The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s so tempting to use that clichéd division for Tuesday night’s Girls’ night on “American Idol,” but I’m not as cruel as Simon, so I’ve chosen The Good, The Bad and the Okay as my categories. To spare you a lot of reading, the shorthand version of my opinion is this:
The Good: Crystal Bowersox and Didi Benami.
The Bad: Katie Stevens and Paige Miles.
The Okay: Everybody else, which means Siobhan Magnus, Lacey Brown, Katelyn Epperly and Lily Scott.
I’ve been a Crystal Bowersox fan since seeing her audition in Chicago. She is so original in that she not only sings like a rocker chick, but accompanies herself on not one, but two, instruments (guitar and harmonica) simultaneously. Simon and I seem to share the opinion that Crystal is the one to beat. As he put it this night, after her rendition of a Tracy Chapman song, “It’s yours to lose. Right now, you are the one everyone else has to be gunning for.” Crystal’s dramatic one-night hospital stay doesn’t seem to have caused her to miss a step. If anything, tonight the distance between Crystal and the rest of the field was more apparent, rather than less. Even Lilly Scott, singing Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” came up way short (not in height, but in talent) and Siobhan Magnus, who has real potential, was “close, but no cigar.”
I actually enjoyed the opening acappella rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” by Siobhan, but Simon called it “plodding, boring and dark,” none of which could be said of Crystal’s rollicking turn. The others on the panel had kinder words for Siobhan than Simon, with Ellen saying, “You are why I love music,” and Kara commenting on the acappella opening by saying, “You are brilliant. You are unique. I really liked it tonight.” Simon, however, just found her rendition and the film that preceded it “weird” and said, “There were no moments in that.”
It was great to see Didi Benami pick herself up, dust herself off, and return, singing Carole King and doing, as Randy said, “a whole lot better than last week.” Ellen commented, “Yes, indeedy, Didi. I like what you did with it.” Kara called it, “One of my favorite moments of the show for this season,” while Simon also said, “I thought that was head and shoulders above anything you’ve done.” Poor Didi received perhaps the harshest treatment of the night on her last appearance. I actually think she survived because of the sympathy vote that was evoked by the brutal trashing of her song last week. This week, Didi was back in the race.
The two who may not be back in the race are Paige Miles, who sang a bad version of “Smile” and Katie Stevens, who is very young and has been all over the place since Day One. Every week, I have a Sanjaya moment where I wonder how she has avoided the axe this long. On this particular night, comments about her version of a Kelly Clarkson song were that she just didn’t seem to feel it (Ellen), and that “it paled in comparison” with the original, from Randy, who added, “It just didn’t work for me.” It hasn’t worked, for me, since the very first night when Katie was so horribly off pitch, but never mind about that. At least she was better than Paige Miles; I would say that Paige was the only contestant Katie bested. When Simon says, of your rendition, that you “sucked the energy out of it and made it gloomy,” it is perhaps not a good sign. I’d look for Katie to be leaving soon, possibly along with Paige Miles, but, so far, my predictions, based on the singing, not the personalities or how “cute” the boy or girl may be are wrong, so go figure. I can only tell you what I’m hearing, and, although I’m no Kelly Clarkson, I sang in groups all through high school and college, (as many of my readers did, no doubt.) Katie was not as bad as Paige, but she was not good this night…or on several earlier nights.
Let me comment on the “okay” column, which means Lacey Brown, Katelyn Epperly and Lilly Scott, since I’ve already discussed Siobhan Magnus’ “House of the Rising Sun.” Lacey—the contestant who was cut in a previous year but returned and made it this year—received good comments from all, but she didn’t make my “good” category. Why not? First, because I thought the song (“I was meant for you”) was just all right, Dawg. Simon agreed with me about the song, saying, “I didn’t love, love the song.” But Simon did add, “But you sang it really well.” I agreed more with Randy’s comment that it was “A little boring and sleepy.” In all fairness to Randy (and Lacey), Randy went on to say, “Big ol’ props and congrats on that. Very cool.” And Ellen called it “Really good. The best performance of yours to date.” Kara rated the song as “a brilliant choice,” saying, “Performances like this are why you got here,” and “You’re back on your path.” My problem with Lacey is that I, personally, find her boring, at best an also-ran, and I think her path is going to take her right back home in fairly short order. I can’t see her taking the prize away from a Crystal, a Siobhan or a Lilly (although Lilly was not that great this night.) If some sort of sympathy backlash materializes for Paige Miles, maybe the black girl will stay and the redhead ed girl will go? Who knows? Stranger things have happened….and recently!
As for Katelyn Epperly of West Des Moines (who said she was trying to be “less corny”), she played keyboards while singing “I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet” (Carole King) and Simon complimented her on her hair while saying, “It was kind of like request night at a restaurant. It’s quite a simple song. Other people look as if they’re trying harder.” Randy said, “I just didn’t feel the right connection and vibe. Nothing special about it.” Ellen commented, “I don’t know that that was the song to pick. It just wasn’t enough.” And Kara added the coup de grace, saying, “You were just going through the motions. Not even really playing.” It is moments like this that make you want to resurrect that old joke that goes, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”