Friday, May 24, 2013

American Idol 12 Wrap-Up: 25 Best Performances

To the obligatory count: 6 months. 37 episodes. 149 live performances. 8 trainwreck duets. 12 elimination rounds. 1 Lazaro Arbos. Haha. That's right, another season in the history books and like old tradition I compiled a list of the most memorable live performances up to the Finale.

American Idol was plagued this year by charisma-free male contestants and powerful female vocalists, which arguably made the whole journey and experience a little perplexing. I guess, the rules of 3 still applies on this show no?

That's not to say, the show completely flopped because with a strong set of female contestants, they were able to come up with stellar performances throughout the whole season. Yes, there were a couple of guys who sneaked into the list, but this list, for the first time, seemed like an all-ladies season.

Anyway, just like many other lists or countdowns, this one is extremely biased. It's based on personal preferences. There will probably be some performances that are nowhere to be found on your list that may be as high as 10 or something on here - actually I guarantee it. But please respond maturely, flames don't make me particularly happy.

SEASON 7 Best Performances (to be transferred)
SEASON 8 Best Performances (to be transferred)
SEASON 9 Best Performances 
SEASON 10 Best Performances
SEASON 11 Best Performances

Now, we pay tribute to the LIVE performances that made this season worth watching - and reviewing!:

Honorable Mentions!

Burnell Taylor
This Time
Week: Top 40
Theme: Open

Candice Glover
Ordinary People
Week: Top 20
Theme: Open

Crying
Kree Harrison
Week: Top 10
Theme: Music of American Idols

I Will
Janelle Arthur
Week: Top 9
Theme: The Beatles

What About Love
Amber Holcomb
Week: Top 7
Theme: Rock - No Ballads

Bust Your Windows
Breanna Steer
Week: Top 40
Theme: Open

Here are the TOP 25 Best Live Performances of Season 12:

25. A Moment Like This
Amber Holcomb

Week: Top 10
Theme: Music of American Idols

Her rendition of A Moment Like This may fell just shy of my high expectations of her, but this was still mighty excellent. I thought the song allowed her to show further her vocal strengths especially her ability to do vocal runs with great precision. Her range showed up in full force and there's an effortlessness in her upper register that was just outstanding. The staging was beautiful, yet simple, and the song was made to feel less epic, musically, so that the vocals could be the focal point.

24. What The World Needs Now
Kree Harrison

Week: Top 6
Theme: Burt Bacharach

This was actually pretty fantastic. The emotional connection, the phrasing, the vocals, the acapella bit, and the ability to connect to the material - all of it were spot on. It was such an effortless showing and she actually looked comfortable the entire time she was standing on that stage. Not a fan of the arrangement after the key change, but that's me nitpicking.

23. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Angie Miller

Week: Top 3
Theme: Jimmy Iovine's Choice

Who knew? On paper, this would've been awful and boring, but Angie pulled this performance incredibly well. There's an exceptional clarity to her delivery that's pretty impressive and I liked that she didn't add a lot of runs especially during the verses. It was pure, straightforward and quite lovely. 

22. Cause I Love You
Vincent Powell

Week: Top 40
Theme: Open

Umm, Curtis Finch, Jr. move over! Wow. Not usually a fan of his style, but Vincent seriously tore the roof off on this one. This was some serious stuff! His vocals were top notch, his transitions were incredible and his vocal control was pretty impressive. How have I missed him before? Oh right, the show focused more on the irritating face of Curtis. Haha. He's earned his spot, most definitely.

21. Somewhere
Candice Glover

Week: Top 3
Theme: Producers' Choice

You just can't go wrong with the West Side Story no? Based purely on her singing, Candice is just playing with the competition. Her vocals were outstanding! That being said, I didn't think that was as superb as the judges made it out to be. It's technically good and probably one of the strongest that night, and yes, she proved to everyone that she can sing ANYTHING. 

20. With A Little Help From My Friends
Kree Harrison

Week: Top 9
Theme: The Beatles

This is a girl that takes no prisoners. She’s brutal and she has a very rare gift and one that is not normally seen on American Idol. Kree feels music. Every song she sings, performs, and emotes takes her to a place where she can feel secure and confident. Her performance of With A Little Help From My Friends was soulful and professional. As always! At that point, Kree was the girl did not falter, and made my articles kind of repetitive. Haha.

19. Love Came Down
Angie Miller

Week: Top 6
Theme: Wish You Wrote

This seemed effortless. When it comes to marketability and stagecraft, Angie is in a different league. Love Came Down, though pretty obscure, allowed her to play to her strengths, which is absolutely what this stage of the competition is meant for, by showcasing superior connection to the material with her piano. Her performance sounded a lot like her original song - and even her cover of Colton Dixon's Never Gone - from the vocal choices to the progression of the arrangement, but this was still a perfect fit for her. 

