May 08, 2013

TV: American Idol 2013: Choices (Jimmy Iovine / Judges / Producers)

It's the final three, which (as we were repeatedly reminded last week) means hometown visits, during which each singer is "surprised" with a message declaring what song the judges have assigned them. The producers and Jimmy Iovine also get to choose songs, giving us three songs apiece. As always on choice night, I wish that we were still getting choices from the reanimated corpse of Clive Davis, whose choices were always the smartest and most interesting. Ah well, let's see what we get from Jimmy and the gang, shall we?

The rundown:

Round One: Jimmy's choice

Kree, "Fuckin' Perfect" -- Or "Perfect," as it's identified by Idol. Pink doesn't seem a good choice for Kree (but then, Jimmy's seemed rather hostile to her in previous weeks, so maybe it's deliberate). The song's vaguely inspirational lyrics, which boil down to "yay, you!," are bland enough to be reshaped into any genre, though, and Kree gives us a mildly country flavored version. It's competently pleasant, but not really Top Three caliber.

Candice, "One" -- Loved the first verse and chorus all to bits. Subtle, understated, tasteful, restrained singing. Then the drums kick in, and it's just another bit of belting to be heard over the band. It's a nicely performed bit of belting, to be sure, and I'd rather listen to this again than the U2 original. Again, though, Jimmy is choosing songs far outside the singers' wheelhouses.

Angie, "Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word" -- This is certainly the most suitable choice Jimmy's made; the song is right in Angie's sweet spot (and I'm rather surprised that she's chosen not to do it at the piano). It's a fine performance, though some of the highest notes ("it's a sad, sad situation") get a bit screechy.

For Round One: Angie, Candice, Kree. But Jimmy's song selections had as much to do with Angie's relative success in the round as the singers' talent did.

Round Two: Judges' choice

Candice, "Next to Me" -- It's a catchy little song, and it suits Candice fairly well. It's not her finest performance, but it's cheerful and entertaining, and it could almost convince you that the song has more substance than it does.

("Now entering Beverly," says Angie during her home-visit video piece, and we few who know and adore the music of John Forster go into quiet giggling fits.)

Angie, "Try" -- A good choice for Angie. It shows off her wide range, both in volume and pitch. I like her better in the verses -- quieter and lower in pitch -- than in the choruses, which are too bellowed, but I do admire the clarity of her upper register, and how high she can go without having to slip into a falsetto/head voice. And she does seem more comfortable than she ever has away from the piano.

Kree, "Here Comes Goodbye" -- Another unkind choice for Kree. (One might almost think that someone was really rooting for a Candice/Angie final.) Yeah, it's country, but it's firmly at the pop end of today's country spectrum, and Kree is far more comfortable with the more traditional style. It's not a terrible performance; it's just never a very interesting one.

(A side note: While romantic loss and the loss of one's parents are very different things, there's still something disturbing about the judges picking this song for Kree. And from their post-song comments, it's clear that they chose the song fully intending to take emotional advantage of the resonance that her personal loss would bring to it.)

For Round Two: Candice, Angie, Kree. But there was nothing here to be very enthusiastic about.

Round Three: Producers' choice

Angie, "Maybe" -- She's overpowering the son with a "look, Ma, I got tonsils!" assault. It's all power, all the time, and the lack of tonal variety would be wearying, even if it weren't a bad fit for the song. (Who would have thought that her worst performance of the night would be the one she does at the piano?)

Kree, "Better Dig Two" -- I don't know if the problem is in the original version of the song, or in this arrangement, but there's a serious mismatch between the lyric and the music. The words are about someone who loves her husband so much that she doesn't want to go on living without him; the music is a not very melodic burst of anger. And try though she might, Kree can't reconcile the contradiction; there's no coherent point to the song. (And another song about dead loved ones? Really? The emotional vampirism is bordering on the sadistic.)

Candice, "Somewhere" -- Oh my. Yes. All the prizes for Candice, please.

For Round Three: Candice, Angie, Kree.

For the night: Candice, Angie, Kree. Song choices were so much harsher for Kree than for the other singers that even I find it hard to believe it wasn't deliberate, and I am not given to conspiracy theories.

For the season: Candice, Angie, Kree. The second-place battle is ridiculously close, taking the season as a whole, and if you wanted to argue that Kree should be ahead of Angie, I wouldn't put up much of a fuss.

Let's send home: But it'll be Kree going home, largely because of tonight's ridiculously unbalanced song choices, but because Angie has momentum on her side. Her best moments have come later in the season; Kree's best moments came early, and she's faded in recent weeks.

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