Usually when reality competition show judges start cranking out the cliches about how a given night of the season is the best ever, filled with so much amazing talent they can't imagine how the voters at home will decide, it's worthy of a smirk and eye roll a la Nicki Minaj. But Tuesday night on "American Idol," when the top 10 women competed live for the audience vote for the first time, the superlatives seemed justified.
If only five women make it through for the overall top 10 -- the male finalists will compete Wednesday night for the other five slots, with the results revealed on Thursday -- some pretty great talent will head home all too early in the competition.
Good thing Randy Jackson came up with a sensible, if suspense-dampening, solution, saying he might ask the producers to keep a few of the more talented contenders around as wild cards if the audience vote didn't swing their way.
So much for it all being up to you, America. But then again, you'd keep more than five if you could, right?
I might. If it were up to me, I'd definitely keep these top five (in reverse chronological order of their performances):
Candice Glover: She has consistently performed well throughout the competition, and on Tuesday, as the evening's final singer, brought Keith Urban, Jackson, and Mariah Carey to their feet with her rendition of John Legend's "Ordinary People." (Minaj gave it a salute.) Urban admired Glover's blend of old soul and now sound. Jackson called it "ridiculous," complimenting Glover's range. "You're one of the best singers in this whole competition," he said.
Kree Harrison: I might not consider her my "wife," as Minaj apparently does, but I do love the natural beauty of her voice. So does Urban. "The first two words in 'Idol' are 'I do,' and I do love to hear you sing," he told Harrison after she'd sung Faith Hill's "Stronger." Minaj said she was obsessed with the singer's "smooth," "rich" tone, and the fact that she found her soothing to listen to, never abrasive. Jackson piped up with an "in it to win it." And Carey predicted that Harrison would get a record deal no matter how she went about it.
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Amber Holcomb: Holcomb deserves a top five spot if for no other reason than because she performed Whitney Houston and didn't look like she was making a big diva deal of it. All the judges stood after she wrapped up "I Believe in You and Me," and Carey said Holcomb was one of her favorites. "You're 18 years old and you can sing your behind off," she said.
Angie Miller: In a meta "Idol" moment, Miller performed a song, "Never Gone," by Colton Dixon, a finalist on the show last season. She showcased her musicality, as the judges like to say, by performing at the piano, and didn't do that discomfiting thing contestants sometimes do when they rise from the keyboard and walk around mid-song. Urban called her "a true artist." Minaj told her "trumpets should sound" whenever she walked in the room, heralded her "signature sound" and said she was ready to buy her acoustic album. Jackson dusted off his "a star was born … on that stage right now" routine. Carey said she was "blown away."
Janelle Arthur: She returned to classic country form with Elvis Presley's "If I Can Dream," prompting Minaj to call her a marshmallow she wanted to eat and Carey to note she had an "America's sweetheart type of a thing" going for her. In addition to having a fine voice, Arthur conveys a sunny, upbeat, Southern charm, which is just completely disarming.
So those are my top five, but if we could sneak another one in there, I'd be totally cool with giving Aubrey Cleland, who sang Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry," further opportunity to prove she's got more than just model good looks going for her. "You so obviously have multiplatinum potential," Carey, who ought to know, told her, adding that she "could be someone very big in the industry." And any other year, Breanna Steer and perhaps, to a lesser degree, Tenna Torres, would have a shot at going further as well.
The only two obvious no's were Zoanette Johnson, who performed a pitchy "What's Love Got to Do With It" and finally wore out her welcome with her admirers at the judging table, and Alaska's Adriano Latonio, who gave a performance of "Stand Up for Love" that Minaj was right to call "pageantry."
We'll find out how the audience vote pans out -- and maybe whether Jackson's wild-card wishes will come true -- on Thursday. On Wednesday night, the guys will try to show they're worthy.
Which women are in your top five?