After a night of Motor City song performances that ranged wildly from stellar to sub-par, the Top 8 of “American Idol,” Season 12, found out what the voters thought.
- The Top 8 kicked off the show by singing Bob Seeger’s “Old-Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which was a typical group performance, except with the addition of some (unseen) backup singers. In a variety of outfits, they performed in front of a wall of gold records.
- In a videotaped segment, the Top 8 served as mentors in an elementary school, working with kids on singing Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips’s single, “Home.”
- In a recap of the previous night, Jimmy Iovine said every contestant could benefit from watching Candice Glover’s performance from the previous night. He predicted she’s not going anywhere. Nicki Minaj, he said, was right on the duet between Kree Harrison and Janelle Arthur, saying that Janelle needs to work on her harmony. About Lazaro Arbos, Jimmy said he did much better than last week. But if he follows Nicki’s advice not to listen to Jimmy, “At least he should listen to the melody.” Janelle, Jimmy said, redeemed herself with her solo: “She murdered it.” He said that compared to everyone else, Devin Velez came up short. About the trio of Angie Miller, Candice and Amber Holcomb, he said he loved it. He liked their unique sound and look. About Burnell Taylor, Jimmy said he was really impressed. “He went inside the song, discovered it, and delivered it to all of us.” Jimmy thought maybe “these kids shouldn’t be picking their own songs,” because Angie got it wrong last night on the song choice, outfit and performance. About Amber, he said she’d done exactly what Smokey asked her to do: “I would bet anything she’s not in the bottom three.” Then, on the disastrous trio of Burnell, Lazaro and Devin, he quipped they could be a boy band called Wrong Direction. He thought it would affect all three of them in the voting. About Kree, Jimmy said she has a unique gift in her top register, and that will take her a long way, “Possibly even to the finale.” He predicted the boys would be in the bottom three and Lazaro would be going home.
- Host Ryan Seacrest then introduced a special message from Aretha Franklin, who had watched Kree perform her song. She told her that she loved it, “and you’re not going anywhere.” Although Ryan reminded everyone that Aretha doesn’t have the official results, which were coming later.
- Colton Dixon, one of the Season 11 finalists, premiered his new single, “Love Has Come for Me,” wearing a black leather blazer over two layered shirts — orange and black mesh — paired with black pants, a very rocker look. His performance was backed by a band who looked very alternative like him. The song was a rock-pop anthem that could have legs after the boost he’ll get from playing it on the show. Afterward, Ryan asked Colton how it felt when Angie covered his song a couple weeks ago, and he said she’d killed it. Upon prompting from Ryan, he trucked over to the couch and gave her a hug.
- Performing “If I Lose Myself,” One Republic and Katherine McPhee joined forces on-stage. The band began the tune, singing the first verse and chorus before she joined them, in a very different look from how she’s been appearing on the show “Smash,” with her hair cut short and bleached on the ends, wearing a very rocker-looking cropped top with black cropped pants. Her voice blended well with his, and she did a great job with the harmonies, as well.
- Then, judge Keith Urban sang his song, “Long Hot Summer,” with all the girls in the first few rows clapping wildly. It’s a very bouncy country song that could easily be a cross-over hit, complete with a great guitar solo.
- In no particular order, Ryan announced, the first person who was safe was… Kree. Shortly afterwards, she was joined by Candice in the safe seats. Also safe, Ryan announced, Janelle. So excited to congratulate her girlfriends, Kree jumped up, slipped in her heels, and fell. She was all right, though, and took her shoes off afterward. The next person who was safe: Angie. Next to join them in safety was Amber. This meant the guys were the bottom three.
- After the break, Burnell found out he was safe, and joined the girls, getting a big hug from Candice. Singing for his life, Ryan announced, would be Devin. He sang, “It’s Impossible.” A shot of Mariah Carey showed her wiping away a tear. The judges didn’t seem to be debating, but Keith and Randy Jackson did seem to be talking behind Nicki’s back, with Nicki nodding. Ryan announced that the decision was not unanimous, but they weren’t going to use the judges’ save for Devin. He took it in stride and thanked both the audience and God for his “Idol” run.
- Why were few people surprised when Devin was cut this week? Let’s break it down. He had several factors going for him: talent, consistency, and image. His tone was honeyed, and he rarely had pitch problems. From week to week, he could be counted on to deliver a modern crooner take on a song. His retro image was sleek and stylish and helped separate him from the pack.
So where did he go wrong? Performance, song choice and charisma. As judge Keith has pointed out, he often had trouble finding an emotional connection to the song. In a way, he was too cool for school: rarely reflecting the meaning of the lyrics in his face or delivery. That might not be such a problem, except that he was up against several competitors who are very skilled in that area, such as Candice and Kree. Even amongst the guys, Burnell has a way of standing at a microphone and yet throwing himself, body and soul, into a song. By comparison, Devin’s performances were almost passionless.
In terms of song choice this week, his selection of “Tracks of My Tears” did him no favors. The arrangement was simply too quick and bouncy, and especially after guest mentor Smokey Robinson had spent the time to talk to him about the lyrics, his lack of emotional connection to them was more glaring.
Finally, while Devin has been unfailingly polite and professional, he has done little to separate himself from the pack in terms of personality. That is likely one of the reasons that voters supported Lazaro — who is both an underdog and sweetly shy — over Devin. And that’s why Lazaro lasted another week, while a much more consistent singer was sent home.