This week we see the remaining 20 of our Top 24 American Idol contestants compete. Tonight there was a change in the schedule, and instead of the Top 10 Girls we got the Top 10 Boys. American Idol host Ryan Seacrest informed us at the start of the show that Crystal Bowersox was admitted to the hospital with health issues, and wasn’t cleared by doctors to perform. Hopefully the one night switch with the guys means that they expect Crystal to be well enough tomorrow night, and that her illness is nothing too serious.
The good news was that after last week’s dismal showing, some of the guys really stepped it up tonight. It was actually a surprise who improved and who messed it up again. What’s shocking about this year’s American Idol is that so many of the contestants are so talented and so darn likable. Even the judges remarks reflect this–even when someone performs dreadfully, you hate the idea of not seeing them next week. It’s refreshing to enjoy all of the contestants on American Idol, but it makes voting that much tougher.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Ellen Being Ellen
American Idol host Ryan asked judge Ellen if she’d ever missed a show, like ill contestant Crystal Bowersox. Ellen said she really missed American Gladiators, and that when they brought it back after cancellation it was never really the same… Ryan grinned and the audience giggled as Ellen rambled on about cancelled shows, until she finally “realized” what Ryan’s question was. She then said she’d never missed a show, that she actually did do her show from a hospital bed, and that Ryan was there. “I was in that bed!” Ryan agreed. “I remember that now!” Ryan then actually looked like he was blushing a little, and they moved on to the next topic–the American idol contestants.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Michael Lynche
Tonight Michael Lynche shared some more of his background with American Idol viewers, talking about how he attended a performing arts high school that he also played football for. He apparently liked to balance the artistic with the physical, and we got a funny glimpse of him weightlifting a stretched-out Aaron Kelly. Michael Lynche said he could bench press “4 or 5 Ryans, depending whether or not he’s wearing a suit.” I’m sure Ryan will be staying just out of arms reach after that comment.
For his American Idol performance, Michael sang “It’s a Man’s World” by James Brown. This was the Big Mike we fell in love with, with big, soulful tone and great stage presence. It was the perfect song for him and he won over the crowd completely.
American Idol judge Randy gave him the only standing ovation of the night, and praised him for being a total R&B star. Ellen said it was a great song, a fantastic performance, and that Michael was now definitely the “one to beat”. Kara was flabbergasted. “I did not get it until tonight,” she told Michael, saying he’d definitely turned things around and now “I’m feelin’ it.” Simon agreed, saying Michael had gone from “pussycat to lion” in one week. Simon felt it was the right song that suited Mike, and though it was an older tune, it didn’t sound dated. He declared this the best Michael Lynche performance so far in the American Idol competition.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — John Park
American Idol contestant John Park seemed a little embarrassed tonight as Ryan forced him to talk about his a cappella group in college, the Purple Haze. Apparently the guys in the group had been teasing him about hoping he’d lose so they could get him back. We then got John’s American Idol background video, where he talked about living in Korea as a child and learning English as his second language. He also talked about how tough the criticism was to hear from the judges, and how he was trying too hard with his voice and needed to show more honesty.
I really want to like my hometown guy, but John Park didn’t quite hit it right on American Idol tonight, either. While he still has a stellar voice, and John Mayer’s “Gravity” suited his skills nicely, he now seemed to be trying to emote too much. He’s talented, and attractive, but he just can’t seem to sell it well enough yet.
Randy was disappointed, saying it fell flat, was “nothing new, nothing special.” Ellen said it was a much better song choice than last week, but that he needed a little more soul in his performance. Kara agreed, saying that while it was better than last week’s American Idol, he lacked “connection”. She didn’t believe his emotions when he sang, and that he needed to take some risks with his material. Simon was harshest, saying that Purple Haze was probably going to get their singer back. He agreed with the other American Idol judges about his believability, and said it was unfortunately a “forgettable performance”.
Ellen and Kara tried to temper Simon’s critique, then, saying that John had great potential, and needed to get out of his “sleepy, ballad comfort zone.” We’ll find out Thursday if the American Idol voters will give him one more chance.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Casey James
American Idol contestant Casey James talked with Ryan tonight about how the song he chose has actually been done by a number of previous American Idol performers. Casey James said he felt confident his version was different enough to distinguish his rendition from theirs. In his American Idol bio video, he talked about having no TV since he was 7 years old–after lightning struck the house and knocked out the set. He said he didn’t mind because it gave him plenty of time to do other things, and considering his musical talent, it’s been time well spent. Casey also shared photos of the home he bought and restored, so he’s a man of many skills.
