American Idol Season 12 - Top 8 Recap - Motown Week

From left, Burnell Taylor, Devin Velez and Lazaro Arbos perform on "American Idol."
From left, Burnell Taylor, Devin Velez and Lazaro Arbos perform on "American Idol." | Source

It's Motown week on Idol! Well...more specifically, songs from the Motor City of Detroit. This week we are treated to double the mentors with the inclusion of R&B legend Smokey Robinson sitting beside resident "expert" Jimmy Iovine in the recording studio. Plus, we get some group numbers which will show how good these singers are when pitted side-by-side.

Let's do this thing!

Candice Glover - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (Marvin Gaye)

Smokey tells Candice that her performance last week of "I Who Have Nothing" made him cry. We learn that this week's song was originally recorded by the Miracles, but Motown thought it was too bluesy for the group. Robinson wants Candice to stay on the beat, yet feels that she is "singing personified."

Keith - "You raise the bar exponentially"

Nicki - "Today you did more of that rock-y, bluesy thing. Great job."

Randy - "You got one of the best voices in this competition. Effortless. Crazy good."

Mariah - "In a lot of ways you epitomize what this competition is."

Me - I loved the slowed down, groovier tempo with this rendition. It gave Candice a nice pocket to weave in and out and color the melody with a variety of textures and nuances. Whether she's singing softly and sweetly or belting and adding rasp, the tone of her voice is nothing short of perfection. This girl is the real deal. A

Janelle & Kree - "Like A Prayer" (Madonna)

In Idol's effort to fill up another 2-hour sing-fest, we are treated to the first of three group performances. Although two singers is traditionally considered a "duo," I'll let the semantics slide for our two Country girls taking on the only non-Motown song of the evening.

Keith - "I thought you both sang great. You have really different voices."

Nicki - "Miss Kreedom almost looked like she flew in to do a duet with and Idol contestant."

Randy - "Janelle...the pitch just got away from you and Kree out-shined you."

Mariah - "This was a sisterhood moment."

Me - "This didn't work for me at all. It was disjointed throughout, and an ill-fitting inclusion for a night of Detroit music. While the judges favored Kree with this performance, I don't think there was a clear winner or loser. They both seemed unsure and under-rehearsed. Boo. C-

Lazaro Arbos - "For Once In My Life" (Stevie Wonder)

Mr. Robinson thinks that Lazaro is so good when he does songs that he likes. He thinks that he should just go out there and be himself. Jimmy thinks it's in his wheelhouse.

Keith - "I think Smokey gave you fantastic advice. Vocally, it felt much better this week."

Nicki - "You gave me everything I needed and wanted. When you stop listening to Jimmy...good!

Randy - "I don't know if you completely redeemed yourself, but this is far better than last week."

Mariah - "I thought it was a smart choice to choose a song that was a little bit more in your sweet spot."

Me - Yes, this was better than last week. But that's like saying that ants crawling all over your body is better than spiders doing the same. His affliction aside, this guy has no business trying to be a professional singer. And to attempt to sing a Stevie Wonder song like that would be a desecration in a karaoke bar, let alone on the biggest television stage in the world. He's not comfortable, confident, or sure of himself as a singer. And somebody get this dude a towel for his sweaty forehead and upper lip. Yuck. D

Janelle Arthur - "Keep Me Hanging On" (Diana Ross & The Supremes)

Janelle came up with this stripped down version for this song when she was 14, and has decided to play guitar for the first time since Hollywood week. Smokey loves when people take a song and do an about-face, but feels like it needs a little dynamic. Jimmy thinks the arrangement is going to be really good for her.

Keith - "I love your fearlessness and that arrangement. It really brought out the angst in that lyric in a way I've never heard it before."

Nicki - "I think you always shine when you have that guitar in front of you."

Randy - "I absolutely loved it. I thought it was incredible."

Mariah - "That was you at your finest."

Me - This was the stand-out performance of the night, and the only one that I wanted to immediately rewind and watch again. Her pitch wasn't perfect, but she captured a genuine vibe for her style and conveyed the true spirit of the song. A

Devin Velez - "The Tracks Of My Tears" (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)

In the recording studio, we find Smokey and Jimmy noticing that Devin is singing behind the beat, but it doesn't bother Mr. Robinson much. He suggests to Devin that if he's going to be outside the beat, he needs to keep the rhythm going.

Keith - "You need to not think about things too much."

Nicki - "That was an amazing job tonight."

Randy - "I think this was one of your best performances in weeks."

Mariah - "I felt this was flawless for you."

Me - It's hard to say anything really good or really bad about this guy. He has a pleasant voice and is consistent with pitch. The word that rose up to describe this performance for me was "vanilla." I liked it, but I wasn't excited by it. He always sings well, but rarely conveys any emotional connection to what he's singing about. After Idol, he may very well have some success singing jingles for Breyers. B-

Angie, Amber & Candice - "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (Diana Ross & The Supremes)

Ryan puts the girls on the spot and asks who is Diana out of the three. After some uncomfortable giggling and shoulder shrugging, Candice shows her maturity by saying that they all are. 'Atta girl.

(I guess time management of the show is now becoming an issue because we only get critique from one judge)

Mariah - "Hash tag - POW!"

