But holy cow, the fashion quotient sure went up a notch! Our fave gurl Crystal Bowersox looked badass in an elegant, low-cut black gown, her dreads swept up in a graceful, loose bun. Big Daddy Mike Lynche's Members Only-esque jacket, on the other hand, kind of made him look like a bouncer. But I digress.
Anywho, Keys said that she "really wanted to help [the contestants] find what they're made of." Who better to do that than the decade's top-selling R&B artist?
Hawt ponytail man Casey James was up first, with Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." He came off as a little disconnected; his vocals were a tad pitchy, and the arrangement didn't sway at all from the original. But he played his gee-tar reaaal purdy. Kara said he "wasn't showing what made him different," and Simon chided him for his lack of emotion and originality. Yikes.
Next up was Lee DeWyze, who sang THE HELL out of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer." I don't know if it was his sideswept bangs or what, but Lee really had his mojo working. His unconventional song choice and authentic vocal delivery resulted in the second-best performance of the night. Randy said that Lee was a "great artist ready to make great music" and that he was "going to have a big career." Kara declared (emphatically) that he'd just had his moment. SAFE!
Initially, I thought that Tim Urban had chosen well by performing The Goo Goo Dolls' "Better Days." But he got off to a pitchy start, and weak vocal issues continued throughout. Randy said it sounded just "OK," and Ellen likened Tim to a daily soup special, saying that she "didn't like the soup today." Kara said it wasn't "the best execution" of the song, and Simon said that even though Tim has improved over the weeks, the performance was "a little bit of a letdown."
Little Aaron Kelly bravely took on R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." (Can you believe that the first time Aaron sang it was at his preschool graduation?!) Randy gave him props for his "pure vocal talent," but Simon said that, although he liked Aaron, he'd have turned the song off if he'd heard it on the radio. Ew.
My homie Siobhan Magnus went forth with Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey's "When You Believe" -- which, as Keys said, "is no easy feat." Siobhan really sounded great, but didn't veer much from the original arrangement. Randy said it was "just OK" for him, but Ellen disagreed and said that it was "more confirmation" as to why Siobhan's here. Kara said it was technically "well-sung" but felt very "dramatic" -- and added that Siobhan still doesn't know who she is. Finally, Simon said that he thought the arrangement was "old-fashioned." Poor Siobhan had to stick up for herself in the end again. She handled it gracefully and gratefully, which will win the hearts of voters who might be on the fence about her.
And now for Big Daddy Mike Lynche! He said that he had chosen the "Spiderman" movie theme "Hero," by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, because it was on a list of 200 songs he wanted to perform on "Idol" if he made it on the show. I get a lil' miffed when the judges harsh this guy, because next to someone like "Teflon" Tim Urban, he's a consummate pro. Randy said he'd been worried about this song choice for Big Mike, but that "it worked out" and he "held his own." Ellen said he did a "great job." Kara, however, thought Big Mike didn't have the tone for the song, and that the song became "unrecognizable." Simon said that Big Mike sang it "pretty well" but that "it felt a little bit artificial" and "didn't quite gel" for him -- adding that he still thought Big Mike would be around next week. Fingers crossed Big Daddy avoids the ax!
And now, the best for last .... Crystal "MamaSox" Bowersox actually got on stage without an instrument strapped to her! She chose to perform "People Get Ready," by The Impressions (the tune was written by the brilliant Curtis Mayfield). Keys declared MamaSox as one of her faves and bestowed a full-scale endorsement, saying, "I know that people are going to love this performance."
MamaSox sang the entire first verse a cappella, infusing some of her own amazing old-school style R&B riffs into the arrangement and blowing the doors off the place. This was a performance worth seeing. And right after she let go of this crazy, beautiful note at the end, she burst into tears!
Here's the feedback from the horses' mouths:
Randy: "I've been a fan since day one. That is how you do it. That was unbelievable -- gotta give you the standing!" And he stood up to clap.
Ellen: "You have never looked more beautiful. You just get more and more beautiful. And you keep evolving and growing and getting better and better."
Kara: "Thank you so much for taking a risk and putting your guitar down. You're on another level tonight. And MamaSox, you know why they call you that? Because you just schooled ALL those contestants!"
Simon: "Now, that was inspirational. And you know what, Crystal? I'm actually, in a strange way, happy to see you emotional, because you have kind of, like, closed down a little. All of us felt that this song meant something to you. You sang it fantastically, and for me, it was in a completely different class to everything we've heard tonight. Congratulations."
When Seacrest asked Crystal why it was such an emotional song, she said, "My dad's here. And it's the first time he's been here. I saw my dad, and I was like, 'Thank the Lord for my family!'" Seacrest then offered her a tissue (which was taped to his sleeve!), and they wrapped their arms around each other -- even though yesterday's Hollywood Life said that a feud was brewin' between the two of them.
Clearly, the night's leader was our MamaSox, followed by Lee DeWyze. After last week's shaming, dare I predict who's going home? Of course I do!
I LOATHE to say this, but it's either going to be Big Mike or Siobhan -- when by rights it should be either Casey or Tim. (The little-girl quotient will rise to save the latter two.)
Who do you think will be ousted this evening? Tune in to FOX tonight for an "Idol Gives Back" extravaganza -- and check in with me tomorrow for the recap!