On Wednesday's episode of "American Idol," it wasn't hard to determine the front and back of the pack.
Leading the remaining six singers: Candice Glover, a frontrunner who seriously upped her level of awesomeness this week. She delivered two solid songs, one of which judge Randy Jackson called one of the greatest performances in "Idol" history. I assume 99 percent of viewers would agree she won the night.
On the opposite end of the spectrum: Lazaro Arbos, the only remaining male singer. He's clearly out of his league and the judges must desperately want him to go home. Their criticism of Lazaro was especially brutal this week. But my sympathy for the judges only goes so far. After all, they were the ones who initially kept advancing him through the competition.
Each contestant sang two songs. One theme was tunes from the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songbook. The other theme was “A Song I Wish I Had Written."
So, Lazaro's going home, right?
It seems likely, but I wouldn't guarantee it. The severity of the judges' criticism could rally Lazaro's fan base -- and he must certainly have one, since he's lasted this long in the competition. If Lazaro isn't the lowest vote-getter, I think it'll be Janelle Arthur, in which case the judges would probably use their "save."
Here's a full recap of Wednesday's show. But first, let's revisit Candice's "Love Song" from Wednesday's show.
The singers first perform the Burt Bacharach/Hal David theme.
Angie Miller kicks off the show with "Anyone Who Had A Heart." Well, Angie's back to her theatrics this week. This performance is a little too Broadway for my tastes. Vocally, there are no glaring flaws. But Angie has a certain disconnect with the audience. I don't feel like she really believes what she's singing. I wish she would've added some contemporary appeal or uniqueness to this rendition of the song. Bottom line? It's not horrific, but it's not one of Angie's best efforts.
Keith: "You have such a great voice, and all I ask, Angie, is that you don't rely on it alone."
Nicki: Says it felt "old-fashioned"
Randy: "You gotta digest it like it's a song you wrote."
Mariah: "In your pronunciation, at times, it's so perfect...It makes me feel like you're really focusing on the pronunciation versus just singing the song."
Amber Holcomb sings "I Say a Little Prayer." Awesome. Does anyone else want to watch "My Best Friend's Wedding" after the show? Sorry for the diversion...I'm just absolutely giddy that Amber finally chose a relatively fast song. It's not exactly the most creative performance. But then again, it's slightly difficult to completely rearrange this song. Amber does a nice job with it, hitting lots of nice big notes. Overall, I'm happy. It's nice to see Amber's fun side.
Nicki: "I am bowing down right now for you...You are unbelievable, Amber." Says Amber's her favorite girl in the competition.
Randy: "Amber has arrived."
Mariah: "You took a chance...this was A-plus."
Keith: "I love that you never overperform...You never oversing."
Lazaro Arbos sings "Close To You." First, let's briefly discuss Lazaro's pre-performance interview. Is anyone else surprised that his hobbies include hunting? Back to Lazaro's performance. It's predictably cheesy. It's basically what you'd expect from an adult contemporary lounge club. I'm sure some tweens are swooning, but I'm just more convinced that Lazaro is out of his league. This performance is totally forgettable, and Lazaro seems extremely nervous. Don't even get me started on his suit.
Randy: "No, no, no, no...that was horrible...I think that's the worst performance you've ever had on the show."
Mariah: "It's not the right selection for you and I'm sorry to say that."
Keith: "When you watch this back, you'll know exactly what we're saying."
Nicki: "Let's just pretend I already gave my comment."
Kree Harrison sings "What the World Needs Now Is Love." Kree adds somewhat of a country spin to this tune without changing it too much. She starts off somewhat slowly and picks up the pace as the song progresses. Kree hits some nice notes throughout the performance and she seems relatively confident with the song. That said, I'm not going crazy over it. Sorry, folks...I'm still waiting for Kree to totally surprise us one of these weeks. I want her to completely abandon her comfort zone.
Mariah: "You know who you are and you sing as Kree."
Keith: "It's the humanity and the compassion that comes through...That's the best you've ever sung."
Nicki: "Your voice is so sweet and humble and it brings you in. But at the same time, it's hella cocky."
Randy: "That girl can sing. That's what it's really about."
Janelle Arthur performs "I’ll Never Fall In Love Again." I have high expectations when Janelle starts the performance by singing among the audience. I also like her '70s wardrobe vibe. However, the singing is missing a sense of star quality. In my opinion, it's the least contagious melody of all the songs we've heard so far. It seems like Janelle is forcing this performance too much. For some reason, her extreme smiling seems especially annoying. Audiences might have a hard time connecting with this song.
Keith: "I always feel like I see a different side to you every week."
