American Idol: Top 9 - March 20, 2013

March 20, 2013: Top 9 - Lennon-McCartney Songbook

1. Kree Harrison - "With A Little Help From My Friends" A

I love the choices Kree makes with her phrasing, with her notes, with everything about her singing. She put a country feel on the song that was perfect in its intensity - not too subtle but not overwhelming. Kree makes her singing looking effortless (no easy task at her skill level) and infuses all her song choices with unbridled emotion that is never overdone or false. I also love the rock-inspired makeover she's been given - she is on her way to being a huge star. I love to see an "Idol Journey TM" unfold on the show. I can't wait to hear the original material Kree will hopefully record.

2. Burnell Taylor - "Let It Be" A-/B+

Burnell has really grown on me over the past 2 weeks. I find myself always intrigued by his vocal, listening carefully to all of the inflections and tone. There were a few unpleasant notes in Burnell's cover of "Let It Be", but overall it captured my attention and held it there. I hope Burnell will be around next week because he's someone I am genuinely interested in hearing sing.

3. Amber Holcomb - "She's Leaving Home" A-/B+

Amber has a HUGE voice and I hear traces of Whitney Houston in every song she sings. I have to commend Amber for choosing a lesser-known Beatles song, which prevented me from comparing it to past Idol performances. I could really hear the emotion in her voice as she delivered the song. Yet something prevented me from absolutely loving this performance as much as I loved Kree's. I don't think she's as dynamic a performer as the other girls which may lead to an early exit for her.

4. Lazaro Arbos - "In My Life" C

I was shocked by Lazaro's reaction to extremely mild criticism from the judges. What would Simon Cowell have said in his heyday about this performance? Lazaro delivered another sub-par performance that was sadly forgettable. It wasn't awful by any means, and perhaps that's what makes it forgettable - neither a good nor bad showing.  I heard a Spanish accent in a few of his phrases - I would love to hear him sing a song in Spanish. Based on this performance, he should be going home tomorrow, but I know he won't.

5. Candice Glover - "Come Together" A

I could not even write any notes down during this performance because I was rocking out too much. Let's be real: if Candice does not win this entire show, I don't even know what I'm going to do with myself. This was a dynamic rock star performance. She knows how to command a stage AND sing uptempo. In a sea of ballads, Candice's performance was more than welcome. I absolutely adored that high note and how much fun the band seemed to be having behind her. I could watch this performance again and again - it's the opposite of my review below of Paul.

6. Paul Jolley - "Eleanor Rigby" B

The staging for this song reminded me so strongly of "Phantom of the Opera". I could really see Paul on Broadway or the stage in some way. In no way, shape, or form is Paul a country star. I know that "going the country lane" is popular these days as a way to sell records, or particularly for new artists who are looking to attract fans (Danny Gokey, I'm looking at you). But Paul doesn't have any authenticity in this lane and I have a feeling hard-core country fans will reject him. Paul didn't have very much connection to his lyrics in this performance, and thus, I didn't feel a connection with him or his singing. While the vocal was pretty good, I'd rather listen to the recording of Paul singing than actually watch him.

7. Angie Miller - "Yesterday" A-

I liked that she started the song at such a high pitch - it was fresh and different from other cover versions I've heard of this song. I loved the style makeover tonight with the straight hair and the black leather outfit. Yet - I'm still trying to figure out what type of CD Angie will make. Christian rock? Singer/songwriter? Piano? Rock/pop? I guess the beauty of this show is that by trying different themes and genres, she can figure that out as well. Although Idol's gotten away from their craziest theme weeks (remember Big Band Week from Season 1?), there are still a wide variety of themes to choose from. Her voice sounded beautiful and it was definitely a memorable performance.

8. Devin Velez - "The Long & Winding Road" B

Devin never turns in a bad vocal performance. But he never turns in an exciting one ever. They've all blurred together for me into one. I would love to listen to an album of his cover songs while I'm getting ready for bed, but I could never play it in the car because I'd be afraid it would lull me to sleep. I always know what sort of performance I'll get from Devin, which earns him a remarkable grade for consistency and sounding pleasant to the ear. But on a show like this, that's not going to inspire the power-texters to vote for you.

9. Janelle Arthur - "I Will" A/A-

Janelle's performance tonight was miles better than last week's performance. I was glad to hear a performance from her that was worthy of the endless hype she's been getting from the show's producer. She looked beautiful tonight and was styled perfectly. The arrangement of the song - heavy on the violin - was great. Her vocal seemed effortless and endlessly pretty. This was the moment where she felt like an already established star to me and not an American Idol contestant.

Best of the night: Candice
Worst of the night: Lazaro