April 10, 2013 at 11:26 PM ET
“American Idol” history was made on Wednesday: Randy Jackson slammed a finalist, and nobody booed.
It was that kind of night for Lazaro Arbos, the last “Idol” man standing. And he won’t be around much longer if viewers paid attention to the desperate pleading from the judges Wednesday. They did everything but get down on their knees and pray that they won’t have to deal with him for another week.
He’s still one of the most inspiring finalists in the history of the show. The judges all said so, perhaps in an effort to avoid the sympathy votes that unalloyed meanness sometime inspires. But they really think it’s time for him to take that inspiring story to one of the nearby movie studios instead of the “Idol” stage. Since the hopefuls sang both a Burt Bacharach tune and a song they wish they’d written, the judges got to say so twice.
After Lazaro's first song of the night, “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” Randy opened the commentary by saying, “You know that I love you, the person. ... Your story inspires us all. But all I can say is, 'No, no, no NO. That was horrible.'”
Ordinarily, that inspires the audience to voice its displeasure, like angry parents of a spurned child at a talent show. There isn't a more sympathetic audience in the world than this one – but not on this night. It was as if the audience shrugged and said, “You know what? That’s a fair point. Maybe birds suddenly appear because they're harbingers of doom.”
Both Mariah Carey and Keith Urban similarly acknowledged his courage while slamming his vocals. Nicki didn’t even go that far. “Let’s just pretend I already gave my comment, or we’ll be here until tomorrow,” she said.
With his second chance, Lazaro didn’t do much to change their minds. The best that can be said about his cover of Robbie Williams’ “Angels” was that it did not stink.
Keith noted that he’d improved, but, “The way the girls are singing tonight – they are so crazy good.”
Randy agreed: “Slightly better. But Keith is right, the girls are so crazy good.”
And, you know, Lazaro's not.
Candice gets some love
Of all the crazy good girls, Candice Glover was the crazy good-est, and her performance to close the show could be a game-changer.
Everyone else played it relatively safe in the songs-I-wish-I’d-written category, at least sticking with their comfort zone. Candice went with “Love Song” by The Cure, slowing it down and truly making it her own in a performance that earned a standing ovation and an ocean of applause. The only downside was that because it was the last vocal of the night and the judges had spent so much time criticizing Lazaro, they didn’t have time to praise it for as long as it deserved.
“One of the greatest performances in the history of ‘American Idol,' ” Randy said, saying he spoke for all of the judges.
Kree Harrison also got a lot of love, with Keith predicting she’d become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, which he knows a little bit about since he’s a member himself. Nicki showed love as well and noted that the difference between Kree and Janelle Arthur is that Kree’s got the artistry to sell an unfamiliar song and Janelle doesn’t.
But if Nicki loves Kree, she’s now becoming even more obsessed with Amber Holcomb. “I am bowing down right now for you, little girl. Yes!” Nicki said after Amber covered “I Say a Little Prayer.” And that wasn’t even her best performance! Imagine how she’ll react if Amber really takes it back to the next level next week.
If there’s any surprise…
Lazaro should be going home tomorrow, but then again, he should have gone home last week, and instead he was in the top three. Never underestimate the ability of the “Idol” voters to do something wacky.
If he stays, Janelle, will likely be the one singing for the judges' save, if only because the praise for her was more tepid. The judges liked her second song better than the first, but even then, Nicki said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that you could be an enormous commercial success, but as for that performance, I thought it was really boring.”
Angie Miller would be more surprising, especially since she went back to the piano and did very well with her second song. But the first was more of a paint-by-number exercise that left everyone feeling cold and wanting some more fire. Keith had a point when he noted that someday, she’ll sing with the same passion with just the microphone as she does when she’s at the piano.
If only Angie could sing with the passion the judges feel about the possibility of Lazaro going home, she’d win this for sure.
Did you agree with the judges' assessment of Lazaro's performances? Who knocked your socks off Wednesday night? Tell us on our Facebook page!
More in The Clicker: