American Idol: Top 10 - March 13, 2013

Top 10 - "Songs From The Idol Winners" - March 13, 2013

The journey continues! This is my 5th consecutive year blogging American Idol and I'm still more excited than ever to do it. This year's judging panel has been a welcome change from the sleepy panels of the past 3 seasons. I had no idea what to expect at the outset of the season, but all 3 new judges have brought something different to the table and have managed insightful or at least interesting critiques. Even Randy has offered a few nuggets of wisdom in between "she wants it, Ryan!", "in it to win it", and "you can sing anything". So I'm hopeful for this season and hoping that Candice, Angela, or Kree will be the last one standing.

Tonight's theme featured the current contestants singing songs that were either by or had been performed by past Idol winners while they were on the show. The represented idols tonight were Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, Scotty McCreery, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, and Ruben Studdard.

1. Curtis Finch Jr. - "I Believe" (coronation song by Fantasia) D+

I honestly can't get past Curtis's smarmy performing style and attitude. Also, what on earth was that red paisley suit jacket? Is there an alternate universe in which this is considered stylish? Let me know, I never want to visit there. The vocal was subpar and overbaked, like cheese that's been left in the oven too long. The falsetto on "strive to be my very best" seemed calculated and poorly executed. It's also way too early in the season for a full-on gospel choir - we're only at the top 10 for God's sake.

For a far superior cover of the Fantasia song, check out Joshua Ledet's cover from last season:

2. Janelle Arthur - "Gone" (by Montgomery Gentry, sung by Scotty McCreery) C+

Janelle looked great and really commanded the stage as a performer. Unfortunately, her vocals weren't quite up to par - listening to the song back without the accompanying visual makes this painfully clear. The song has a snarl and a fast cadence that Scotty performed masterfully back in Season 10 (I gave Scotty an A- on his first performance and an A on the repeat for the finale night). Janelle has not lived up to her hype so far, which is a shame, because I can see how desperately the show wants to crown her its next champion. Her vocals seemed out of breath at times. That said, a vast improvement from her Lady Antebellum and Elvis covers over the past 2 weeks.

3. Devin Velez - "Temporary Home" (Carrie Underwood) C

It was really interesting to hear this song sung by a male voice, but the novelty wore off quickly as there were only a few bright spots throughout Devin's performance, such as the chorus. A lot of the performance fell flat. I wanted to like this so badly but I could not, as it seemed very amateur. Shockingly, I agreed with Randy that the contestants need to use every opportunity, every performance to win the show. There is really no safety net, no chance to have an "off night". Yes, there is the Judges' Save, but no contestant should bank on that ever. A very bland performance by Devin.

4. Angie Miller - "I Surrender" (by Celine Dion, sung by Kelly Clarkson) B+

A very beautiful performance but something was a bit lacking for me that prevented me from putting it in the "A" range. Angela should be careful about pushing her voice too hard in certain areas of the song. I think what did it for me was that this Celine cover was not as good as her absolutely amazing A+ performance last week of Colton Dixon's "Never Gone", a performance she brought purpose and passion to.

5. Paul Jolley - "Amazed" (by Lonestar, sung by Scotty McCreery) C

This performance bored me to tears. And yes, you can say it's a saccharine song and maybe that's why I found it boring, but of course, I love this song. It's not the song. It's Paul's infinitely boring stage presence and delivery. There is nothing about Paul that stands out to me unfortunately, and above all, I do not buy him as a country singer. It's not as though he sung the song badly, don't get me wrong, but there was absolutely nothing interesting or distinctive about it. AT ALL.

6. Candice Glover - "I (Who Have Nothing)" (by Ben E. King, sung by Jordin Sparks [AND HALEY REINHART - never forget!]) A+

This was to die for amazing. How many words can I use to describe this powerhouse performance? The passion and emotion with which she infuses every performance seems effortless - that's how believable Candice is as a singer. There was equal parts of longing and anger in Candice's version of the song ("bright sparkling diamonds" - wow, I die). If Candice Glover is not this year's American Idol, I will undoubtedly end up throwing things at the TV. This performance was hands down the best of the night and I can only hope Candice stays around for many more weeks!!

Haley's unbelievable version:

7. Lazaro Arbos - "Breakaway" (by Kelly Clarkson) B-/C+

Lazaro was visibly nervous tonight, and I'm not the kind of person who usually notices these things, so that's really saying something. He seemed uncomfortable on the stage and it really showed through in his performance. I've never been a fan of this midtempo Kelly Clarkson classic, despite it being released during my formative year (2004). I like Lazaro but I wish I liked his performances more. On a singing competition, he is going to get eaten alive. He let the back up singers carry him on this song for an underwhelming performance that will likely be quickly forgotten.

8. Kree Harrison - "Cryin'" (by Roy Orbison, sung by Carrie Underwood) A

Wow. This is one I would love to download and listen to over and over. Kree's voice is achingly gorgeous and she fully embodies the emotion in whatever song she is singing. Her voice sounded more than perfect on the refrain. I am a bit worried Kree makes it look almost too easy - the talent she has is not easy to come by however and she should be rewarded for making songs with a high level of difficulty look effortless. I would be more than happy if Kree won this season.

9. Burnell Taylor - "Flying Without Wings" (coronation song by Ruben Studdard) A-

Full disclosure: I did NOT want to like Burnell's performance. I haven't enjoyed many of his past performances and fully expected to give this one a low letter grade. But, I've always been a sucker for sappy Idol coronation songs (yes, including "No Boundaries", well sort of). Burnell's deep tone sounded unbelievable and he did a wonderful job with the song.

10. Amber Holcomb - "A Moment Like This" (coronation song by Kelly Clarkson) A-/B+

Amber's vocal sounded a bit sped up in comparison to the music which threw me off my enjoyment of her song. Clearly she has a great voice, but I'm not sure I heard the emotional connection to the song here. I'll have to disagree with the judges here - Amber was definitely not the best of the night - Candice, Kree, and Burnell (in that order) were far better.

Best of the night: Candice
Worst of the night: Curtis Finch Jr.