Wuh-oh. Looks like a few of our favorite could-be-homosexuals tripped in their character shoes this week.
The catalog of Lennon and McCartney provides ample opportunity for Idol singers to prove they can do artistic things like warble the lyrics to “Come Together” with a straight face or care about the plight of Father McKenzie. Please! Paul Jolley don’t have time for that! He’s too busy “woodshedding” with my boy Devin, hopefully.
How did the kids do this week? Let’s rank the rubber-souled scamps from #9 to #1.
9. Lazaro Arbos, “In My Life”
Well, my prophecy is coming true: The worse Lazaro does, the more gorgeous he gets. And this week he was absolutely terrible/stunning! Wearing a primary yellow blazer that Samantha Jones might bring to a business-casual orgy, Lazaro took to the stage with those trembling, all-too-wet pupils and basically murmur-whispered “In My Life” in a funereal drone. That might be kinda thrilling in a romantic situation, but not on the glorious open Idol stage of valor and dreams. It was just flat, and Lazaro seemed to know it the minute his song ended. He cried right in front of us, which is what I’d request of him in an intimate situation, but Ryan Seacrest’s allergic reaction to emotions ruined the moment. Did you notice that while Lazaro wept, Seacrest was covered in throbbing purple hives? Weird but predictable.
8. Angie Miller, “Yesterday”
Confession: I don’t get the “artistry” of Angie Miller. She’s been called an artist so many damn times, you’d think she performs her songs while hanging upside-down and tied up like a Laurie Anderson installation. Her performances are well-sung but unfailingly boring, and this languid, endless, almost songless take on “Yesterday” had all the convincing emotion of Seacrest’s new batch of enamel. And if I may dredge up my old problem with Keith calling Paul Jolley “theatrical” again, how can the judges so thoroughly reject the hammy stage gestures of one contestant while forgiving Angie Miller’s desperate mugging and waving? Girlfriend looks like she’s performing air-traffic control for unicorns up there. I think she has the potential to be relevant, and in the past two weeks, she has withered considerably. “I Surrender” may have been a grimmer statement than we realized. Celine, you bastard!
7. Janelle Arthur, “I Will”
Now, to be fair, this was Janelle’s best performance in weeks. Light, earnest, and sweet enough to make me forgive the God-awful, shock-white Jessica McClintock gown she tried to kill us with. But the problem with Janelle Arthur is this: We do not need a Janelle Arthur. More realized versions of Janelle already exist in pop culture and on Nashville, and there’s sort of nothing to nurture in her quaint, baked-peach-cobbler-with-an-extra-dab-a’-cream-for-ya-sugar vivaciousness. We’ve already seen the best of her, I expect, and now when I watch her on Idol I find myself waiting for the performance to be over so she can say something Miley-ish and conjure a quick smile on my face. Before I go back to forgetting she performed at all.
6. Devin Velez, “The Long and Winding Road”
I disagreed last week when the judges’ yawned at Devin and his temporary home-liness, but I’ll be damned, this kid might be trying to bore us to death. And that annoys me, because I recently dumped Paul Jolley for Devin in a fit of sexy righteousness and curiosity about his Tintin-yellow hair. I mean, what’s going on there? Is Snowy hanging out backstage? Devin’s subtle stateliness transmits the maturity that Angie Miller keeps purporting to have, and even though I didn’t find much in this performance of “The Long and Winding Road” to write home about, it was consistent with his cute self-possession. I expect next week he’ll back to the bilingual voter bait that garnered him so much attention earlier.
5. Burnell Taylor, “Let It Be”
Mother Mary came to me before Burnell’s performance of “Let It Be” and, speaking words of wisdom, she said, “On what f*cking planet does Burnell live where he has no access to ’Let It Be’?” I concurred. When Burnell confessed he didn’t know “Let It Be,” I scowled one of my biggest, most natural scowls ever. Like Laraine Newman. THAT is a woman who can scowl. Or Charles Laughton. Zero Mostel. Vintage scowls. But it turns out Burnell may have been bluffing, because I adored his tender, very present version of the (I’ll say it) most overrated and overplayed Beatles tune. He enjoys being onstage and enveloping the audience in his giddy sweetness, and that’s a contagious energy. Of course I went back to scowling once I realized Jimmy Iovine declared that he had “one of the most unique tones” in the competition. “Most unique”? Time to learn the definition of words, bespectacled turtle man.
