Season 12, Season 12 finals

American Idol Top 8: The song by song grades

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We’ve got an old-familiar Motown theme.

But we’ve got eight singers capable of pulling it off.

The remaining eight contestants on American Idol. (FOX Photo)

And at least four who should feel pretty darn motivated, knowing they’d better pull it off or face the possibility of elimination tomorrow night.

That would include all three guys remaining in the competition, who can’t feel too comfortable at any point in Season 12 with all the hype directed toward the ladies.

Heck, even Nicki Minaj in a Monday conference call said there’s “absolutely not” a very good chance of a male winning Season 12.

And that group of four would also include Amber Holcomb, who probably unexpectedly found herself in the bottom three last week for the first time.

Smokey Robinson is promising a great show. Hope it’s so.

And Ryan Seacrest tells us we’ll get group numbers, too. Which explains how Idol will fill a two-hour show with just eight singers.

Otherwise, we’d have just 12 minutes of music in a 2-hour show.

Candice Glover of American Idol. (FOX Photo)Candice Glover: She’ll sing “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” And as I wrote in my weekly Idol rankings, you’d expect Candice to hit a home run this week with this theme. Love the opening to this song with just Candice and a sax. Sorta wish it would have stayed that way and the background singers would have stayed off the stage. But Candice is starting off the show on a fine note. She’s slaying this song. And really nice touch of sass at the end. My only complaint — and it’s minor — is that there was too much going on background to fully appreciate her vocal. I think that was my favorite Candice performance so far, and she’s been solid throughout. Grade: A

Janelle Arthur and Kree Harrison: OK, first let me get over the fact that Madonna is considered Motown. Hmm. OK, I’ve recovered. Now we have the two country gals on Idol singing Madonna. Hmm. OK, recovered again. They say they’ve wanted to perform together, they just didn’t imagine it would be on a Madonna song. Bet not. They’re singing “Like a Prayer,” and they say they drew their inspiration for country-fying the song from a Jennifer Nettles version. And here we go. And there we went. Not spectacular. Not too bad. For once I was glad to have the choir on stage. Nicki and Randy agree that Kree outshined Janelle. Nicki says it was like a “star flew in to perform with an American Idol,” meaning Kree was the former and Janelle was the latter. Says Ryan: That was fun: Yep, bet that’s just what Janelle is thinking about now. Grade: B–

Lazaro Arbos of American Idol. (FOX Photo)Lazaro Arbos: After two rough performances, Lazaro needs to bounce back badly. After last week’s performance-ending meltdown, I wasn’t sure he would be able to control his nerves tonight. But he’s starting off much stronger tonight on “For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder. And the tempo picks up, and Lazarro picks up right along with it, working the front of the stage like he’s in control of this performance. The vocal isn’t anywhere near Candice Glover quality, but it’s miles better than what Lazaro delivered the past two weeks. Much, much improved. Punch his ticket for the Top 7. And the judges seem to agree, though Randy points out that there were a few pitch problems. One of the judges credits Smokey for his astute coaching of Lazaro. Nicki compliments Smokey on his sexiness, but wants a piece of the credit. She told Lazaro that he shouldn’t listen to Jimmy Iovine, she reminds everyone. As soon as he stopped listening, his performance improved. Can’t wait to hear what Jimmy has to say about that tomorrow night. Grade: B–

Janelle Arthur of American Idol. (FOX Photo)Janelle Arthur: What the heck, Janelle is back on the stage already. There are four other contestants on the show aren’t there? Janelle is going to sing “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Brilliant song choice in my mind, especially for a country gal forced into a Motown theme. I love this song, and it can be done lots of different ways. And Janelle, guitar in hand, is turning in a solid performance. Lots of passion in this performance, too. Love this girl’s attitude, too. She just got raked over the coals in the group number, and she came back to the stage with a vengeance. And a really excellent ending. That was Janelle’s best performance of the finals. Call that redemption. Nicki is still giving her a hard time over her vocals. Shut up, Nicki. That was really, really good. And a little bit risky. We could use more risk takers on this show. Grade: A–

