Did Candice pull off a win? And did Adam Lambert pull off his mascara? (Yes.)
“Candice, why you gotta make this all about you?”
Look. You can pretend the Idol finale is some grandiose, tasteless, freakish spectacle. You can even think that logically. Because it’s true and undeniable and shut up about it. But you can’t deny that the Idol finale reminds you — for a few shimmery moments — that these competitors are viable mainstream singers whether or not they actually end up being successful. They can work alongside real industry vets and not look miscast in their shadows. I dig that — especially when some of the veterans (Mariah Carey and guest performer Jennifer Lopez, in this case) look less than professional as they lip-sync their hits (and non-hits, in the case of poor Jennifer) to the horrified awe of millions. Come on, Mariah! You nail “My All” and shatter the non-lambs in the room. For the love of Mottola, own yourself, my dear.
Because you know who did own it last night? Season 12 American Idol champ Candice Glover. We knew she would win, and she proved herself an unbeatable vocalist throughout last night. Phew. Now I can sleep. Or move on to So You Think You Can Dance, where intriguing men with deeply symmetrical chests will thrust around for votes. Candice, it’s been real. I’ve gotta go.
Here are the 10 best performances from last night. Sorry to PSY fans for not including their charmless warlord.
10. Top 10: “Glad You Came”
The best and most hilarious American Idol tradition is the forcing of the Top 10 to wear shock-white stagewear for their finale performance. Look, there’s Devin Velez in a white blazer! There’s Angie Miller in a white dress! Curtis Finch Jr., you wear that white vest over other white items! It’s “Sears family portrait” glamor they’re achieving, and they’re not afraid. The performance of The Wanted’s disgustingly innuendo-doused song was hardly a performance, since it was more lip-synced than Coco Montrese’s treatment of “Cold Hearted,” but I guess for a bunch of square teens in white Kohl’s items, they bopped admirably enough.
9. Candice Glover, “I Am Beautiful”
Ugh, don’t you hate when the quality of a great vocal is diminished because the singer can’t stop weeping at her totally justified, incredibly earned victory of American Idol’s twelfth season? Candice, you really let me down here, you insanely worthy champion, you. Kidding aside, this song is horrid. It’s message is so on the nose (Did you notice its title?), and because of it, the message of the song is more disempowering than emboldening. Candice could probably write a better song. Hell, she’s probably lived a better song. (Sorry, one of my hobbies is writing like Terry McMillan.)
8. Kree Harrison and Keith Urban, “Where the Blacktop Ends”
I guess Keith Urban sometimes steals song title ideas from Shel Silverstein? The More You Know. Kree and Keith are an ideal pairing since he enjoys playing COUNTRY GUITAR and she likes to sing COUNTRY SAWNGS. It couldn’t have worked out any better. The end result was nondescript, but this pairing afforded Keith the time to do his signature “throes of adoration” pangs alongside Kree, instead from his chair. To make sure the quality of blandness was high, Randy Jackson played bass too.
7. Amber Holcomb and Emeli Sande, “Next to Me”
The name “Emeli Sande” has appeared multiple times on the playlists of this American Idol season, and that means she’s probably in cahoots with James Morrison, that weird nonentity whose songs keep being featured on Idol. I’m not saying Amber and Emeli weren’t charismatic and sass-spewing together, but I so fondly remember Amber’s hip-popping grace during “Love On Top” and her stately command during “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life” that this performance seemed a tad underwhelming in both those departments. But hey! Emeli Sande has an editorial haircut and a fine voice. That’s two things you’ve learned today.
6. Frankie Valli and the Top 5 gents, “Frankie Valli Career Retrospective + Devin Velez in a Cartoonish Cyan Suit”
OK, boyz, give it up: Frankie Valli is 79 and sounds amazing. I definitely don’t need to hear the Grease theme ever again, but the man cooed with astonishing clarity. Like, Barbra should be intimidated. Wasn’t lip-synced either, as far as I could tell. Now, let us talk about what the cavalcade of crooning Idol dudes wore: Paul Jolley took to the stage in a crisp, skeletal blue suit that accentuated the graceful drape of his ribcage while Devin Velez wore the kind of loud cyan suit that I expect from Suze Orman at prom. Burnell looked cute. Lazaro wore carnival barker pants again. Curtis is just a tough name to type, so I’m forced to stop my appraisal here.
