American Idol recap: Beatle’s Night

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March 21, 2013 by Susan Miller

It’s Beatle’s night, so if you pick the wrong song tonight, you really have no business in this competition.  With all the great songs to choose from, the focus is placed back on actual singing ability, and of course arbitrary things like styling and artistry and emotional connection.  At the very least, we’ll all listen to a lot more Beatles music for the rest of the week to get the covers out of our heads.  So, y’know, silver linings.

Kree Harrison, “With a Little Help From My Friends” – For the first time this season, they let someone talented open the show and the whole night is improved because of it.  Kree brought a bluesy/rock vibe to her Beatles tune while still keeping that sweet country twang on the verse.  She looked beautiful, she sounded like a pro, and I never wanted it to end.

Burnell Taylor, “Let It Be” – This week’s video packages featured the contestant’s families, and Burnell’s family is stinking adorable.  The more I learn about Burnell, the more I love him.  He’s taking on “Let it Be” this week, despite having never heard the song.  How is that possible?  I’ll admit that I don’t have extensive knowledge of the Beatles catalog either, but I’d at least heard “Let it Be” by the time I was 18.  However, Burnell is a superstar with a gorgeous, emotional, syrupy tone, so he worked it out.  It was probably good for him that he just learned the song this week.  He made it his own and didn’t oversing it because he was too focused on learning the words and the melody.  I can’t wait to buy his album.

Amber Holcomb, “She’s Leaving Home” – Amber’s Dad is the reason reality TV is successful.  Other than Dave on Happy Endings, I have never seen a person look more uncomfortable on camera.  He’s just a no-nonsense guy with 9 kids.  He ain’t got time to work on his stage presence.  Amber takes on a Beatles song that she’s also never heard.  C’mon guys.  It’s not like there’s just one album to choose from.  Can’t you pick something you’ve heard and/or like?  It seems like a weird song choice for her, and Nicki rightly rips her for looking pained during the performance.  Amber needs to grow up a little bit and realize that she’s in a singing competition.  She’s got that effortless voice, but now she needs to work a little bit to keep pushing herself farther along.  She’s coasting a little bit.

Lazaro Arbos, “In My Life” – Oh dear.  Lazaro starts the song in a key that seems way too low for him.  Again, he’s singing so quiet that you can barely hear him over the music.  He’s losing confidence week by week and all the judges can do is remind him how good he used to be.  He got the most votes for the boys last week so I doubt this is the end for him, but it really should be.  He just doesn’t look like he’s having fun anymore.

Candice Glover, “Come Together” – Ooh, Candice.  I understand wanting to sing this song, but unfortunately, Kris Allen already did the definitive cover of this song in season 8.  She’s good, as usual, but Kris was still better.  Sorry, Candice.  I love those lacy leather pants though.  Those are pretty cool.  I love that the top three girls are taking on this hardcore black leather/lace/rock vibe in their styling.  It’s interesting and really separates them from Amber and Janelle.

Paul Jolley, “Eleanor Rigby” – So y’all know by now that Paul isn’t my favorite.  What you might not know is that “Eleanor Rigby” is my favorite Beatles song.  To have oversing-y Paul try to make it into a rock ballad was just wrong on every level.  He said that he chose the song based on the lyrics, which is a point in his favor, but it sounds like he never took the time to listen to the original.  This week, Paul turned it into a David Cook homage, while still trying to claim that he wanted to be the next Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood.  It’s just not working.  He seems to be a really nice guy and he’s definitely working hard and trying, but it’s not coming together because he won’t pick a lane.  He refuses to play toward his strengths and admit who he is.  I think he really could front a band and sing big rock anthems or do an upbeat pop album if he learned how to dance.  Both of those would suit his emotional inconsistency and giant voice.  But country and soft “Eleanor Rigby” style tunes are just not going to work.  Nicki said she didn’t like it and Paul was visibly crushed.  This show can be painful in so many ways.

Angie Miller, “Yesterday” – I’ve decided that Angie is all of my favorite folksy singer-songwriters put into one, young, pretty, marketable package.  She finessed an overdone song and made it completely captivating and flawless.  I love that she’s been wearing all black leather since Jimmy gave her the note about being a little pageant-y.  I love that she’s really trying to tell a story in her songs and understands every word of what she’s singing.  She and Burnell do the best job of putting songs together in a sensible and emotional way.  Nicki mentioned that she could sing Disney soundtracks and I totally agree.  Her voice and tone are strong and clear and this is the first time I heard that Evanescence/Paramour vibe, but she could definitely make a killing in that field too.  She’s amazing. She can do no wrong.  I can’t wait to hear her sing every week.

Devin Velez, “Long and Winding Road” – We found out this week that Devin goes to a military academy.  Aha!  Of course!  It makes so much sense now.  He has such a proficient tone and power to his voice, but his performances are so forgettable.  Why doesn’t he stand out like Angie or Kree or Burnell? Well, maybe because he’s been trained not to stand out.  He’s been trained to be competent and humble, able and inconspicuous.  His voice is absolutely incredible, but he’s not a star.  He can’t be.  That’s the opposite of the point of his training.  So can he make it as a singer?  I have no idea.  But I do love to hear him sing.

Janelle Arthur, “I Will” – Janelle is adorable, in the vein of Kellie Pickler, only a little more self-aware.  She looked amazing, and turned a Beatles standard into a a beautiful country ballad.  If this is the first time you’d heard the song, you’d think it’d been a country song for years.  It has a classic feel to it that fits so comfortably into her range and tone.  It was a great performance for her, understated, timeless and beautiful.

My picks for top three: Angie, Kree, Burnell.  Bottom two: Lazaro and Paul.  Middle of the pack: Candice, Janelle, Amber, Devin.  I hope this is the end for Lazaro, but I fear for understated Devin.  Tune in Thursday for Jessica Sanchez (!), Casey Abrams (!!) and the results.  See you then.

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