As Randy Jackson noted Wednesday night, this is the time of year when the pressure gets to the “American Idol” contestants. The finish line is so close, and the effort to get this far has been so intense, that it’s hard for anyone to take the stage with the ease that the favorites have shown up to this point. That would be one explanation for a less-than-inspiring night where tears and arguments were more memorable than vocals.
All of the four finalists looked more intense than usual, but nobody was feeling the heat more than Amber Holcomb. Amber was among the lowest two vote-getters a week ago, spared from a possible elimination only by the decision to make last week an elimination-free affair. Still, those votes carry over, so the singer, who hasn’t had an easy time winning support, knew she faced long odds for survival.
Those odds only got longer after she failed to impress with her first song, “Just Give Me a Reason.” Her “My Funny Valentine” got a standing ovation from all four judges, but her eyes were teary as she finished and faced the judges.
“Why are you looking you’re gonna cry?” Nicki Minaj asked her.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” Amber said, and the tears ran down.
“Listen. You’re up there crying because you’re thinking about votes and I told you last week it doesn’t matter about votes. You’re a superstar. You have fans everywhere,” Nicki said. “No matter what happens tomorrow, you have a lifetime ahead of you to make incredible moments in music, my darling. Please believe in yourself. That was a great job.”
“What I love is, I could tell your spirit was a little defeated when you walked out, but yo, nobody never knew from your voice,” Randy Jackson added.
Keith Urban, meanwhile, blamed the crowd. “The audience is so quiet. The room is quiet. There’s, like, no energy out here.”
Regardless of the cheerleading, Amber’s the likely choice to go home because Candice Glover drew a delayed standing ovation of her own for her cover of “When I was Your Man” by Bruno Mars and also shone on “You’ve Changed” in the nightcap. She can’t rest too easy, as she also was in the bottom two a week ago, but did a lot more to help herself than Amber did.
Angie Miller had the toughest night, if only because Randy Jackson merged his criticism of her first performance with a weird compliment aimed at her leather shorts. Unless her fans didn’t watch this week, however, it’s hard to see her going.
Meanwhile, Kree Harrison’s night was most notable for the argument that followed her second solo.
Harry Connick Jr. was the guest mentor this week, and he seemed to have two goals: Get into the contestants’ heads, and keep them from doing anything wacky when they sang their standards.
That was particularly bad news for Amber, who lacks confidence as it is without her mentor grilling her on what “My Funny Valentine” is all about. But considering the judges disagreed with his entire premise on how those older favorites should be sung, Harry’s advice came up for criticism after Kree’s rendition of “Stormy Weather.”
“Your instincts are beautiful and set you apart from everybody else. Don’t overthink things and let people get in your head and get you away from that,” Keith said.
Rand blamed Harry for influencing her to sing the Lena Horne version instead of the Etta James version. And when Ryan Seacrest gave the mentor a minute to respond, that’s where he focused his attention.
“You’re talking about individuality and singing it your way, and you just said ‘you should have chosen the Etta James version.’ You’re telling her she should have sung it like Etta James,” Harry said. “You have to learn the song first and then be Kree.”
“I agree, but Kree, always just be you, baby. Don’t get inside your head when you’re thinking, ‘Who should I be?' We just want you to be Kree,” Randy said.
“We want you to be Kree, but choose the Etta James version,” Harry mocked.
On the bright side, it made the early snapping between Nicki and Mariah Carey seem tame. But pity poor Kree, who had to stand there onstage watching people argue about how much better she could have done as viewers turned the channel and forgot what numbers were assigned to her for this week’s vote.
That forgetfulness might be the only thing that would allow Amber to stick around past Thursday.