Candice Glover (left) is named winner of American Idol Season 12 by host Ryan Seacrest as finalist Kree Hamilton reacts, on May 16, 2013.
Save for one shining bright spot this season, these have been dark days for American Idol fans.
As the shows ratings keep hitting record lows, the judges have managed to become the hot mess sideshow we all feared/hoped they’d become — but instead of juicy, trashy fun, it’s largely been a tedious bore, a lose-lose game of deciding which self-serving diva, Nicki, Mariah, or Randy, to dislike the least. (Poor Keith Urban, stranded like a hunky country music superstar in a den of high-strung poodles.) Whatever goodwill these judges started with at the beginning of the season has been frittered away by their behavior since the live shows began. It’s no wonder there are reports Fox wants to eighty-six the lot of ‘em, and Randy just left the show outright.
As for the contestants, it has been refreshing to watch several talented women battle it out without having to contend with a totes adorbs white man with a guitar syphoning away all the tween girl votes. Getting to that point, however, meant slogging through five weeks’ worth of non-guitar-playing male contestants who were so self-evidently inferior to their female counterparts that one wondered why the Idol producers didn’t just do away with the pretense of gender parity in the first place and make it an all-female season. (It hasn’t helped that those producers’ insistence on musty theme nights have forced powerfully irrelevant song choices like “For Once in My Life,” “Lately,” “Shop Around,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “MacArthur Park.” I say again: “MacAurthur Park”.)
When you’re in the 12th season of a show, however, even solid singers will inevitably fall into well-trod Idol archetypes: The over-eager perfectionist who tries too hard (Angie Miller); the “commercial” beauty who can’t quite live up to the hype (Amber Holcomb); the aw-shucks southern country girl who can’t quite capture “America’s heart” (Janelle Arthur); and the fabulous singer who feels too mature (read: too serious) to go all the way (Kree Harrison). As lovely and talented as these women all are, on Idol they’re retreads of contestants we’ve seen time and time again. We can cite their “Idol journeys” by rote.
There is one contestant, however, who has stood apart, delivering so many show-stopping performances that she has pushed well past easy categorization and elevated the show into watchability. I am speaking of Candice Glover, who was just crowned the winner of the 12th season of American Idol. There really was no one else who should have won.
If you’ve been watching Idol this year, you already know what I’m talking about. But if you haven’t, just know that as a reality show contestant, this 23 year old is humble and genuine and terrifically non-obnoxious. Watching her wobbly sob through her winning single “I Am Beautiful” was a great coda to a terrific trajectory on this otherwise, er, wobbly season.
That final vocal aside, as a performer, Candice is in a league of her own. But don’t take my word for it. Check out these 14 performances over the course of Candice’s time on Idol to understand why she was not only the frontrunner to win, she was basically the only reason to watch at all.
1. Her audition in Charlotte, N.C.
Nicki Minaj called it: From her very first audition (well, this season), repeat contestant Candice Glover deserved to make it to the Idol finale.
2. Top 10 week: “I Who Have Nothing”
Candice was a consistent performer throughout the rest of the audition process, but it was her first time on the live Idol stage that Candice reached through the television and demanded our attention.
3. Top 8 week: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”
Alchemy. How do you take a song so familiar it’s synonymous with dancing raisins and bring it back to stirring life? I guess have Candice Glover sing it.
4. Top 7 week: “The Letter” (duet)
There was no better encapsulation of the vast gulf between the male and female contestants than this duet between Burnell Taylor (arguably the best guy finalist) and Candice. She blows him out of the water.
5. Top 7 week: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
According to Candice, before making it on Idol, she was deeply insecure about herself and her body. Look at how sexy she is up there. C’mon.
6. Top 6 week: “Don’t Make Me Over”
I’d personally never heard this Burt Bacharach song before Candice took it on, but I just loved her vocal precision here. And that soaring high note towards the end? Perfection.
7. Top 6 week: “Lovesong”
If it wasn’t for a horrifying audio glitch halfway through, this may be my absolute favorite Idol performance ever. OK, yeah, it still is. Wowza.
8. Top 5 week: “Straight Up”
I mean, it’s just showing off at this point.
9. Top 4 week (take two): “When I Was Your Man”
Candice was in the bottom two after the previous week’s non-elimination round. With her votes carrying over into this week, some might have played it safe with their song choices. Candice didn’t, choosing to sing this Bruno Mars ballad without changing the pronouns. It was wonderful.
10. Top 3 week: “Somewhere”
Boom. Finale. Done. As Keith Urban said after this performance, “If you don’t want to vote for Candice, call your doctor — you probably don’t have a pulse!”
(Seriously, Fox, can we get rid of the rest and just keep Keith?)
11. Performance Finale: “Chasing Pavements”
Somehow, this is the first time Candice sang Adele all season, and she just killed it.
12. Performance Finale: “I Am Beautiful”
I’m not crazy about this original song, which will serve as Candice’s winning single. But she still delivered it with her consummate skill. Maybe it’ll be more impressive in the studio?
13. Performance Finale: “I Who Have Nothing”
Reprising her first live Idol performance, Candice dared to open a cappella, and pulled it off.
This post has been updated to include Candice Glover’s finale week performances, and note that she was the winner of the season.