Wednesday's bloated episode featured the finalists singing three songs each that were chosen for them: The first by mentor Jimmy Iovine, the second by the judges panel and the last by the Idol production team. Random. Also, we get to see the finalists' hometown visits, which were all very touching.
So how did they do? Let's break it down:
Jimmy's choice: "Perfect" by Pink-- Accompanied by only a guitar, Kree delivers a solid and pretty, but underwhelming performance. Keith Urban loves her "strong, signature" country spin on the pop song, while Nicki Minaj digs her "easygoing Kreedom feel" and encourages flat boots for more movement. Randy Jackson feels it's flat without pizzazz, but Mariah Carey thinks the connection to the song is there. Grade: B+
Judges' choice: "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts — Not the best song pick for Kree, frankly, who seemed a little flat in parts — but the judges are right in saying that her hometown visit allowed her to tap into those emotions that Keith's been asking for so ardently the past few weeks. "You sang it just right, you felt it just right," Keith tells her. However, Kree gets the "Whatever happens from here" treatment from Mariah, which might not bode well for her chances Thursday. Grade: B+
Production's choice: "Better Dig Two" by The Band Perry —Kree gets to show off her sass a little bit on this number, clad in a black leather jacket and knee-high boots. "We see the wild side of Kree!" Mariah exclaims, but none of the judges are thrilled with the song choice. Keith says it "didn't feel right," and Nicki takes it a step further, telling Kree: "Whoever picked that song for you should be stoned." Yikes! Grade: B
Jimmy's choice: "One" by U2 — The arrangement is reminiscent of Mary J. Blige's and is powerful and arresting. Nicki gives a shoutout to her "secret husband Jimmy Iovine" for the song choice and thinks Candice does justice to Blige's take. Randy thinks the emotion is on point, while Mariah is baffled why Candice is a travel agent because she should do nothing except sing. Keith calls her vocals "soaring." Grade: A
Judges' choice: "Next to Me" by Emeli Sande — Candice seems energized by the footage of her hometown visit and proves once and for all that she fits comfortably within the realms of modern radio (and isn't just a "church girl," as Randy finds it necessary to remind viewers every week). It's refreshing to see her leading the audience (and Randy!) in a handclap for this number, and the performance, coupled with the video that played before, moves Nicki to tears. "You're going to inspire so many women all around the world," the sniffling judge tells her. The only troubling thing? Like she did with Kree, Mariah addresses Candice as if it's a foregone conclusion that she's going home. "I can't see anything but very, very good things happening for you in your future," she says. Grade: A-
Production's choice: "Somewhere" (from West Side Story) — This is a belt-fest for Candice, who really leaves it all on the stage and holds the last note like nobody's business. "Oh my goodness! What was that? How do you do that?" Keith marvels. "If you want to vote for Candice, dial the number on your screen. If you don't want to vote for Candice, call your doctor. You probably don't have a pulse." And so much for that foreboding talk. "See you next week," is Nicki's only critique, and Randy says that, for the second time in her run, Candice turns in one of the best performances in the history of the show.
Jimmy's choice: "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" by Elton John — She's accompanied by piano (but doesn't play herself), and it's a more subtle (read: less overwrought) performance than usual, and it kind of works. Randy likes the restraint, Mariah agrees and thinks the mic stand grounds Angie's performance, Keith could have used more restraint, and Nicki channels Randy and says Angie is "bringing it to winning it." Grade: A-
Judges' choice: "Try" by Pink — Like Candice, Angie seems to have gotten an energy boost from her hometown video visit. Keith compliments her for the "bold move" of not sitting at the piano twice, and both he and Nicki say Angie had never looked so comfortable on stage. And FINALLY someone (Nicki) addresses the elephant (or unicorn?) in the room, noting that Angie bears an uncanny resemblance to Miley Cyrus. Grade: A-
Production's choice: "Maybe" by Emeli Sande — Angie can't resist slipping one piano number in for the Top 3 performance night, and while it isn't her strongest performance of the evening, it's still great. "Tonight, you became a complete performer," Randy tells her, and Mariah agrees. Heading into the final two, Angie sure seems like the frontrunner, with both Nicki and Keith complimenting how much she's grown as an artist throughout the competition. Grade: B+
What did you think? Did Candice give you chills? Who do you think will make the Final 2?