'American Idol' Recap: Angie Miller Dominates Again & Ranking Mariah Carey's Judging Failure

April 25th, 2013 10:56am EDT

Angie Miller performs on AMERICAN IDOL The Mariah Carey project is an unmitigated disaster. Everybody knows this, it’s clear the producers have talked to her based on what she’s said on air, she’s definitely not coming back next season.
In fact, it’s been so bad, that, according to a report published yesterday, the show’s producers seriously considered yanking Mariah Carey during the season in favor of bringing Jennifer Lopez back. Obviously, this would have been a great decision as J-Lo is one of the best judges this show has seen and Mariah is easily the worst with her incoherent rambles that despite containing at minimum 1500 words each, never actually say anything about the contestant’s performance.
It’s been the worst part of the show this season and something that if the fans were able to vote on the judges, would easily have seen Mariah’s ouster weeks ago.
Though it did make me wonder, since Mariah is clearly the worst judge ever on the show, where do the rest rank? Here’s a power ranking of the best judges ever on ‘Idol’:
1. Simon Cowell
Not only is he the best judge on this show, but he’s the best judge in the history of reality television. He basically invented reality show judging and his shockingly candid comments on the original promos made this a must-watch show in the first place. It’s never been close to the same without him.
2. Jimmy Iovine
Not technically a judge, but his comments are the only ones worth paying attention to on the show anymore. So much so that they’ve tried to integrate him as much as possible without actually making him a judge. The less he’s on the show, the more it suffers. The more they use him, the more compelling it gets. Waiting for his critique of the previous night’s show actually made the results shows worth watching – and that’s really saying something.
3. Jennifer Lopez
She started slowly, but by the end of her brief tenure she’d become the new Simon Cowell. Not in terms of the venom, but in terms of giving honest feedback that made sense and ultimately cemented the real verdict about the contestant’s performance. She left too soon.
4. Nicki Minaj
The crazy madcap judge is exactly what this show needed more of. The nicknames, the non sequiturs, the eye-rolls, the showing up late – everything about her is perfect for reality TV. If only her words had a little gravitas.
5. Randy Jackson
He may have about fifteen words in his vocabulary, but the dawg held it down for 13 years so far. And “In it to win it” from him is like praise from Caesar.
6. Paula Abdul
The perfect super-nice foil to Simon’s Darth Vader, Paula was never much in the way of actually judging contestants, but her acid trip sweet compliments were always worthwhile sound bytes.
7. Steven Tyler
A hard one to rank. Other than Simon, he was the best judge the show ever had during the audition rounds as his bemused statements were always the most entertaining part of the show. However, once the live shows started he totally disappeared, essentially saying nothing whatsoever. So he ends up in the middle.
8. Keith Urban
Almost a full season in and he’s still yet to make any real impact. Snoozer.
9. Kara DioGuardi
Condescending, overly dramatic and rarely insightful. She’s the person who makes you think, “That’s what’s wrong with the music industry – that people like her are successful songwriters.” luck
10. Ellen DeGeneres
Remember when this actually happened? Yes, for one painful year the producers decided they needed a fresh new approach to the judges’ panel after Paula Abdul left and we got a talk show host with no singing or musical experience. She refused to criticize any of the singers, favoring unfunny pre-written gags. It didn’t work and she didn’t come back. Good decision for each side.
11. Mariah Carey
The most memorable thing she said last night was, “I would have given a standing ovation but my train was caught under my chair.”
Speaking of last night…
Amber Holcomb’s First Song: “Power of Love” by Celine Dion
Keith Said: That was an amazingly perfect song choice for you.
Nicki Said: You are so current. You are so ready. You don’t feel like a contestant anymore.
Randy Said: You came in as a baby, you are now a pro.
Jimmy Said: The top end of her voice felt a strain, but that song will be very difficult to beat.
The Verdict:
Tonight, Amber finally got to where she’s wanted to go this entire season. That is, a true vocal diva with the voice to really dominate the song.