5. Candice Glover and Kree Harrison, “One Less Bell to Answer”
This could’ve been an astonishing performance, but — ugh! — we’ve already heard Candice perform this song! And the followup “A House is Not a Home” too! My dream was that Marilyn McCoo from the 5th Dimension would appear and sing a medley of her hits with the ladies, but of course, American Idol is not the proper forum for wonderful homosexual fantasies. Still: Kree should know that “Stoned Soul Picnic” is a perfect song for her, and Candice should be hollering “Wedding Bell Blues” at the nearest convenience.
4. Aretha Franklin (via satellite, ugh) and the Top 5 girls, “Aretha Idolization Medley”
Speaking of things that should’ve been astonishing — Dear Aretha Franklin, why did you bother getting dolled up in your Leontyne Price makeup and Met Gala couture if you were only going to appear via satellite for your performance? Don’t play me like that. This could’ve been Divas Live ’98 II, with you knocking over Angie Miller and Kree Harrison so you could soar on “Natural Woman” like a wannabe-eating vulture. Shania Twain is STILL traumatized from ’98. She didn’t know to get out of the way. Aretha just walked over and dropkicked her using only the power of her diaphragm. Kind of tragic, in retrospect.
3. Angie Miller, Adam Lambert, and Jessie J, “Titanium” and “Domino”
I am naturally going to vote against Angie Miller, who still resembles a female TaleSpin character, because she clearly felt entitled to a season 12 victory even though she refused to be interesting. Those two qualities don’t go together. She is a Vanessa Bayer Bratz doll, and there’s a lovable quality to that, but Angie refused to revel in lovability and settled for chronically perky pageantry. Or as Mariah called it, constant “festive”-ness. Whatever her problems are, she was perfectly paired with Adam Lambert, whose knife-like clarion call is still an unwavering treat, and Jessie J, whose attitudinal edge toughened the too-smiley Angie. I only wish the two halves of the performance could’ve coalesced in some way. Flawless vocalizing all around, though. And Adam’s Leontyne Price makeup was arguably the best of the night.
2. Janelle Arthur and The Band Perry, “Done”
Pardon me for noticing, but this was awesome. The Band Perry is, as I understand it, a band with members named Perry in it, and that really impresses people like Lauren Alaina. They’re countrified and probably a lot like Rascal Flatts at the heart of things, which makes me ill. The good news is they’re apparently also regular MC Skat Kats, because their performance (with a reenergized, rowdy Janelle Arthur) was full of great choreography, va-va-voom costuming, and fun. Janelle worked the hell out of stage, giving us a glimpse back at the feistiness we remember from her audition. I thought this was a well-planned triumph and a downright rewatchable performance.
1. Candice Glover and Jennifer Hudson, “Inseparable”
I’m intimidated by having to recap this performance, because Candice and Jennifer — in all of their infernally powered belting and emoting — are not that much alike. Candice projects pain and reluctant power when she performs; Jennifer is a blaring, self-possessed, Oscar-brandishing powerhouse. Together, in a performance of a song that was pitch-perfect, diva-licious, and wicked, these ladies brought out fabulous qualities in each other. Candice became rougher and looser (much the way Jessica Sanchez did when she performed alongside INTERNATIONAL GLORY DEMON Jennifer Holliday last year), and Jennifer became more intimate, more sincere. I just loved it, and it was the perfect way to introduce Candice as the obvious and righteous winner of this season.
Say what you will about season 12 — or say nothing, in case you’ve already forgotten most of it — but we witnessed some great and mesmerizing talent this time. And in case you want further proof that Candice is the mack-daddy queen of the past five years of Idol, check out this 2012 group round performance with Jessica Sanchez and DeAndre Brackensick. Is she not the undisputed best? Girl. Please.