4. Kree Harrison, “With A Little Help From My Friends”
Once again Kree proved she’s canny when it comes to song choice. “With a Little Help From My Friends” gave her the space to turn lots of long, lovely runs into specific moments — and if we’ve learned one thing from Professor and Guffawing Ninny Randy Jackson, moments are important. But I think it’s time we acknowledge that Kree is getting deader in the eyes by the week. I want to believe that an infallible voice like hers is worthy of an American Idol title, but then there’s the pesky matter of mattering. Kree! Look alive out there! Stop sauntering around like you can’t find your birkenstocks. I said this before, but I really think Kree is going to be in for an early elimination in the face of compulsive vote thieves like Candice and Angie. Her voice is a treasure, but her descent into aloofness scares me. Bring me back the dame who parried Nicki Minaj’s bubbliness with clever coolness.
3. Paul Jolley, “Eleanor Rigby”
Look, it’s fair to say that Paul Jolley is the Ivy Winters of this season. Ivy (from RuPaul’s Drag Race) was so confident that her nothing-more-than-competent stage skills and comely bone structure would vault her into RuPaul’s good graces, but adequacy only takes you so far — especially when you’re battling people who are gurgling with firepower every single week. Merely “getting by” makes you look like an assh*le compared to them. But after watching Paul last night, I think he finally wants to matter. He wants to emote and feel something real, which is better than his previous plan of choosing songs by Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood, matching his signature wail to theirs, and hoping that results in a simulacrum of vulnerability. Not good enough. But his version of “Eleanor Rigby” was mysteriously resonant, and for the first time since perhaps his audition, Paul had a stunning moment when he blared, “Where do they all belong?” Child, I hear that cry! Sing it to the berainbowed rafters! I thought there was a wonderful suspense in this performance, and it has to be most polished version of “theatricality” (here I am quoting ol’ Keith again!) he’s delivered yet. Too bad the judges were dumb (with the bizarre exception of Mariah, who made an interesting point when she said Paul could still have a revelatory moment with a dance or upbeat song), because now Paul is very much destined for the bottom two or worse. I am not prepared to make my best “Paul is in the bottom” jokes yet. Save him, voters!
2. Candice Glover, “Come Together”
Candice is cool, perfectly in tune, exceptional, stank-centric, etc etc etc. The girl can’t help but be the discerning Idol critic’s favorite. But thank-the-effing-lord, Nicki Minaj called her out for her damning issue: laspes into blankness that make you wonder if Candice is scared or crestfallen or… I don’t even know what! Mad at Jimmy? Truthfully, Candice often seems uncomfortable to me, and it bothers me because she has no other issues to diagnose. Girl, you’re a stunner! A virtual A+ in the Idol oeuvre (well, an A; we all know my grrrrrrl Melinda Doolittle is the only true A+ in Idol history). This wasn’t my favorite performance of Candice’s, but to be honest, it also isn’t my favorite Beatles song. Those lyrics? Kill me. But spare Candice, who is still a sophisticated candidate to be your next American Idol.
1. Amber Holcomb, “She’s Leaving Home”
Randy Jackson always used to whinny, “This isn’t Song Arrangment Idol!” but you have to admit that the only Idol performances that matter — that truly matter, the ones you remember the next day or next year, the ones you look up on YouTube to watch again — are the ones where a song is slightly reworked, recalibrated, or all-out contorted to fit the singer. Juliana Chahayed’s “Skyscraper” comes to mind from the semifinals. For me, Didi Benami’s “Play With Fire” from season 9 comes to mind. Or Adam Lambert’s “Mad World” or Kris Allen’s “She Works Hard for the Money.” And now, Amber Holcomb’s “She’s Leaving Home,” which explored the (purposely) maudlin storyline of the classic Sgt. Pepper track with a soaring, perceptively sweet vocal. I resented Nicki’s accusation that Amber felt disconnected from her song choice, because that critique should’ve been leveled at Kree or Angie too. I thought this was an all-out breathtaking winner, the undeniable best performance of the evening, and another exhibition of Amber’s particular brand of sauciness and sincerity. And yet, I’m sort of worried she’s going to be on the bottom this week! Which will get me homicidal, so let’s pray to Mother Mary and Burnell’s ignorance that I’m wrong.
What’d you think of these crooners? And who’s going home tomorrow?