Heretofore, she just never quite got on top of a song. She’d always felt like somebody who hadn’t made it, and you understood why – she just didn’t have that top-notch voice.
On this performance, she did finally flash that top-notch voice and sounded ready for the radio. This wasn’t a pretender, this was a contender performance.
Grade: B+
Amber Holcomb’s Second Song: “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris
Keith Said: You’re dominating tonight, baby. I thought that was an incredible performance.
Nicki Said: Out of the four girls in the competition, you are the one I’d want to get to know.
Randy Said: She’s in it to win it, that girl right there
Jimmy Said: I didn’t buy that song when Richard Harris sang it, when Donna Summer sang it and not when Amber sang it.
The Verdict:
Doing the pure Donna Summer version without a waiver from the record, Amber showed how limited she is as an artist. While Angie and the others are spinning songs out in their own directions, Amber can’t do much more than mimic the disco diva for a throwback performance that didn’t sound current or particularly great.
Though the throwback vocal matched the look of the performance as her fright pouf against the screensaver backdrop made it seem like a cheesier version of the videos promoting Whitney Houston’s debut.
Somewhere an 80’s shopping mall is missing its video coordinator. Or maybe he just graduated to the ‘Idol’ stage.
Grade: C-
Candice Glover’s First Song: “Find Your Love” by Drake
Keith Said: I feel like you’re finding yourself every week. I love the power in the quiet moments of your voice.
Nicki Said: I wish that you would have stuck to the melody. I don’t want you to get lost in that old-fashioned bracket.
Randy Said: You don’t have to use the church vocals all the time.
Jimmy Said: That was the second-best performance of the night.
The Verdict:
Candice slow jams the Drake here and it feels like slick velvet – and just as garish.
The slickness and smoothness comes from a real sumptuous arrangement that turns a hip-hop song into something of a jazz number. Complete with the lounge feel of how it was staged.
The garishness came from yet another self-indulgent performance as Candice did her best to show us how many notes she can hit while doing her worst to show us how she can forge a connection to a song.
It really felt like it didn’t matter what the source material was. She could turn any song into that same little jazz number that saw her spinning vocal gymnastics across the stage. Just like how you can set any song to the tune of the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ theme. Seriously, try it some time.
Grade: B-
Candice Glover’s Second Song: “Emotion” by Samantha Sang
Keith Said: You didn’t have a big moment.
Nicki Said: You’re a superhero and I’m proud of you.
Randy Said: Another great performance. The vocal is crazy.
The Verdict:
Finally, Candice leaves the vocal gymnastics in the locker room and just sings the melody. Finally she stops overdoing everything and focusing on the song. Finally, she sounds like a real recording artist than somebody majoring vocal performance delivering their thesis statement in three minutes.
This was an elegant vocal that just flowed out of Candice the way soul should. Soul isn’t about singing nineteen different runs. Soul is about feel and authenticity and Candice finally forgot herself long enough to make her performance more about the feel and settled into a nice groove that finally felt like somebody singing a song rather than singing a bunch of notes.
Grade: B
Kree Harrison’s First Song: “It Hurt So Bad” by Susan Tedeschi
Keith Said: If you’re gonna do a song like that you have to leave the emotion all out there.
Nicki Said: That performance is not going to give you what you need for next week. That was not a top-four-worthy performance.
Randy Said: Vocally that was tremendous, but I don’t know if it’s the best vocal I’ve heard from you. Parts were a little disconnected for me.
Jimmy Said: Kree is going to hurt herself with her song choice. That was the wrong song.
The Verdict:
It’s become pretty clear by this point that Kree is the best country vocalist we’ve seen on this show since Carrie Underwood.
That’s not a huge compliment since the country singers we’ve since are mostly of the Janelle Arthur variety, but it’s at least worth pointing out that she can sing beyond the twang.