18. I Believe In You And Me
Amber Holcomb

Week: Top 20
Theme: Open

When I heard she was going to sing this, I was like, "Oh no. this will be unfortunate." But, guess what? Amber actually pulled it off! Yes, there were moments where she was so busy auditioning her voice for Cirque du Soleil acrobatics with all the runs and vibrato, but for the most part this was a very solid vocal performance. She was fierce and this was a classic old-school American Idol performance, but managed to somehow make the style seem brand new. This performance gave me hope that despite the lack of exposure prior to the live performance she could actually be a potential dark horse.

17. Here Comes Goodbye
Kree Harrison

Week: Top 3
Theme: Judges' Choice

Ever so often American Idol has the ability to make me sob, and while it may be perceived as emotionally exploitative, this was one of those moments. Her homecoming package helped her dig deep into the emotions of the song and delivered probably one of the most emotional performances this season. Sure, her vocals weren't flawless and she seemed a little behind the beat in parts, but this was incredibly heartfelt. Kree stole my heart on this one. 

16. Never Gone
Angie Miller

Week: Top 20
Theme: Open

There's no denying that Angie has studied the American Idol playbook and she's playing this game very shrewdly. She, to me, sounded the same everytime and I don't find her interesting at all, but this girl knows what she's doing. Yes, I felt like some supernatural force figuratively kicked me in the balls when I learned about her song choice - Colton Dixon? Really? - but she clearly stood out from the rest of the girls during that night and she commanded attention during her performance.

15. I'm Here
Burnell Taylor

Week: Top 40
Theme: Open

I was seriously hoping Burnell didn't try casting spells with his hands during this performance, but no luck. Haha. To be honest, repeat performances to me just seem lazy - this was Burnell's audition piece - but I thought he gave an impressively solid vocal performance on this Broadway tune. He had a couple of nice vocal choices, I enjoyed his slightly rugged tone on the song and I liked that he kept the liberties minimal, which made his voice be front and center. Very nice.

14. Don't Make Me Over
Candice Glover

Week: Top 6
Theme: Burt Bacharach

Candice is a TRUE freak of nature! Don't Make Me Over was yet another impeccable vocal. It was stunning, amazing, and unreal. I liked that she confidently put her own stamp on it and just murdered everyone who came right before her. This girl is full throttle awesome. I have nothing more to say.

13. Up To The Mountain
Kree Harrison

Week: Top 40
Theme: Open

The performance that cemented Kree Harrison as the country singer to beat? We all know that American Idol has a large country audience, and this performance certainly brought lots of those folks over to Kree's corner rather early in the competition. Kree was relatively unknown until she belted out this soulful ballad. Her vocals weren't perfect, but there's something about Kree that pulls you into her performance. She seemed palatable to America as she's talented and has this non-threatening beauty mixed with some humble disposition. I would argue that without this, Janelle would have had a much easier time winning a large amount of country voters over to her side and that Kree could have faded away more quickly than we'd like to think

12. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
Amber Holcomb

Week: Top 5
Theme: Divas

Amber, for whatever reason, sang a diva song titled What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? and performed it like she had a gun to her head. The vocal was intense, passionate, and made me forget that the song itself isn't one of my favorites. She performed the most difficult song during that night and she should be given credit for this because this was quite the number to tackle. She began with a lot of really interesting jazz phrasing and this turned out to be one solid performance from Amber.

11. You've Changed
Candice Glover

Week: Top 4 Redux
Theme: Standards

This, to me, was a thing of beauty! Seriously. Her version of You've Changed was outstanding. She showed some brilliant vocal control, some beautiful little touches, great phrasing and an impeccable transitions. Plus, she learned to not put vibrato and runs into every note. She made some notes be so pure and clear and used some vocal textures for emphasis. Technically astounding from a pure vocal point! 

10. Up To The Mountain (Reprise)
Kree Harrison

Week: Finale
Theme: Reprise

This was one of her finest moments on the show and this reprise was so long ago it felt brand new, and that strategy was actually quite brilliant. She sounded even more fantastic this time around and the overall performance was improved considerably from the staging to her palpable connection to the song. This was technically beautiful and emotionally powerful.

09. My Funny Valentine
Amber Holcomb

Week: Top 40
Theme: Open

Amber Holcomb was the contestant that we had heard very little coming into the semi-finals. She wasn't featured in earlier audition rounds to a great extent, and for all intensive purposes, she looked like she'd be cannon fodder. Well, My Funny Valentine changed that she she went from being nobody to a serious dark horse in the competition. Her vocals on this were effortless, her runs were precise and clear, the delivery was entertaining, she seemed fairly comfortable on stage and her connection with the song was surprising.

