American Idol: finalists realize what’s on the line

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, a competition. Last night was the first time that the “American Idol” finalists actually sang like they gave a damn. As if there was a prize attached to them performing well. Imagine that. Of course, the show was still two hours long despite now only having ten performers, meaning, lots of fluff and filler. The guest mentor this week was Usher, as it was R&B/soul week, and let’s just say the guy was much more credible than Miley Cyrus. Here is the recap as we saw it….

THE REALLY GOOD

Once again, Crystal Bowersox separated herself from the pack. She dropped the guitar this week in favor of the piano, and took on Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia.” If you take away the fact that Crystal kept looking at the keys to stay on track and that she doesn’t move very well without an instrument, you can tell one thing for sure–the girl has unbelievable pipes. And she sings so naturally and effortlessly, making us all feel at ease. That’s a gift. Randy said he loved the whole thing and it was another great performance…Ellen said Crystal is never not good, and that she’s in it to win it…Kara said she loved that Crystal took a bit of a risk this week….and Simon thought the choice of song was sensational, the vocals were incredible, but that he didn’t like the piano change-up and said “don’t let the process suck the identity out of you.” That’s a nice way of saying not to listen to Kara. Ha!

THE PRETTY GOOD

Casey James took on Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming” and once again shredded on guitar. I’m starting to think he does a bit too much of that though, but dude sure has a great voice. Randy said it was “another hot one” and great song choice….Ellen said it was consistent with Casey’s past performances but that it was a bit too generic and safe….Kara agreed with Ellen, challenging Casey to use more of his range….and Simon said he thought it was Casey’s strongest performance so far and that he does come across as being authentic.

Big Michael Lynche sang India Arie’s “Ready For Love,” and for my money it was his best performance so far. It was on pitch and in his wheelhouse. Randy liked the guitar/ballad thing and thought Mike was in the zone, but Randy also said it wasn’t all that exciting….Ellen said “that was beautiful”…..Kara said she admittedly never heard the song before she found out Mike was singing it and that he did an incredible job and it was very tasteful….and Simon said for the first time we can take Mike seriously as an artist, and that it was terrific. This time I actually agreed with the judges on Big Mike.

Andrew Garcia did Chris Brown’s “Forever,” and he finally has gotten back on track in a big way. Mrs. Mike loved it more than the judges, and maybe even more than Andrew’s wife and mom (who I think was cursing Simon out in Spanish). Randy said “Andrew is back!” and that it was a “dope” version of the song, and Andrew’s best in a long time….Ellen said it was amazing….Kara said it was a giant leap in the right direction…and Simon said it was miles better than the last few performances of Andrew’s, but that he still needs to show a bit more personality as the weeks move on.

Lee Dewyze took on The Temptations’ “Treat Her Like a Lady” and it was a very cool guitar-driven version. There is no denying Lee can sing, but he really brought it last night. Randy said it was unbelievable, Lee’s best showing in weeks, and “the bomb”…Ellen said “there ya go”….Kara said she thinks Lee could record that on his first album….and Simon said that while he’s always believed in Lee, that “this is the night your life may change forever.” Way to inject drama, Simon! But he’s right.

THE IN-BETWEEN

Siobhan Magnus kicked things off last night with Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire,” and for as much as I love Siobhan, it was one of her worst performances so far. Coupled with the fact that she led the night off, and I hate to say she could be in danger tonight. It wasn’ totally awful, but by her standards it wasn’t good. There were some pitch problems, some moments where she was straining, and then the fact she had to throw in more screams that added up to about a C-plus or B-minus. Randy said Siobhan has a big voice but that she was all over the place pitch-wise…..Ellen said it was a bit off by Siobhan’s standards but that she still loves her….Kara said Siobhan looked nervous, and that some parts of it weren’t strong but that she’s earned the right to have an off night….Simon said it sounded like Siobhan was singing while running a marathon, that she kept sounding out of breath. Yikes. Siobhan was clearly bummed out by the negative reaction, but she needs to go back and watch it.

Katie Stevens sang Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and I kept thinking that there was just something missing. I’m not a huge Katie fan to begin with, but no matter what I just can’t picture her as a star. Randy said it was disconnected vocally but still one of Katie’s best performances….Ellen said the vocals were great but that it didn’t sound current enough….Kara said she thinks Katie’s wheelhouse is R&B/pop, but that she still has to “get younger”….and Simon said it was pretty good but robotic, and he also said Katie needs to act more her age, that this came across at times like an audition for “Star Search.” Um, that’s sort of what this show is, isn’t it?

THE PRETTY BAD

Aaron Kelly had the pimp spot and sang Bill Withers’ classic, “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Let me tell you why this is a problem….Kris Allen did a version of this song last season that was one of the best renditions of any song in the history of “American Idol.” It’s also been done too many times on this show, but when someone like Kris does a version like he did, little Aaron Kelly’s version is going to sound like, well, little Aaron Kelly singing something he has no business singing. Randy said it started out rough but ended up “aight”….Ellen said it was a good song choice and a good job….Kara said she liked it…..and Simon said that compared to some of the really good performances last night, this one seemed like a “cupcake.” Okay, whatever…but I think the judges were too nice to Aaron….again. If you don’t believe me, go watch it back and then go watch Kris Allen’s version.

Tim Urban sang Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love,” and while it was pitchy in spots it wasn’t exactly horrible. Randy said there were pluses and minuses…that it was mostly in tune but had no vibe….Ellen said Tim is adorable but that she didn’t know why Tim was walking around the stage as if he were sneaking into a bedroom….Kara said it was too Broadway/Vegas, and that Tim took the soul out of the song. Tim then proceeded to laugh, and Simon said Tim was laughing because he doesn’t care what the judges think. He also said “it doesn’t make a difference what we think, you’ll be here next week.” Well, that remains to be seen this time.

THE REALLY BAD

I’m sorry, Didi Benami, but your version of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” was awful. Not only was it boring, but it had pitch problems like crazy. Randy said the whole performance seemed flat….Ellen said it was too dramatic and not Didi’s best….Kara said it was overdone, and that Didi has sort of lost her way….and Simon said it was over the top, old-fashioned, off pitch and that he agreed with Kara about Didi having lost her way. Then Ryan Seacrest tried to get Didi to cry, as she did in the video clip with Usher…either trying to get Didi sympathy votes or because he wanted to prove to us that he has douche tendencies. It definitely worked as far as the latter goes.

So there you have it. Your bottom three should be Didi, Tim and either Katie or Aaron. And to be honest, I won’t have a problem with any of them going home. But based on last night, it should be Didi.

What do you all think?

  

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