momlogic's Vivian: The stakes are always high for the finalists on "American Idol," but as only the top 10 contestants get to go on tour, getting through last night was especially important. As Simon so eloquently put it, "Tonight would be like if you need six numbers on a lottery ticket and you only get five. You don't go on the tour, you lose a lot of money. It would be very damaging to your career. It's the worst night to go." And I tell you, the second the top 11 walked out on stage, I had a flash as to who was about to hit the bricks and proclaimed it out loud -- Hubs as my witness. Read on and I just might share.
The contestants could pick any out of 116 years' worth of songs off the Billboard Hot 100 list. Mentor Miley Cyrus met with each singer during rehearsal and the insights she shared were as seasoned as any pro's far beyond her 17 years. She took in the show from her prime seat in the audience (with her mom!), and said she learned a lot from her stint as mentor. "It made me look at myself and other performances that I've done," she said.
First up was Lee DeWyze, who got all Joe Cocker with his grand approach to "The Letter," by the Box Tops. The horns and backup vocals drowned him out at times, and as Miley had warned, his stage presence WAS lacking, but he sounded decent. Ellen likened him to a favorite pen that ran out of ink ... until tonight. "My favorite pen is back," she said. "That was fantastic!" Kara told him he'd "raised the bar for himself" and that his "progress was tremendous," but Simon countered that it wasn't a "recording performance" and that it was "quite corny."
Paige was the one I picked to go home before she even opened her mouth, which bummed me out because I feel she has more potential than a few of the other remaining singers. She hadn't fully recovered from her tonsillitis, and watching her suffer through the song was equally painful for all who watched. With tears of defeat welling in her eyes, the poor thing warbled through Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" with as much grace as she could muster, considering that all key and pitch was lost on her. Randy called her performance "honestly terrible," and Simon put it bluntly when he said, "That song killed you." And gong went the death knell.
During his nervy, hammy rendition of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," Tim Urban slid across the stage like he was auditioning for the role of Zac Efron's understudy. Randy aptly called this mess "bad karaoke," and Simon put the nail on Tim's coffin by saying he had "zero chance of winning" unless he "took some singing lessons." Yeouch. Little Aaron Kelly was also recovering from tonsillitis, but managed to do a nice job with Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing." Kara called it "the best song choice of the night." But Ryan summed it up best when he called poor Aaron, "David Archuleta," likening him to last year's near-winner.
Our girl MamaSox hit the stage all gussied up, complete with dress and dreads in a bun. She slung her acoustic and did a minimalistic, country-gospel turn of Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee," slaughtering each challenging note with grace and panache. Believe it or not, her gentrified appearance and arrangement of the song made it elegant. Randy called her a "star" and a "dope singer," adding, "THIS is what it's about!" Ellen shared that she'd just heard that song on the radio and thought of Crystal, but even though she was "consistently great," there was "something between [Crystal] and the audience." Kara said she saw Crystal smiling and moving more, but advised dropping the guitar so she could "let go completely." Crystal countered this with a wink and said that she had "big plans for next week." Simon -- MamaSox's biggest fan on the panel -- said he "wouldn't change a thing," and that up until now the show was a "karaoke competition." He also said, "P!nk does one of the best versions of that song we've ever heard, and that was as good as that, in my opinion."
Lofty words there, Simon! Personally, I can't wait to see what MamaSox does when she puts down that guitar. They've clearly got her in mind to be groomed into being the next Jewel, but I REALLY wish she'd venture away from this rootsy shizz and do something more radical to show she can make anything hers -- like put her spin on a Bowie or Radiohead tune.
And now for Big Daddy Mike Lynche. His performance, along with Crystal's, were the best of the night. Even though his choice of "When a Man Loves a Woman" was a bit obvious, he always comes off as the consummate pro, and the big note at the end was CRAZY good. Randy said it "wasn't his best vocal yet," but that Mike "sang the you-know-what out of it." Ellen said it was safe, "like driving the speed limit," but that his voice was great. Kara said she loved him and that technically he was really good, but there were too many riffs and she "lost a connection" with him. Simon said it was "almost too much," and that the performance would've been stronger if it was just Mike and a piano instead of a larger production.
In spite of Andrew Garcia's somewhat charismatic stage presence, his version of "Heard It Through the Grapevine" fell flat -- literally and figuratively. Simon warned that he'd "had enough time to sort himself out" and that he'd made himself "really, really corny." This season's Diana DeGarmo, high-school student Katie Stevens, put on some leather and got all Demi Lovato-esque in doing Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry." Although it was weak in some spots, she'd greatly improved her look and stage presence. Ellen called her the "Dakota Fanning of 'American Idol'" and Simon said that meeting Miley was the best thing that had happened to her, as she'd turned her look and sound from "pageant horror" to something more current and fresh.
Hottie Casey James had the nerve to blow the dust off of the '80s Huey Lewis and the News hit, "The Power of Love," but with horns and backup singers galore, the scale of the production was a bit campy and weird for the blues-rocker. Simon said it was like watching an "'80s cover band" and that Casey had put forth "no effort and no personality." Eesh! The overrated Didi Benami finally revealed the weakness of her voice, but tried to compensate by getting all theatrical during Linda Ronstadt's '70s song, "You're No Good." Kara said she was "playing a character," and Simon nailed it when he pointed out the irony of her "screeching out" the title of the song. SNAP!
Finally, Siobhan, the third-most-talented singer of the lot, donned a considerable faux hawk and blew through a competent rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." Her ability to go all Lambert and belt out these insane closing notes succeed in reminding us of her vocal prowess, but after a few weeks of this same formula, the ploy is now bordering on obnoxious and formulaic. Randy and Ellen loved it, and Kara said, "How do you say that end note's not amazing?" But Simon warned that Siobhan would see a real split in votes, and that her screaming at the end of each song was getting tired. He said that Crystal was in "another league" and that "tonight was not a good night." Hmmmmmm ....
I predict that Paige will be nixed, which means she'll miss out on the tour. But will voters agree? Do you? Let me know, and by all means, 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.|