Before American Idol's 10 female semifinalists took the stage Wednesday night, one big question was on viewers' minds: Would early judge/fan favorite Crystal Bowersox perform? After Bowersox's trip to the hospital Tuesday caused a switcheroo in this week's Idol schedule, the singer/songwriter — calling herself a "tough cookie" — did indeed perform, and she appeared to be in decent health. But how did she and the rest of the pack fare vocally? Let's find out.
I know what I'm about to write is going to earn hatred from a percentage of readers, but I have not become rabid with Bowersox fever. I'm glad she's feeling better, but the producers rearranged the show for her. And then, after a better-than-last-week-but-still-not-mindblowing performance, the judges piled on praise both after her performance and during several other contestants' critiques. Call it Adam Lambert Syndrome. I think she's talented, and, yes, a front-runner, but the judges need to be careful about handing out the trophy just yet.
Crystal Bowersox, "Long As I Can See the Light"
Crystal played to her strengths, and I am glad she lost the harmonica. I was even more proud of her for calling Simon out on his comments last week about the subway, since he of the two-story trailer probably hasn't been near a subway platform in years. As I said above, I liked this much more than the Alanis Morrisette song, and her great voice was fully on display. But all I heard out of the judges was sympathy for her situation rather than criticism of her performance.
Judging the Judges: C Simon and Kara thought she went to a new level and proved what kind of artist she is. I think she's been this artist all along and wonder why they just now took notice.
Haeley Vaughn, "The Climb"
Oh, boy. Kudos to Haeley for listening to the judges and going back to a song that seemingly should be in her wheelhouse. However, she made a mess of this one. He phrasing was awkward and distraction, and her voice sat on top of the music, where it squelched annoyingly until the end. Kara hit the nail on the head: She's not old enough to be in the competition yet.
Judging the Judges: B Randy and Ellen agree that Haeley didn't connect with the song. Kara tells her she needs a year to work out her voice like a muscle in order to become more consistent.
Lacey Brown, "Kiss Me"
Even though I hate agreeing with Kara, this was a good song choice for Lacey. She was indescribably better than the previous week, but I have a problem with her "vocal stylings," particularly the way she pronounces words for effect when she sings. It's so inconsistent and makes her sound out of tune even when she's not.
Judging the Judges: B+ It was a bit karaoke, but Kara said she did show more of herself as an artist and played better to the tone of her voice.
Katie Stevens, "Girl Put Your Records On"
If there was another horse the Idol machine was backing right out of the gate, it was Katie. Unfortunately, she has not yet lived up to her promise. Like Haeley, she took the judges' advice to sing a song more suited to her age, but she sang it in the wrong key. So much of the song was in her lower register, which she had lots of trouble controlling. It got much better when she went to the higher notes, but there was far too little of that.
Judging the Judges: A Randy wanted her to take on bigger songs, and Kara said that radio hits don't always translate to good performance songs.
Didi Benami, "Lean on Me"
Though she hasn't had a real wow moment, Didi is one of my favorite contestants. And I really thought she sang the song well. I do agree with Randy that she's not nearly soulful enough to have the connection to the song, but she was in tune, which is something several gals can't say. (Also, the judges criticized her for sounding like the other contestants with similar voices, and this was definitely something none of them were doing.) I think the judges were a little needlessly harsh, though I would like to see Didi behind her guitar again.
Judging the Judges: C+ Simon said she was screechy and Kara called it karaoke. Randy said a soul song points out more of what she can't do than highlighting what she can.
Michelle Delamor, "With Arms Wide Open"
This performance was brutal. I'm glad she didn't pick another big diva song, but I don't think taking a power ballad and turning it into a bid diva song is all that risky. She seemed tentative about some of the big notes she added to the arrangement, and it really lost control from the midsection on. Randy and Ellen rightly note that what seemed good in theory didn't really translate.
Judging the Judges: D Kara said it was her favorite performance from Michelle. Good, I was getting concerned with how much I agreed with Kara so far this season.
Lilly Scott, "A Change Is Gonna Come"
This song has been done a zillion times on Idol, and no one ever comes close to the original. Lilly managed to do something that was enjoyable because it was so different, I wasn't even trying to compare it to the original. I'm still not convinced I want to hear her sing each week, but she should definitely stick around a while.
Judging the Judges: B- Points docked for Kara being over the top ("I was riveted; I couldn't wait to see what you were going to do next") and Simon for saying Crystal was better. (She was, but there was no need for it here.)
Katelyn Epperly, 'The Scientist"
I haven't made my mind up about Katelyn, but I really dug this version of a Coldplay song I've heard until I'm sick of it. That last note wasn't quite there, but this was the last thing I expected from Katelyn, and I think she pulled it off brilliantly. But, as Kara noted, Katelyn does seem to genre-jump, which could work against her eventually.
Judging the Judges: D Slow doesn't equal boring, unless you're Randy and Ellen. It was very well sung and not worthy of the sleepy complaints. If you want a snoozefest, rewatch Randy's and Ellen's embarrassingly repetitive critiques.
Paige Miles, "Walk Away"
I like this sound for Paige, but I do think she could take on some songs that would really let her show what her voice is truly capable of. It was fun and in tune, but judging by my inability to say much else about it, it probably was a little forgettable.
Judging the Judges: C Kara, who wrote the song, decided to tell Paige to stop smiling when singing her angry breakup song. Puh-lease, lady.
Siobhan Magnus, "Think"
Without a doubt the surprise of the night. She took on Aretha Franklin and somehow came out on the other side looking brilliant. She killed that crazy high note at the end, even if some of the earlier notes in her upper register were a little squeaky. Still, this quirky little nugget has an impressive set of pipes, which the judges couldn't possibly doubt, right?
Judging the Judges: C Well, they were mostly positive, though Ellen made some weird joke about a Snuggie. (I really have started tuning her out already.) I became furious when, at the end of the show, Simon again told Ryan that Crystal was the best. Siobhan deserved at least a little shoutout.
Are you glad Crystal returned in time to perform? What did you think of the show overall? Who are you voting for, and who should go home?
Before American Idol's 10 female semifinalists took the stage Wednesday night, one big question was on viewers' minds: Would early judge/fan favorite Crystal Bowersox perform? After Bowersox's trip to the hospital Tuesday caused a switcheroo in this week's Idol schedule, the singer/songwriter — calling herself a "tough cookie" — did indeed perform, and she appeared to be in decent health. But how did she and the rest of the pack fare vocally? Let's find out....