Top 6 week on American Idol Season 12 featured two game-changing events: the emergence of Candice Glover as a viable commercial and artistic entity, and the elimination of the last male remaining in the competition, Lazaro Arbos, making it an all-female Top Five (the first time ever this ever occurred).
Prior to this week, several people acknowledged that Candice has an undeniable vocal ability, but they doubted that outside of this contest, Candice could be a viable, credible artist. Despite a sterling performance of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” the previous week, Candice ended up middle-of-the-pack and three of the four judges did not select her as part of their overall Top Three. Doubt seemed to enter into several peoples’minds about what Candice can offer as an artist besides her vocal ability.
Those doubts seemed to have been erased when Candice finally got to perform for this week’s two themes, songs written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and songs the contestants wish they have written. For the former, Candice selected Dionne Warwick’s 1962 debut single, “Don’t Make Me Over”. During this round, the judges tend to label most contestants’ performance “old-fashioned”. Though Candice still kept the song arranged in a similar slow ballad style (unlike the way Sybil updated the song back in 1989 with a dance beat), the judges praised her performance as modern, as it was more of a timeless bluesy delivery that sounds current (just like, say, both Rose Royce and Mary J. Blige’s versions of “I’m Goin’ Down” still sounds fresh to this day similar to the way Candice delivered it weeks ago).
As stunning as that performance was, that was then overshadowed by the revelatory, astounding performance that was her version of the Cure’s “Lovesong”. Even if Adele also has a killer version of this tune on her diamond-certified 21 album that inspired Candice’s eventual approach, it was an out-of-left-field choice that seems risky on paper, but generated an abundance of rewards in the end. Candice gave the tune a jazzy torch song touch and delivered it with her patented vocal virtuosity but with emotional heft that left everyone watching moved and exhilarated. The ovations and highfalutin praise after that performance was truly well-deserved. If Simon Cowell was still part of this show, he would likely label it a ”vocal masterclass”.
As TVLine’s Michael Slezak wrote in his review of Candice’s former performance, he had visions of Candice becoming America’s answer to Adele. When he wrote that it clicked on me that Candice could indeed become that and we have a way how Candice can indeed be commercially viable in this marketplace. Now, I don’t know if Candice is capable of writing her own songs, but she can use her talent to connect with the audience emotionally with the right songs the way Adele does (and how Adele sold millions and millions and bucked the declining trends in the recording industry). Like the way Adele has collaborated with rock artists (remember she co-wrote ‘‘Someone Like You’‘ with the frontman of Semisonic), Candice has demonstrated how she can navigate the rock idiom really well with her performances of the Beatles’ ”Come Together’‘ and the aforementioned ”Satisfaction”. Come to think of it, she even showed how she navigated rock wonderfully last year with that now classic Vegas Round group performance with Jessica Sanchez and DeAndre Brackensick, as it was by rock-n’-roll pioneer Buddy Holly. Remembering her full home video version of her audition song, Duffy’s ”Syrup and Honey”, I think she can do wonders covering another classic rock artist like, say, Van Morrison (I think she can lend a gospel, spiritual feel to his classic Astral Weeks track ”Sweet Thing”, for instance–someone should send that album for her to listen to, stat!).
Stutterer Lazaro Arbos, the last boy standing in this season of American Idol was eliminated this week. In my and many people’s reckoning, it’s finally good riddance. He was supposed to be an ”inspirational” story, especially with his audition as it was a sharp contrast from his stuttering speech to his rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s ”Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Some assume he could be like American Idol’s equivalent of Britain’s Got Talent’s Susan Boyle, who is now a major recording artist.
He seemed to pass muster during Hollywood Week, but then came his first televised full performance during the Vegas Top 40 round, and signs of trouble began with his horrible evisceration of Keith Urban’s ”Tonight I Wanna Cry”. People over the internet had mentioned that his singing ability is far from remarkable, but I would’ve tolerated it better if he at least keeps on singing on-key. He redeemed himself somewhat with his performance of Nina Simone’s ”Feeling Good’‘ during the Top 10 Boys’ round, but as the weeks went on, his performances shown no signs of growth or was he proving any convincing case that he performed more strongly than the other finalists out there that him outlasting the other singers is starting to be like a joke–he has turned into this season’s equivalent of Season 6 7th place finalist, Sanjaya Malakar who continuously delivered horrendous performances but had a major fanbase that made him outlast more talented contenders.
I don’t want to join in the numerous chorus of online jeerers for this person, but unfortunately not only are his performances bad, he exacerbates things with his attitude–it seems that he’s actually using his handicap as a means of entitlement, that he deserved preferential treatment and be subjected to a lower standard than what the others have to hurdle because of his condition. This is displayed with the excuses he makes with his now notorious mangling of the Beatles’ ”In My Life” and how he forgets lyrics in his group number with Devin Velez and Burnell Taylor (to the Four Tops’ ”I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”). Worse, over the web there are reports that Lazaro is blaming the brutal internet comments for his poor performances. It makes me wonder if the reason why he cannot get any job besides being an ice cream scooper was not because people are mean, but it has something to do with Lazaro’s true character?
His less-than-inspirational conduct is almost as if Lazaro’s stuttering is a fraud and we are duped by his condition. Well, I’d like to give Lazaro the benefit of the doubt and consider his condition real, but what he displays in his attitude and performances nullifies the inspirational goodwill he was supposed to represent. Somehow, it dawns on me that there is actually a more inspirational story out there–Kree Harrison, who was orphaned young by the passing of both her parents and having to fend for herself and her siblings because of it. She makes no excuses about it and carries on with life, and she is blessed with a gorgeous voice who consistently delivers warm, flawless performances. This one is someone we ought to rally around instead of Lazaro, don’t you think?
On a final parting note, I’m inspired by the Carmen Miranda ditty “Lady in a Tutti-Frutti Hat” to sing a verse about Lazaro:
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, what a big no-no
Stuttering with a bowtie but lacking pitch
He is no better than any lowlife bitch.