idol-19

The Motown sound of artists from Detroit was brought to life tonight by the top 8 contestants. To recap, the competition now consists of Candice Glover, Lazaro Arbos, Janelle Arthur, Devin Velez, Burnell Taylor, Angie Miller, Amber Holcomb, and Kree Harrison. Paul Jolley was voted off in last week’s elimination. In unrelated news, Mariah was most likely drunk tonight.

To prepare for tonight’s show, the contestants met with Smokey Robinson, who told Candice that he made her cry with her rendition of “I (Who Have Nothing).” Woah, that must have been mind-blowing for her. Tonight, she first sang Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” with the immense amount of soul that she puts into everything. I’ve said it before: this girl could seriously win this thing. Keith said, “You raise the bar, exponentially. I never feel like you overpower it too much or lower it down too much. This was your best performance tonight, babe.” Nicki said, “You stayed in it, completely. You do a great job of not overdoing it. Great job!” Randy said, “You’re so good in your own skin. You believe that you belong in this competition. Just crazy good.” Mariah said, “You epitomized what this competition is. It was you just giving a soulful, straightforward, R&B thing.”

For the first time this season, the contestants got to pair up. Kree and Janelle attempted to give Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” a country twist, but the only thing country about it were their voices and the audience clapping along (and even that didn’t do much). Nicki said, “Kree, your voice sounded like nothing in the world. The control and everything you do, every risk you take up there is beautiful. Janelle, I think you pushed it a little bit. Kree definitely outshined you.” Randy said, “Kree is effortless. Janelle, the pitch just got away from you. By the middle, you started getting in the zone.” Mariah said, “This was a sisterhood moment. The both of you were very, very good.” Keith said, “It feels silly for me to say who was better than the other. You have really different voices. I love the fact that you had each others’ backs.”

Finally, we found out why someone like Smokey Robinson is on American Idol: He’s promoting his new album and Motown: The Musical. Then Lazaro sang Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life,” and for someone who once had everyone completely captivated, his performance’s have been mediocre as of late. This one was no exception. Randy said, “I don’t know if you completely redeemed yourself, but this was far better than last week.” Mariah said, “Your courage and the guts that you have? It felt like you were back.” Keith said, “I think it’s still got to be about the songs that- not just vocally, but rhythmically- feel better for you.” Nicki said, “You did a great job!” Oh, and Mariah reinforced the fact that she’s drunk some more.

Janelle apparently came up with her own arrangement for The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” when she was 14, and she sang that tonight, with instruction from Jimmy Iovine and Smokey, of course. It was a totally different take on the song with a softer, country sound, and it really worked for her. Mariah said, “That was you at your finest! Anything that anybody said earlier? You just proved them wrong.” Keith said, “That was beautiful! I love your fearlessness, the things you go for vocally.” Nicki said, “You always shine when you have your guitar in front of you,” but criticized her pitch a little. Randy said, “I think this is one of your best performances on this show!”

Smokey explained the origins of The Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears” to Devin before he sang it in what most have been a very nerve-wracking performance for him. Keith said, “You’ve got such great style. You need to not think about things so much.” Nicki said, “That was an amazing job tonight! I loved every single choice you made. It felt good, it felt smooth, it felt comfortable for you.” Randy said, “I believe that Devin is back tonight y’all! This is one of your best performances in weeks, hands down.” Mariah said, “I loved it. I felt like this was flawless from you.” Ryan went up to Smokey and had him tell Devin “You were awesome!” which is basically a defining life moment for a contestant who isn’t a favorite, so he has little chance of actually getting big at this point.

The second round of grouping up featured the rest of the girls: Amber, Candice, and Angie. The three sang The Supremes’ “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” even working in some of the group’s signature moves. Only Mariah spoke, saying, “Hashtag wow! I loved it! I heard all of your voices individually.”

Burnell sang Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour,” which Smokey told him he wanted him to sing “softer and more intimately” than he originally was. It almost sounded like he was talking at parts, which immediately turned me off, and it didn’t real soft or intimate in any way. Apparently the judges heard something I didn’t, though. Nicki said, “You reminded us why we fell in love with that voice tonight! Your voice is so rich and so full.” Randy said, “I love your choices, they’re so smart.” Mariah said, “You picked one of my favorite songs, and I think you did a great job with it. I appreciated that performance.” Keith said, “I love everything about your voice. You’re so original now, it’s getting hard to critique you.”

Another contestant that got to hear the story behind the song from Smokey she chose was Angie, who sang The Miracles’ “Shop Around.” The girl has the stage presence and the look, that can’t be denied, and America loves pretty little things like her. Randy said, “This was a very strange one for me because it’s the first time ever that I’ve seen you have such a pitchy performance. You’re usually so right on!” Mariah said, “I would have rather heard you at the piano. This is not naturally what you do best.” Keith said, “I think the melody kept pulling you down. You would soar in moments and then you’d be pulled back down. But your talent is undeniable.” Nicki got pretty heated and essentially shouted, “I think that you came out today to try to show a different side of Angie that doesn’t need to be shown. You don’t need to try to be sexy. Switch it up and show what you shine at!”

Amber tried to climb out of the bottom three with her version of Stevie Wonder’s “Lately.” Mariah said, “That was a tour-de-force,” and then got bleeped out before saying, “It was impeccable, particularly the ending.” Keith said, “You picked the right song, you sang it beautifully, you felt it. You have this way of laying in a song that’s mesmerizing.” Nicki said, “That was just out of this world. You are just something very, very special. It’s really unmatched.” Randy said, “By far, for me, the best vocal of the night! You have grown so far in this competition. Unbelievable, amazing.”

The final group performance was the three guys (Lazaro, Burnell and Devin) singing The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).” It had a very talent show feel to it, and their “dance moves” were terrible. Nicki said, “I felt like this was back in Hollywood. I’m going to act like I didn’t even see it or hear it. Go, get off the stage!” Yeah, Nicki is a bit crazy than usual tonight. And poor Ryan had to ask them how they felt about it and try and save the show from complete awkwardness.

Finally, Kree sang Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” and impressed Smokey so much in rehearsal that he said he would call Aretha and tell her to watch. I think the Queen of Soul would have been happy with Kree’s rendition, for sure, because the girl has some soul of her own. Randy said, “This was not the perfect performance, but the moment you got in on that song? Oh my god.” Mariah brought herself up AGAIN, before saying, “I commend you for doing this song. I love you, and I know that you’re here to stay.” Keith said, “I love that you keep reminding people of the blues and the soul roots that are in country. I love that you do an Aretha song, but you’re not trying to be Aretha, you’re Kree.” Nicki said, “Your confidence never waivers. You’re a queen, too!”

That’s all for this week. Next week the top 7 will perform!