American Idol 2013 ‘Now & Then’ Performances In Review

Harry Connick Jr & Kree Harrison

On Wednesday night’s episode of American Idol Season 12 the ladies of the Top 4 performed two songs each, chosen from this week’s theme of “Now and Then” meaning a hit from 2013 and a standard of their choice.

The first performer of the night was Angie. She chose Rhianna’s “Diamonds” and accompanied herself on the piano. The judges didn’t love the performance as much as they usually do, especially when she’s at the piano. She definitely could have shown more of her vocal range if she had stayed with the original arrangement and Keith Urban said she was “restricted” in his critique. Nicki Minaj thought it was “bland and lackluster” compared to her previous songs at the piano. Randy Jackson commented that “he loved her shorts”, which sounded somehow odd coming from him. Finally, Mariah Carey thought she played to the camera a little too much.

Amber gave us her rendition of Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason”. I think she did a fine job with it, but I wish she would try to interact with the audience just a little. She always keeps her distance, this time she stayed on a raised platform for the entire performance. Nicki and Randy both picked up on the lack of “fun” Amber seemed to be projecting during her performance. Mariah said she wanted everyone to know that it’s difficult for her to learn a song that is new. In my opinion, if she isn’t familiar with the song, she shouldn’t try to perform it, especially now. Keith had more sympathy for Amber’s lack of enthusiasm and said it “takes years” to develop a performing style that allows for the singer’s true personality to show through.

Candice followed with Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man”. This week’s mentor, Harry Connick, Jr. questioned her song choice because it was originally written from a man’s point of view. Candice responded that she felt a personal emotional connection to the song and wasn’t concerned about it. That little detail didn’t affect her delivery of the song and the audience applauded several times during the performance. Randy said she was “amazing” regardless of the pronouns. Keith said he didn’t care about the “man thing” and he could picture plenty of girls singing along at home. Nicki said they should have given her a standing O and they did, belatedly.

Next up was Kree with her performance of “See You Again” by Carrie Underwood. She repeated a familiar scene by sitting next to her guitarist. I didn’t think she managed to “connect” any more than she has previously, but that is her style and she risks coming across as inauthentic if she pushes too hard to connect more. Keith said he “felt there was a conflict” between her choice to sit with the guitarist and the fact that this was a “power ballad”. Nicki disagreed saying “Kree felt what she was singing and connected with every lyric”. Harry Connick, Jr. came out on the stage to tell Kree personally that she did a great job. In a pre-show clip, Kree said last week’s comments from the judges were “really rough”. She knew that she needed to find a way to connect with her audience a bit more and that’s what she intended to do with this performance.

The “Then” portion of the program began with Angie Miller singing “Someone To Watch Over Me“. Angie’s rendition crawled along at a slower pace than traditional versions of the song and her voice seemed to fade away at times during the first half. Overall, she did do a fine job. Nicki said Angie brings to mind “a Disney Princess” and said she has a “Broadway” kind of voice. Keith and Randy both thought she got lost a little in the middle of the song. Mariah mentioned she grew up hearing the song from her Mom and the camera panned over to her sitting in the audience. When Mariah said she disagreed with “certain members of the panel”, true to form, Nicki told her to “clean her ears out”. Nicki actually pulled a cotton swab out of her bag and passed it over towards Mariah.

Next Amber chose to do a repeat performance of “My Funny Valentine” which received great reviews during the Vegas rounds. During her session with Harry Connick, Jr. however, he told Amber that she had no idea what the song was really about and that she should review the lyrics again before she sings. Ouch! She delivered a good performance and the arrangement was perfectly suited to her tone and vocal range. She may not be aware of what the songwriter was feeling, but obviously Amber connects with the lyrics in her own way. Amber was overwhelmed with emotion during Nicki’s comments, but for other reasons entirely. Randy said “he could tell that her spirit was a little defeated”. Overall, the judges gave her performance positive reviews and advised her not to be overly concerned with the voting.

Candice’s standard choice was “You’ve Changed” by Billie Holliday. Harry made the comment that “maybe the 14 year olds in the audience won’t get it”, but he would take the risk. But should she take that kind of a risk at this point in the competition, knowing that those 14 year olds make up a large part of the voters? The judges got to their feet for a standing O as she finished the song and Randy said she was “stellar”. Mariah called her “spectacular” and encouraged the audience to download the song immediately. Keith said he loved “watching Mariah watching her”. Candice has a unique style and sings beautifully within that style and when she chooses a song that she can personally connect with she turns out a magnificent performance.

Kree sang a true standard “Stormy Weather”. Harry, who has at times been brutally honest with the contestants, told Kree that the “licks” she was putting in were “gratuitous” and “wrong”. He went on to demonstrate his point at the piano. Kree decided to take his advice and performed the song without veering from the melody or adding in extra runs and variations that didn’t belong and it worked beautifully. Both Mariah and Keith thought she should have chosen a different song that would have shown both her country and bluesy sides, but agreed that she delivered a flawless performance. Nicki said she could see how Harry’s way of mentoring could be “startling” to the contestants. She also pointed out that the song choice means so much at this point in the competition. Randy told Kree to “remain true to herself, but she should have done the Etta James version”. In response to Randy’s contradiction filled comment, Harry Connick, Jr. came up to the judge’s table (pulled along by the hand by Keith Urban. I sincerely hope Keith will one day live down his decision to do that). A brief argument ensued between Harry and Randy prompting Ryan Seacrest to put an end to it saying they were “making Nicki and Mariah look benign”.

I wondered last week where Kree was going to land in the voting because of the negative comments made by the judges last week, but she managed to come out in the Top 2 with Angie. Amber and Candice both have to make up the shortfall from last week’s voting and will need every one of their fans to vote for them as well as anyone swayed by Wednesday’s performances.

What do you think of the girl’s performances? It looks like the worry over weekly vote totals and the upcoming finale is getting to the contestants and it’s being noticed by the judges who are then pointing it out to the viewers. Do you think that stress or fatique was a factor in any one of Wednesday night’s performances?