American Idol Top 5 recap: Excessive praise, possible Nicki Minaj-Mariah Carey fight truce?

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comApril 17, 2013 

It was one of those nights when I missed Simon Cowell.

I can only assume the four judges overdosed on niceness pills prior to Wednesday's show. They delivered multiple standing ovations and gave feedback like this line: "You're not country. You're worldly. You're iconic."

If you're still not sold on the episode's saccharine nature, consider this: Nicki Minaj complimented Mariah Carey. Sure, they had a slight flight early in the show. But on at least two occasions, Nicki spoke positively of Mariah.

What's going on?

The most baffling thing -- other than Nicki's incredibly revealing dress -- is that for the most part, the quality of the performances wasn't enough to generate this kind of euphoria. Nobody delivered a complete vocal mess. But the show wasn't a turning point for any singer, either.

Each of the five remaining singers performed two songs Wednesday night. The first theme was "the year you were born" and the second theme was "diva."

I think Janelle Arthur is in trouble this week. Please comment with your picks for the best and worst singers of the night.

Here's a full recap of the show.

***

Candice Glover kicks off the night with Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." She changes the arrangement and makes a cool, jazzy version of the 1988 song. She gets points for creativity and versatility. But is it a crime to say I wanted more? It's a sweet throwback tune. However, simply changing a song's pace does not make you the best singer ever. The arrangement doesn't allow Candice to deliver the big notes that really separate her from the rest of the pack. This isn't on the level of Candice's performances from last week. In a post-performance interview, Jimmy Iovine agrees with me. Yippee!

Keith: "That was so good...That was such a great version of that song."

Nicki: "Once again you showed that you're a boss...I liked that you put your own spin on it."

Randy: "I thought it made the song even more current."

Mariah: "Genius. Nobody can do what you do."

Janelle Arthur covers "When I Call Your Name," a 1989 tune by Vince Gill. She takes the stage with her guitar and delivers an old-school country music vibe. From the opening moments, I can tell some people will think this performance is boring. It's hard to entirely disagree. Janelle hits some nice notes, but it's not completely memorable. That said, I don't hate it entirely. The good news? Janelle stays away from the excessive perkiness that's rubbed me the wrong way in previous weeks. She's not perfect, but she seems slightly more genuine. In a post-performance interview, Jimmy Iovine says, "She just wasn't strong enough."

Nicki: "When you have your guitar, you're so much more comfortable."

Randy: "I think you did a really great job...Janelle's back where she belongs."

Mariah: "I believed you."

Keith: "I didn't feel it."

Kree Harrison sings "She Talks to Angels," a 1990 tune by The Black Crowes. In a pre-performance interview, Kree says people might be surprised she chose this song. I'm not sure I agree. It's a little more upbeat than what we've seen in previous weeks, but it's not the big jaw-dropping moment I've been begging her to deliver. I'd describe the performance as "good." It's not spectacular. In fact, it seems like Kree strains her voice on some of the high notes. Kree still hasn't blown me away. "This song just wasn't strong enough for Kree's vocal," Jimmy Iovine says in a post-performance interview.

Randy: "I love you...What I love about you is all the naturalness in your spirit and in your voice."

Mariah: "You can sing anything and I love to hear you sing."

Keith: "Your voice is so fine and beautiful."

Nicki: "That was the best performance of the night, absolutely, by far."

The critiques inspire a slight fight between Nicki and Mariah. Nicki says she disagrees with Mariah, who apparently disagrees with the notion of Nicki's disagreement. Confused? Me too. Nicki tries to resolve things by telling Mariah, "Simmer down, sir."

Angie Miller sings "I'll Stand by You," a 1994 tune by The Pretenders. She sits at the piano and begins the performance with a dedication: "This is for my home, Boston." It's a pretty good performance, and I agree that Angie is most in her element when she sits at the piano. However, I can't get past how Broadway this rendition feels. I'm getting a serious "Glee" vibe, and I don't like it. Three of the four judges give her a standing ovation -- everybody except Nicki. In a post-performance interview, Jimmy Iovine says, "She did a fabulous job."

Mariah: "It was perfect, especially tonight in terms of your hometown."

Keith: "I love you at the piano."

Nicki: "You know we are all obsessed when you are on that piano...Congratulations on a great performance."

