Alicia Keys was the mentor on Tuesday night’s “American Idol.” With 12 Grammies, 30 million CDs sold and an award as Billboard’s Top Selling Artist of the Decade, this seemed an improvement over many previous weeks. She gave good advice to the 7 remaining contestants, including the information, “I really want to find a way to make them be part of something bigger than themselves.” This last comment was by way of leading into the “Idol Gives Back” program upcoming.
First performer of the night was Casey James who sang Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” [For a moment, I thought I was back on the campaign trail with Bill and Hillary Clinton.] Casey wore a blue jacket, blue jeans and a white top. He played a mean guitar and had 3 soul sisters backing him up, but despite his proficient guitar licks, the judges were not kind. Simon said, “Zero emotion. No originality. I actually thought it was a lazy song choice.” Randy said, “Every week we kind of see the same thing from you. Give me something a little different.” Ellen pointed out that, at this level of the competition, the contestants have to be “great. Not good.” Kara said his performance was like some sort of “jam band” and didn’t “show us what makes you different.”
Second performer was Lee DeWyze, wearing a brown shirt and a black tie and the beginning of a scruffy goatee. He sang Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Boxer.” Prior to his performance, mentor Alicia Keys, working with a Lee who was wearing a sort of red snood (stocking cap) said, “If Lee can really bring people into that song, then he will make them feel something.” The judges’ verdict was unanimous in Lee’s favor. Randy said, “It’s really about artists this year. I think you’re going to have a big career.” Ellen said, “It was your best performance by far, I think.” Kara commented on how Lee seemed “connected” to the material and that he had had “a moment” this night.
Third performer was the always-dubious Tim Urban. Simon called the difference between Lee’s performance, just before, and Tim’s song, “Staggeringly different,” calling Lee’s performance “Inspirational. Absolutely brilliant. Good for you” and saying, of Tim, “That may have been a step too high for you. Although you’ve improved, it’s a little big of a let-down.” When Tim sang the “oh oh oh oh” section (right before the lyric “Tonight’s the night the world begins”) he was off-key. [Not a total shocker.] Randy said of Tim’s performance, “It just kind of laid there. It was just okay for me.” Ellen called Tim the “soup of the day.” She commented that sometimes she likes the soup of the day and sometimes she doesn’t. “Today,” said Ellen, “I didn’t like the soup.” Kara said, of Tim’s singing, “It was not the best execution.(I agree) It wasn’t your best performance.”
Fourth performer this night was Aaron Kelly, who tried to power the ballad “I Believe I Can Fly.” Randy said, “You definitely have pure vocal talent. Good job.” Ellen said, “There was a brief time in the seventies that I thought I could fly,” getting a laugh. Kara commenting on the rough opening portions of the song (which were all too obvious) said, “By the end, all right, you got there.” Simon was, as usual, the most tactless and cruel, commenting, “If I had turned that one on on the radio, I would have turned it right off, because it wasn’t very good.” What I have noticed about Aaron’s performances is this: he, like Siobhan, likes to have the Big Ending. It seems that he is always performing a Power Ballad with a Big Ending. I like young Aaron, and he certainly was and is far better and more vocally talented than Tim Urban, so I vote for sending Tim packing, not Aaron. Besides, I really liked Aaron’s performance during Elvis week, even if the judges did not.
The fifth performer was the quirky Siobhan Magnus. Something has happened to the love affair between Siobhan and the judges. She is the new Whipping Girl of the remaining contestants, supplanting the far less vocally talented Tim Urban for the past few weeks. Siobhan was attired in a butterfly dress and rig (butterfly on shoulder, etc.), which was quite attractive, and Simon commented that he “found the leaves distracting,” which was interesting, since the “leaves” weren’t leaves, at all, but butterflies.(Randy objected and said he liked the outfit, and corrected Simon about the leaf/butterfly confusion.) Randy said, “It was just okay for me, Babe.” Ellen said, “I disagree.” Kara had a problem with the fact that her song was somewhat “dramatic” saying, “It’s not a musical.” Simon said he agreed with Randy, calling Siobhan’s vocal stylings this night “old-fashioned.” He went on to say, “Too much happened too fast. A bit odd. A little all over the place.”
I found this “a bit odd” comment from Simon to be “a bit odd,” since Siobhan has been “a bit odd” since Day One. I really liked Siobhan’s vocal stylings on April 20th. She is extremely talented (which is more than we can say for Tim Urban.) Her “quirkiness,” which the judges once loved, is now bringing her down. If only one person is going home, that person should be Tim Urban.
Sixth up this night was “Big Daddy” Mike Lynche. He sang “Hero” on this night devoted to inspirational songs and was criticized for it by Simon, who pointed out that the song was used in the film “Spiderman.” Simon felt the song was “artificial” and ended by saying, “It kind of just didn’t quite gel for me.” Randy said he had been “a little worried” that the song might be too big for Mike’s voice, but ended up saying, “You held your own with it, Dog.” Ellen said, “I thought you did a great job.” Kara said it was “not my favorite performance.” Even though Simon did not like the song selection he did concede, before the Spiderman segue, that “I thought you sang it pretty well.”
The show saved the best for last, as Crystal Bowersox came out and sang without a guitar or a harmonica for the first time. Her rendition of “People Get Ready” not only moved her to tears at the end but also elicited the remark, “Standing O” from Randy, and, from Ellen, “You have never looked more beautiful.” Kara said, “Thank you so much for taking a risk.” Simon has said, for weeks, that the competition is Crystal’s to lose. This night, she proved that, indeed, that might well be true.
Contestant who should go home this week? Tim Urban.