Me - While all three girls did a fine job both with their solo parts and their harmonies, this performance made it abundantly clear that Candice is the best of the ladies. She took charge of the song with improvisations and melodic liberties that neither Angie nor Amber could match. As a unit they sounded beautiful. and all deserve praise for a job well done. I will say though, that although she was my front-runner after she sang her original song during Hollywood Week, I'm really getting tired of watching Angie pander to the camera, and she's starting to slip. B+

Burnell Taylor - "My Cherie Amour" (Stevie Wonder)

Smokey felt like Burnell was straining with parts of the song in the studio and suggested he sing softer. Jimmy thinks his weapon in the show is subtlety with emotion.

Keith - "You're so original. I love it all."

Nicki - "You reminded us why we fell in love with that voice."

Randy - "I love your choices. You can do little twists and inflections."

Mariah - "I think you did a really good job with one of my favorite songs ever."

Me - "Burnell is still the best of the boys and again picked a good song for him as an artist. He certainly has a unique quality with the notes and runs that he chooses and an unmistakable tone. The key change towards the end pushed his range a little too much, but overall this was still a pretty solid performance. B+

Angie Miller - "Shop Around" (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)

This was the first million selling record for Motown according to this week's mentor, and it's very near and dear to his heart. Smokey thinks she should have fun with it and should make it sound bluesier as opposed to Angie's default of a classical approach.

Keith - "The melody kept pulling you down."

Nicki - "You came out and tried to show a different side of [yourself] that didn't need to be shown."

Randy - "It's the first time ever I've seen you have such a pitch-y performance."

Mariah - "I would have rather heard you at the piano."

Me - Oh Angie...you've lost your innocence for me now. I think it might be time for us to take some time apart. What I loved about you in the beginning was your honesty and humility. Where has it all gone? Is it the stylists straightening your hair and dressing you like America's Next Teenage Top Model? Have the thousands of people telling you how great you are caused you to care more about your image than your music? We used to be so good together, and now I hardly even know who you are anymore. I want my old Angie back. C

Amber Holcomb - "Lately" (Stevie Wonder)

This is one of Amber's favorite songs, and she felt like singing for the mentors was a lot of pressure. Smokey and Jimmy were both disappointed that she was in the bottom 3 last week.

Keith - "You picked the right song. You sang it beautifully and you felt it beautifully."

Nicki - "That was just out of this world. You are something very, very special."

Randy - "By far for me, the best vocal of the night. I see you grow every week."

Mariah - "That was a tour de force. Does anyone know what that means?" (Dictionary.com says - "an exceptional achievement by an artist, author, or the like,that is unlikely to be equaled by that person or anyone else;") "It was impeccable."

Me - Amber is a beautiful girl with a great voice, but there were definitely some pitch issues, especially in the beginning of the song. Overall she sang the song very well and should stay out of the bottom 3 this week. B+

Devin, Lazaro & Burnell - "I Can't Help Myself" (The Four Tops)

The three remaining guys take on the 1965 Motown smash ("also known as Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" says Ryan) for the last group number of the show.

Nicki - "I felt like this was back in Hollywood week. Lazaro, you fell as flat as a pancake. All three of ya'll, go. Get off the stage."

Me - It's not fair to critique Devin or Burnell on this group number. In a professional performance, neither of them would be saddled with someone as under-qualified to share a song with them as Lazaro is. He screwed up words, completely froze when he was supposed to be singing, and doesn't belong on any stage. D

Kree Harrison - "Don't Play That Song" (Aretha Franklin)

Smokey thinks that Kree was the best in the studio for the day. He tells her that he's going to call the "Queen of Soul" and tell her to watch Kree's performance.

Keith - "I love that keep reminding people of the blues and the soul that is in Country music."

Nicki - "You're always so organic and natural in everything you do."

Randy - "You're one of the best in this competition. This was not the perfect performance, but you're definitely here to stay."

Mariah - "I commend you for doing this song because we have to keep reinventing these things so people remember."

Me - "There is no doubt that Kree can sing her ass off. She's always pitch perfect, picks good songs for her voice, and injects emotion into what she is saying lyrically. Something has been bothering me about her, though, for a while now, and I think I finally know what it is. There has seemed to be something phony about her, but what I think it really is, is a disconnect to her own emotions. She seems to be putting on a front, albeit a very good one, that is masking who she truly is. She's guarded - and if she really is to be a successful artist, she needs to let go and bare it all. If Kree can pull out a song that brings her and us to tears, then she has a great shot at a long career. A-

That wraps up Motown week. There were a few highs and some cringe-worthy lows, but all-in-all another solid, entertaining show.

What will the results show bring this week? Top 3? Bottom 3? I'm not taking any chances this time around.

My predictions:

Top 3: Candice, Janelle, Kree

Bottom 3: Lazaro, Devin, Burnell (sorry fellas)

Should Go Home: Lazaro

Will Go Home: Devin

I've chosen Lazaro every week since the Top 10 to be the one who goes home, yet he hasn't even been in the bottom 3 (most likely in large part due to the evil monsters at VFTW).

It's only a matter of time before he gets the boot, but something tells me he'll outlast Devin, who has had strong support from the Latin community, but hasn't sung in Spanish at all since before the Top 10.

Who Do You Think Will Go Home?

  • Candice Glover
  • Lazaro Arbos
  • Janelle Arthur
  • Devin Valez
  • Burnell Taylor
  • Angie Miller
  • Amber Holcomb
  • Kree Harrison
See results without voting

See ya next week!

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