(NOTE LANGUAGE) The nine remaining American Idol finalists paid tribute to the Beatles' songbook on Wednesday night, with mostly positive results, even though many of the contestants -- and at least one judge -- owned up to not being familiar with the music of one of the biggest acts in history.
Burnell Taylor admitted that he had never heard the song "Let It Be" before he performed it. Amber Holcomb said that she wasn't familiar with her choice, "She's Leaving Home" -- a song from one of the Beatles' biggest albums, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- and Mariah Carey admitted that she'd never heard it either. Lazaro Arbos said he wasn't familiar with "In My Life," which he'd had to learn at the last minute after being forced to change his song for some reason. Meanwhile, Candice Glover revealed that she had no idea what the lyrics to her number, "Come Together," meant...although to be fair, nobody really does.
In a small change, for the first time this season, the judges gave their comments out of the order they sit in. So, for example, occasionally, Mariah or Randy Jackson would go first, instead of it always being Keith Urban, then Nicki Minaj, then Randy, then Mariah. The change of order didn't affect Nicki's odd pronouncements, however, and she actually ended up being bleeped twice. First, she appeared to say "bulls**t" while discussing the key that Angie Miller sang in, and later, she said she wanted to give a shout-out to the "pianist" who accompanied Devin Velez, but she used the similar-sounding word for male genitalia first.
Here's how it all went down:
Kree Harrison kicked things off by singing "With a Little Help from My Friends," using the hit Joe Cocker arrangement of the song, but adding her own country-ish, bluesy twist. The judges loved it, with Randy calling it "the bomb," and Nicki and Keith raving about how Kree remains true to herself. Nicki also praised Kree's outfit, including her shoes and her belt, saying "You're the whole entire package." Mariah caused Kree to have a mini heart attack when she said, deadpan, "I didn't think it was good..." but then followed it up with, "I thought it was fan-freaking-tastic!"
Burnell Taylor did his signature gesticulations with his hands while singing "Let It Be," and Nicki gushed that instead of merely singing the song, he "caressed" it and "treated it like a newborn baby." Randy praised Burnell for successfully putting his own spin on the song, even though he'd never heard it, while Mariah said she felt it was a "heartfelt and genuine" performance.
Amber Holcomb did a good job with "She's Leaving Home," even though the backing vocalist who was supposed to be singing the counterpoint during the chorus was hard to hear. Keith praised Amber for making a 46-year-old song sound "fresh as this week." Randy felt she started out "slow and unsure," but improved when she got to the power note at the end. Mariah called the performance "fearless." Nicki said Amber's vocals were "unmatched," but said her mannerisms made it seem as though she was thinking, "Why am I doing this song?" Nicki also called her out for not wearing the light pink lipstick she likes.
Lazaro Arbos was a breathy, sweaty mess on "In My Life," and the judges agreed that it was not good. Randy called it Lazaro's "worst performance ever," saying it was out of tune, while Nicki wondered what happened to the Lazaro that she remembered, noting that he seemed nervous. Keith pointed out that the key was totally wrong for him. Mariah agreed it was too low, but praised Lazaro for his "courage and perseverance," though not his voice.
Candice Glover performed the only upbeat number of the night, burning up the stage with the edgy, rocking "Come Together." She dipped low on some notes and high on others, putting her own stamp on it, and the judges raved. Keith said he loved to see the "rock chick side" of Candice, while Mariah compared her to a prizefighter who "murdered" the song. Randy loved Candice's "crazy" voice and the fact that she showed off her "playful side," while Nicki advised her to put on a "crazy attitude face" all the time.
Paul Jolley performed a dramatic version of "Eleanor Rigby," and Nicki hated it, saying it was "safe, bland and forgettable." Keith felt Paul's voice had a more pop-rock edge, despite his insistence that he wants to be a country singer. Mariah agreed, saying he should record an uptempo dance record. Randy felt Paul was disconnected from the song emotionally.
Angie Miller performed "Yesterday" and started the song too early, but then recovered. Her performance was somewhat dramatic and reminiscent of a Broadway number, but the judges praised her. Randy called it a "stellar" performance, while Mariah praised her "respectful" and "simple" take on one of the Beatles' most popular and best-loved songs. She also said Angie's "ensemble" was "pow!," which is Mariah-speak for, "I love your outfit." Nicki said Angie was "unbelievably amazing" and said she could sing movie soundtracks one day.
Devin Velez sang "The Long and Winding Road," putting some R&B twists on the melody, and Mariah loved it. Mindful of the fact that Devin was in the bottom two last week, she said it would be a "travesty" if he didn't go through. When Keith criticized him for not being connected emotionally with the song, Nicki dismissed the country star's comment and insisted that Devin was committed emotionally to the song and gave a "truthful" performance. Randy said that Devin was "back" and praised his R&B "swagger."
Janelle Arthur closed the show with a tender take on the song "I Will," from the Beatles' White Album. Randy called it one of the best performances of the night, while Mariah said it was "beautiful and elegant." Nicki raved about how she was "obsessed" with Janelle, asked her if they could "renew their vows" tonight, compared her to a "beautiful swan goddess" and said enthusiastically, "You are great, little girl!"
Also on Wednesday, Ryan Seacrest revealed which of the two contestants who failed to make the top ten -- Aubrey Cleland or Charlie Askew -- won last week's vote for a spot on this summer's Idols Live tour. Aubrey was the winner, so we said goodbye to quirky Charlie.
Someone is going home Thursday night. Tune in to Fox at 8 p.m. to see who it is, and to catch a performance by last year's runner-up, Jessica Sanchez.
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