Randy: Says these five singers are some of the top singers ever on "Idol." I disagree.

Amber Holcomb performs Mariah Carey's cover of "Without You," which was released in 1994. I'm a little upset that Amber is back in ballad mode. But her attempt at uptempo material landed her in the bottom two last week, so I understand her point of view. Arguably, this is the most challenging song of the first round. So Amber gets points for that. However, I'm not entirely feeling her emotional connection with the song. Three of the four judges give her a standing ovation -- once again, everyone except Nicki. After the performance, Jimmy Iovine says he'd rank her as the second-best of the night.

Keith: "We've got an Amber Alert going on." Really, Keith?!?

Nicki: "I feel you were really stoic...there was no feeling in the beginning." Nicki compares it to the emotion in Mariah's version and kind of/sort of compliments Mariah. I'm shocked.

Randy: "It wasn't perfect...I think you did a damn good job."

Mariah: "I loved a lot of the choices you made."

Time for the second round: "divas."

Candice Glover sings "When You Believe" by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Sorry, folks...I'm not really feeling Candice's song choices this week. This one just seems a little too predictable. It takes me a while to get into the song, but I enjoy the end, which gets full gospel treatment. I'm pretty sure the judges got on their feet. Overall, it's a fine performance. My biggest complaint is the song choice. I wanted more creativity. Apparently, we won't get follow-up comments from Jimmy Iovine during this round.

Nicki: "That is how you do a Mariah Carey-Whitney Houston song...That kind of collaboration has never happened since Mariah and Whitney."

Randy: "That's the best vocal of the night...You are so in the zone."

Mariah: "I am so proud of you."

Keith: "I love your voice because it stops me in my tracks."

Janelle Arthur sings "Dumb Blonde" by Dolly Parton. Something tells me I'm supposed to like this. After all, it's the first really upbeat song of the night. Janelle delivers a fair share of personality on stage, too. But somehow, I just end up really bored. The song never really feels contagious. I have a hard time feeling the melody. Ultimately, Janelle risks appearing fairly forgettable once again. Whether it's an issue of song choice or performance style, I'm not really impressed.

Randy: Wishes she would've performed "something that showed off your voice as well as your performance."

Mariah: "I felt you were connected to the song."

Keith: "I don't feel like that was the best song for you to shine."

Nicki: "I do think you're in jeopardy of going home tomorrow."

Kree Harrison sings "Have You Ever Been in Love" by Celine Dion. Snooze. Kree is another singer whose song choices underwhelm me this week. She's a good singer, but I'm not sure she has Celine's vocal power. As a result, once again it sounds like she's really straining her voice on the bigger notes. This song just really seems outside Kree's zone. I liked her first performance better, and that's not saying much. Are the judges standing up again? Really?!?

Mariah: "I think it was a very smart choice."

Keith: "You stayed in control of the song the whole time."

Nicki: "You're not country. You're worldly. You're iconic. You are Adele. You are Celine Dion."

Randy: "It was a great song by an amazing singer."

Angie Miller sings "Halo" by Beyonce. Immediately, she gets points for choosing a current song. That means a lot, folks...especially during this season. I'm divided on this performance. I like the beginning much better than the end. The beginning seems emotional and controlled, while the end gets a little manic. That's when Angie enters Broadway mode and pulls out the theatrics. I would've preferred a more subtle finish. All four judges give her a standing ovation.

Keith: "Definitely top three."

Nicki: "Now my Angie Miller is back...you just did that song justice like a queen could."

Randy: "Angie's in it to win it."

Mariah: "You're here to stay."

Amber Holcomb sings "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" by Barbra Streisand. Immediately, I'm concerned about the song choice. But Amber handles it well. Technically, there are no major flaws. I'd even argue it's one of the most spot-on vocals of the night. However, I really doubt this song choice helps Amber's effort to connect with her audience -- which is where she's lacking. I wish she would've chosen something more fun and contemporary. And...all four judges are on their feet again. REALLY????

Nicki: "I don't think that you get the credit that you deserve...I love you."

Randy: "You are so good, you're like this young Rihanna with this giant voice."

Mariah: "Classic, beautiful, elegant."

Keith: "It was elegant and beautiful."

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