March 05, 2013

TV: American Idol 2013: Top Ten Women

The judges did a reasonably good job of choosing the right women last week. Which is to say, of course, that they largely agreed with me. All four of the women who I thought clearly deserved to move on are still with us (that would be Amber, Kree, Candice, and Angela); only one of the seven women who I thought should be booted survived (hi, Aubrey!). And then there's the group in the middle, some of whom I liked more than others, but none of whom inspired strong keep-or-cut feelings.

Now, it's another chop-the-field-in-half week, but the choices this time will be made by the voting public, which means we're likely to see someone really deserving go home, or to see someone really awful stick around (hi, Aubrey!). Will a front-runner disappoint? Will a long shot rise from the pack? Let's find out...

The rundown:

Zoanette, "What's Love Got To Do With It" -- The fear after last week was that Zoanette was all bellow and showmanship, without any subtlety or technique. That fear is confirmed, I think; any singer who needs three gasping breaths to get through "who needs a heart when a heart can be broken" doesn't belong here. And the ugliness of her voice is clearer tonight than it was last week; it's harsh and wobbly and unpleasant.

Breanna, "Flaws and All" -- Like most Idol women, her low notes are weak, and I think she dropped the lyrics for a moment early on. She's got a pretty voice, and the sustained note at the end was well executed, not sagging at all in pitch. But there's something superficial about it; the notes  float over the surface with no emotional involvement or genuine passion. (Note added later: The seeming lyric glitch was apparently due to the fact that Fox wouldn't let her sing "bitch," which makes you wonder why they let her do the song at all.)

Aubrey, "Big Girls Don't Cry" -- Certainly an improvement, but not enough of one, I fear. There are spots where she shows that she's capable of singing quietly with solid tone, which makes it all the more frustrating that she so often doesn't. It was a competent performance, but not a memorable or an interesting one.

Janelle, "If I Can Dream" -- The song is a collection of inspirational cliches, but in the right hands, it can be remarkably powerful. Those hands do not belong to Janelle. It was pretty, with no glaring technical flaws, but it wasn't moving; it didn't make you want to get up off the couch and make the world a better place, the way it can when it's sung well.

Tenna, "Lost" -- She's pushing way too hard on the chorus, which makes her voice sound pinched and strained. Her enunciation is the worst so far, and the performance is mediocre.

Angie (previously Angela), "Never Gone" -- The song is dreck, but she sings the hell out of it. She's got a lot of power, especially in her upper register, and it never sounds forced. Her dynamic range continues to impress, and she's got a lovely voice. The first definite keep of the night, and miles ahead of anyone else we've heard.

Amber, "I Believe in You and Me" -- The "I be-" at the beginnings of the first two lines are completely inaudible, and there's way too much for melisma for my taste (but then, it's a Whitney song, so it's probably justified). But she's got the clearest, loveliest head voice of the group, and her transitions in and out of it are remarkably smooth and supple.

Kree, "Stronger" -- They're really packing all the good ones into the back half, aren't they? Those high notes, in full voice, are gorgeous, ringing loud and clear, and perfectly in tune. And every syllable was understandable. Lovely work.

Adriana, "Stand Up for Love" -- Impressive big note at the end, but a little shaky on pitch in the early going. She might have knocked my socks off if I'd heard that in the first half of the show, but she has the bad luck to follow three very strong performances, and her relative inexperience shows.

Candice, "Ordinary People" -- What I like about Candice is how easy she makes it look. This is a tricky song, with melodies that jump about in unexpected ways and rhythms that are more conversational than usual, and she tosses it off as if it were a nursery rhyme. Very fine work.

And what should America do now? The first four choices are easy: Angie, Kree, Candice, and Amber. If any of those four is cut, it will be an embarrassment. At the bottom, we can easily cut Zoanette, Tenna, and Aubrey. That leaves Adriana, Janelle, and Breanna, in my mind, fighting for the fifth spot; I think Adriana is the best singer of the three, but Janelle could well survive, because Idol voters do like the country singers. She may be hurt by the fact that Kree chose a country song tonight and did it so well.

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