The song, a Carrie Underwood tune, really showcased her potential as a recording artist, placing her snugly into the country genre she's kind of danced around for awhile. Incredibly authentic and restrained. She's had other performances this season that I wish were on this level in those regards.
What killed Harrison was her second song, "Stormy Weather." While done beautifully (as usual!), it was too sleepy and didn't really pack much of a punch at all. I'm reminded of some of Elise Testone's performances last season, wherein she sang quite well but just didn't have the right song choice for it to matter. Casey Abrams' jazzy interludes also fall into this category. It seems Harrison is more comfortable with the slower, more intimate, less showy music, material that isn't going to wow us constantly. That's fine to a degree, but on a singing competition, it's debatable.
Should Go Home: Kree Harrison or Amber Holcomb
Will Go Home: Amber and Candice are already behind apparently, as the votes from last week will count toward this week as well. I think Candice did enough to rise out of that hole. I don't think Amber did.