Wednesday, March 24, 2010

American Idol Season 9, Episode 24: Performances

The various openings that this show offers up to us, the American Idol obsessives, I mean, loyal viewers, are amazing. Ryan Seacrest's head floated ominously on a screen above the Top 11, who were lined up on stage. But then--Ryan is there at the end of the line, waiting for us. Oh, Ryan, don't ever change.

THIS is American Idol!

Know what my favorite part of American Idol is? If you guess the performances, you're wrong. My favorite part is when Ryan chooses to banter with the judges. While Kara is the serious judge, the other three realize that this is a reality show and play along with the silliness. Randy told us that this is a very important night, because only the Top 10 will make it onto the tour, and you want that opportunity. Ellen immediately jumped in and told us all to vote. Because that's the only way your favorite will stay in, you know! You got to vote! Ryan changed the subject quickly, because he is the master of witty banter. He spoke with Kara about Simon giving her a hard time with judges and their differences over song interpretation. Simon, of course, could not help but chime in. This egged Ryan on even more, getting him to tease Simon about his gray v-neck sweater, which I wondered for a bit if that wasn't what he wore last week.

The theme this week is #1 Hits from the Billboard Charts. Um, wasn't this the theme when we were dwindling down the Top 24 to the Top 12. When I looked this up last week, it was supposed to be Teen Idols, and I am not happy about being misinformed. I can promise that it won't happen again. Last night's mentor was one Miss Miley Cyrus, and at 17 was the youngest mentor in American Idol history. And while I know her career is on fire right now, I just don't think she was the best choice as a mentor, as evidenced by her choice to not critique the contestants but instead instruct them on how to connect with the audience. Um, but isn't the job of mentor supposed to be one of steering them in the right direction, especially vocally? Making them the best performer they can be?

Lee Dewyze was up first, singing "The Letter" by The Box Tops. This song has been sung on American Idol before, most famously by Michael Johns and Carly Smithson in Season 7. Honestly, they also sang it better. I didn't get the arrangement at all. I would have totally dropped those horns, and sang it like the rock song that it is. I mean, isn't that what Lee is? He likes the rock music, not this quasi-Latin thing that happened on stage last night. It was very odd seeing him without his guitar, but it was nice to see him move around the stage a little bit, like he's getting his confidence up. Not my favorite performance, even if the judges praised it.

Oh, Paige Miles. Please don't sing "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. It has a horrible history on American Idol. No one has ever performed it well. I mean, there's nothing wrong with being ambitious and wanting to do a better version than what has been performed before, but you have to respect superstition and let sleeping dogs lie. Unfortunately, she sang the entire song off-pitch. I kept hoping for it to get better when her voice got louder, but it didn't. I just heard sharp notes and a shaking voice. Definitely her worse performance, and a danger to go home. She was already in the bottom three last week.

Also in the bottom three last week was Tim Urban. And this week, he chose to sing...Queen? Are you freaking kidding me? What is this kid smoking that makes him think he can carry off a Queen song? Even if it is the most un-Queen-like song in their wheelhouse, it's still a Queen song. I don't think Tim could even carry off the Michael Buble version of this song. He doesn't have enough character in his voice. Richie even called it a "skating rink song". Tim definitely tried to distract the audience from his weak performance by doing stage acrobatic--sliding around the stage, jumping into a pool of screaming girls, etc. At least it wasn't off-pitch. That's really sad, actually.

Aaron Kelly is also suffering from laryngitis AND tonsillitis, so he gets a bit of a pass this week. It's not easy to sing when you're sick. Yikes. My heart went out to him. So apparently, Aaron not only auditioned with Miley Cyrus' "The Climb", but he also had a bit of a crush on her. On stage, the screens parted and he walked to the mic, singing Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing". It started off nicely. I like it when he uses his voice softly, because then it doesn't sound like baby goats are being murdered on stage. But the minute he starts hitting the big notes in the middle, the song goes off-pitch. I have to say, though, probably best performance to date.

Richie and I (and probably most of the American Idol audience) having been waiting for Crystal Bowersox to sing "Bobby McGee" since she first appeared on the show. She looked positively resplendent last night. She was wearing a dress and had her hair up, but it was all totally in character. And when I say character, I'm not saying that Crystal is playing a character. I'm saying that she still stayed true to herself. Do I even need to tell y'all how amazing her performance was? I was positively mesmerized. It reminded me of Janis Joplin's song, only Crystal's voice isn't as gritty, which gives the song an entirely new dimension. Richie's critique: She had that song by the throat and smacked the stink out of it!" I really just can't do better than that, folks.

