Dig, if you will — or, if you won’t — this picture.
So it was top seven night on American Idol, and for the first time in TV history, a singing show had exclusive rights to open up the entire Prince catalog. Sheila E. was even there to drum along with the “next generation”! It should have been awesome TV … but some of the top seven’s performances were as unwatchable as Under the Cherry Moon.
The worst of the lot was Catie Turner, who oddly went with a song not closely associated with Prince, the Bangles’ “Manic Monday.” (Prince didn’t even put his name on this song; he used the nom de plume “Christopher.”) But I could’ve forgiven the song choice, if Catie hadn’t experienced the worst lyrical flub since Brooke White restarted her song on Season 7’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Night. Catie she flubbed almost the entire first verse! More like manic Sunday, amirite?
The judges were way too kind (“You have been in this competition since day one, and you have not had one glitch. So what just happened to you is OK,” Luke Bryan assured her.) But this blunder was unforgivable. Catie knew she was goner — and, sure enough, America real-time-voted her off (along with Jurnee) at the end of the night.
The rest of Sunday’s episode was uneven, but for half of it, the contestants attempted to party like it was 1999, literally, during “Year They Were Born” performances. (Everyone in the top seven was born between 1996 and 2000.) Here’s what went down:
Returning to the upbeat, sexy fare that sadly put her for elimination two weeks ago was a risk, but I appreciated that Jurnee was serving Apollonia realness in her leatherette-lingerie outfit. (I seriously wanted her to take off an earring and hand it to Ryan Seacrest.) She got the look! Unfortunately, the arrangement, despite Sheila’s participation, felt very Vegas, and I was disappointed that Jurnee didn’t go full-on falsetto. She was holding back, and that cost her votes in the end.
Michael J. Woodard, “I Would Die 4 U”
I would have loved to hear Michael sing the tearjerker “Sometimes It Snows in April.” This eccentric kid could’ve even pulled off “Batdance.” His Prince effort also felt loungey, but he still gave a magnetic performance. “I was trying to figure out how in the world were you going to take a Prince song and make it yours, and you actually owned it,” said Lionel Richie.
Maddie Poppe, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Sitting at a royal purple piano (and staying at it for the whole performance, instead of that usual singing-show shtick of abandoning it by the second verse), Maddie sang fearlessly, from the bottom of her purple heart, taking just enough melodic liberties while still being respectful of the original. She did both Prince and Sinead O’Connor proud, and I could’ve watched this performance for seven hours and 15 days. Nothing compares 2 Maddie.
Cade Foehner, “Jungle Love”
With all of the sexy, sexay songs in the Prince catalog that could’ve tapped into Cade’s hunky heartthrob appeal, I cannot understand why he did this song. This was almost as perplexing a choice as “Manic Monday.” I didn’t expect him to do “Darling Nikki” or “Erotic City,” but this Time tune, performed in front of a zebra-striped screensaver, smacked of novelty and did nothing to showcase Cade’s vocals. The most enjoyable part was Sheila’s drum solo.
Gabby Barrett, “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”
Gabby played it safe with her other Sunday song, but kudos to her for her sassy, swampy, almost burlesque/saloon Prince remake. I want to see more performances like this from Gabby! This “mic-drop moment,” according to Luke, was proof that there’s a fun personality in there somewhere. “That was what you call, my dear, ownership,” said Lionel.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson, “When Doves Cry”
“Trust me, you won’t want to miss what he’s about to do,” is how Ryan teased this performance — and Ryan was not kidding. I never thought Prince could be convincingly countrified, but Caleb astoundingly made this funky Purple Rain single sound like a Chris Stapleton original. This was Caleb’s breakthrough moment, his David Cook moment. This is what it sounds like when country doves cry, and this was my favorite Prince cover of the night.
Gabby Barrett, “I Hope You Dance”
This was a safe, sappy song choice, but America ate up like a Wonder Bread-and-Velveeta sandwich. With Gabby singing in a halo of stage lighting and a long gown, it seemed like producers were already prepping her for her coronation in three weeks’ time, and I have to admit, as predictable as this performance was, I do predict she will win. Her vocal was solid, though Luke was overreaching when he declared it the best of the season.
Cade Foehner, “Who Will Save Your Soul”
If I hadn’t been tipped off that this was a Jewel song, I literally would not have figured it out. (“I’ve heard that song 1,000 times on the radio, never has it sounded like that,” Ryan said. No kidding!) I appreciated Cade’s ambitious attempt to orchestrate his own David Cook breakthrough moment, but there’s a difference between “making a song your own” and “making a song unrecognizable.” Cade did the latter. Katy called this an “interesting rendition.” Yep, that’s one way of putting it.
Catie Turner, “Oops! I Did It Again”
Now, here is the way to make a song one’s own! Carrie did to Britney’s hit what Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson did to the Zutons’ “Valerie,” transforming it into a jazzy, jaunty ‘60s girl-group number. “That was one of the most interesting versions I’ve ever heard of that song … something so different and unique, and unlike anyone else,” Katy raved. Too bad this wasn’t enough to compensate for Catie’s other “oops” of the night.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson, “Amazed”
The similarly named Kaleb Lee did Lonestar’s mawkish wedding ballad (perhaps the only country song duller than “I Hope You Dance”) a couple of weeks ago on rival show The Voice. I preferred Caleb’s over Kaleb’s, as Caleb-with-a-C has a richer and more identifiable voice, but I really didn’t need to hear this song again. I wish Caleb had pulled another David Cook and put his own spin on a noncountry tune. I was not amazed by this.
Michael J. Woodard, “My Heart Will Go On”
This could have been a predictable choice, but nothing Michael does is predictable. With his trembling, trebly voice, he took the overdone, overwrought Titanic ballad and created fragile magic. My heart will not go on if Michael doesn’t make it to the finale, but Katy told him, “Whatever happens, I think you’re like a Jennifer Hudson: You could win an Oscar, a Grammy.”
Jurnee, “Back at One”
Jurnee fled back to the safety zone with Brian McKnight’s Quiet Storm staple, and the result was very Idol Season 2. I couldn’t find fault with her vocal technically, but there was no “Bang Bang” personality here. “It wasn’t my favorite rendition of the song. I didn’t feel the chillbumps,” Katy shrugged. Apparently, neither did voters.
Maddie Poppe, “If It Makes You Happy”
Maddie made me very happy tonight. She boldly stated that she wanted to prove she’s not just a quirky girl — that she’s a “better singer than that” — and she accomplished that mission. I was getting serious Lilith Fair vibes from her feisty Sheryl Crow cover. “It’s so exciting to see you play like a girl,” Katy said. “And you know what I mean by that? You hold your own every time you pick up an instrument.”
So, Catie and Jurnee are gone, but we’ll see them on the just-announced American Idol tour — with special guest Kris Allen! — this summer. And I’ll see all of you for the top five next week.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
- Nigel Lythgoe on that time Prince surprised everyone on ‘American Idol’
- The Voice coaches pay tribute to Prince
- Backspin: The Revolution on why working with Prince was ‘like going to the moon’
- How Sheila E.’s outrage over Donald Trump, prescription drugs inspired ‘Iconic’ album