The oft-played American Idol tune Casey James chose was “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw. He was pretty warbly in the beginning, but the second verse was much stronger. His electric guitar playing was awesome, including a solo at the end of the number. He also is still pretty engaging on stage, especially with his great smile.
American Idol judge Randy was excited about the guitar solo, calling it “hot”, and said though the vocals were not the best, he could see Casey making records in this style. Ellen said Casey was “perfect on paper”, with a great sound, guitar, look, but she found him still a little stiff on stage and she wanted him to perform more. The surprise came from Kara, who said “We all know the cougar’s a fan,” but then said she felt Casey had taken “two steps back”. She didn’t like the number, and felt that everything honest and open about his previous performances was gone.
Simon joked with Kara that “obviously he didn’t return your calls.” But then he agreed with her, saying that for this week’s American Idol Casey “turned into someone trying to be a rock star. You don’t have the grit to pull this off.” Casey seemed shocked at this, but he is better on the country side of things.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Alex Lambert
As American Idol hopeful Alex Lambert talked with Ryan, it was all about the nerves. Looking uncomfortable just sitting there on the couch, Alex talked about how he threw up before every game at school and before each American Idol performance–though he hadn’t tonight. (Ryan was grateful for that.) He also shared his own 6th grade made-up language, which sounded slightly Native American. Alex liked to use the faux language when working out the music to a new song, if he didn’t have a lyric written out yet. It was a little strange, but I can see how it might be more useful than “la la la” when you’re trying out a new tune.
Alex told Ryan that on last week’s American Idol he’d been “trying so hard to be likable, that I wasn’t likable at all.” He vowed to be more relaxed this time, and that he’d play his guitar and “be legit.” He then came out on to the American Idol stage to perform John Legend’s “Everybody Knows.” It was worlds better than last week, and we got a better peek at Alex’s unique tone that’s soulful crooner livened up with a little hint of country twang. Strumming along on his guitar, Alex was a lot more comfortable on stage, and the screaming girls in the American Idol audience seemed to enjoy his performance.
Randy happily told Alex that he had his own language, too, and loved that American Idol segment. He also praised Alex for improving so much, and for finding his own niche. “It was way legit,” he smiled, referencing Alex’s earlier remark. Ellen referenced her own remarks from last week’s American Idol, saying that Alex had obviously “put the unripe banana in a paper bag”. She was excited about his performance, admiring his vocals: “Under that little mullet is a Sam Cooke voice”. Kara was equally proud, saying everyone was rooting for him and that he had improved greatly.
Simon declared this American Idol performance “a million times better”, but he had some advice for Alex. He was worried that Alex was too relaxed about the American Idol competition, and that he didn’t really believe he could win. He said only useless people felt that way “and you’re not useless.” So he advised Alex to get a killer instinct. Ryan said Simon definitely had that: “When I fail, Simon’s thrilled.” Simon smiled evilly. “And I’m always thrilled.” Ryan bowed to Simon’s wit, saying, “I’m in awe, sire.”
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Todrick Hall
Todrick had been chastised on last week’s American Idol for changing his song up too much and trying too hard. So he told American Idol host that he chose a Tina Turner song this time, so he wouldn’t risk being compared to the original artist, and that he hadn’t altered the arrangement as drastically this time. Todrick also talked about his training as a dancer that started at age 9, and that he felt a lot of the most successful artists sang and danced–like Paula Abdul.
When Todrick began tonight’s American Idol performance, I was surprised, because I couldn’t believe he was doing a Tina Turner song I hadn’t heard of. It was flat, and not very exciting, and then as he worked through the verse I realized it was “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” So obviously Todrick changed the song’s arrangement more than he thought he did. When he worked up to the crescendos, his vocals were stronger, but it seemed to be another disappointing American Idol Top 10 boys performance.
Randy complimented the “falsetto run at the end”, but he didn’t love the song or the arrangement. Ellen told him to use his strengths and move around the stage more–that the second half was better once he started to get into the music. She said it was a hard song, and not a good song for votes, though she wanted Todrick to stay. Kara agreed that the American Idol judges all loved Todrick, but that he needed to sing a simple melody–that this was just too all over the place. Simon was once again on the warpath, recommending that Todrick “move but don’t sing.” He said it was a theme park level performance, “corny, with no relevance. You’re getting this wrong.”
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Jermaine Sellers
“I rocks my onesie” may be one of the strangest taglines to come out of American Idol. Jermaine Sellers running around in footie pajamas with dinosaurs on it may be one of the strangest images, and whether it’s a positive image to you or not, Jermaine will definitely be memorable.
