'American Idol': Candice Land

Something was in the air on American Idol last night, some spirit of Idol seasons past that gave some of the contestants a little extra oomph, maybe even genuinely good, likable performances. Well, two, anyway. From the same person. But still.

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Well something was in the air last night, wasn't it? And, no, it wasn't just the aroma of Ryan's Charlie perfume wafting through the Idoldome (he's still trying to figure out which kind of Charlie girl he is). There was something else, some spirit of Idol seasons past that gave some of the contestants a little extra oomph, a little something else that encouraged them along, saying, "Try, believe, wash that season twelve stink away." I dare say there were some genuinely good, likable performances last night! Well, two, anyway. From the same person. But still.

The Good

For weeks now I've been saying that Candice is good, yes, but in kind of a boring way. Like, "Oh Candice was good this week, of course." It was kinda dull for a while there, wasn't it? She was just good in a blandly smooth way, never quite distinguishing herself beyond her own competence. Oh well, Candice blandice, what could you do. But then last night happened! Oh lordy loo did last night happen for ol' Candice Glover. The first half of the evening was Burt Bacharach tunes, which... ZzzzzzSnoooorrree... I know the guy has written some iconic songs, but we've heard them all a million billion times, haven't we? And they're all kinda elevator music-y, if they're not sung interestingly. But Candice chose "Don't Make Me Over," a song I will forever associate with Menopause: The Musical (it's "Please Make Me Over" in that Blackburn Prize-winning work), and turned it into something righteous and riveting. She wailed and pleaded and made the damn thing almost, like Nicki suggested, sound like a protest song of sorts. It was quite good! That Candice knows how to curl around a note, doesn't she. She's technically gifted but you don't see all the work, all the effort. She just glides around and hits things just right and then soars off to somewhere else. It's a pleasing style and she brought a new level of showwomanship to it last night.

The second song category was "Song You Wish You'd Written," and Candice went and banged out "Lovesong" by The Cure (though my guess is that she's more familiar with the Adele version) and it was also good. There were a bit too many runs and other gymnastics at the beginning for my taste — simpler is always better — but after that she nailed that motherf--ker to the daggum wall. Oh boy she sang it good! I was hoping for some sort of big arrival note, like a climax of some sort, and it didn't quite get there, but it was still quite good. Afterward Candice was tearful at the joyous reaction of the audience, Keith doing a lame "we're not worthy" bow. (Keith was finally, finally allowed to watch Wayne's World, Nicole telling him on a recent afternoon, "I've rented a video player and a tape, you'll sit and watch it while I go do some private work." She popped in Wayne's World, then grabbed her heavy bone-cutting knife and headed out toward the shed.) Randruh then put on his best hooting hat and said "One of the best in twelve years of all time!!!!" Which... Oooook. I don't know about that, Randruh. It was very good! Very good indeed. But we are also talking about this season. Objects in this season's mirror may appear better than they are. (Haha, awful.) I wish Candice was on a more challenging or interesting season, so we could pit her considerable chops against some other good'uns and see how she fared. But as is, yes she is the season's bright shining glorious star. But brightness and dimness are relative to our current idea of light, aren't they?

Kree Harrison did a very good song she wishes she'd written, crooning out a clean, lovely "Help Me Make It Through the Night." It was simple and pretty, a mode that Kree should traffic in more often. She's good at the big busters, but it's easier to have an Idol Moment when things are quiet, when it's just music and the mic. Continue on in this vein, Kree! Journey on!

Amber did well too, mostly on her first song. Her second gig, Beyonce's "Love On Top," was cute but warbly. But she had fun, and that was fun to see. I like Amber all of a sudden. From zero to sorta hero in only like two weeks. That's a good story. She won't win this thing, but it's a good story.

The Bad

Janelle biffed it bigtime didn't she? She did two biffs. Two big biffs in one night. For her Bacharach she sang "I"ll Never Fall in Love Again" and it was a total snorefactory. Welcome to Snoozington Acres, Population: Janelle. Keith was weirdly complimentary of the performance, probably because the sight of a blonde woman teetering back and forth unthreateningly is pleasing to him, so used to shivering behind the bookshelf while Nicole looks for him in one of her rages as he is, Nicole scraping a shovel along the ground behind her, shouting "Keith! Keith! Come out! It won't be bad. Just a little brine in the eyes. You've my word on that. Keith, it will be worse for you if I have to find you. It'll be right back under the floorboards with you if you keep hiding." So he finds Janelle soothing. But Nicki said it was boring and she was right. Total boring-o. And then the poor dear went and did her favoritest Chris Gaines song "The Dance," telling us that she likes "The Dance" because she remembers realizing that he was talking about more than just a dance, and she clearly wanted to do such a good Important job with it, really have her Moment, and it was just not great in the end. She was shaky on everything and there was no oomph behind it and blah. Whatever and blah. Janelle keeps grabbing for that next rung but she just can't quite get there. She's a sixth place finisher, I think. That's what I think.

