[REVIEW] ‘American Idol’ Season 12 x Top 8 Performances

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Accompanied by mentor Smokey Robinson, this week’s theme centered around Detroit’s Motown Week. Each of the contestants moved Smokey in a unique way, but it was the audience that required the most convincing. With the season usually a standout for Black contestants, the “other” contestants stood strong as they faced a week of #truesoul.


Kree Harrison – Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”
Grade: A+

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Smokey Robinson and Jimmy Iovine declared that her practice run was the best of the night, leaving both mentors beyond speechless. Kree’s vocals are unmatched this season, and she proved her true weight as the frontrunner with Aretha’s hit. The runs during the chorus were #beyoncecrazy and the verses were #pitchperfect. Not only did Kree command the stage, but she gave the single best performance of season 12 – a real #bowdown moment.

Quote: “The moments you had during this performance were absolutely unbelievable.” (Randy Jackson)


Janelle Arthur – The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”
Grade: A

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Janelle says that she came up with her own guitar arrangement for the Motown classic when she was only 14 years old. While I feel that contestants sometimes use their instrument as a crutch, Janelle’s guitar accompaniment was definitely a good look. The subdued arrangement and smoky stage set the mood for a near-perfect vocal. So good, that her patterned leggings and mismatch patterned cowboy boots were (slightly) excused.

Quote: “Janelle at her finest!” (Mariah Carey)


Candice Glover – Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”
Grade: B+

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Smokey admitted that Candice made him cry with her performance of “I Who Have Nothing”. Attempting to ride the same success from her previous performances, Candice took on a song written by Robinson himself. Her deep, husky voice went well over the uptempo number, but she started off a bit flat. The performance never really left the ground, but her ending note is definitely #noteworthy.

Quote: “You’ve raised the bar – exponentially.” (Keith Urban)


Burnell Taylor – Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour”
Grade: B+

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Motown week was never going to be a problem for Burnell, because R&B is his only strong point. There was no way that he could fail in his comfort zone, and he definitely sang the song better than the original. Burnell’s reinterpretations of arrangements with his own #burnellisms each week makes his voice stand out, but if he weren’t at “home” with the theme, he wouldn’t do nearly as well.

Quote: “I definitely could hear you in the Motown days, your voice gives new meaning to artsy.” (Nicki Minaj)


Devin Velez – The Miracles’ “The Tracks Of My Tears”
Grade: B+

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Devin’s riding high from a great performance last week, possibly his best to date. Taking on a Smokey Robinson song is another risk for him, but he handled himself exceptionally well. Devin has what I like to call #sassysoul – you can feel his attitude and vocals right through the TV screen. It seems like Velez, who #startedatthebottom, is finally beginning to make his mark on this season.

Quote: “This is one of your best performances in weeks – hands down.” (Randy Jackson)


Angie Miller – The Miracles’ “Shop Around”
Grade: B

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Smokey’s story begins with his ideas behind his songwriting on “Shop Around”, which he says it took him longer to write than any of his number one hits. As one of the only bonafide uptemptos of the night, Angie delivered sexiness and vocals. The chorus was done with power, but the performance wasn’t as good as expected.

Quote: “You came and tried to bring another side of Angie that didn’t need to be introduced.” (Nicki Minaj)


Amber Holcomb – Stevie Wonder’s “Lately”
Grade: B

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Amber has a soft spot for classics, which is why “Lately” is the perfect song choice for her. The beginning of her performance gave too much, and the end didn’t give enough. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but didn’t pack the punch as a whole like her other female competitors on a weekly basis. Last week, Amber escaped the bottom three, but her end note makes me believe she’ll narrowly repeat the trend again this week.

Quote: “That was a tour de force.” (Mariah Carey)


Lazaro Arbos – Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life”
Grade: B-

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Smokey wants Lazaro to do something that he’s comfortable with, rather than what he feels will give him votes. With ballads being his strongest suit, Wonder’s “For Once In My Life” seems like a no-brainer. Lazaro commanded the stage during the downtempo portion with ease for the first time this season. About halfway through, there’s an 8-count routine added to the performance, which took away from the richness of his vocals.

Quote: “It’s about choosing the songs that are vocally and rhythmically right, not just vocally.” (Keith Urban)


BONUSES
Candice Glover, Angie Miller, and Amber Holcomb – The Supremes and The Temptations “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”
Grade: A

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The three strongest singers group together to redux a soul classic, and it’s pretty damn good. Great harmonies, perfect 8 counts, and exceptional styling made this trio a win. The standout is a thin line between Angie and Candice, while Amber clearly played the #lataviarole.

Quote: “Hashtag pow, that was so pow!” (Mariah Carey)


Janelle Arthur and Kree Harrison – Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”
Grade: A-

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This duo chose to take on Jennifer Nettles’ version of the Madonna classic and definitely brought heat to the stage. Kree, the obvious powerhouse of the two, brought sass with her vocals while Janelle, the strict country singer, was slightly pitchy throughout. Both of them are great country singers, but Kree definitely outshined her female competition.

Quote: “Kreedom made it look like she flew in to do a duet with an ‘Idol’ contestant.” (Nicki Minaj)


Lazaro Arbos, Burnell Taylor, and Devin Velez – The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”
Grade: C

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Burnell and Devin would make a great duet, but Lazaro seemed out of place. As rich as his voice is, he’s better suited for the solo lifestyle. As a whole, the performance was very disjointed. Devin took the lead throughout, and you could hear Burnell’s voice in the harmonies more than anyone else. It was so bad that Nicki told them to get off the stage without the other judges comments.

Quote: “Three guys take on four tops.” (Ryan Seacrest) #shade


Who Should Go Home: Lazaro Arbos

Who Will Go Home: Devin Velez

Bottom Three (My Vote): Lazaro Arbos, Devin Velez, Burnell Taylor

Bottom Three (By Votes):  Lazaro Arbos (8th), Devin Velez (9th), Burnell Taylor (7th)

Safe: Kree Harrison (1st) , Candice Glover (2nd), Janelle Arthur (3rd), Angie Miller (4th), Amber Holcomb (5th)

Eliminated: Devin Velez

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