Nicki: "I felt that was really boring."
Randy: "I don't think it was your best. It was definitely a little lackluster."
Mariah: "I always love your effervescence as it comes through."
Candice Glover sings "Don’t Make Me Over." This is easily the most contemporary effort of the night's first half. Candice does a really great job making this song current. I could imagine hearing this on the radio today. Candice has the whole package with this performance: great confidence, great vocals and tons of attitude. She easily won the first half of the show. Three of the four judges give her a standing ovation. I'm assuming Mariah Carey is having wardrobe issues that prevent her from standing up.
Nicki: "Soak that in, honey...You committed so wholeheartedly...You were born to do this."
Randy: "This is what the show is all about...This was one of your best performances ever."
Mariah: "You kept it current, but you kept it you."
Keith: "You set the bar really high, Candice."
Time for round No. 2. Remember, the theme is "A Song I Wish I Had Written."
Angie Miller opts for a relatively unknown song: "Love Came Down" by Kari Jobe. Luckily, she's back in her element. She sits at the piano and delivers a signature Angie performance. Lots of emotion and very strong vocals. It's the most connected she's been on stage in quite some time. She's definitely in her zone with this tune. It's also the most confident she's appeared in a little while. Overall, it's a very strong performance -- definitely enough to redeem Angie after her shaky first song of the night.
Randy: "I loved that for so many reasons."
Mariah: "That piano and you, you never lose."
Keith: "It was beautiful."
Nicki: "This was Angie, this is what people began to vote for when we were in Vegas."
Amber Holcomb must explain her relationship with ousted "Idol" contestant Burnell Taylor, per Ryan Seacrest's request. They're "really good friends," she says. Um, sure. Anyway, Amber continues her uptempo trend tonight and performs "Love On Top" by Beyonce. First, I must acknowledge that Amber is rocking some awesome pink heels tonight and from a performance standpoint, I'm glad she's abandoning her comfort zone. The vocals suffer a bit while she attempts to move around the stage. But it's nice to see her change things up a bit.
Mariah: "Yes, Amber, America loves you...as does this crowd."
Keith: "It was beautiful."
Nicki: "You have arrived in every sense of the word."
Randy: "Yes, yes, yes...this girl is in it to win it."
Lazaro Arbos tries to redeem himself with another ballad: "Angels" by Robbie Williams. Um, well, it's definitely better than his first song. This is another standard Lazaro performance that enters the world of musical cheesiness. I wouldn't say he's an AWFUL singer, but he's clearly not fit for this stage of the competition. He just doesn't seem comfortable. The scary thing? Lazaro is so out of his league this week that it might attract an abundance of sympathy votes.
Keith: "The way the girls are singing, it's so crazy good."
Nicki: "Um, yeah...what he said."
Randy: "Slightly better than the last time."
Mariah: "This was a better range for you."
Kree Harrison sings "Help Me Make it Through The Night" by Kris Kristofferson. Kree seems in her element with this performance. It's a very strong indicator of what we'd expect on her first album. It's a pure, emotional performance. I really enjoy Kree's bigger notes. But again...I really want Kree to change up her routine. She used to be one of my favorites. However, my interest is waning. I checked out at points in this performance. Dear Kree: Please surprise us next week. Thanks.
Nicki: "You could do a song that I've never heard of and make me fall in love with it."
Randy: "You are what I call a natural, natural singer."
Mariah: "That's how a song should be sung."
Keith: "That was a buckle polisher right there."
Janelle Arthur opts for a Garth Brooks tune: "The Dance." She delivers a pretty good rendition of the song, though she doesn't personalize it much -- or at all. Sure, you don't want to completely rearrange a Garth song. Yet as a result, Janelle fails to separate herself from the average aspiring country music singer. Janelle's problem is that she's often forgettable. She really soars when she adds noticeable uniqueness to a musical arrangement, and that didn't happen here.
Randy: "I believed your story."
Mariah: "I had not heard this song before this moment."
Keith: "That would've been a great song for you to do with just guitar."
Nicki: "That was such a sweet, sweet song." But she adds Janelle isn't as strong as the other female singers.
Candice Glover closes the show by performing "Love Song" by The Cure. Awesome song choice. Candice puts a unique spin on the rendition, delivering a jazzy performance that keeps me hooked throughout the song. I might even call it "sultry." The vocals are spot-on and she has an amazing stage presence this week. Candice has always been a solid performer, but it seems like she entered an entirely new zone of excellence this week. She clearly won the night. Mariah Carey runs up on stage and showers her in glitter.
Randy: Speaks on behalf of all the judges and calls it one of the greatest performances in the history of "American Idol"