Wednesday, March 17, 2010

American Idol Season 9, Episode 22: Top 12, Performances

Here we are folks, at the final countdown. Now is when the competition really begins.

You like that I took that life or death approach, didn't you? I'm like an armchair Seacrest or something.

When the lights came up, and all the contestants were lined up like mannequins, it looked more like Ryan Seacrest was touring the American Idol exhibit at a wax museum than introducing the show.

Last night, we finally made it back to the Kodak Theatre, which will be our home for the next twelve weeks. Randy Jackson, Ellen Degeneres, Kara DioGuardi, Simon Cowell, and Ryan were all announced by some random voiceover artist as they walked onto the stage, like we were watching a trailer for American Idol: The Movie. They've definitely come a long way since Season 1, haven't they? Oh, and they were all in varying shades of gray. How cute was that? Well, Randy was in more of a light blue, but it could go in the same color wheel, so we'll allow it.

The American Idol screens open...and the mannequins are alive! Run for your lives! Oh, wait, no. It's actually the contestants, with Katie Stevens leading the pack. False alarm. The separation of the sexes is finally over! All the kids were in the pool last night, and singing the songs of The Rolling Stones.

Though I am definitely more of a Beatles fan (Have you played Beatles Rockband yet? I'm a five-star player, just in case you were wondering), I just cannot deny the power of that opening riff in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as Ryan spoke about The Rolling Stones' influence on popular music. It is so powerful and iconic. You know it immediately and it makes your heart race.

Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS is American Idol!

Have you noticed how the producers love to put Michael Lynche either first or last? He's the producers' go-to man for opening and closing the show, because they know he's a crowd-pleaser. And you know what? They are totally right to do this, because Michael Lynche singing "Miss You" and working that stage is exactly what was needed to open this show on the right note. He opened the song with the falsetto that I love, and then dove right in to the deep, bluesy notes. I wasn't crazy about the slightly outdated arrangement, but Mike overcame that with an excellent vocal and a great performance.

How much did you all love the little altercation between Ryan and Simon? I know that I did, in big bunches and heaps. It's always so funny to see them spar, because they are so obviously friends and love ribbing each other. It does prove what we've known all long, though, that Ryan is absolutely the contestants' advocate, mouthing off to the judges where they can't, so they can still be likable and get those much needed votes.

DiDi Benami was the second performance of the night, singing "Play With Fire". This was a very different kind of performance from her and I liked it. It was sultry and strong. Dare I say it? Sexy, even. My favorite performance of hers to date. She really connected with the song. I felt like she really felt it. For the first time, she didn't sound like a copycat singer. She sounded like herself. Also for the first time in 5 weeks, she didn't cry onstage. Score!

Casey James was up next, and sang "It's All Over Now". Wow, were we ever on a roll last night! The first three performances were totally on target. Maybe it's this group, maybe it's this theme, but they are totally on fire. Casey smartly chose a song with a blues-country feel and used it completely to his advantage, which is what you have to do in this competition. Again, when Ellen brought up his looks, he still looked incredibly embarrassed. He genuinely seems to be a nice, humble guy who is also very talented.

Why did Lacey Brown choose to open "Ruby Tuesday" with a string quartet while wearing castoffs from Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield" video? None of it looked or sounded right. The entire song was almost completely unrecognizable until the very end of the song. If this performance had a "dislike" button, I would have totally chosen it.

Was the sound messed up during Andrew Garcia's performance? The mic sounded strange and I could barely hear the music while he sang "Gimme Shelter". Though this was better than last week, I still think Andrew is struggling, trying to battling his way back from the mind games of the judges. He needed to work on his stage presence, too, instead of doing that nervous pace in front of the judges. He divided the judges, and I can understand why. Continue to improve, Andrew! You need to stay in the competition! It's all about the redemption arc. See Season 4: Bo Bice for reference.