Angie Mills is a total fake, isn't she? I've been crowing crazily for a couple weeks now about how she's such a showkid, and that was on full terrible display last night. She sang this hideous "Anyone Who Had A Heart" for her Bacharach and it just made no sense. She'd been miscast in the role. So then her Song You Wish You'd Written was some rando thing by some rando and she was back at the piano, doing her soulful spirit bulls--t routine and I'm not buying it. The judges bought it. The judges bought three of it. The judges maxed out their credit cards on it. The judges took it home and put it on the mantle and showed it to friends, saying "Look, look what I bought," the friends nodding and wishing they'd not accepted the invitation. But I didn't buy it! Did you buy it? It was just another game of pretend for the shifty shapeshifter that is Angie Mills. Who is Angie Mills, really? If they, meaning Ryan, were to do something like grab a corner of her face and pull, would you be all that surprised if a Mission: Impossible-style mask came off and it was Colton Dixon underneath? I really don't think you'd be that surprised. Well, you'd be surprised because Colton's body is nothing but charred bones buried in Ryan's backyard and his cruel demon spirit dwells now within Tim Urban's muscular frame, but other than that? I don't think you'd be that surprised. She's a faker, and she fakes piano seriousness the best. That's all. I don't care for her. And what I dislike about her the most is that I think the show wants her to win more than Candice. I really do. Ain't that a thing? What a country we live in.

Arbos Day

Good grief, this kid. This Lazaro. What are we going to do with this fool. Every week it's something. He can't hear the monitor, he never heard the song before, etc. etc. What a dweeb and a nightmare. A pill and a horror. That's hard to do, to be both of those things, and yet he is. Before each singer sang last night there was a little intro package that was about "One thing you don't know about me." And Lazaro's? Lazaro's was that he likes to ride four-wheelers and go hunting. He called himself "the Spanish redneck." Which... Cool pander, Lazaro. Super duper cool pander to this hideous audience of crab-clawing troglodytes. I mean, right? A friend said this was Lazaro's "God Bless the USA"/Kristy Lee Cook moment of sad desperation and I could not agree more.

After that embarrassment, he went and burped out "Close to You," because of course he chose "Close to You," and the judges were all "Ummmmmmmmmmm." Mariah was forced to essentially say, "Lazaro, do you know what a key change is? Like, do you know what that term means? Because when the music is changing key, you are not changing key. And if you can't tell that that's happening, then... well, then that's a serious problem." Lazaro then blamed it on other things and said "Well the key did change a lot!" and it was just sad. While trying not to hurt his feelings too much, the judges kept talking about his amazing inspirational story, and it's just like... He wasn't raised by wolves. He didn't cure his own cancer. He has a stutter. A very bad stutter, yes, but aren't we past the special treatment point? I know that's cruel and terrible and who really cares who's getting what kind of treatment on this dumb show, but it annoys. It really does.

Lazaro apparently wishes he'd written "Angels" by Robbie Williams, because he is the cheesiest boringest dude on planet America. He sang it OK. Who cares. That song, of all the songs, is the song you'd wish you'd written, Lazaro? The one with the lyric "Through it all she offers me protection/ A lotta love and affection"? That heap? Pshaw. Groan. He sang it better than his first song, so the judges were like "Ya did fine, ya did better than before." They're so sick of him, and yet he's not going home. I don't know that he's going home for a long while, you guys. Lazaro could be in the Top 3 of this, American Idol's last season. I mean, if he does make it to the Top 3 it will be the show's last season. Because there's Candice, gleaming like some kind of ruby up there in the song heavens, standing beside maybe a LaToya London or something, and there's Lazaro, clawing at the heels of Sanjaya, spitting the attitude of Syesha Mercado. And they're competing on the same show. This country just ain't fair.

Janelle's going home. That's my guess.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.