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Handicapping Week 12 of American Idolby Sting7 -- 08/28/2002
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Do I have a lot to say! First of all, I wasn't even sure I was going to watch American Idol. When I went to bed last Wednesday night, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be. I am still simmering over the completely unjust dismissal of Tamyra Gray. However, I'm glad I stayed... perhaps the best night of performances this whole season. Even Nikki...
This week's wrinkle was one contestant's choice of song, one judges' choice of song. I thought the judges would try to throw a curve ball to shake up the already shaken Final Three. Nah. But, this is how I see things going down...
1. Justin Guarini, "Let's Stay Together" - I remember thinking in the shower, "I bet Justin would do a nice job with this song." Then I rocked the tiles myself! Lo and behold, there is Justin doing the Al Green classic and he was fantastic. The Real Justin has finally returned. Not the "Sunny" murmuring, "P.Y.T." screeching, dancing in the see-through pants Justin that made me fear for his future. He apparently took last week's advice from Simon to heart; this is serious now. Justin stepped up to the plate and produced. The best he's ever done.
2. Kelly Clarkson, "Think Twice" - I think Kelly should have thought twice about this Celine Dion dirge, but Kelly, being Kelly, performed out of her pumps. I don't think she knows how to sing badly. She had a few little kinks in the performance, but nothing to reduce the value of it overall. This is one singing chick.
3. Nikki McKibbin, "Edge of 17" - I know many of you are waiting for me set Nikki on fire. Not gonna do it. She can't help it if auto-dialers are pushing her through this competition. It is not her fault. I didn't believe they were doing her any favors. I was wrong. Nikki clearly worked hard this week. She pushed herself to perform as well as she could. In some places she pushed a little too hard and the vibrato fell flat. At one point she completely lost her breathing technique. Maybe that's the key. She tries so hard, and America loves an underdog. Try as she might, she was simply outshined.
That curve ball I talked about earlier? It was wicked.
1. Kelly Clarkson, "Without You" - Kelly was given the most difficult song to sing. Kelly could belt this song out in her sleep, but her biggest challenge was to keep from falling into the Mariah Carey signatures. She did, pretty much. Her vocals met every climb in pitch, and she really felt what she was singing. Our Kelly has had some heartbreak, for sure. There was huge glitch in the middle, but again, she knows how to make you forget about it. I think there is a competitor in Kelly that wants to beat Justin. She did in the second round.
2. Justin Guarini, " Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" - Double-whammy. Justin had to compete with versions by Elton John and George Michael that are concert tear-jerkers every time. In the end, I think Justin felt intimidated by this fact, and he didn't let loose like we know he can. By the last quarter of the song, I think he realized that he had to sell it better. This is the Justin that was the odds-on favorite to win before the Top Ten. Very bad song choices made him vulnerable, and he was even in the bottom three once. Unspeakable. He showed us the Justin that I can support, tonight.
3. Nikki McKibbin, "Black Velvet" - Who am I to disagree with Paula Abdul, but THIS was Nikki's magic moment. She should have sung this one-hit from Alannah Myles every week. No matter what. 60's week? "Black Velvet." Motown week? "Black Velvet." If you please. I have never, ever, ever, heard Nikki sound this good. This was good enough to justify Top Five. Still not Top Three. She looked confident in herself, the material, it's like she's sung the song 100 times before. She knew how to breath through it, she relaxed, found her place. That little pitch problem disappeared... that sound you hear? Me applauding. However...
Overall, I say:
1. Justin Guarini - it was Justin's night. Does he have one more in him?
2. Kelly Clarkson - the likely American Idol
3. Nikki McKibbin - it was a good run.
Again, I say goodbye to Nikki. Fifth week in a row. I cannot see how she can escape from this one. I've said that before. Kelly was in neutral, Justin was absolutely on his game, Nikki on her best night (tonight) cannot compete with this. I can see you leave without kicking you toward the door. But, Nikki, you have to go. To quote Morris Day: "You ain't got to go home, but you gotta get the hell outta here!"
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