Though Jermaine originally thought “Are you serious?” to Simon’s negative remarks on last week’s American Idol, he vowed that he took the judges’ comments to heart and would tackle this performance accordingly. Singing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”, Jermaine took to the stage with a strange faux hawk and bow tie that made him look a little more Ed Grimley than American Idol pop star.
Jermaine somehow seemed to be singing higher than Gaye’s version, but was unable to hit the notes right. It was a fairly weak performance, though some of the high runs he did near the end showed off his vocal ability better. American Idol judge Randy felt it was better than last week, but it was too much vibrato for a Marvin Gaye song. Ellen said she loved Jermaine’s style, but the performance didn’t work for her, and was “off a little bit.”
Kara told Jermaine he was hitting too many crazy notes and runs. She wanted him to look more at the meaning and emotion of the song. “Don’t show us every trick.” Simon said that he was “frustrated and disappointed”, and that he’d watered down the song by playing around too much. When Jermaine protested that Simon needed to come to his church to understand his style, Simon said that he would, which livened up the American Idol judges’ panel: “Are you sure they’d let you in?” Kara joked. But Simon explained to Jermaine further that it was kind of a “cabaret performance.” When Jermaine asked what song he should sing, Simon said he wasn’t sure Jermaine would be there next week. Ellen did answer, though, suggesting Frankie Beverly and Maze. Jermaine seemed impressed that Ellen knew them, and liked the idea.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Andrew Garcia
Andrew Garcia treated the American Idol audience to some cool breakdancing moves. Andrew explained that he liked the rhythm of breakdancing, and used that same kind of rhythm in his music. On last week’s American Idol Andrew did a changed up version of Fall Out Boy that didn’t go over well, so this week he did a true-to-the-original arrangement of James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something.”
Once again, this was the wrong song for Andrew Garcia. I loved his quirky, individual style with his guitar playing and higher tenor vocals. Here he was just alone on stage, trying to be a smooth soul singer and it just wasn’t working. When he pushed the vocals a little it got more lively, but once again the American Idol Top 10 Boys don’t seem to know how to pick a song that suits them.
Randy felt it wasn’t the right “vibe” for Andrew, that he wasn’t a soul singer and it was a bit “pitchy”. Ellen said he had a few pitch problems, but she still liked it a lot. She told him the problem was that he set the bar so high at American Idol’s Hollywood week with his Paula Abdul song, that every other performance now paled in comparison. Kara agreed, and she felt his performances had been “going downhill.”
Following what Andrew had said himself earlier, Kara said that Andrew was a “rhythmic singer” and needed to get back to that. She felt he needed another surprise performance to win them over again. Simon said it was a bit disturbing that Andrew hadn’t managed to pick the right song in two weeks of American Idol. He said it was “just okay, and you’re better than that.”
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Aaron Kelly
Teenager Aaron Kelly shared his love of photography with American Idol, specifically the way the camera catches things we don’t always see. He said the camera on American Idol also caught things he didn’t know he was doing while performing, and that had been another lesson for him. We also got to see a cute moment, when Aaron was taping a segment for American Idol and Simon walked by. “Good job, Aaron,” Simon said, referring to his performance last week. “You just need to believe in yourself.” Aaron completely lit up and looked starry-eyed into the camera. “That was so cool. What was the question again?”
For some reason, Aaron Kelly chose to perform The Temptations’ “My Girl”. While he has a good voice, this was the wrong song for him. His vibrato was off, and he didn’t seem comfortable with the song. When he played with the notes a little to get it into his range and style, it sounded a lot richer. Something more country or country pop would definitely suit him better.
Randy was happy with Aaron’s Top 10 American Idol performance, however. “You can really sing–200% better than last week,” he complimented. Ellen liked Aaron’s voice and the way he moved around the stage, but she felt the song was forgettable. Kara felt Aaron was a consistent performer, and thought he had infused the song with his own country style. Simon disagreed, saying the performance was “all over the place”. He advised Aaron to work out who he was, noting that this American Idol song choice was “old-fashioned”. Kara argued the point, but Simon wouldn’t budge on his opinion.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Interesting Commercial Break?
