'American Idol' - 'Top Ten Perform' Recap
by Jane Boursaw, posted Mar 31st 2010 5:19AM
We're inching ever closer to the end of season nine of 'American Idol,' and I'm seeing some clear standouts from the pack. My favorites as of tonight are Michael Lynche, Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze, Aaron Kelly, and Casey James. I'll add in Siobhan Magnus, but I'm not as big a fan as the judges (though I liked her performance this week better than they did).
It's R&B/Soul week, and Usher is the celebrity mentor. Unlike some mentors, he actually seems to give the contestants something useful in his critiques. He drills home the fact that they have to connect with the audience, which, of course, is important and something they might overlook while trying to bring the performance together on stage. And he's also got his new album to promote, 'Raymond v Raymond.' In fact, while I was writing this review, I got an email from iTunes about it, so good timing there, marketing people.
Siobhan Magnus, 'Through the Fire.' She's been a big fan of Usher's since she was six years old, and he had some nice praise for her. "What separates Siobhan from the rest of the pack is that she has a very unique vocal ability," he said. "I think she's got a true shot at being an incredible artist." He mentioned her wardrobe choices, and cautioned her in having so much going on that it distracts from the performance. She must have heeded his advice, because she appeared on stage wearing a one-shouldered top and Missy Elliott boots -- still edgy, but not at all distracting.
The thing about Siobhan is that she seems very natural on stage. Overall, it's a really nice performance; she hits a few high notes, but it's not the screaming we've had previously, so I'm ok with it. The judges' comments are mixed. Randy says it was all over the place pitch-wise, but he loves her courage and conviction, as well as her outfit. Ellen agrees, noting that starting the evening with Siobhan is like dessert before the meal. Kara says that everyone is entitled to an off-night, and this was it for Siobhan. Simon says it sounded like she'd run a marathon and was singing while she was out of breath. Ok, I really didn't hear any of that, so it must sound totally different in the auditorium. I do agree with Simon, though, when he says he's getting bored with the screaming at the end.
Oh my, this is new. We're taken backstage after each performance to see the Idols' reactions. Siobhan is a little downtrodden to be sure, but Big Mike is right there to offer one of his man-hugs. Couldn't we all use one of those every day!
Casey James, 'Hold On, I'm Comin'.' Casey forgets the lyrics during rehearsal, but Usher still has nice things to say about him, noting that he's already a rock star, whether he wins or not. I love Casey because he's just really fun and seems to have a great time on stage with his guitar -- and the band loves him, as well as the audience. Randy calls it "another hot night for you ... I thought it was the perfect choice for you." Ellen says that while he's consistent, it felt a little generic -- a comment that brought big boos from the audience. Kara thinks Casey has more range, and the songs he's chosen aren't showing everything he can do. Simon says this was Casey's strongest week so far. "I'm really, really, really impressed with you this week," says Simon. Ryan makes a crack about Casey's "history" with Kara, and her comment about "showing it all" means vocally, not physically. Kara says, "Are you kidding?!" Ha Ha, very funny. Let it go, Ryan.
Michael Lynche, 'Ready For Love.' Michael sings with his guitar tonight, and the song sort of puts me to sleep, although he does a great job with it. Randy says he's in the zone, even though it wasn't as exciting as previous performances. Ellen calls it "beautiful," and Kara says he did an incredible job. Simon says this is the first time he can take him seriously as an artist. "I actually believed that performance," notes Simon. "I thought it was terrific. Congratulations." Usher, sitting in the audience, says that Michael connected with the audience, which is what it's all about.
Didi Benami, 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.' Didi got emotional while rehearsing with Usher, but he said that's ok. "She's chosen a song that's very personal to her." I still love her Duffy-like voice, but this performance did seem a tad over-dramatic. Randy says the whole performance flatlined for him, and Ellen pre-boos herself, saying, "I love your voice and I'm a fan of yours, but I thought that was way dramatic and not your best performance." Kara thinks Didi's lost her way and doesn't know who she is anymore. Simon agrees, saying "it was like swimming in jelly." Here's where things get awkward, as Ryan tries to pry out of her why the song is so emotional for her. But she isn't talking; apparently, she doesn't like everyone knowing her business, Ryan, so lay off! He wraps it up by saying, "She auditioned for the show for a reason, and she sang that song for someone. We can leave it at that."
