Pop Culture

'American Idol's' top three amaze judges in fight for finals

Angie Miller, Kree Harrison, Candice Glover sing for a shot at "American Idol's" final two.

This is the cruelest week of the “American Idol” season. Each of the final three contestants got their hometown visits, and each was an emotional journey that left the audience, and sometimes the judges, in tears. Each had their moments onstage as they sang their three songs.

And according to Jimmy Iovine, each even emerged as the winner after one of the rounds.

Then, after all that emotion and the clips that made viewers want to cheer for all three, folks had to go and decide who they liked best and who deserved the boot.

Of the three finalists, Candice Glover left herself in the best position based solely on Wednesday’s vocals, because her signature moment closed the show. Both “One” and “Next to Me” drew praise from the judges, but it was nothing compared to what she got when she closed the show with “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

“What happened? How did you do that?” Keith Urban marveled. “Here’s what’s gonna happen. If you want to vote for Candice, call the number on your screen. If not, call your doctor, because you probably don’t have a pulse.”

“Four words: See you next week,” Nicki Minaj said.

Not so fast. Candice has been in trouble before, and stood with Amber Holcomb as one of the two singers with the fewest votes a couple of Thursdays ago in what turned out to be a non-elimination week. Getting that kind of praise hasn’t always guaranteed an easy week.

But Jimmy Iovine said it best. “Anyone who can take ‘Somewhere,' a song ingrained in everyone’s head, from the movie to the play to every high school musical across the country, and add your own soul to it, and feeling to it, and own it like that … Candice, you didn’t win the round with that song, you won the night.”

(Then again, maybe Jimmy was just in a good mood, because Nicki called him “my secret husband” when she praised his selection for Candice’s first song. “Nicki, I’ll see you at home,” he called from the stage as Ryan Seacrest was reminding everyone to vote as the credits rolled.)

That followed an emotional second song from Kree Harrison. If anyone in the audience could watch Kree and her sister go back to the house in Texas where they grew up before her parents died and not get a lump in their throats, they’re too cynical to exist. And more than anyone else, she seemed to channel that emotion into the post-recap performance, excelling at “Here Comes Goodbye,” by Rascal Flatts.

“You can’t underestimate or deny the power of a true, genuine emotional trigger. When you went home, you were able to regain something you could actually feel.” Nicki said.

The blond-haired (at least for the evening) judge continued: “I’m not sure people realize how much strength you have to have to be this young and have no parents. I proposed to you in Vegas, and then you divorced me for some boy I think, but I want to just say again I am so super proud of you. Because when you say you’re going to see them again, they’re seeing you now, Kreedom. They’re cheering for you; they’re kissing you; they’re hugging you. And they’re loving you a billion times more than we could ever love you. And I’m so happy for you. You sang it like a pro.”

The problem for Kree is that her third song, “Better Dig Two” by The Band Perry, didn’t suit her very well. Though she can blame the “Idol” staff for that one, it left the last words about her less positive.

“I like the sorrow more than the anger. That’s just me,” Mariah Carey said.

“That’s not your comfort zone. Whoever picked that should be stoned,” Nicki said. “But whenever you leave this show, I am buying your album.”

Angie Miller also gave her best performances early, beginning with Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.” Though the judges fixated on the fact that she wasn’t sitting behind the piano, the vocals were strong. She brought more emotion to Pink’s “Try,” saying she was fueled by the trip home and the chance to drive through a Boston defiantly recovering from the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

“For me, you’ve never looked as comfortable without the piano as you did there. Boston Strong, baby,” Keith said.

But like Kree, her last song, “Maybe” by Emeli Sande, wasn’t as good.

She was a little yelly and didn’t have the energy and confidence that she showed earlier. That probably won’t matter, as she’s sailed through the voting all season, but Kree might not be so fortunate when the results are announced Thursday.