momlogic's Vivian: Last night's "American Idol" finally made me feel like all of the contestants are really starting to compete. Taking on the Lennon/McCartney songbook, the "Idols" had a wealth of material with which to maximize their talents. Referring to the songs, Kara said, "They're as meaningful and relevant today as they were when they came out." The challenge was to arrange and perform them in a modern, relevant way.
Aaron Kelly -- who I fondly call "Little Mr. 'Glee,'" and who his brethren artists call "Yoda" -- kicked things off. He balladeered "The Long and Winding Road," and although his voice was fairly consistent, the performance was too straight and came off as lackluster. Ellen even ventured to call it "the long and winding song," and Simon said it was plainly "old-fashioned." The other Junior Mint of the bunch, Katie Stevens, followed, and, as I predicted, worked it out in the judges' eyes with her spare, country-tinged take on "Let It Be." Randy called it her "best performance ever," Kara was proud of her "blossoming" and Simon, thrilled that she'd taken his advice to go country, said, "You got it right."
Even though dad Andrew Garcia has been been chided by the judges for his "lack of personality" onstage, his fellow "Idols" couldn't stop talking about his entertaining antics offstage. His energized version of "Can't Buy Me Love" got all Brian Setzer in terms of arrangement. Randy appreciated this, calling it "solid" and "interesting," Ellen said it was a "lot of fun" and Kara wanted to love it, but said that Andrew wasn't showing her any part of himself she didn't already know. Simon likened Andrew's performance to when the guitarist in a wedding band gets to sing his one song, and said that Andrew "got it all wrong." Ruh-roh.
New daddy Michael Lynche courageously chose "Eleanor Rigby" as a nod to his family, who had performed the classic when touring with their family band, "The Lynche Mob." By far one of the best vocalists of the lot, he managed to R&B it up by twisting the groove a little -- and deserved kudos for really making it his own. Randy admired his confidence and said, "That could really be a joint on your album. I love seeing the artist in you blossom!" Ellen said, "You can do anything!" Kara thought his performance was "fire," and said, "You made that song commercial today for this generation, and relevant -- and that's what this show is about." But Simon didn't love it as much as the other three, saying it was "over the top" and that it made Big Mike "go slightly backwards."
Shedding the skirts and stilettos, our GURL Crystal Bowersox rallied her nouveau-hippie self in spite of catching the cold that has been plaguing the "Idol" camp -- and basked in a lot of love from her fellow "Idols." They actually call her MamaSox, because, as Siobhan said, "It's not just because she literally IS a mother, but she's a mothering type of person. She sincerely cares about other people all the time." Tim said, "[Crystal is] funny, she's goofy, she's a really awesome individual." Andrew, who bonded with Crystal over their parental roles, said affectionately, "She's a beautiful mother. We're trying to live our dream and provide for our kids doing what we love." Aaron said he admires how she "doesn't care what anybody else thinks," and Lee, who met her during the audition process in Chicago, called her "one of the most original, kindest people I know. She's never going to lie to you. She'll tell you how it is right up to your face, and that's what I like about her." About her steadfast approach, Crystal herself said that her "Idol" strategy was quite Zen and simple. "Stay true to yourself," she said, before explaining that she'd chosen to do "Come Together" mainly because of its "fun groove."
While clearly enjoying that groove, Badass Bowersox's effortless voice was like the best steak you've ever had -- it cut easy, was plenty juicy and went down smooth. Oh, and did I mention that she had the sack to augment all this with a digideroo?
Randy applauded her solid performance by saying, "I don't know if it was your best, but I love how you got into your groove at the end, hitting the high notes and the big notes, changing the melody up .... It definitely worked." Ellen's only beef was with having to come up with new ways to tell Crystal how great she is. In my opinion, Kara nailed it when she said, "I think this is one of my favorite performances. It kind of had a Bonnie Raitt feel; where you took the melody musically, I never would have thought of. But it was slinky, it was sexy, it was playful, you were smiling. If I have any critique of you, it's sometimes you're serious. You're in your head. And I felt you were more accessible tonight. So I'm going to say it was one of my favorite performances of the night." Simon capped it off with, "That's a song or performance that I could hear on the radio. It just worked. It's very interesting to hear you say in your film about just being true to yourself. This is why you are working. You really helped prove a point which I was trying to make on Michael, which is: That's how you make a song work contemporary and on the radio. And as always, terrific. And much better, in my opinion, than last week." MamaSox then graciously invited the digideroo player onstage to introduce himself and, even more graciously, remained undeterred by her illness. Hey: As all moms know, sick days are for wimps.
How did the other suspects fare? Well, "Teflon" Tim, described by his ilk as -- surprise -- always smiling, made a very wise choice with "All My Lovin'." Although he is by far the weakest vocalist of the lot, he nailed the Beatles' guitar sound and turned in a decent performance. Ellen commended his "perfect song choice" and Kara said it was "solid," but the most surprising comment came from Simon, who said, "Taking everything into consideration, I thought you did really well tonight with that song."
I have to say that the best performance of the night belonged to Casey James, whose touching rendition of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" even left one of my rocker-dad pals all misty. With just an acoustic guitar and a cellist, Casey's rendition was delicious, heartfelt and beautiful. Randy dug his "sensitive vibe" and Ellen felt like it was his best performance to date. Kara liked that he was showing depth, but felt that he could still push himself. Simon bestowed him with the ultimate honor when he said, "It was the best performance of the night so far."
I have such a soft spot for my Massachusetts homie, Siobhan, who took a gentle, straight-up approach to "Across the Universe," devoid of any of those crazy-pants end notes she's become so fond of. Randy found her performance a little sleepy, but said, "Nobody in this competition for me screams 'artist' more than you." (Hey, she does have one of the best voices up there.) Kara "had trouble processing" her sedate, almost classical approach, but Simon called it "much, much, much better than last week."
Finally, Lee did a decent job of covering "Hey Jude," and I do love his voice, but I didn't think it was his best performance -- even with a bagpiper in tow. Randy told Lee he didn't have to be nervous, and Ellen applauded his smile and confidence. Kara said there were "good moments and bad moments," but she's "still a fan." Simon didn't like the bagpipe player at all, but didn't have any other critique.
My bottom-three predictions: Aaron, Tim and Andrew -- and sadly, I think we'll say goodbye to Andrew.
What did you think of the show? Will MamaSox reign supreme once again? Or will Casey dethrone our queen?
Tune in to FOX tonight to see what happens for yourself -- or tune in right here tomorrow!