After countless auditions, the addition of a new judge and one the most awkward semifinal rounds in American Idol's history, we've made it to the big stage! The top 12, some of which are still awkward, took on The Rolling Stones, but from where I sat, you could hardly tell it. The night was full of bad arrangements and more bum notes than I would like at this stage of the competition. Then again, there were some powerhouse performances. So, who shined? Let's find out.
Let me say from the top, I am not exactly what I would call a Stones fan. And if tonight was the first night I'd ever heard any of their songs, I wouldn't be lining up to catch their next tour. What should have been a night of high energy was mostly filled with sleepy acoustic renderings. I understand that is the vibe many in this group of singers is going for, but come on! If the evening did anything, it highlighted who will most likely make the competitive top 7, as there are at least 5 singers clearly just waiting for the ax to fall.
Michael Lynche, "Miss You"
He said in his intro package that he was the ham of his family. Get out of town! Big Mike a ham? It can't be? Ok, so you get it. The arrangement was passable and his singing was fine, but his performances continually make me a little crazy. I'm all for energy, but it doesn't come across as genuine. It was, as Simon said, corny.
Judging the Judges: B Randy didn't love the arrangement, but still digs his voice. Kara liked how Michael filled up the stage, though Simon called his dancing desperate. (Also, Kara, the Rolling Stones are still rolling. Let's cool it with the past tense references.)
Didi Benami, "Play with Fire"
I haven't kept it a secret that I'm kind of pulling for Didi to go far, though I don't think she'll ever win. But her performance tonight, without a guitar no less, was one of the best I've seen from her. She had a couple of missteps early, but she found her grove and delivered an intense performance that added a layer to what we've seen from her previously.
Judging the Judges: A Randy said she's on fire for the first time in weeks, and Simon and Kara agreed she's moving towards what she wants to be as an artist.
Casey James, "It's All Over Now"
Ok, Casey. If you're going to break out the ax and play rock god, you shouldn't need to look down at the guitar every third note. The song was a good fit for his bluesy voice, but it felt very simple and lacked a spark, even though it was one of the very few performances of the night that even attempted to rock out. He's yet to show any personality to go with his looks.
Judging the Judges: B Ellen made a crack about her sexuality, which is indicative of how helpful her comments were all night. Simon said Casey has to give more of a star performance instead of just standing there.
Lacey Brown, "Ruby Tuesday"
After four weeks of virtually the same thing over and over, I'm going to say it: Lacey's breathy singing just doesn't work for me. I much prefer when she hit the full-voiced notes at the song's end. Not only does it not sound put-on and affected, she also manages to hit her notes. It wasn't the worst of the night, but it left me very cold.
Judging the Judges: D None of them really said anything helpful. Worse, Simon repeatedly said there was nothing wrong with the vocals, which I have to disagree with. They weren't terrible, but they certainly weren't spot on.
Andrew Garcia, "Gimme Shelter"
I was certain that Andrew was going to be this season's star in the audition rounds, but boy has he fell flat. To his credit, Simon addressed the terribly contradictory
criticism the panel has given Andrew so far, most of which included their refusal to let go of his "Straight Up" cover. Tonight, he sang as if he felt uncomfortable and honestly never quite got where he was hoping to get. Again, it wasn't as bad as last week, but he left me wishing someone else had chosen that song.
Judging the Judges: B Kara said the song highlighted the parts of his voice they'd been missing, but she also played the role of Literal Song Interpreter, again to the chagrin of Simon. "What do you want him to do, come out in a tank?" Simon asked when she said he didn't connect with song's message about war.
Katie Stevens, "Wild Horses"
Yawn. And I didn't think anyone could top Susan Boyle for the tamest version of this song. Katie's problem is simple: She has zero control of her lower register. At times in the beginning, she sounded as bad as the clip of her as a kid they played in her intro package. She improves as she gets into her upper register, but until she gets the top-to-bottom thing figured out, she will continue to suffer.
Judging the Judges: C The judges seemed to ignore the first part of the song, and praised her strong voice. Kara noted that she's yet to be technically perfect, and Simon said she at least chose the right song.
Tim Urban, "Under My Thumb"
Painful in every way. I'm not sure when Tim decided he was this season's Jason Castro (Castro also did "Hallelujah"), but his reggae rendition was about 37 kinds of wrong. Yes, his vocals were miles better than his Week 1 performance, but I couldn't get past everything else in order to care about them.
Judging the Judges: B Ellen said she felt like she was at the beach. Kara applauded him for doing his own thing, but Simon said it was a crazy decision. He said Stones fans probably turned off the TV.
Siobhan Magnus, "Paint It Black"
Wow. First the negative: Something about the key of this song pointed out a weird foghorn-sounding section of Siobhan's voice that was as unappealing to listen to as it was to watch her face when she was singing it. But when she kicked in, she blew the roof off the place. Her take was original, and she hit some crazy high notes once again. She was the female Adam Lambert, and I mean that in both the best and worst ways possible.
Judging the Judges: A They were all beyond words, and Kara made the Lambert comparison as well. Simon warned her against screaming at the end of every song.
Lee Dewyze, "Beast of Burden"
Our other resident rocker went for a stripped-down version, which I found a bit disappointing. I liked the song, though, and thought Lee was more in tune than we've previously heard him. He just needs to work on enunciating because there were several times that I was sure he'd forgotten the words.
Judging the Judges: B Ellen wanted him to rock out, and Kara complimented him for the fastest growth. (Though fixing pitch problems quickly shouldn't be a compliment: In-tune singing should be a requirement for the top 12). Simon said Lee needs a stand-out performance in order to go to the next level.
Paige Miles, "Honky Tonk Women"
The fact that Paige even walked on the stage is a tragedy, considering Katelyn and Lilly went home in her place last week. That said, Paige did bring back her big voice, despite suffering laryngitis. (And since the judge played that pity card so hard, she'll probably hang around.) In truth, she wasn't bad and she did seem more comfortable on stage than most of her competitors. Still, I miss Katelyn.
Judging the Judges: B+ Kara said Paige was back and Simon said she's still better than the generic barroom rendition of the song she delivered.
Aaron Kelly, "Angie"
I was a little surprised by Aaron tonight. I think it was wise for him to go all soft and sweet, because he certainly was never going to match up to the Rolling Stones. And after going after big songs (and last week, failing) this was a nice reset to show the incredible maturity and control in his voice.
Judging the Judges: A The judges agreed he connected with the song, and that it was the perfect choice. Kara said it was powerful.
Crystal Bowersox, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
What say you Bowersox nation? There was nothing to gripe about in Crystal's performance, but I don't think anyone can rightly say they were blown away by it She delivered a trademark Crystal performance that was both well-sung and believable, but I'm beginning to get the feeling that there might not be anything more than her strum-and-sing approach. Still, in this bunch, she's a standout.
Judging the Judges: A Ellen wanted to see more personality from her, and Kara said the lack of personality came off as cockiness. (Yeah, I don't get that, Kara). Simon told her to dig deep and not assume she's already won because tonight Siobhan beat her. (And uh, Simon, you are the only one who has been saying it's hers to lose.)
What did you think of the top 12? Who do you think is in danger of going home?
After countless auditions, the addition of a new judge and one the most awkward semifinal rounds in American Idol's history, we've made it to the big stage! The top 12, some of which are still awkward, took on The Rolling Stones, but from where I sat, you could hardly tell it. The night was full of bad arrangements and more bum notes than I would like at this stage of the competition. Then again, there were some powerhouse performances. So, who shined? Let's find out...