Katie Stevens sang "Wild Horses" in a super-cute dress. I loved that print. A day later, and I'm still thinking about it. So, I also kind of love this song, because it's what Buffy and Angel danced to at the prom in Season Three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's forever ingrained in my mind as a beautiful, haunting, romantic song. And of course, Buffy and Angel just pull at my heartstrings anyway. Have any of you been reading the Season 8 comics that Joss has been putting out? Angel back, and it's STILL heart-wrenching. *SIGH* Oh, wait, we were talking about a song, weren't we? Yes! Katie Stevens' performance! She was back-lit and very pretty, and I was not even a little surprised by her song choice. Once again, she chose a slow song. I believe she's afraid of uptempo music, but I would love to hear her take a stab at it. The beginning was a bit off-key, but she recovered by the end.

Why did Tim Urban sing "Under My Thumb" as re-imagined by Jason Mraz? Not that I don't like Jason Mraz; I really do. I don't even think he would have arranged the song that way, though. This is such a raw song, and Tim sang it like he was entertaining us at a clambake. I half expected Annette Funnicello to come running by in her bikini. This is a song about a guy tipping the power scales in his relationship and taking it to the extreme, but Tim makes it sound light and airy. I understand about making a song your own, but you need to preserve the integrity of the song!

Our resident odd duck of the competition, Siobhan Magnus, could not have chosen a more perfect song to sing this week, "Paint It Black". What started off as a tribute to Edith Piaf, sitting on those red steps in her black dress (the boots were a mistake, though. I would chosen booties, but who am I?) ended as a powerful song full of primal rage. She is very striking, isn't she? She has definitely grown on me, and I like her more and more each week, even if she does frighten me a bit. She is quite an impressive vocalist, and I do hope she takes care of her voice, because if she screams every week, she's going to lose her voice. So the little odd duck is very brave, and also has a good sense of humor about herself.

Lee Dewyze sang an arrangement of "Beast of Burden" that was his own, but honored the original. I'm still singing it a day later. Richie said it was very Dave Matthews, and Randy agreed. It's always nice when the judges agree with you, isn't it? If he were to make a CD, this song should totally be on it. (Lee, not Dave Matthews. Although, I wouldn't oppose a Dave Matthews remake.) My only problem with his performance is that he was so nervous. I want someone to give him a huge shot of confidence, so he can explode onstage and have that "moment" Simon has been going on about.

Paige Miles has amazingly beautiful eyes, doesn't she? I wasn't expecting her to choose "Honky-Tonk Woman", but I wasn't disappointed. She never chooses what I think she's going to choose. I felt like I was hearing her voice for the first time, and it is quite an instrument. She had a couple of pitch issues, and she needed to work the stage a little more, but overall it was a good performance.

Aaron Kelly was next, and he chose "Angie". What I loved about this performance is that the entire performance was goat-free, and allowed us to actually hear his voice, which is nice, because he kept it soft and low. He and Tim Urban need to form their own boy band. Call themselves Idyll or something like that. They should ask Kevin Covais and Sanjaya to join! They might get their own show on Nickelodeon. Aaron's performance was a little too low-key for my taste, but I didn't hate it. Although I did hate his hair. Why push it all forward like that guy from Ghost Adventures? I half expected him to start screaming at paranormal entities when the song was finished.

Crystal Bowersox closed the show with "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Richie saw the peacock feather right away, and wondered if it was a tribute to Lilly Scott. She confirmed it in her interview with Ryan afer she sang. I loved her gorgeous, effortless voice and that bluesy rendition of the song. The judges didn't think it was her best performance, but I think she gets better all the time. I was hoping that someone good would sing this song, and lo and behold if my prayers weren't answered. I guess I can always get what I want, no matter what The Stones tell me. Her arrangement was really fresh, and I never get tired of her performances. I absolutely can't wait for the next performance.

I was really worried about how well last night's performances would turn out, because it's never easy to sing songs that were written for a band when you're a solo artist, but overall, I was really pleased with the results. It was a night of good, solid performances, and a couple of moment makers. It actually makes me look forward to next week just to see what they'll do.

Josie's Bottom Three: Lacey Brown, Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia

Results Wednesday night.


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