Tim Urban, 'Sweet Love.' Teflon Tim! That's what some people are calling him, because he gets bashed by the judges every week and just lets it slide off like Teflon. I love this song, and I like how Tim sort of croons it, even though the judges will probably hate it and call it karaoke. I admit it's got some problems. Randy thinks it started with a "singing waiter" vibe, but he sang it in tune. Ellen notes the drinking game going on at home every time she calls him adorable (which she does twice), and also says it was like he was "sneaking into the bedroom." Kara calls it a mix of Broadway and Vegas, and says he took the soul out of the song. Simon says "it's like a mouse picking a fight with an elephant." Through it all, Tim smiles and seems ok with life. Frankly, I think he's just ecstatic that he's there.
Andrew Garcia, 'Forever.' During rehearsal, Usher took his shades off so Andrew could connect with him. The performance is great, and it seems like he's getting back on track. Randy agrees with me, noting, "Andrew is back! ... I think it's dope that you took a Chris Brown song and turned it into your own. This is your best performance for me in a long time." Ellen loves it, and Kara calls it "one giant leap in the right direction." Simon says it's "miles better than what we've heard in the past few weeks," but adds that Andrew comes across as boring. At this point, Andrew's mom comes over and tells Simon off in another language -- Spanish, I think. She's a sweetie, though; a mama bear.
Katie Stevens, 'Chain of Fools.' Usher says she has a great voice, but needs to add some pizazz and, again, connect to the audience. Apparently, they've already met before -- she saw him at Epcot Center, but his bodyguard wouldn't let her take a picture with him. It's a big song for her, but with the horns and backup singers, it sounds pretty good. Randy calls it one of the best vocals of the night, but says she needs to bring it all together. Ellen mentions her Snooki-poof, and says she wished the song sounded a little more current and younger. Then Kara and Simon start arguing about whether Katie's cut out for R&B/Pop -- Kara says yes, Simon says no, calling the performance a little bit 'Star Search.' Meanwhile, Katie tells Ryan she just plans on listening to herself. Go, girl.
Lee DeWyze, 'Treat Her Like a Lady.' He's got his guitar tonight, and he seems way more relaxed than previously. Is this one of Simon's "moments"? I think it is; it's pretty awesome. With the guitar, he reminds me a little of Bruce Springsteen. Anyone else getting that vibe? "Unbelievable," says Randy. "Best I've heard from you in weeks." Ellen says the night has now started, and Kara says the song could be on Lee's album. Simon says he's always believed in him, and "this is the night your life may have changed forever."
Crystal Bowersox, 'Midnight Train to Georgia.' Usher blew her cover; Crystal's big surprise was that she'd play the piano this week -- and wear stilettos. Part-way through the song, she leaves the piano and just sings with the microphone. I'm frightened that she'll fall, but she definitely proved that she doesn't need a guitar to rock out. Randy loves the outfit, the stilettos and the song. Ellen says Crystal is always great, and Kara is glad she took a risk and showed another side of her. Simon loves the song choice and vocals, but didn't like the backup singers at the piano. He's also worried about this processing sucking the identity out of her. "You're the kind of artist who actually knows what they should be doing ... just do what's comfortable for you."
Aaron Kelly, 'Ain't No Sunshine.' Usher coached him on the "I Knows" in the song, and Aaron followed through. He's going to be huge - just sayin'. He's adorable, he's very talented, and he's got amazing confidence for being a high school student. Randy says the song started a little rough, but came around. Ellen says she wishes she had that much confidence when she was 11 -- "wait, how old are you?" He's 16, by the way. Both Kara and Simon liked it, but didn't call it super-good. Simon says if Lee is the main course, Aaron is a cupcake.
|Siobhan Magnus||45 (4.0%)|
|Casey James||12 (1.1%)|
|Katie Stevens||56 (5.0%)|
|Aaron Kelly||26 (2.3%)|
|Michael Lynche||13 (1.2%)|
|Andrew Garcia||68 (6.0%)|
|Didi Benami||365 (32.4%)|
|Crystal Bowersox||44 (3.9%)|
|Lee DeWyze||49 (4.4%)|
|Tim Urban||448 (39.8%)|