'American Idol': Harry Connick Attacks!

Well, here we are again in the Final Four. It feels like we were just here. Oh, that's right, because we were. Because last week's dumdum elimination episode wasn't an elimination episode at all

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Well, here we are again in the Final Four. It feels like we were just here. Oh, that's right, because we were. Because last week's dumdum elimination episode wasn't an elimination episode at all. Nope! It was an annoying fake-out because the judges never used their save and Fox wants the finale to air on a certain date, so last week was a complete wash, it meant nothing. Ryan kept stressing last night that this was the really big night, that it was do or die now, but could anyone really care? I don't know that anyone could muster up much energy to care. Just axe two of 'em and give us the finale and let's be done with this whole trudge. (Though, to be fair, doesn't it kinda feel like the season has gone by rather quickly? Am I just getting old, time speeding up terribly until my inevitable doom? Or has anyone else felt that too? Let's hope so. Let's hope the season just went quickly.)

Harry Connick Jr. was the girls' mentor this week, a refreshingly blunt and honest coach who told the girls what he felt without pulling too many punches. He also did lots of jokes. Lotta bits for Harry Connick. I didn't realize he did bits, but he does bits. Yeah. Especially with Angie Miller, who I would remind Harry is only 19, but I don't know if anyone is going to be hitting on Angie Mills when she's still got that hair. I know I keep harping on the hair, but it is two weeks from the finale and her hair still looks like she tore it off the set of The Crucible and glued it to her head. It's not good! But anyway, yes, she and Harry did some bits together, one of which was them sing-improvising a song together and... Well, let's just say that Garth and Kat they are not. But Angie seemed pretty pleased with how things went! Oh, y'know, just busting some goofs with Harry Connick, no biggie. I'm telling you guys. Angie Mills. Showkid. Total showkid. And it ain't good.

What was good, or funny at least, was Harry waging war against people singing crazy runs. Half the challenge last night was to sing a song from the year 2013, which was great because finally people sang some contemporary stuff, and the other half was to sing a standard. Which actually was good too, because it gave the girls a chance to stand still and really do something with a melody. Harry had nothing to say really about the 2013 segment, but when they got to the standards he certainly did! He really doesn't like all the embellishments that Idol types often slather all over their songs like Country Crock. It's too much, he thinks. They should just stick to the melody. I do not think he is wrong! But it was intense to see him harshing on Amber's performance right after she'd gotten heaps of praise from the judges and the audience. Then it was even more intense when Randy fired back something a little later about how runs are great and fine and it's all about gospel and church and he was sort of issuing a cultural criticism against Harry Connick in an interesting and slightly scary way. Idol got a little heated last night! I don't, though, include Mariah vs. Nicki in that assessment. That little flare-up was very stagey and way too late in the game. They forgot to fight weeks and and weeks ago, so they can't just pick it back up two weeks before the end in the hopes that people will come crawling back to watch. Nope, sorry. The time for that has ended. Speaking of time, let's get on with it and talk about the girls.


I will say nothing more about the hair, I promise. Angie's first song was "Diamonds," a nonsensical mood-wander tune by Rihanna, a strangely tempoed and dull sort of a song that Angie decided to dress up as a piano ballad. Because that's what Angie does. She's a one-trick pony with a matted, bushy mane. (OK, sorry, that's it for hair commentary. Seriously.) And she does it fine, really, it's just that it all kinda starts to sound the same after a while. You've heard one reworked pop song played plaintively on the piano, you've heard 'em all. Which is why I suspect the judges weren't in love with it last night as they have been in the past. I must admit that it was kind of fun to see Angie a little startled by this, a glimmer of surprise and anger flashing across her face before a glossy showkid smile showed up to make things OK.

Her standard was "Someone to Watch Over Me" and even I will admit that she sang it sweetly. It was refreshing to hear just a nice, clear tone coming out of her instead of all that pained piano balladeering she so clearly likes to do. This was a simple performance, but that was what was required, so good for her. During judging Nicki told her that she had a very Broadway quality about her, which... I don't know about that! I mean, yeah I say that she's a showkid, but Miley Cyrus is a showkid and she doesn't have a Broadway quality about her. I don't think Angie does either. She's a bit too radio, there's a faint static-y, tinny quality to her voice that I don't think would play all that authentically on Broadway. But who knows. Maybe I am just biased against Angie. Maybe I've been mean to her all season. It's possible. But it's not my fault. It's the hair's. It's all the hair's fault.


