momlogic's Vivian: When I learned that last night's guest mentor would be last year's "American Idol" runner-up, Adam Lambert, I was all fired up because he is the master of transforming arrangements to suit his vocal stylings (the makings of any true artist). And not for nothing, but this final nine -- with the exception of Big Mike and Crystal Bowersox -- kind of suck at that key element.
Quite fittingly, this week's surprise theme was the songs of Elvis Presley -- and in true Elvis style, the final nine flew to Las Vegas to consult with Elvis look-alike Lambert ... and experience a performance of The King's music, Cirque du Soliel style!
Lambert said that he was honored to be a mentor -- the first-ever former contestant chosen. "I love Elvis because he was a showman," he said. "He was the full, complete artist's package. Today, my mission is to be completely honest, but constructive. Hopefully, they take the spirit of Elvis Presley and they inject that into these songs, and they give you something to listen to, to look at and to feel."
momlogic favorite Crystal Bowersox blew the doors off her opening number, "Saved." The reason behind her song choice? "I love the gospel music and blues, and that's really where my roots are, so I can connect to it," she said. During rehearsal, Lambert advised her to play the electric guitar instead of her usual acoustic, so she could "keep it fresh and surprise people."
Whist strumming a glittery Les Paul that would befit a King, MamaSox worked the sh*t out of her voice during the song. It was one of her best performances, in my opinion. Randy said, "Every week, I know I say this like a broken record. But dude: That's the way to come out and give it up. You have energy, it was dope ... you have this whole blues-cool vibe going on. I thought I was listening to somebody's record. It could've been the second coming of Bonnie Raitt or something. I loved it!" Ellen agreed wholeheartedly with Randy, even asking if anyone in the audience had a birthday, because she couldn't come up with a new way to say how great Crystal was. Kara called it "another solid performance" and said that she loved the up-tempo. Simon joked that he could personally relate to the lyrics, then said, "What I loved about that was that you didn't choose an obvious song. You chose something that suited you. You put your own slant on it, and most importantly, you didn't fall into the karaoke trap -- which I think a lot of people are going to do tonight."
Next up was dad Andrew Garcia, who chose "Hound Dog." Lambert said Andrew's rehearsal left him wanting more, and encouraged him to "change it up." And Garcia did change it up, but unfortunately that change was not for the better. "I hate to say this, but Simon Cowell kind of predicted it earlier," said Randy. "That was not-good karaoke. I didn't like it at all." Ellen thought Andrew pulled it off, but wished he'd put more "swagger" into it. Kara also wanted more swagger, and Simon called it "lazy and unpredictable." Ruh-roh.
Next, "Teflon Tim" Urban put forth a surprisingly beautiful rendition of "Can't Help Falling In Love." Randy said he actually "liked it" and Ellen really enjoyed it. Kara said it was probably her "favorite Tim performance ever" and Simon said that Tim had managed to go from "zero to hero in two weeks." So things are looking good for Tim. Following him was Lee DeWyze, with "A Little Less Conversation." He slowed the arrangement down a tad and went for it vocally, giving one of his greatest performances. Randy said it was "in the zone," Ellen said he'd made it really current, Kara was impressed that he finally went for it and Simon called it "on the money, full stop."
During Aaron Kelly's "Blue Suede Shoes" rehearsals, Lambert accurately pointed out that young Aaron "doesn't quite believe in himself yet." In the end, Aaron sounded good and mustered up some swagger, but was it enough? Randy said he liked Aaron's song better when he broke into the blues half time part. Ellen gave him "an 'A' for effort." Kara said she really liked it because Aaron was out of his comfort zone, but Simon grimaced and said the performance was like someone "at a high school doing a concert at the end" and that it was "very karaoke." Let's call Aaron number two of the bottom three, shall we?
Siobhan Magnus' tendency to sway between classical theatric vocals and soulful belting was made very obvious when the true Elvis fan tackled "Suspicious Minds." Kara pointed out that it's like she has "two voices" and "it's getting confusing." Simon thought the first half was "terrible," and the second was "erratic and screechy." She gracefully responded that she's just not one kind of singer and that she can't label herself. But here's the rub -- she's not getting that the music industry NEEDS to package her to sell records. She desperately needs a cohesive sound, and a sound that's a lot more contemporary than the one she used to win the high school talent contest. That said, I say with sadness that she's my final pick for tonight's bottom three.
The recipient of last week's big save, Big Daddy Mike attacked "In The Ghetto" with just an acoustic guitar, piano and his voice, giving me goosebumps I haven't felt since Lambert did Tears For Fears "Mad World" last year. Randy said it was a little sleepy but the vocals were HOT. Ellen said she was glad they saved him. Kara said it was a beautiful song and he definitely sang it well. And Sir Simon said it was "a million billion times better than last week," and one of the "favorite performances" he'd done. So it looks like Big Daddy is back on track at last.
Katie Stevens mustered her best strut in the spirit of Elvis with "What Do You Want Me To Do," working the camera hard while giving some neck. I liked the vocal a lot, but couldn't help but wish she'd infused some of Siobhan's ballsier notes into the end. Randy said he "was entertained," Ellen joked it was a "very horny song, a lot of horns in it." Kara loved it, saying, "I think you just showed us, girl!" Simon found it "loud and a bit annoying." What happens with voters here will be a toss-up, but I called little Katie Stevens a dark horse from the get go, and last night hasn't changed my opinion.
Lastly, Casey James chose "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy" because it was "old school." I thought the tune was the perfect fit for his vocals -- which are improving by the second. Randy said he "didn't see anything different," but thought it was "another solid performance." Ellen said it "wasn't as exciting," but Casey's "always good." Kara thought it "fell short," and that there was "so much more to [Casey] that she hopes to see next week." And Simon called it a "wasted opportunity," but liked the vocal.
Who did Elvis the most justice? I think Miz MamaSox best shamed the competition, followed by Big Mike and Lee DeWyze. Katie Stevens and Casey James will be safe, and the bottom three will be Siobhan, Andrew and Aaron -- with Andrew and Aaron going home.
What do you guys think? Will I eat my words? Tune in to FOX tonight 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 The New York Times, 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.|