April 17, 2013 at 11:31 PM ET
Nicki Minaj’s va-va-va voom dress stole the show on "American Idol" Wednesday night, chosen with the apparent goal of giving the male viewers a reason to keep watching the show even with all the guys eliminated from the competition. But while the judge avoided a wardrobe malfunction, it remains to be seen whether she and the rest of the “Idol” crew succeeded in their second aim – getting Amber Holcomb a spot among the contenders.
The judges would really like for Amber to start getting some love. She was the second-lowest vote-getter a week ago, her second time among the bottom three since the top 10 were named. But she survived thanks to the judges’ month-long Send Lazaro Home campaign.
Still, with only the other four women to compete against, there are no more subpar men to bail her out on a night she’s uninspiring. With Nicki in the lead, the judges have tried their best to win support, but the constant comparisons to a young Whitney apparently aren’t enough for an audience who is either too young to really remember Houston in her prime, or are old enough to remember those days and not forget how great she actually sounded compared to any of the “Idol” hopefuls.
But you can’t say the judges aren’t trying their best to be good press agents for Amber.
“We’ve got an Amber Alert going on!” Keith Urban said after her first performance, the version of “Without You” that Mariah Carey covered in Amber’s birth year of 1994. Then he immediately remembered what that term actually signified and tried to recant. “I don’t know why I said that. I wish I hadn’t.”
Nikki was the surprisingly harsh judge who flat out didn’t like that vocal – it was way too low for Amber's comfort zone. But the judge more than made up for it later, as did the other three as they put on the hard sell at the finish.
“It was simply perfection,” Nicki said of Amber’s version Barbra Streisand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” “I really, really hope that America gets to see inside of this beautiful human being that stands before me because I don’t think I get the credit that you deserve. You’re always giving me young Whitney Houston. I love you.”
“You sang the I don’t-know-what-out of that,” Randy followed. “I hope that America gets it right and sees … this girl does not belong at the bottom. You’re like this young Rihanna with a giant voice.”
“Classic. Beautiful. Elegant,” Mariah Carey said. “If America doesn’t get this … as one American to another, you’re potentially a massive star. Thank you for this performance.”
Poor Keith, scarred from that Amber Alert line, could only come up with, “It was elegant and beautiful. You knocked it out of the park.”
So for those of you keeping score, the judges compared Amber to Whitney Houston and Rihanna, and said you would be bad Americans if you didn’t vote for her. Oh, and she also got to sing last. If this doesn’t work, next week, look for one of them to write a program that hacks into Facebook accounts and forces them to vote for Amber. Desperate times clearly call for desperate measures.
The tough part is who the judges would like America to vote off instead, since all five of the women have “super powers” (per Nikki). But someone has to go, and Janelle Arthur is their Aquaman compared to the Fantastic Four. Nobody had much good to say about her second song, a crowd-pleasing romp to Dolly Parton’s “Dumb Blonde.” Maybe they were offended that she picked something up-tempo instead of the ballads that dominated the night.
As for the others, Angie Miller gave a shout-out to Boston before her first solo, which earned her the crowd’s love but also had the judges talking about the bombing instead of her performance. She got nothing but praise on her second solo, Beyonce’s “Halo,” to remove all doubt as to her status.
Candice Glover started with a solid cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” and followed that with the Mariah-Whitney hit “When You Believe.” That was a bold strategy, going with a former “Idol” judge and a current judge back-to-back, but it paid off. Kree Harrison went from the Black Crowes' “She Talks to Angels” to Celine Dion’s “Have You Ever Been In Love?” but the judges used that to praise her versatility rather than asking her what kind of album she’d actually want to release.
But despite all the high praise for the contestants, the big takeaway of the night from the was that the judges was simple: Start voting for Amber.