For American Idol's top 11, the pressure was on: Elimination this week means no spot on the summer tour. But the added stakes didn't really shake up the show, as the front-runners impressed and the rest turned in another lackluster night full of terrible song choices. So, who's in danger of missing the tour? Let's find out.
The opening commentary among Ryan Seacrest and the judges was even more overstuffed than usual, There was more of Seacrest and Simon Cowell's faux hatred of one another, and Simon talked about how being eliminated this week is like holding a lottery ticket with five of the six winning numbers: You come thisclose to winning but miss out on a lot of money.
Miley Cyrus is the mentor. (Nope, can't even type it without laughing.) Yes, she's a tween idol, and she's sold 15 million albums, but what is she going to say to help these singers, many of whom are quite a bit older than her. I was going to work her comments into each singer's section, but since her advice came in three basic categories — add some personality, connect with the audience or push yourself and the song — it would just get repetitive. Somehow, I thought even Quentin Tarantino was a better mentor.
Miley was on hand because she knows a thing or two about No. 1 singles, and that was the night's theme. Of all the Billboard chart-toppers to choose from, this group did a really poor job. So let's break down the singers:
Lee Dewyze, "The Letter"
I've been tough on Lee for his lack of a solid top-to-bottom performance, but he gave one tonight. I think he has a better bluesy soul voice than the rocker label he's been given, so even though the song choice was odd, he made it work for him. I do agree with Simon, however: It didn't' sound like something Lee would ever put on an album.
Judging the Judges: B- Kara said he raised the bar for himself and finally looked comfortable. I docked points for Ellen comparing Lee to her favorite pen, which finally started to write well again. (Thanks for that, Ellen!)
Paige Miles, "Against All Odds"
I'm not sure I recall a singer ever performing this badly at this stage of the competition. Paige was off from the first note, and it only got worse as she went into different parts of her vocal range. It was reminiscent of her messy version of "Smile" a few weeks ago, only about 100 times worse. Lilly Scott is somewhere crying that she was eliminated in Paige's spot.
Judging the Judges: A+ Randy said it was terrible. Kara said it was the worst vocal of the season. Ellen said at least Paige didn't fall down.
Tim Urban, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
I've never seen a guy try so hard to be lively yet still be so utterly boring. Even though Tim did a running slide across the stage and jumped out among his screaming fans, his Queen cover lacked anything memorable. His vocals weren't bad, but that's probably because the performance distracted from any singing Tim was trying to do. Also, his loosened-up self is still way too stiff.
Judging the Judges: B Randy said the vocals were karaoke, and Ellen said it was straight out of High School Musical. Simon said it was silly and pointless for the second week in a row and that Tim has zero chance of winning.
Aaron Kelly, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
This week, Aaron was the one battling laryngitis (though I don't like how it was played for sympathy before the performance). Even so, he delivered a really nice vocal, which he did his best to reinterpret, particularly in the early moments of the song. While the song did fit him, I could honestly listen to anyone sing that song and say it was boring. It's just that overexposed. (One Miley moment: Aaron has a crush on her, and therefore was the most nervous of the bunch to sing for her.)
Judging the Judges: B- Ellen said it was the perfect song, but Kara wants to see more stage presence. Simon cautioned him not to make himself too old-fashioned, since he's only 16.
Crystal Bowersox, "Me and Bobby McGee"
At the risk or repeating myself: Crystal was great vocally and did a version of the song that was appropriately Bowersox-y. But, I still want to see a different side of her. Presuming she's safe this week (and if she's not, we're doomed), she promised we would see a much different approach next week. (I honestly was surprised that Crystal asked Miley to add her autograph to Crystal's guitar, considering how different I believe the two to be in their style and even worldview. What say you? Was it weird?)
Judging the Judges: B Everyone agreed that doing Janis Joplin was the perfect choice, but Simon told Crystal to ignore Ellen's and Kara's pleas to lose the guitar for a change.
Michael Lynche, "When A Man Loves a Woman"
Michael played it safe with this choice in my opinion, and the arrangement was a little wonky for my taste. He sang it well (though he did overdo it a little with all the vocal runs), but his Superman stance on the big notes continued to annoy me. He is obviously more confident on stage than anyone else this season, but I think right now he sounds like a pro but looks like an amateur.
Judging the Judges: A Ellen said it was safe and Kara said it was loungy. Simon said it was too much, and that he would have preferred a simple piano accompaniment.
Andrew Garcia, "Heard It Through the Grapevine"
He again went without the guitar thanks to Miley's suggestion, but I don't think any amount of advice could have saved this performance. The song choice was not right and Andrew tried to cover for a bad performance with an awkwardly energetic stage presence. Like Simon, I am beginning to think he was overhyped from the start, though I have always thought the judges' insistence on referencing the Paula Abdul cover was to his detriment. Andrew is totally lost in the competition right now, and I don't know if he will recover.
Judging the Judges: B Kara acknowledged that he was chasing after the moment that they perhaps over-referenced. Simon said he sucked the soul out of one of the greatest pop songs in history and looked corny doing it.
Katie Stevens, "Big Girls Don't Cry"
Although I despise the song and still can't grasp why Katie hasn't figured out her pitch problems, I enjoyed this performance a million times more than anything she's done this season. She took notes from Miley (who is her age) and seemed to have genuine fun, even though she made some changes to the melody that I thought showed poor judgment and even worse execution. She's on her way back to what the judges initially saw in her, though.
Judging the Judges: D It's not that I disagree with their droning on about her outfit and being younger, it's that none of them are saying: "If the pitch isn't fixed, you're going to be doomed." That still has to matter at some point.
Casey James, "The Power of Love"
Casey is a lot of fun, and I enjoy watching him play the guitar. But Simon was on the money: If I closed my eyes, I would have sworn I was listening to Huey Lewis. There was not one thing about the song that was original, and while I don't think you have to mix it up every week like the judges do, there was just nothing for me to get excited about this week. (I loved how he told Miley that he was a big fan ... of her dad. Nice!)
Judging the Judges: C Ellen said it was the best vocal of the night and Kara said he's on a different level — ready to make an album. As noted above, Simon completely disagreed.
Didi Benami, "You're No Good"
I like Didi a lot, and I thought she did OK with this song. However, with this sort of sultry arrangement, I don't think she took the vocal far enough to sell it. Thus, it did feel she was playing a character, as Kara said. I'm glad she's mixing it up week to week, but I don't think this was the best side of her we've seen.
Judging the Judges: B Ellen didn't get the song choice and Simon said it was like the worst part of a musical. He also compared her to Lacey from a week ago, and we know how that worked out!
Siobhan Magnus, "Superstition"
Her ridiculous hair aside, Siobhan was good. But I also think this was a performance that showed a little bit of arrogance from Siobhan after her universal praise last week. She sang it well, but she had a swagger as if she knew she was the new favorite. Also, stop the screeching. It's only good when it's not used every week. (And as much as I hated Adam Lambert doing it, he did it musically, whereas Siobhan just sort of starts yelling.)
Judging the Judges: B+ Kara said Siobhan always expresses herself, and Ellen said she always wants more. Simon cautioned her against overusing the scream — or perhaps screaming for an entire song.
What did you think? Who is in danger of going home?
For American Idol's top 11, the pressure was on: Elimination this week means no spot on the summer tour. But the added stakes didn't really shake up the show, as the front-runners impressed and the rest turned in another lackluster night full of terrible song choices. So, who's in danger of missing the tour? Let's find out...