Thursday, March 28, 2013

'American Idol's Top Eight Salute The Motor City

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Adam Graham/MTV

"American Idol" celebrated the music of Detroit on Wednesday, but hopes of a Motor City free-for-all were dashed when it ended up being, basically, just another Motown night. The Motown theme is one of the most visited in "Idol" history, popping up in the first three seasons and again in seasons eight and 10, and of the 11 songs performed Wednesday, nine were from Motown artists. Only Aretha Franklin (who is frequently associated with Motown but never recorded for the label) and Madonna broke the Motown mold.

Which is fine, because Motown birthed some of the greatest pop songs in all of history. But the theme "Detroit: The Music of the Motor City" gave us high hopes for some Kid Rock, some White Stripes and maybe even a little Eminem on the "Idol" stage. Sadly, the world will never know what Lazaro Arbos would have sounded like doing ICP's "Miracles." (Unless Arbos later squeezes the song into "Songs That Inspired Me" week. Dare to dream!)

The judges were in a giving mood Wednesday, freely handing out kudos to the singers, and Keith Urban showed some civic pride by wearing a "Detroit vs. Everybody" T-shirt. And Amber Holcomb, who surprisingly found herself in the bottom three last week, earned the season's first proper standing ovation after her version of Stevie Wonder's "Lately" brought the judges — even Mariah! — to their feet. "That was a tour de force!" Mariah gushed, then lost some of her steam when the reference seemed to go over the studio audience's head. "Does anybody know what tour de force means?" she asked rhetorically. (Carey, celebrating her 43rd birthday Wednesday, was in classic form and managed to critique Kree Harrison and Janelle Arthur's performance of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" by talking about the original being "not a big singing song" and refusing to mention Madonna by name.)

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Janelle Arthur took the biggest stylistic risk of the night, putting a dark country spin on the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On." Urban especially appreciated the performance. "The arrangement brought out the angst in that lyric in a way I've never heard before," he said.

Devin Velez put his spin the Miracles' "The Tracks of My Tears," Adam Lambert's rendition of which still ranks as one of the best in show history. Velez didn't leave near the same impression, but the judges praised him as being "back" after landing in the bottom the last two weeks. "This was flawless from you," Carey told him.

Lazaro Arbos, who endured a beating from the judges last week, improved this week with a sturdy version of Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life." "I don't know if you completely redeemed yourself, but this was far better than last week," Randy Jackson told him. (Arbos' response: "No problem, boo.") But later, during a flimsy group performance of the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," Arbos was singled out by Nicki Minaj for being "flat as a pancake."

Still, the week's harshest critiques were lobbied against Angie Miller, who tried working out her fun side on the Miracles' "Shop Around" and was taken to task for veering away from singer-songwriter mode. "You came out today to try and show a different side of Angie that didn't need to be shown," Minaj said. "Don't try and come out here and give us another side, we didn't ask for another side yet!"

Thursday's elimination episode is set to feature performances by One Republic featuring Katharine McPhee, Colton Dixon and Keith Urban.

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