American Idol Season 12 Review “Finalists Compete”

What “American Idol” needs now is…better source material? I kid, of course. I mean, look, I’d be lying if I said that the likes of Burt Bacharach and Hal David were even remotely in my wheelhouse and I’m a bit older than any given contestant on this show, so I can only imagine what this group made of the week’s performers du jour. I guess if Adult Contemporary gets your blood pumping, more power to you, but for the most part, I don’t ever see myself at any juncture wanting to mellow out to the freaking Carpenters. But that may just be me, admittedly.

Still, it’s safe to say that if you thought Beatles week was bad, or last week’s foray into classic rock was a bit dubious, well, you hadn’t seen anything yet. Thankfully, we also had a second hour in which the gang got to pick their own inspirations, which went a long way towards rectifying what came before it.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying BB & HD weren’t solid songwriters. There’s a reason their music is still around after all these years, no matter what modern audiences might think of it, and in the right hands, their songs can still be pretty effective. For instance, Issac Hayes’ takes on “The Look of Love” and “Walk on By” are pretty soulful and spectacular. I also love me some “Baby, It’s You,” as featured in the movie “Death Proof” in its Smith incarnation. And anyone who co-wrote the theme song to “The Blob” can’t be all bad.

But let’s face it, a lot of this stuff is what people think of when they think of elevator music or the music you hear in a grocery store or the like, which is not meant as a compliment. After some of the grunts and groans I got about my Beatles assessment earlier this season, I can only imagine the mild exasperation that Bacharach fans will send in my direction, if they can get enough oxygen from their tanks to give them the energy to type up their complaints. Lord knows, I almost went into a sugar-induced coma listening to an hour of the stuff.

The performers did their best with the material, or as good as could be expected. Angie, a long way from her love of hardcore to put it mildly, sang “Anyone Who Had a Heart” with flat emotion as competently as she could muster, but it was clear her heart wasn’t in it. (See what I did there?) Amber fared a bit better with the cheese-tastic “I Say a Little Prayer,” which I can’t hear without thinking of this terrible movie. At least she modernized it a bit, making her own somewhat, so points for effort.

Meanwhile, Lazaro made the Carpenters seem like Led Zeppelin in comparison to his horrifically off-key rendition of “Close to You.” You know things have taken a turn, when even Mariah has to explain in excruciating detail that when a song changes key you’re, like, supposed to change with it, you know? (Nicki didn’t even try, she was so exasperated with the whole thing.) After giving this guy a pass one too many times for my tastes, all I’ve got to say is: about time. If this doesn’t get him booted, nothing will. Telling America that he likes to kill cute animals probably didn’t help matters.

Kree did a solid if unspectacular take on “What the World Needs Now,” which I once heard Mike Patton do a hilariously demented version of with Mr. Bungle. She made it her own even more so than Amber, but I still almost nodded off. Erstwhile cross-dresser Janelle made like Olivia Newton-John with her breathy take on “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” which I almost liked, but it took the supernaturally-talented Candice to bring this dubious venture home, with her distinctly modern take on “Don’t Make Me Over.” The latter was the only one I’d actually consider purchasing, if I’m being honest. And she was just getting warmed up, as it turned out.

In the vastly improved second hour, the performers finally got to choose whatever they wanted, with an eye towards covering the songs they wished they’d wrote themselves. This was a much stronger bunch of songs, even including the songs I wasn’t familiar with, such as Angie’s second performance, a cover of Kari Jobe’s “Love Came Down.” In fact, I’ve never ever heard of the performer, to be honest, but it perfectly suited her core style, and played beautifully to her strengths, at long last taking her back to the piano for an entire song this time. She not only nailed it- it was one of her best performances to date by far, and right up there with her original and the Colton Dixon cover she did.

Amber understandably chose Beyoncé, but fumbled a bit with the song choice. Wanting to do something a bit more upbeat, she chose “Love on Top,” which was fun but a bit slight, and not her best song choice all told. Maybe she should have gone with “Crazy in Love” instead, though I applaud her doing a lesser-known track. Thankfully, she has charisma to burn, so hopefully, she’ll be okay this week.

Lazaro fared much better the second time around with Robbie Williams’ “Angels,” which is a pretty enough song, and definitely in keeping with his overall style, but it would seem that the judges had finally had enough. While they acknowledged this was better than his first song, everyone rightly agreed that he paled in comparison to the girls.

Kree was next, doing a lovely version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” perhaps best-known for Willie Nelson’s version, though Mariah said she had covered it as well, which I had to go on and YouTube as I couldn’t imagine such a thing. Whatever the case, even Mariah admitted Kree got it right, and was better suited to the material than her. Keith called it a “buckle-polisher,” which I have no idea what he means by, but it sure sounds dirty. I do agree that she should fit in nicely at the Grand Old Opry. Not sure about Adam Duritz, though, LOL. (Good one, Ryan!)

Janelle tackled Garth Brooks’ “The Dance,” which makes perfect sense, and I thought was a much better selection than her previous song. The judges were a bit lukewarm on this one, but I liked it just fine. I will allow that Randy might have been onto something with his suggestion that she do it acoustically, though.

However, as before, it was Candice that brought this sucker home, with her stellar rendition of, of all things, the Cure’s “Lovesong.” I gather Adele covered it and that this version was based on that take, but having never heard that version before, this was my first encounter with this approach to the song, and boy, was I impressed. I dare say I liked it better than the original, though I confess I never was much of a Cure fan.

Honestly, though, I got chills listening to this version. I would buy this tomorrow, and hope that I can, because OMG was it great. Talk about ending on a high note. This was far and away the best of the evening. As far as I’m concerned, Candice walked away with both rounds without even breaking a sweat. Consider yourself served, fellow contestants. Now, THIS is how you do it.

My predictions are, for the Top Three: Candice, Kree, and Angie. Amber should be in the middle, with Janelle and Lazaro bringing up the rear. If there’s any justice in the world, this should be the last we see of the latter. Sorry, guys, maybe next year- this is the ladies’ competition to lose.

I’d have to say if it’s anyone else, I’d be tempted to save them, especially any of the first four. Janelle, I like a lot, but it would really suck to use the save on her, only to see someone have a bad week and get dropped next week that deserves it even less, so I say only use it if it’s the top four of my predictions. And honestly, if that happens, I will be incredibly upset. Time to pack your bags, Lazaro, but look at the bright side: there’s always the impending tour.

What did you think of “American Idol” tonight? Did you prefer the second hour to the first, as I did, or will you speak up and tell me what the world needs now is more Bacharach attacks? Feel free to go nuts in the comments section, I don’t mind- but personally, I think what we all need is more “Lovesongs”…