May 01, 2013

TV: American Idol 2013: Now & Then

The final four are back for a second week, which makes it all the more baffling that the judges chose not to save Janelle on the final night they could have used the save. We'd have gotten the final five twice, instead of the final four twice, which isn't a big difference, really. Janelle would probably still have gone home in fifth, but she'd have gotten to sing one more time. (And given some of the awful song selections last week, who knows? She might have hung around for another week.)

In any event, it's the final four again, for Now & Then night, when each singer gives us a 2013 hit and a song from the Great American Songbook. And we're even trotting out a celebrity mentor for the first time in many weeks, with Harry Connick Jr. on hand to provide advice.

The rundown:

Angie, "Diamonds" -- Pretty enough, though there is one very loud, very high note on which she falls short of the actual pitch. But like most Rihanna songs (heck, most of today's pop), the production is more interesting than the song itself, and with the production stripped down to a minimum, there's not much left to hold our attention.

Amber, "Just Give Me a Reason" -- Not a great effort. She's frequently drowned out by the band; when she can be heard, her enunciation is unusually mushy; and she's chosen a key in which she can't hit the low notes. And she seems nervous and uncomfortable; still struggling to remember the words, maybe?

Candice, "When I Was Your Man" -- Candice is helped by the fact that this is a somewhat better song than the others we've heard tonight. But she doesn't really need that help. She's just flat out a better singer than the other three, by a wide margin. This isn't her most exciting or interesting performance, but it's easily the best of the night so far.

Kree, 'See You Again" -- I'm not sure what was missing from that, but all the time Kree was belting the big notes and getting a pained "I'm feeling something, really" look on her face, I was being distracted by the cute guy playing the guitar next to her, which is a measure of how dull that was, because as much as I like a cute guy, I am not that shallow.

For Round One: Candice, Angie, Kree, Amber.

Angie, "Someone to Watch Over Me" -- The opening was quite nice, but then she turned on the Full Angie, and if ever a song shouldn't be belted with a big, confident smile, it's this one. It's about longing and desperation and the fear of being alone. She made a lovely sound; it just had no connection to the emotional content of the song.

Amber, "My Funny Valentine" -- Very good. She ran out of breath on the note before that final little riff, and I think there were more unnecessary runs and frills than when she sang this in the semifinal rounds, but the song suits her voice and range extremely well.

Candice, "You've Changed" -- That was showier and brassier than it needed to be, but unlike Angie's performance, the emotional content was appropriate to the song; the volume became an expression of anger, loss, and frustration.

Kree, "Stormy Weather" -- Certainly an improvement over her first round, though like everyone else, it was overly embellished and too big. (I am firmly in the Harry Connick camp when it comes to singing these songs simply, as written.) But given that these are young 21st-century singers, utterly at sea without the crutch of their ruffles and flourishes, that was about as good as could be hoped for.

For Round Two: Candice, Kree, Amber, Angie.

For the night: Candice, Kree, Amber, Angie.

For the season: Candice, Amber, Angie, Kree.

Let's send home: As I said last week, as long as it's not Candice, I don't much care. And given that last week's votes are being added in to this week's results, and we know that Candice and Amber were the bottom two last week, I think it's a tough week to predict. Angie had a bad week, but may have enough of a cushion from last week to survive. I think it'll be Amber going home, but I have no confidence in that prediction.

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