Ryan Seacrest has promised "brutal" cuts all season on "American Idol," but no eliminations have been that surprising or, indeed, brutal.
That may change this Thursday. Because... wow.
Often in 2013, the crop of singing ladies on the show has been touted as one of the show's strongest, and as a whole one of the most viable threats to the guys' five-year reign as champions in years. The 10 finalists did nothing to dispel that distinction Tuesday night. In fact, most of them only solidified it.
Angie Miller and Candice Glover continued as some of the show's frontrunners, while Kree Harrison and Amber Holcomb continued their rapid ascent into contending for the title of "American Idol." It's hard now to imagine any of them going home, and yet, any combination could be Thursday, and some -- if not all --- certainly will by season's end. The Thursday results show will see five of the 10 head home, barring a wild card round that's very possible with the strong field of girls (and because Randy Jackson kind of hinted at the possibility).
The following are my rankings for the evening. Note that these do not necessarily mean that my top five are those who I think will survive the first round of fan voting; more on that later.
1. Kree Harrison - "Stronger"
After a star-making performance two weeks ago, Harrison only continues to climb to the top. Now that it's down two country-leaning ladies, she's cementing herself as the top contender in that genre, surpassing Janelle Arthur by a long shot. It's refreshing to hear a singer so utterly effortless with her vocals, and she's probably my favorite in terms of personality, to boot. In terms of a radio-ready package, I heard the best from Harrison.
2. Candice Glover - "Ordinary People"
I need to note that the difference between Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for me were exceedingly close. Glover knocked yet another one out of the park Tuesday with the John Legend tune, Her vocal is always -- ALWAYS -- spot on, and she sings with such command that it's tough to think of her as an amateur singer in a singing competition. Great song choice and a superb vocal from a lady we'll be hearing a lot more from this season.
3. Angie Miller - "Never Gone"
A Colton Dixon song being performed by an "Idol" finalist #ThingsIDidntExpectIn2013. Miller brought it, though. She's still a great artist package, showcasing that with her turn behind the piano on the ballad-y number. Miller has a vocal quality that will lend herself to lighter pop fare, for which there's always a market in some capacity. She commanded attention behind her instrument, once again demonstrating that YOU DON'T NEED TO GET UP FROM THE PIANO HALFWAY THROUGH TO MAKE THE PERFORMANCE GREAT. Raw talent prevails.
4. Amber Holcomb - "I Believe in You and Me"
Other weeks, a powerhouse performance such as Holcomb's would have been No. 1 on this list, but she wasn't the only gal to bring her A-game Tuesday night. Holcomb produced a pitch-perfect rendition of Whitney Houston, continuing to blossom into what could be a major R&B star. The runs especially were fairly incredible. The main thing I'd love to see from Holcomb is for her to put more of her own stamp on a song. When she does that? Oh, wow.
5. Breanna Steer - "Flaws and All"
I enjoyed this waaaay more than the judges, especially Nicki, did. Steer maintained a slow-burning, intense vocal on "Flaws and All," though not intense in the sensory overload sort of way. She was and has been very precise with how she goes about a song, as though it's a performance not only in song but in character. That may also just be Breanna herself. Either way, though she didn't impress the judges except Keith, her performance is the kind of bit one could expect from a Top 40 artist. Not flashy, but it's not like everyone always is all the time.
6. Aubrey Cleland - "Big Girls Don't Cry"
If you were expecting big things from Cleland following a performance that really put her on the map in the round prior, don't check out "Big Girls Don't Cry." While by no means a poor job, that song is just not going to pay big dividends by nature. I think that's what Cleland needed to stay relevant and have a shot at moving on with this strong of a field -- something that will really pull in the high marks. Her vocal was sweet though not as on-the-money as last time. Eh.
7. Janelle Arthur - "If I Can Dream"
As pointed out by the judges, the strength in Arthur is that she has a very classic country feel to her; you feel more of a connection from her on the older material than the newer. While that can potentially pose an issue in terms of questioning relevancy, she does have a nice country voice that fans of the genre will probably love unconditionally. But Kree Harrison surpassed her tonight, plain and simple. And there may only be room for one such artist in the top 10.
8. Tenna Torres - "Lost"
Harrison's strong performance of Faith Hill pretty much made everyone all but forget there was another song from the superstar country singer in the show, this one coming from Torres. I think her biggest issue at this point is being remembered; unlike the other competitors, I had to go back and listen to Torres's performance because I honestly remembered very little from it. It's interesting, because you could tell Torres was trying to do a lot with the song, and it was still fairly forgettable. Never a good sign.
9. Adriana Latonio - "Stand Up for Love"
Latonio's predecessors were Miller, Holcomb and Harrison. Her successor? Glover. So the Alaskan was going to have to nail it to stand out one bit, and unfortunately, she didn't really succeed. Though showing flashes of the ace talent she's shown in the past, Latonio didn't have the big moments of the aforementioned contestants. Plus, while she sounded good, she didn't sound great -- and great was what was required.
10. Zoanette Johnson - "What's Love Got to Do With It"
Honestly, I think we all saw this coming. Despite Johnson's knockout "Circle of Life" last week, her wavering, sometimes off-key vocal caused concern, and it was brought to the forefront with her rendition of Tina Turner. Though she brought it together OK during the chorus, the verses were cringe-inducing. A real shame, because she had been the breath of fresh air "Idol" needed. Maybe some crazy voting results will make that a continued possibility, but I doubt it.
So, in a perfect world, I would take my personal top five to move on, but I doubt it'll be that easy. I'd say my top three, and probably four, are likely locks, but don't be surprised if the fifth spot goes to Cleland, Arthur or even Johnson.
The boys take the stage tonight to show that they have any competition in them at all for the girls. Tough act to follow, but keep an eye on Burnell Taylor.
- Reality Check