However, there was still something very sleepy about this performance. Like Kree was bored by what she was singing. She kills the vocal but in a way that almost seems out of rote. She’s done it so often that it’s a reflex at this point. Something she has to do rather than a passion of hers. That lack of passion is apparent in her face, her Raquel-Welch-from-Seinfeld dead arms and the absence of spirit in her vocal.
She’s got the raw ability to sing as well as anybody, she just doesn’t seem to want to harness it into a big deal.
Grade: C+
Kree Harrison’s Second Song: “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum
Keith Said: Pick a song that’s going to really let you come out. The middle ground thing doesn’t work at all.
Nicki Said: I loved that performance, but I don’t think it’s going to keep you out of the bottom two.
Randy Said: You redeemed yourself right there for me.
The Verdict:
If you ever wanted to see how an amateur cruise-ship-singer-in-training would just ruin a classic song with a garbage arrangement and a vocal that sounded like somebody being forced to sing by her stage parents in high school, well you were in luck! Kree gave us a really a bad version of that last night as she turned one of the most hauntingly brilliant tunes of the sixties into something that belonged on a Christian Kidz Bop album.
Nothing redeeming about this one and it’s the song choice that did her in. This is such a simple song to do well and she somehow made everything that is good about it bad in one avalanche of terrible.
Easily the worst of the night. Probably the worst non-Lazaro performance in the last several weeks.
Grade: F
Angie Miller’s First Song: “Who Are You” by Jesse J
Keith Said: You start uptight, but I like that you move into that looser quality.
Nicki Said: There’s no one that compares to you when you are behind the piano. You sang like you were closing an awards show.
Randy Said: You made me feel like this was an Angie Miller performance. It’s a ten out of ten out of ten. She’s in it to win it!
Jimmy Said: Thrilled to see Angie get control of that powerful instrument she has. I have her neck-and-neck with Amber right now.
The Verdict:
Angie just got lost in this one. In the most wonderful way she could.
It’s rare to see such a brilliant and firm connection formed between one of these connection and their songs, but it’s becoming de rigueur for Ms. Miller as week-after-week it seems like she’s writing new songs until we realize they’re somebody else’s original.
Tonight was no exception. The only thing exceptional was her vocal which rose to a level she hadn’t reached yet. Candice and Amber were always the two with the best voices, while Angie was the best performer.
With this performance, at the piano, she outdid her completion both vocally and from a performance standpoint. Her voice was a ball of rich pure fire as she just seared her way through every stanza with the vocal mastery of a true recording artist.
If she can keep singing like that, there’s no way anybody can topple her.
Grade: A
Angie Miller’s Second Song: “Cry Me a River” by Julie London
Keith Said: Mystical and celestially powerful.
Nicki Said: You came out tonight to snatch some wigs off some heads, honey child.
Randy Said: The best of the night. Angie wins the night hands down. She’s in it to win it.
The Verdict:
For some reason, our little singer-songwriter has decided to put together a full-on production number here with a torch song from a Broadway musical right in the middle of an ‘Idol’ performance show.
An odd choice for this stage of the show, especially for her. She’s been so spotless the last few weeks and now comes out with something from the 1987 Tony’s right when she’s ready to separate herself.
Blame the song choice, blame the overly dramatic vocal, blame the graphics department. Whatever it was, this was probably Angie’s worst ever on the show.
Grade: C-
Final Prediction:
The only one truly safe from last night is Angie. She had the best performance and then got big praise in the pimp spot – you don’t go home with that formula.
The other three are all vulnerable. Kree the most so because she was plain bad both times while the other two had solid performances on which to fall back.
It’s hard to say who will join Kree at the bottom, but Amber seems the most logical given her having to go first last night. Still, Candice wasn’t exactly memorable either.
Ugh. It’s too tough to decide. And with the judges’ save rule apparently still in play, they’ll probably save whoever goes out anyway, so it’s probably moot.

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© 2013

Photo Credits: Ray Mickshaw/ FOX

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