Amber had an uneven week. Her first jam was an uptempo Pink song, and while she sounded kind of good singing it in her session with Harry, when she got out on stage it was wobbly. I like that Amber has the ambition to do big pop numbers, like when she sang Beyoncé, but she's not quite there yet. She's still kinda yell-y in a youthful amateur way, one that makes the song go a bit off-kilter. It gets muddy, the colors bleed. I've no doubt she'll get there someday, but she ain't there yet. Maybe this summer on the tour. By the time that grinding thing (40 performances in two months) winds down in Nashville, maybe she'll have perfected at least one uptempo pop performance. It's a summer project!

Speaking of the tour, one song she's sure to sing on that grueling thing is "My Funny Valentine." She sang the song earlier this season in Las Vegas and dusted it off last night to cheers and a standing ovation from audience and judges. And I get it. It did sound nice. I mean, it's a beautiful song. No one will ever top my beloved Melinda Doolittle singing this song (seriously, it is incredible), but it was a good, strong performance from Amber. But, as Harry latter pointed out, there was a lot of business going on. A lot of ornaments hanging off that performance. Amber maybe overdid it just a little bit, is the point. And I get Harry's point about how, with standards like these, less is often more. If you listen to Melinda's performance, it's definitely not straightfoward, but it's at least more to the point than Amber's was. So I get that. It was good. But I get that, Harry.


Things began awkwardly for Candice, with Harry telling her "If you were a man I would want to look like you." Or something akin to that. It was deeply strange and Candice reacted simply with a nervous giggle that communicated depths. Harry said this weird thing because Candice chose to sing the Bruno Mars song "When I Was Your Man" and not change the gender. Apparently there was some kind of legal rigamarole about not being able to change it, but even if there wasn't, who cares? Candice calmly explained that she's just telling a story from the perspective of a man, that's all. But boy Harry and Ryan and everyone else couldn't stop saying how CRAZY and WEIRD and WILD and DARING it was. Oh get over it, everyone. Luckily Candice quickly put them all to shame and blew that thing out the damn box, through the wall, into the street, through the building across the street, and then straight into the La Brea tar pits. Well, OK, it wasn't that good, but it was pretty good. Good for this season, y'know? And then Keith smartly said, "Girls sing along to that song in their cars same as boys, so who cares?" You're right, Keith. Who does care? Well said. If only he had that same enlightened attitude, the same strength, at home. Instead of always sitting in fear that Nicole is going to walk into the room holding some kind heavy implement from the tool shed and tell him to do something or snap at him for "Lingering around here like an oaf while I work my fingers raw and bloody." Stand up to her, Keith! Like you stood up for Candice last night.

Candice's standard was "You've Changed," and it was great. I mean, it was Candice booting out a standard. What did you expect? It was good, the judges said it was good, end of story.


Poor Kree said she wanted to try to make a connection to the audience and the song for once, something she feels she's been failing to do all season (she is not wrong). So she chose a sentimental Carrie Underwood song for her contempo number, a sad tune called "See You Again" that she sang nicely. I mean, it wasn't remarkable. She's really never remarkable, poor Kree. She has the country thing going for her that I'm sure will help her get some votes, and has helped her get votes in the past (remember, she's often near the top of the voting ranks), but I don't think she'll win. I'm sorry, Kree. I just don't think that will happen.

She next sang "Stormy Weather" and, again, it was fine. The most memorable thing about it was Harry and Randy bickering about mixed messages, telling Kree to be herself while also telling Kree to do the Etta James version of the song. They went back and forth a little, but really it didn't matter. It was just O.K. That's all. I wouldn't be surprised if Kree went home tonight. But what do I know! It feels like she's been safe a lot more than she's been in danger so far this season. I guess people out there really like Kree. Somebody's got to like Kree. Hiding out in the woods and hollers, eyes peeping through the thick green of the woods, whispering her name into fuzzing phone lines and sending their voices all the way to California. Those are Kree's people, I'd imagine. The people of the woods, secret people, out there in the hills, murmuring, breathing, hissing with the wind.

After that, the girls sang a big ending song with a bunch of backup dancers and then we were out. Everyone's ears ringing from all the noise, shuffling off for home, the excitement of the evening swiftly leaving them as the real world rushed back in, filling them up with all the mundane thought and worry of a regular life. Here in regular 2013, everything familiar and standard, just moving on day to day, dreaming fitfully of summer.

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