American Idol: stepping up to the plate

Finally, mercifully, the 12 finalists on “American Idol” gave performances that actually made you feel like they belong here. Of course, not all of them did, but there were a few pleasant surprises. The judges were mostly annoying again, however, and continue to prop up Aaron Kelly to the point where it’s unbearable, when the kid clearly doesn’t deserve it.

The show began with that annoying “Tell them what they’ve won, Don Pardo” voice booming and announcing Ryan Seacrest and the four judges. Seriously, producers, this is laughable. Okay. Enough of me being bitter and cynical. On to the performances, and this week they featured the music of The Rolling Stones.

THE VERY GOOD

Crystal Bowersox closed out the night with an awesome version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and for my money, she just killed it. To back that up, I’m going to give her some of my money by buying last night’s performance on iTunes. Okay, I know she’ll never see that money, but you get the point. The judges, however, didn’t agree with me. Randy said it wasn’t Crystal’s best but that he loves her….Ellen said Crystal sings with such ease and showed some personality last night…Kara said how Crystal looks so comfortable up there….and Simon said that while Crystal is 100% a clear audience favorite, Siobhan was better last night. I respectfully disagree, and this is coming from a big Siobhan supporter. Crystal was awesome last night and she keeps getting better.

THE GOOD

Casey James strapped on his guitar again and did a great version of “It’s All Over Now.” Dude plays guitar like a madman, and he even played SLIDE guitar, which is as ballsy as can be in that situation. It was totally the right song, but for some reason, something is nagging at me, saying that there is some flaw in Casey I can’t quite put my finger on. He ain’t no David Cook, that’s all I will say. Randy said he’s back to being the Casey he loves….Ellen said it was “fantastic”….Kara, despite her crush on Casey, said it was his best performance yet and that he looked like a real rock star…and Simon said he didn’t agree, that it was more like an audition performance and that Casey still needs to step it up.

Lee Dewyze sang “Beast of Burden” and it was really pretty good. In fact, I thought it was the best of the night up until that point (Lee went 7th). His pseudo Scott Stapp voice can be annoying, but there is no denying the fact that this kid can sing. Randy said it was like a Rob Thomas/Dave Matthews hybrid and that it was “dope”…Ellen said it was great but that she expects more from Lee….Kara said he’s growing as an artist faster than the other contestants…and Simon said he likes Lee and loves his voice, but that he hasn’t had his big moment yet. Whatever.

THE PRETTY GOOD

Didi Benami sang “Play With Fire” and for my money it was her best showing yet. It was kind of dark, and she really drove home the lyrical message, like “Don’t play with me, cuz you’re playing with fi-yer” with true conviction, almost willing us to believe she has a shot at winning this. Well, maybe not. Randy said it was one of Didi’s best….Ellen said Didi went astray but has found her way back in to this competition….Kara said that when Didi pushes too hard she goes pitchy but that she reigned things in for the most part last night….and Simon said Didi is beginning to show artistry but that she still can do better.

Andrew Garcia did not use a guitar this week and did a nice George Lopez-y version of “Gimme Shelter.” Seriously, I love this guy’s voice but his performance was just a tad corny and bland. Just a tad. Randy said he loves Andrew but that it was pitchy everywhere (not really)….Ellen said she thought it was Andrew’s best yet, but “what do I know?”….Kara said elements were good but she was missing the “connection” lyrically…Simon made fun of Kara, suggesting maybe Andrew should have driven a tank on to the stage, and then said that his performance last night was “in the middle.”

Siobhan Magnus was one of the judge’s darlings last night, but I didn’t quite get it. She did a dark version of “Paint it Black,” which played to her quirky personality, but for me it was missing something and her voice went off key a few times. Still, as she always does, Siobhan did an Adam Lambert scream at the end, and that’s all the judges remembered. Randy said “that was hot!”….Ellen said she loved Siobhan’s look and sound….Kara said there were flashbacks of Adam and it was the best interpretation of the night…and Simon said he agreed with everyone else, that it as the standout performance of the night. Um, I didn’t quite get it, but I still think Siobhan is awesome.

THE IN-BETWEEN

Michael Lynche kicked things off with a karaoke-ish version of “Miss You,” which was actually bluesy and cool in spots but mostly just okay. Randy said “you slayed it”….Ellen said “what’s not to love?”…Kara said Michael delivered the song with a “Stones swagger”…and Simon, bless his heart, didn’t parrot the other judges, but more so agreed with me, saying it was corny at times and bordering on desperate. There ya go.

Lacey Brown did “Ruby Tuesday” with a slight country twang and while I wanted to hate it, it really was the best I’ve seen of Lacey. Randy said he loved the arrangement, and while it wasn’t awesome vocally, he was pleasantly surprised….Ellen used the word “sleepy” but said she is still a fan…Kara said it was 50/50 for her and that there were pitch issues…and Simon said the vocals were okay but that Lacey is performing too much like an actress at times. What?

Katie Stevens took on “Wild Horses,” and I’m not sure what it is about this girl, but her voice kind of grates on my nerves. Randy said it was really good for the most part….Ellen said it was pitchy but that Katie emoted well….Kara said that while Katie is never technically perfect, it was good……and Simon said that it was the only week he felt Katie chose the right song.

Paige Miles did a twangy version of “Honky Tonk Woman” and it wasn’t too bad, definitely showcasing her strong voice more so than in recent weeks. But I was still kind of bored. Randy said it was alright but that Paige needs more energy….Ellen said Paige has star quality…Kara said Paige hit the big notes and added “you’re back”….and Simon said she did great despite having laryngitis this past week, but that it was old-fashioned in spots. Laryngitis? Are you kidding me? Major props for battling through that and not letting any of us know it with that perfornance.

Aaron Kelly did “Angie” and all I could write during his performance was “eh.” The rest of the time I was thinking about what I’m going to have for breakfast this morning. Of course, the judges have a collective chubby for this kid. Randy said “dude, you were born to sing, that was hot!”….Ellen said it was a great song choice…Kara said Aaron really connected with the song….and Simon said he 100% chose the right song and played to his strength. What strength, Simon? Being a wussy kid who can’t really sing but who keeps getting ridiculous praise from you guys? Okay, he’s not THAT bad of a singer, but he’s not praise-worthy, either.

THE NOT SO GOOD

Tim Urban did a cheesy reggae-laced version of “Under My Thumb” and it was incredibly boring, showing exactly zero star quality. Randy said he didn’t get it, that it was too bizarre a version….Ellen said she felt like she was at a resort….Kara said she liked the way Tim changed it up…and Simon said it was different but that it didn’t work and was a “crazy decision.” Tim defended himself and even laughed nervously at some of the criticism. But let me make this easy for you, Tim. It’s safe to say you’ll be packing your bags tonight and you can go on playing shows for your oversized family.

So there you have it. I have been harping on this not being a great contingent this year, but last night several of the contestants stepped it up. It should get interesting in the coming weeks to see who really stands out and has a shot to win. I still think it’s between Siobhan and Crystal, and I’ll keep saying that until someone not named Aaron Kelly or Lacey Brown proves me wrong.

I’m going with Tim to exit tonight, but don’t be surprised if it’s Lacey or Paige, who both seem to have nine lives in this thing. Let me know what you think and see you tomorrow with the results!

  

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