Devin Velez of American Idol (FOX Photo)Devin Velez: Here’s a guy who needs a really strong performance tonight. Devin was next to last in Top 10 week and in the bottom three again last week. He’ll sing “The Tracks of My Tears.” Here’s betting there’s nothing risky about this performance. Not sure this song is a great match for Devin’s voice, though he did hit one very impressive high note there. But his voice sounds like it’s straining every time the chorus comes around. Nice ending, but we’ve come to expect that from Idol performance. Here’s a guy who needed to create a moment tonight to lift him out of danger. That song didn’t provide him with that moment. Nicki calls him a “ripe banana” and says he did an “amazing job.” Randy calls it one of his best performances in weeks. Grade: C+

Candice Glover, Angie Miller, Amber Holcomb: They’ll sing “I’m Going to Make You Love Me.” Candice admitted she got flirting advice from Angie. Amber does not sound good on this at all. She’s mumbling her words. Candice is clearly the powerhouse of the three. As a group, they are not clicking at all. Sorta like they needed more time to jell as a threesome. The final line was the only time that came together. Mariah is the only judge to get to comment this time. Why? Who knows? She loved it, of course. Grade: C

Burnell Taylor of American Idol. (FOX Photo)Burnell Taylor: Decked out all in white, Burnell looks really great. He’s singing “My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder. OK, still don’t get Burnell. Didn’t like that at all. On a night when some of the Idols have sounded like pros, Burnell sounded very much like an American Idol contestant starting out on this show. Nicki loved it, of course. Randy loved it, complimenting Burnell on his choices. Oh, no, he’s in it to win it. Mariah says she “appreciated the performance.” Where was the risk in that peformance, judges? Where was the moment? I must have missed it. Grade: C

Angela Miller of American Idol. (FOX Photo)Angie Miller: She’s going to song “Shop Around,” a song written by Smokey Robinson. Angie wants to show America her fun, crazy side with some attitude. Like this song choice, too. And Angie shows up looking like a million bucks. But there’s an awful lot going on on the stage isn’t there. Hey, Angie, like the attitude. Like the upbeat performance. Didn’t like the fact that I had trouble making out some of the vocals over the background music. Randy didn’t think it was vocally great. And he’s correct. Mariah, after getting over her confusion that her comments follow Randy’s (gee, it’s only been that way for weeks), would have preferred Angie behind a piano. Keith makes the most astute observation, explaining why he thought that seemed so disjointed. Nicki scolds Angie for trying to show another side the judges didn’t ask to see. In truth, it wasn’t one of Angie’s finer moments. Grade: C

Amber Holcomb of American Idol. (FOX Photo)Amber Holcomb: The gal who finished in the bottom three last week will sing “Lately” by Stevie Wonder, determined to show she belongs in the top three not the bottom three. I would have suggested something other than yet another ballad. Someone that young and good looking should not stand behind a mic and deliver a power ballad week after week after week. But Amber delivers a big vocal. Mariah is beside herself, calling it a tour de force and wondering if anyone knows what she’s talking about. So she tries to make it understandable and gets bleeped out. Nicki looks at though she’s just enduring the commentary. Randy calls it the best vocal of the night. Whatever. Clearly she’s a judge favorite. Ryan asks if Amber’s back. Love her reaction. “I really wasn’t gone. I feel like I was here last week.” Yes, she was. Grade: B

Lazaro Arbos, Burnell Taylor, Devin Velez: They’re going to sing “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.” OK, I don’t know what was going on there. Seemed like Lazaro missed his cue time and time again. Burnell sounded flat. Devin sounded the best. But the whole thing just fell apart as things went along. Unfortunately for the guys, it’s Nicki’s turn to critique. OK, I’ve gotta quote this Nicki classic: “It’s a beautiful day in Hollywood today. Because that’s what I felt like, felt like that was back in Hollywood Week. I don’t know what that was, but I’m gonna act like I didn’t see it or hear it. I’m gonna thank god all three of you already had your solo performances. Lazaro, you fell flat as a pancake. Don’t ever do that. I don’t know what’s happening. All three of you, go. Get off the stage.” Yikes. No one can ever accuse Ms. Minaj of not speaking her mind. Grade: F

Kree Harrison of American Idol (FOX Photo)Kree Harrison: She will sing Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Play That Song” and Smokey is really encouraged by her rendition. He says he’s going to call Aretha and make sure she watches the show. Kree’s putting her country twang on it. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Nice pick to close the show. Kree is going to slay Motown Week. The country singer shows off her big voice, gets to show a little swagger. So, let’s see, she sang Madonna and Aretha tonight and did great on both. What have I been saying about this gal’s versatility. She gets excellent reviews from all the judges. Grade: A–

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