As expected, given that we've got the show's first-ever all-female top five, this week's pre-credits sequence is a remix of the one that came before the girls' Hollywood week. The clips rattle off the short litany of Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Jordin Sparks as we're reminded that it's been six years since a woman won. Which can't be true, because they said it was six years then, too, and it's been at least that long again since that time.
After the judges enter, holding hands in pairs, Ryan has to wait roughly forever for the applause to die down before bringing the room down with a somber shout-out to Boston and summoning the top five to the stage. Now that we've gotten a look at them -- Candice, Janelle, Kree, Angie and Amber -- Ryan saunters down to the judges' table to reveal tonight's two themes: year of birth, which always makes half the audience feel incredibly old; and "divas." Way to stretch, theme-meisters. I want at least one of next week's themes to be cock-rock or I'm walking.
We're starting with Candice, who was born in 1989 (the year I started dating my wife, I'm just saying), who gets to show off some baby pictures and help her parents tell us stories about her bossy, playfully violent childhood. She's singing "Straight Up," and... yep, there it is -- I feel old now. She does a toned-down, jazzy, lounge-y version of it backed by an acoustic combo while the camera circles her interminably in a not-remotely-straight manner. In fact, her entire performance was captured in a single looping shot. I don't know how that helps her with the judges, but it's not like she needs it. She dresses up the unchallenging melody as much as she can, which is a fair amount. Keith loved that version, and just now realized that it's a great song. Too bad Paula isn't around anymore to hear that. Nicki starts by congratulating her on being in the top five, especially after having tried out unsuccessfully last year. As for her performance, she informs Keith that it has always been a great song, but liked Candice's spin on it. I'm still dizzy from the camera's spin. Randy liked the whole thing and says nothing can go wrong with her, which means he's just doomed her. Mariah describes it as unpredictable and smart, and the song choice as "genius." Ryan comes out and prompts Candice to tell everyone that Janelle helped her pick the song. Which is some help that Janelle probably needs. Speaking of whom, Ryan sends us to break with the alleged challenge of guessing who the tow-headed little girl in the baby picture on the projection screen is. Like, even if Janelle weren't the only remaining blonde, none of these other women ever held their heads at a 60-degree angle like that.