I loved it when Ryan and Crystal sat down on the couch. He's just so funny and adorable. Can I have a mini-Ryan? I would like to put him on my new built-in bookshelves along side my miniature Tim Gunn and my miniature Christian Siriano. Tim would give me sound fashion advice and work with me on my vocabulary, Christian would build up my ego by tell me that I was fierce. We would look at magazines and watch television together, snarking all the while. Ryan would keep me up on the latest music, and we'd give Simon a hard time together. I think they'd be fun to travel with--I have the perfect purse to put them in.

So what if Michael Lynche's version of the Percy Sledge song "When A Man Loves A Woman" was a little old-fashioned? I have a hard time disliking anything that Michael does on stage. He is just smooth. His voice is smooth, his style is smooth, his performance is smooth. He has an absolutely amazing voice.

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye could have been a great choice for Andrew Garcia. If he had played it acoustically and had no background music except he and Ricky Minor jamming it out onstage. There could have been some great moments on that stage. I would have lost the background singers, too. But as it was, there was no magic on that stage. Andrew is struggling, and I could have strangled Kara for bringing up that Paula Abdul song again. Andrew needs to log on to What Not To Sing, the comprehensive American Idol encyclopedia that was created specifically to help struggling contestants with song choice. You could lose hours on there, not that I would know anything about that.

The judges have been waiting for Katie Stevens to sing a song like Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry". The song was more current than her previous choices, even if it still wasn't as uptempo as I'd like. At least the chorus was upbeat. She was a little sharp in places, and straining, pushing her voice a bit too much. She's getting better, though.

Of all the songs in the 100-year history of the Billboard Charts, Casey James chose Huey Lewis? I would have liked it better--I guess--if it didn't have the horns. I didn't get these choices or the arrangements with all the horns last night. Was there a sale on brass musicians in Hollywood? "Power of Love" is just such a cheesy song, and while Casey is a good singer and performer, this was completely uninspired. I have to give him points for sticking to his genre, that country-rock-blues thing he loves so much, but certainly there was a better song out there for Casey to sing.

I did not agree with the judges that DiDi Benami did a terrible job with Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good". Was it the best vocal of the night? No. Is she going to win American Idol? No. But it is nice to see a contestant really have fun with a song. I think she's improving each week, and that making the transition to the Kodak Theatre was the best thing for her.

Closing out the show was Siobhan Magnus, who sang Stevie Wonder's "Superstition". Before the commercial break, Richie and I were debating whether she was going to sing Stevie Wonder or Stevie Nicks--because Ryan only told us "Stevie", thanks, Ryan for leaving us hanging like that--and I literally stopped mid-sentence and said, "Oh my gosh, look at her hair!" Which I guess the desired effect when you have hair and makeup coif you into a faux-hawk. Oh, Siobhan. I know you're a strange duck and all, and that's awesome, but you're about Sanjaya levels of gimmickry. Speaking of gimmicks, Richie and I are a little tired of the scream. Yeah, it was awesome once or twice, but now it's time to cut it down, because screaming is not what should set you apart from the other contestants. It should be your talent. When she sings, I'm stuck dumbfounded. I'm just like, "whoa". Like I've certainly turned into Keanu Reeves from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. She's that good. But yeah, just like Simon said, it's time to pull back from it a little bit. save it for when it counts. Also, don't wear doilies on your shirt and call them sleeves. Just saying. But yeah, great way to close us out last night.

Overall, I just wasn't impressed last night. I felt that the song choice, save two or three selections, was seriously lacking, as well as is charisma. We've got a weak group this year, and those that are good are miles above the rest. Miley wasn't that much of a mentor, because "they were already good", but for every singer there is always room for improvement. Her appearance mostly just felt like a promo for her new movie, "The Last Song".

Bottom Three: Paige Miles, Tim Urban, and DiDi Benami

Top Three: Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, and Ricky Minor, who played every stringed instrument known to man while jamming on one little corner of the stage, practically stealing the spotlight from the contestants.

Tonight--results and Miley performs. Also performing? Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas. Um, are you sure we didn't just have Disney night or Teen Sensation night? Did Disney just buy out Fox and I wasn't made aware? Someone needs to keep me up on these things.


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