As the American Idol finale draws ever closer, last night's episode felt like the three remaining contestants – Candice Glover, Angie Miller and Kree Harrison – were all second-semester seniors who have already received their college acceptance letters. The judges didn't bother with judging so much as crying a lot and reflecting on their journeys and the contestants' growth as performers. Graduation Day is almost here!
Still, landing a spot in the finale wasn't automatic. Instead, Candice, Angie and Kree had to sing for survival in three performance rounds, on songs they didn't get to choose. They had to cede control to Jimmy Iovine in round one, the judges in round two and whatever "The Idol Production Team" is in round three.
For Angie, Iovine picked Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," which she opted not to perform on piano, to the surprise of the judges and Jimmy. Even so, Mariah Carey thought it was one of Angie's best performances, a sentiment the other judges echoed. Angie must have been a little frustrated since just last week the judges suggested that she should step away from the piano sometimes.
Although Candice had never heard Mary J. Blige's cover of U2's "One" before, she delivered a solid bluesy version with a gospel inflection. Nicki Minaj thought Candice's rendition rivaled Blige's version. Randy Jackson thought the performance's emotion was "on point" and then proving that his emotion was also on point, added, "She's in it to win it!"
Jimmy gave Kree Pink's "Perfect," which is an odd choice mostly because just last week Jimmy groused at Amber Holcomb (who was in the audience tonight) for choosing to sing a Pink song. Keith Urban thought that the song proved that Kree was a "country girl," which kind of sounded like a backhanded compliment. For her part, Nicki was more worried about Kree's shoe choice than her song choice.
Last night's Idol also featured visits to the contestants' hometowns, and Kree's was the most tear-filled, especially as the producers didn't so much tug at the heartstrings as hook an ATV up to them and hit the gas. Back on the Idol stage, Kree delivered a searing version of Rascal Flatt's "Here Comes Goodbye." The judges couldn't handle the emotional transition from Kree's heartbreaking hometown video to her tearjerking performance. Nicki reiterated that she is "so proud" of Kree and thought it was one of her best performances to date. Randy noted, "We love all of you. This is the best top three we've had."
Candice's return home was heartwarming, but it was her performance of Emile Sandé's "Next to Me" that brought Nicki to tears, at great risk to her copious eye make up and voluminous fake lashes. Nicki was so choked up that she couldn't talk, barely getting out, "I'm so proud of you."
Angie cried as she performed to a hometown crowd in Beverly, Massachusetts. Mariah thought her version of Pink's "Try" was "festive," but she's in good company because Mariah is "festive" too.
For the final round, the Idol Production Team, gave Angie "Maybe" by Sandé, for which she opted to return to the piano. Nicki was impressed by Angie's growth as a performer, a sentiment inane enough to have been written in her yearbook.
Kree was handed the Band Perry's "Better Dig Two." When she ended, Randy told her, "It was too ordinary for you." Nicki thought whoever picked that song for her "should be stoned."
The final performance of the night, and probably the most memorable, was Candice's "Somewhere," from West Side Story, which was the first vocal to get the judges on their feet. Keith declared, "If you want to vote for Candice the numbers are on the screen. If you don't want to vote for Candice, call your doctor because you're dead." Nicki added, "Four words: See you next week."
Most Randy Moment: While he started commending Candice's second round performance, he ended up commending American Idol for finding talent wherever it may hide: "Kudos to us." Only he pronounced it "koo-dooce."
Previously: Amber Holcomb Eliminated