By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — BEVERLY — Angela Miller looked like a sure bet to make the top five of “American Idol” last night, despite mixed reviews from the show’s judges about one of her two latest performances.
The 19-year-old phenom will find out on tonight’s show whether she’ll continue to the next round. One contestant is eliminated each week based on votes from the viewing public.
In the first minutes of last night’s episode, Miller performed “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and popularized by Dionne Warwick.
Afterward, Keith Urban set the tone for the judges’ comments, saying Miller was obviously talented but that she seemed to be lacking passion.
“You have such a great voice, and all I ask, Angie, is you not rely on it alone,” Urban said. “You can actually make it look too easy, and feel too easy.”
Nicki Minaj agreed, adding that the song “felt old-fashioned,” and Randy Jackson praised Miller’s voice but echoed criticisms about her ability to connect with the material. Mariah Carey suggested that Miller was paying too much attention to “pronunciation.”
When Ryan Seacrest asked her what she thought of the criticisms, a confident-looking Miller replied: “I love hearing what they’re saying because what they’re saying is true.”
Miller redeemed herself in the second part of the show, which was devoted to contestants performing songs they wished they had written. At the piano, Miller performed Kari Jobe’s “Love Came Down,” and earned praise from all four judges.
“I loved that for so many reasons,” Jackson said. “There’s something about you at the piano, I think you just feel it more.”
Carey agreed: “Angie, that piano and you — you never lose.”
Urban said that he was confident Miller would — as she began touring — learn to incorporate the passion she displayed while at the piano in the rest of her performances, and Minaj complimented Miller on her performance but also warned that if she strayed too far from her strengths — like being at the piano — she would be “out of here.”
Miller is the daughter of Guy and Tana Miller, co-pastors at the Remix Church in Salem, and was a member of the Beverly High School choir and honors vocal ensembles. She also performed in school musicals.
She placed seventh in the female solo vocal category at the Assemblies of God National Fine Arts Festival in Phoenix in 2011 and, as a result, was offered scholarships by three Christian colleges. She turned them down in favor of trying out for “American Idol.”
Results will be announced when “American Idol” airs tonight at 8.