momlogic's Vivian: Last night's "American Idol" was all about Soul/R&B, a genre that fits many of this year's Top 10, but proved too much of a challenge for a handful of them. And mentor Usher was more than willing to put forth his two cents for the greater good. "I will be brutally honest and may hurt your feelings," he said. "But it's because I want you to be great."
In spite of this ominous warning, Usher wasn't particularly harsh with any of the "Idol" wannabes. Instead, the evening's Maleficent was Ryan Seacrest, who took every available opportunity to humiliate a number of the contestants with his pressing on-the-spot questions and hijinks.
Opener and MamaSox-competitor Siobhan Magnus boldly ventured into sacred Chaka Khan territory with a valiant stab at Khan's ballad, "Through the Fire," but her voice gave way under the strain of the song's most pivotal moments. Randy still admired her "courage and conviction," and Kara felt her previous performances earned her "an off night." By taking on Sam and Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'," hottie Casey James FINALLY put out on stage in a way we've been hoping for, proving himself a contender. Randy applauded his song choice, both Kara and Ellen felt it was a bit safe, but Simon was impressed, saying it was the "strongest week [he's] had so far."
As R&B/Soul is truly Big Daddy Mike Lynche's thang, his acoustic take on "Ready for Love" by India.Arie was a nuanced display of his ability to put his personal stamp on the genre. It was modern, melancholy and truly beautiful. Randy said he was "in the zone," Ellen called it "beautiful," Kara said he did "an incredible job," and Simon said he could actually take Big Mike "seriously as an artist." That said, it's safe to say that baby Laila's daddy should make it through for another week.
But poor little Didi Benami was WAY out of her element. Her limited vocal range was exposed with her emotional take on "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted." Kara broke it (and Didi) down by saying, "It's over. Done." She also said that Didi didn't know who she was (as an artist). Ellen called her performance "way dramatic," and Simon likened it to "swimming in jelly." Seacrest took this opportunity to press Didi about why she'd chosen that song and who she wanted to sing it to. She seethed with steely reluctance as he left her emotionally exposed in front of millions.
Poseur extraordinaire "Teflon" Tim Urban managed to slice, dice and julienne his rendition of Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" to the point that it was utterly comical. His attempts to seduce the lens reminded me of the wide-eyed glare a little kid shoots when holding back tears. Kara called it "too Broadway," but Simon said it didn't make a difference what they'd say, because nobody cares and the "Idol" anomaly would likely return to assault our eardrums again next week.
The other daddy of the crew, Andrew Garcia, managed a triumphant comeback with his spare, acoustic take on Chris Brown's "Forever." Kara said that nothing made her happier than to say he'd taken "one giant leap in the right direction," but Simon noted his "boring" personality. Things livened up when Seacrest invited Andrew's flamboyantly adorable mom up on stage to endorse her son. Next up, little miss Katie Stevens left the stuffed animals on her bed and shed her good-girl look like Sandy at the end of "Grease," emerging all tarted up and ready for action. As I predicted, this girl is a dark horse with the potential to withstand the next few weeks. Ellen admired her "Snookie pouf," Randy likened her to a "young Christina [Aguilera]," Kara said she'd found her sound, but Simon said it was all "a little 'Star Search.'"
Along with MamaSox (she's coming next! swear!), the standout performance of the night belonged to Lee DeWyze, who took on the Cornelius Brothers' classic, "Treat Her Like a Lady." It was the best Randy had heard him in weeks, and Simon said, "When you watch this back, you'll see this is the night your life may have changed forever." Well done, Wyze man.
I gotta say, MamaSox done cleaned up REAL good. In a beautifully fitted red dress and stilettos (yes! stilettos!), she took to the piano with a beautiful shot at Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia." GAWD how I wish she hadn't ended before the riffs at the end. Randy called it "another great performance," Ellen said she's "never not good," Kara applauded her for taking a risk and said she "can't wait to see what's next," and Simon said her choice of song was sensational and her vocal incredible, but called her use of backing vocals "old-fashioned." "Don't let the process suck the identity out of you," he warned. "What you were doing before was fantastic. I've got no issues with you whatsoever. You are the kind of artist who knows what they should be doing."
Our sassy MamaSox countered that she wouldn't do anything she wasn't comfortable with, and in her après-performance commentary remarked, "Tonight I took a risk, and I think it paid off. I just want to prove that I'm not just one thing. I'm a multifaceted person and artist. So there you go."
And we say, "YOU go, girl!"
Finally, young Aaron Kelly is so damn "Glee." The high-school student could've picked a song less picked-over than Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," but the final result was a little weak. Still, Simon predicted that he'd resist elimination another week.
Will viewers applaud MamaSox's versatility? Will they give Siobhan one more chance? Tune in to FOX tonight at 9/8 CST to see what happens for yourself -- or tune in right here tomorrow!
|Vivian Manning-Schaffel serves as momlogic's East Coast Editor. She has written for Babble, Parenting, The Advocate, The New York Post, Business Week and a variety of other publications and lives and works in the heart of breeder Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. She authors two pop culture blogs: The Mad Mom and A Hag Supreme, and is on the web at vivianmanningschaffel.com.|