Tonight the Season 12 Top 9 take on the music of legends, the Beatles. This is not the first time the theme has surfaced on the show, as they first took it on in season 7, when David Archuleta became a sensation with his lovely performance of John Lennon's "Imagine". The episode was so successful, the producers decided to double-dip, keeping the theme for the following week. No surprise that it was a bit of a letdown, and not nearly as enjoyable. It was then we learned that not only is the songbook that good, it is also that difficult to perform, a real test for the Idol contestant. And I can see the judges and the producers using this music to separate the boys from the girls, to ensure a young lady will be a step closer to winning the title.
Top row: Paul Jolley; Angie Miller; Amber Holcomb; Lazaro Arbos; and Devin Velez. Bottom row: Burnell Taylor; Janelle Arthur; Kree Harrison; and Candice Glover.
After Jimmy Iovine gives a brief introduction to the theme tonight, the announcer introduces the judges and the host. Tonight it seems as though Nicki had better time management, as she was there as the show began. It wasn't long before Crusty introduces the Top 9, but doesn't really talk to them at all. He does toss the attention on Carly Rae Jepsen as she announces she will introduce a new single that will debut on the season finale, in the Cocoa Cola Perfect Harmony Contest. Fans get to help write some of the lyrics, help make production choices, and even help with her wardrobe. To learn more, visit the official website. Once that was dispatched with, we see Charlie Askew and Aubrey Cleland standing with Crusty on stage, the results for the sing-off for the extra spot on the Summer Tour was announced, and Aubrey took the most votes and will be the extra person on the Idol tour.
From Left: Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Ryan Seacrest, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban.
Kree starts off the evening when she sings "With A Little Help From My Friends", originally released on the Beatles seminal album 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' in 1967. It was later covered by the great Joe Cocker in 1968. Jimmy things this is perfect for Kree, even if she is showing signs of having a cold. She starts strong, and is amazing throughout the song. She is mind-blowingly good, and showed no signs of being under the weather. She took control of the song, and gave it a new and fresh life. The judges all loved it, as they should. Both Randy and Mariah toy with her a bit, being coy with the compliments before gushing over Kree. I was especially fond of Nicki telling Kree about her 'all-black realness' she was delivering with her outfit. After a break, it is time for Burnell to come out to announce he is singing "Let It Be", the title track from the 1970 album of the same name. He informs us he didn't know the song at all. Jimmy I mentions he needs to learn the song, so America can appreciate his unusual tone.
While it certainly is one of the most recognizable songs ever, Burnell does put his own touches on the vocal, and it is really wonderful. He stayed in tune, and painted beautiful touches on the song. He made so many smart choices along the way, it was impressive. Once again, the judges agree, thinking this was a great performance. They all make mention that he didn't know the song just five days ago, but nailed it down. After a break, Amber comes out to talk about the small town atmosphere where she grew up, and the farm her father still lives on. Amber is singing "She's Leaving Home", also from 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. The song is not a popular hit for the band, but a good one. I thought she wandered around a bit at the beginning, feeling a bit like she was meandering. She was at her best in the chorus, when she could power through it, and add some runs. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly memorable, either. Randy and Mariah both point out the slow start, and her seeming a bit lost with the song. Keith mentions it was his favorite Beatles song, while Nicki points out there were times when Amber looked detached from the performance. Amber leaves the stage, a bit saddened by the reviews. After the break it is time for Lazaro, and we get to meet his proud Cuban parents. We hear he is performing "In My Life", off the 1965 album 'Rubber Soul'. During practice, he struggles a bit with the tempo, as it is a tough one. The song begins rather low, and isn't great for his voice. This is a tepid performance at best, and he seems off his game. The performance was lacking on just about every level, from energy to interpretation. The judges all try to be nice, but speak of the performance as lacking. After the critique, he tells of having chosen another song, but yesterday was informed he needed to pick a new one, this one. As he tells the story, he wipes away the tears from his eyes. After yet another commercial break, Crusty asks about the problems Lazaro had, and they think he needs to brush it off, and listen to his own voice. Now it is time for Candice Glover, who gave the strongest performance for me last week. Candice talks about how much she loves her family. Then we learn she is going to sing "Come Together", off the 1969 album 'Abbey Road'. The song begins with a big Rock sound, and Candice is on it. She gives it a new soulful sound, and is once again a star on the stage. She gives it a timeless sound, ready for airplay now. She is battling Kree for best of the night. Once again, the judges are unanimous in their praise of the performance.
Paul will be singing "Eleanor Rigby", an amazing song to be sure. It is off 1965's 'Yellow Submarine'. He starts the performance with lots of smoke, and a falsetto that could have been missed. But as soon as the song kicks in, so does his vocals, which were amazingly tight for the entire song, including on the final notes. That was really strong to me, with a strong new take on the song. Honestly, it reminds me of the kind of things David Cook did during his season, contouring the songs to his voice.
Oh, wait, the judges seem to want to keep directing him away from Country music, for Mariah thinks his voice is too big, too good, and he should be recording driving Dance tracks, like every good gay boy should. It is time for Angie, who was voted the Next American Idol by her senior classmates, and we also learn how tight her family is. She will be singing "Yesterday", also off 'Yellow Submarine'. While talking to Jimmy I, he speaks of her needing to pull back, for she tends to over-sing and lose her way. He wants her out of her own way. As the performance begins, she jumps in a bit early, but the band recovers quickly. The song is a bit slow and dirge-like, seemingly built on a progression to the big glory note, that feels a touch shrill. I found the whole song to be a bit mopey, never kicking into gear. It was just a little lost along the way. Now, all the judges loved her, and said it was great, but also pointed out a problem or two along the way. Keith said he could see her going in and out of her thought process, and she needs to own her performances. After the break, it is time for Devin to come out to sing "The Long and Winding Road", featured on the album 'Let It Be'. He will mix it up a bit, putting a true R&B spin on it. He takes a smooth and lush spin on the Beatles, really handling the song with grace and style. It was wonderful, hanging with Candice and Kree for best of the night. The judges all love it, although Keith wants more emotion from Devin, something Nicki definitely disagrees with. She thinks Devin is always committed. Then Crusty tries to engage in some stirring, trying to get Mariah and Nicki going at one another, but thankfully the ladies avoid that crap. After the break we will have the final performance of the evening, from Janelle. She will be singing "I Will" from the 1968 album 'The Beatles'. Janelle is putting a Country twist on it, and it sounds good (unlike that disaster by Kristy Lee Cooke, if you can recall that mess). The arrangement is nice, but she is trying to hard with her vocals, trying to add too much by way of runs, which unfortunately sometimes fell a tad flat on the runs. I felt some of her phrasing got a bit lost in the runs, mixing up the cadence. Of course, the judges all disagree with me, and think this performance was amazing and heavenly. She is glowing with the great reviews.
Of course, it is time to take a look back at the performances, and the weekly recap. I have to say that Kree, Candice and Devin are the top performers of the night, while Lazaro, Janelle and Amber are at the back of the pack, with Burnell and Paul holding the middle ground. Now, I think they are trying to toss Paul under the bus, and pretend Amber and Janelle were better than they really were. And Lazaro was most certainly the weakest of the night, but will his tears push people to vote for him? At least that is what I think, but will the voters agree with me? Randy points out the girls once again ruled the night, and only mentioned Burnell, leaving Paul, Lazaro, and Devin out to dry... As I said, separating the boys from the girls, people...