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For the entire last month, the judges had their say about the remaining top 20 contestants left standing in the Cirque de Soleil theater in Las Vegas.
Tuesday night, the final 10 girls took to the stage as America finally got its turn to vote and decide the fates of Kree Harrison, Amber Holcomb, Zoanette Johnson, Adriana Latonio, Angela Miller, Breanna Steer, Tenna Torres, Janelle Arthur, Aubrey Cleland, and Candice Glover.
“I think we’ve offered some real diversity,” judge Keith Urban correctly said. “America is going to have a really hard time narrowing it down to five.”
Some contestants made it easy to make that choice. We’re looking at you, Zoanette Johnson, and your disappointing take on Tina Turner‘s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” — how could you do that to us? Others went into their bags of tricks, unveiling depth, range and star quality.
For example, who would have believed that a contestant competing for season 12 would cover a song by last year’s seventh-place finisher, Colton Dixon, and knock it out of the park?
In an Idol first, Miller wrapped her sterling vocals around a Dixon original, “Never Gone,” a song that was the centerpiece of the Idol 2012 summer tour. If anyone went to the show featuring last season’s cast and heard Dixon’s nightly performance, you already know how special that piece is, both lyrically and musically.
Still, it was an absolute pleasure to hear Miller’s take on Dixon’s song of faith and devotion. She definitely knows what type of audience she is going for. She’s playing for keeps, and Randy Jackson is already dubbing her a “star.” How did the song’s author enjoy it? Dixon tweeted that he was “speechless.”
“The trumpets should sound when you walk in the room,” said Nicki Minaj. “Can I just get your album?”
Miller may be a lock for Thursday night’s show if voters ignite the lines, but how did the rest of the girls fare? Harrison, Holcomb, Cleland, Steer and Glover all turned in magnetic performances, but there can only be five left standing on Thursday.
(Please, Randy, no wild-card rounds. A top 10 is plenty for us to choose from, as we still have the boys tomorrow night.)
Here is how it played out:
Zoanette Johnson: Oh, where do we begin? We adored her kookiness from that first audition to the whacked-out drum solo in Hollywood all the way to “The Circle Of Life” (also handled by Jennifer Hudson in season three). Still, we just couldn’t get past the train wreck of “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” by Tina Turner. It’s a good thing Turner is overseas and didn’t see this. Did Johnson even bother to learn the lyrics? This was a letdown of epic proportions. She needs all the power of Vote for the Worst to survive. “ Quoth Minaj: “You know I always tell you the truth. That wasn’t it. I think the song on your last performance was more of where I see your career in the performing arts.” Randy Jackson was more direct: “That was a mess, babe.” Mariah Carey tried to point out the positive aspects of Johnson’s special aura, but dismissed her with a smile: “You’re unbridled. Be free.”
Breanna Steer: This Louisiana girl is gorgeous and just mesmerizing to watch. Maybe it’s her eyes. However, her love of all things Beyonce may be her downfall. She chose “Flaws and All,” a terrific song, but it got away from her in parts, which is a shame. Minaj (who is really the best judge on the show, hands down) called it right: “You sounded like you were straining throughout the entire performance,” she said. Carey said she had “star quality,” while Jackson called the song “safe.” Urban worried that she was trying to be another Beyonce. Again, disappointing, since she was so good on “Bust Your Windows” last week.
Aubrey Cleland: Cleland is stunning and works the camera better than any of the girls. Watch her performance again and you will see how she positions herself. The girl smiles in the right places and makes eye contact all the way to the back of the room. That’s confidence. Her choice of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie was yet another play for the current radio market, but at times she whispered the lyrics. Not sure what happened there. Urban thought the choice didn’t work for her due to the melody, but Minaj was clearly a fan, praising Cleland’s “humility.” Jackson loved that Cleland is “current,” and Carey envisioned her as a “multi-platinum” artist.
Janelle Arthur: Why is it when I look at Arthur I see Gwyneth Paltrow in “Country Strong?” Arthur struggled last week with “Just a Kiss” by Lady Antebellum, and was looking to rebound with a more Vegas-y choice of “If I Can Dream” by Elvis Presley. She definitely improved over last week, but was it the strongest country offering of the night? Minaj was elated to see that her “living marshmallow” (?) was “back.” “Best vocal of the night,” she said (this was before Miller, Glover, Holcomb and Harrison got their turns at the mic). Carey called her “America’s Sweetheart,” and Jackson dug her “throwback” vibe. Urban called her vocals “classic.”
Tenna Torres: Torres put her Camp Mariah training to work by covering “Lost “ by Faith Hill. It was an ambitious choice, but not one I’m sure she should have made with America in control this week. Minaj, however, was a fan of one of Torres’ assets that had nothing to do with her voice: “I like your boobs.” When Jackson shot that down, Minaj fired back, “Randy, shut up, acting like some damn goody two-shoes.” Love. Her. Carey, all smiles, told Torres, “I love you and I hope America loves you, too.” Translation: She may be in trouble with the voters.
Amber Holcomb: I get nervous whenever a contestant dips into the Whitney Houston catalog, but Holcomb was just so darned amazing with “I Believe in You and Me.” Holcomb has vocal runs to spare and a professional demeanor that just screams, “See you in the top three.” Urban called the choice “perfect.” Minaj was overjoyed: “AM-BER!” she screamed. “That was a ten billion, katrillion, medillian.” Jackson uttered his first “in it to win it” of the night, while Carey reminded audiences of Holcomb’s “My Funny Valentine” You know what’s great about Carey? She loves referencing prior performances, so the audience can keep up with the contestant. She loves to focus on that, and that’s a positive thing for the kids.
Kree Harrison: If we were judging best country artist, Harrison takes the title. She’s been singing demos in Nashville for a while and seems genuinely excited to be up front with the band. She took on the second Faith Hill song of the night, “Stronger,” and impressed by taking the key up a step (props to Urban for pointing out the precise change from a “B past C to an F#”). Minaj was more taken with her sexiness and said that Harrison was her “wife.” Harrison quipped back, “I’m just trying to make my wife proud.” Jackson didn’t know Harrison had that kind of “range” (really, Randy? Did you watch her in Hollywood Week at all?). Carey just laughed and said, “I’m married, so I can’t get into the other details.” Nick Cannon has nothing to worry about.
Adriana Lotiano: Alaska’s answer to Jessica Sanchez may be in trouble after her attempt at “Stand Up For Love” by Destiny’s Child. She’s young and adorable, hitting a huge note at the end, but did the whole thing come together? Urban said the choice made him “nervous,” while Minaj was slightly cruel, telling her, “After Angie, Amber and Kree, I would suggest that you work a little bit and come back next year.” I don’t think she can come back next year if she made top 20. Jackson said it was “pageanty,” and Carey praised her previous performance. That said it all.
Candice Glover: After being cut last season, Glover showed she had no intention of going home by taking on a John Legend song, “Ordinary People.” It was yet another ballad, but Glover handled it with artistry and vocal prowess. You could see Jackson and Carey clearly getting into it throughout the whole song. Urban called it “superb,” while Jackson said, “That was ridiculous, because you sang notes that people don’t even understand how they could fit into a chord.” He then demanded producers bring on a wild card. Carey thanked Glover for “sharing your gift.”
So what do you think, Worshippers? Who is going home? Who was the best? Do we really need a wild card? Who is the best judge? Is Ryan Seacrest synonymous with cheese? And what was up with those crab legs? Let us know in the comments below.
Watch Angie Miller perform “Never Gone” below.
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