Before we jump into the parent-approved ROCK POWER of Top 7 week, a word about the group performances that I omit in my recaps: They are just so terrible. Thank God we have a fluorescent-haired watchdog like Nicki Minaj to look Kree Harrison and Janelle Arthur in their buttermilk-sweet eyes and howl, “CHEESY, please STOP IT.” Ultimately, the group performances don’t really factor into the home vote, so it’s safer to evaluate each remaining singer based on what they achieve in solo performances. Because what they usually achieve is “being better than Lazaro,” which I consider the unofficial theme every single week.
Anyway, here we go, #7-1. I give these kids credit for belting out old rock anthems, because the playlist looks like a gym teacher’s iPod. Ride that power chord, little Lazaro!
7. Lazaro Arbos, “We Are the Champions”
Lazaro clearly wants my vote, because 1) he wasn’t awful this week, and 2) he was sweaty. Real sweaty. He was Whitney-Houston-having-sex-with-Zero-Mostel sweaty. Ow, ow. Hell-to-the-yes. Anytime Lazaro exhibits more “porny” than “corny,” I sign on. He looked especially like the lovechild of Enrique Iglesias and Nick Jonas this week, which means Idol producers have been reading my slashfic.
There was nothing particularly standout or ferocious about LazBos’ take on “We Are the Champions,” but it didn’t remind me of a novice H&M cashier having a nervous breakdown at register two, which is a big step up for Lazaro. He even sang out on a few notes in an anthemic fashion. Cool! But seriously, Laz, get seventh place already so we can introduce you to shirtless photo shoots and steamy guest spots on DTLA. It’s your time.
6. Burnell Taylor, “You Give Love a Bad Name”
After an intro package where Burnell’s fellow contestants mocked his mumbling, stage gestures, and horrifying funhouse laugh, I was prepared to defend the guy against any of Keith Urban‘s meek, roundabout criticisms or Randy’s dawg-heavy disapproval. But then I watched his performance. I’m sorry, but what is the point of being on American Idol if you’re going to smirk at theme weeks that don’t suit you and mimic the vocals from an original recording you don’t particularly care about? I dug Burnell’s smooth, Kona-percolating rasp once he hit the choruses of “You Give Love a Bad Name,” but the rest of his performance was a sluggish, begrudged karaoke rendition of a song I never needed to hear again. Dear Burnell: MATTER. You’d think the smooth, rasp-heavy grit of “Wanted Dead or Alive” would’ve been his obvious selection. Or a rock torch song like “November Rain.” Or maybe artist-in-residence Orianthi could’ve whipped something up with a snarly verse. I’d have taken the umpteenth version of “It’s My Life,” actually. But no. This was uninspired, and during a week when Burnell needed to register some real urgency. Eject.
5. Kree Harrison, “Piece of My Heart”
I’ll give Mariah Carey some credit, even though her hair and skin are same shade of weird beige: Kree is, indeed, the master of song choice. I’m still not over when she chose an effing Susan Tedeschi song for the Top 10 announcement show like she was the new Lucinda Williams. American Idol is not allowed to be that cool. Hell, Susan Tedeschi isn’t allowed to be that cool. That’s why “Piece of My Heart” felt like a step down to me right out of the gate — among rock songs for women, it’s the obvious go-to. A raucous, but anesthetized screamer that deadened the intimacy of Kree’s voice and forced her into pageantry. I’d have much rather watched her sing “Mercedes Benz” or “Me and Bobby McGee,” the Janis songs where the raw vocal draws attention to the lyrics, and not just arena-decimating grit. Because let’s face it, Kree has no grit. She’s never going to stomp around to “Rock and Roll, Part 2″ and rev us up for the Stanley Cup finals. She should be singing “Coat of Many Colors” and wooing us with the sweet, comforting pomade of her bleat. With a talent as distinct as Kree’s, I never want to respond to her performance with a dismissive, “Good, but not as good as Crystal Bowersox,” but that’s exactly what I feel like doing.