08. See You Again
Kree Harrison

Week: Top 4 Redux
Theme: Songs of 2013

This turned out much better than I thought. I admit, I was expecting her to crash and burn just because this is Carrie Underwood's most recent single, but she slightly changed the tempo and mood of the song, which worked amazingly. Also, for the first time in weeks, I felt like she connected impressively well with the song. I had goosebumps and I could sense the pain in her voice. It's such a shame that the judges didn't get to see that because I seriously felt like she was on the verge of tears with this thing. Sublime.

07. Straight Up
Candice Glover

Week: Top 5
Theme: Birth Year

Candice was a bit unlucky that her rework of Paula Abdul's Straight Up was at the very beginning of the program, because this was just flat out awesome. It was, pure and simple, a very cool stuff. The arrangement, the strings, the hip quality, the marketability - everything screamed, "Candice is the real deal!" As much as people talk about how artistic Angie is - in terms of her arrangements - I still can't help but see Candice as equally talented in that department. Probably another nice little Idol moment for her.

06. Stronger
Kree Harrison

Week: Top 20
Theme: Open

Her rendition of Faith Hill's Stronger was, well, very strong. There’s something raw about her, something undeniably authentic. Her vocals were on point, her tone was gorgeous on this song, the delivery was effortless and it was apparent that she knows how to interpret a song outstandingly. As good as she was, I also loved that Kree wasn't over-polished and had room to grow, which was important for her to Idol trajectory.

05. I (Who Have Nothing)
Candice Glover

Week: Top 10
Theme: Music of American Idols

Dead in the grave! See you in heaven. Bye. Her first attempt of the song, I (Who Have Nothing), was already sensational despite having equally outstanding versions from Jordin Sparks and Haley Reinhart. To me, this was the performance that turned her - or confirmed her status - into an instant frontrunner for the crown. She would go on to create jazzier and more creative moments, but this showed us that she could take a song performed numerous times on the show and deliver it on a grand scale. This was Candice all guns blazing.

04. Keep Me Hanging On
Janelle Arthur

Week: Top 8
Theme: Motown

This was the week Janelle officially regained my interest. Armed with subtle lighting and an original arrangement, Janelle accompanied herself on guitar and flipped what could have been a very boring song choice into something kind of magical. I found her dark, acoustic driven arrangement of the song to be one of the most interesting performances this season. She connected with the song impeccably well and this was Janelle's best performance, hands down! Without this, I doubt she would have gone as far in the competition as she had.

03. Who You Are
Angie Miller

Week: Top 4
Theme: Open

It was around this week in Season 11 when Phillip Phillips went from being middle of the road blah to slowly growing on me until I was genuinely fine with him winning the show. I personally think Angie is that contestant this year because while her vocals on Who You Are weren't perfect - she sounded a little breathless in parts - there's a certain believability and connection with the song that was palpable here. This somehow solidified her status as an "artist" who was current enough to sell records. Powerful and emotional.

02. I (Who Have Nothing) [Reprise]
Candice Glover

Week: Finale
Theme: Reprise

A rare moment! How often do we see someone who tackles a reprise and improved on it significantly? Kris Allen did that with Ain't No Sunshine and it was pretty surreal to see Candice repeating that feat with I (Who Have Nothing). I admit, I honestly felt like reprising this was a stupid decision, but I figured her strategy and it was brilliant. She made a few adjustments with the arrangement, switched the first verse to an sublime acapella and further locked in the soul of this number. This performance physically assaulted every other performance of the season. Literally. It grabbed every "great" performance we’ve seen over the past few months and slapped them into submission. To me, her reprise of I (Who Have Nothing) was a culmination of a great record of performances, but NOTHING beats..

01. Lovesong
Candice Glover

Week: Top 6
Theme: Wish You Wrote

Candice had a handful of shining moments throughout the season, but Lovesong single handedly obliterated all of it. I sat there in stunned silence as I watched an incredible singer that American Idol was lucky to find stand there and take a song and make it her own. Viewers of this show are often looking for a water cooler moment and they found one with this stellar performance. The vocals were powerful and impeccable and the liberties she took with the melody was like watching a vocal masterclass. Heck, even the demon couldn't contain itself from reacting during her performance. Haha. We might not remember much about this often off-kilter season, but I have no doubt, that this will be a performance that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was hoping to see "You Set Me Free" in this list, but well...

DAM said...

Anonymous: I would love to include that, but this list is just for live performances only.

Riza Ponciano said...

oh my god, i thought i was imagining that strange "i love you" in love song. ugh, goosebumps.

Julio Cesar Modesto said...

You set me free must be in the "moments of the season" list... is there one???

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