American Idol has done some odd things this season, occasionally putting Ryan Seacrest in a judge’s spot to make an announcement while the displaced judge stands awkwardly behind him. Tonight both Ryan and Kara were standing when we came back from commercial, and Ryan was telling Kara to get her hair out of her mouth and sit back down. “Yes I know we’re live,” Ryan said to someone just beyond the camera, and when Kara sat down she playfully straightened Ryan’s tie. I’m not sure if they were just trying to play off a mistake or if we caught them in something. I guess that’s what makes American Idol interesting.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Tim Urban
This poor boy had a terrible performance on American Idol last week and was so shocked that he didn’t get sent home. Tim was a good sport about it, as American Idol showed Simon’s scathing remarks and then cutting back to Tim deadpanning, “That was a great confidence booster.” Tim also shared with the American Idol audience that he comes from a family of four brothers and five sisters, and that it was like “being born into a group of friends.” This kid is just so adorable, he may keep getting votes no matter how he performs.
The good news was, Tim’s American Idol performance of Matt Nathanson’s “Come On Get Higher” was an improvement over last week. Tim was definitely more confident on stage and didn’t have to hit any bad falsetto notes, but he still seems to be in a kind of yelling monotone phase that could be nerves. When he relaxed and let go with some higher notes, he truly sounded beautiful. I wish he could get there more often.
Randy wasn’t impressed, saying he didn’t “get it” and calling it “very karaoke”. When he got booed, Ellen told them to keep booing because she was going to be just as harsh. She once again told Tim to act, because he has the right look and if he could sing a little people would be impressed, but he didn’t have the charisma to be an American Idol solo singer like this.
Kara saw the little glimmers of awesomeness in Tim’s performance, and said he looked and played the part, but it just wasn’t all adding up. Then we got to see another of Tim’s adorable, genuine looks of utter shock when Simon said he was going to disagree with all three judges. He said that Tim showed a marked improvement, and that he listened to criticism: he chose a modern song that was relevant, and went back to the type of singing they liked him for in the American Idol auditions. Simon was sincere as he said he was impressed with Tim’s work ethic, and that he didn’t “whine” about the criticism but got to work. This was clearly a jab at some of the other contestants who made the same mistakes this week as last.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — Lee Dewyze
It may be a first in American Idol history that a contestant disagrees with Simon–for praising him too highly. After Simon’s effusive praise of his vocal ability after last week’s American Idol performance, Lee said it wasn’t really true, that he’d been pretty pitchy actually. According to his American Idol bio, Lee is used to bucking authority, as he shared how he got into trouble as a kid and ended up in an “alternative school”. Thankfully some dedicated teachers steered him back in the right direction, and here he was trying out to be the next American Idol.
Singing “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder, Lee made a fantastic, swaggering entry to the American Idol stage. Fully embracing the husky, deep timbre of his voice, Lee started to convert me to his potential as sexy rocker. However, once he hit the chorus he seemed to lose his way again and was pushing his voice too hard. I’m thinking Nickleback or Gavin Rossdale tunes might work better for him and really win over the crowd.
Randy declared himself a huge fan and said it was a bold move for Lee to appear without the comfort of his guitar. He felt there were “a couple of pitch problems” but he liked it. Ellen enjoyed the “passion and intensity” of his American Idol performance. Kara declared it a big improvement over last week, though she remarked on the pitch problems as well. She told him she could hear him on the radio right now, that he had the right commercial look and sound. She advised him to “own your stance”, and Lee agreed he had some awkwardness on stage.
Simon once again felt that Lee was “vocally head and shoulders above everyone else” on American Idol. I think he perhaps means that in the same way Kara does, that he’s the easiest guy to sell right now based on a more current sound. He agreed with Kara about the posture as well, tying it in with Lee’s need to be more confidence. Simon felt that if Lee could tie all the good elements together, he could be the “one to beat” in the American Idol competition. As they talked more about the confidence and posture, Ryan teased Lee about getting rid of the move where he pulls his pants up. “I wore a belt this time!” Lee assured him, apparently proving that Lee also learns from his mistakes.
American Idol Top 10 Boys — The Verdict
This is another strange night of American Idol where voting will be difficult to predict. Some of the Boys Top 10 singers that did terrible last week really stepped it up this week, while some of the favorites made errors again. American Idol faves and overall strong performers Michael Lynche, Casey James, Lee Dewyze, and Aaron Kelly are probably safe. Tim Urban is still one of the weakest performers, but he’s got that sweet and cute factor going strong–plus Simon’s high praise, so he may be safe as well. Andrew Garcia is well liked, but he’s lost his mojo these last couple weeks. The singers most in danger are Todrick Hall, John Park, and Jermaine Sellers, particularly the latter two. (I’m crushed about John.) I’m hoping Alex Lambert gets another round because I’m intrigued to see if he can do even better next time and really play up his unique sound.
Check out: American Idol Top 24 — First Four Eliminations
Watch American Idol on FOX, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. Check your local listings for times, which can vary.