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American Idol: Bagpipes, Didgeridoos And Decent Singing, Oh My!

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Last week when Ryan Seacrest announced that the nine remaining American Idol contestants were going to be singing songs from the Lennon/McCartney songbook I was less than thrilled. I really didn't like the idea of the theme being repeated, especially when season seven had done such an outstanding job. However, last night's performances were much better than I could have ever expected. American Idol season nine's Top 9.

There were a lot of songs sang last night that have been performed previously on the show, which leads me to believe that only a handful of Lennon/McCartney songs have been cleared for Idol. Which is fine, but it definitely just leaves the contestants wide open to comparisons.

Aaron Kelly opened the show with "The Long And Winding Road." For some reason this week, I thought Aaron would try to avoid doing a song that has already been done well by a previous contestant, but apparently not. I get that he's embracing the idea of being this season's David Archuleta, and I should probably just be happy that he didn't sing "Imagine." If Aaron somehow survives this week, he has to not do a ballad next week. His performance was completely boring. At the end of the show when the phone numbers are given out again, I had completely forgotten Aaron had performed at all.

Next up was Katie Stevens who sang, "Let It Be." I would have thought since season eight winner Kris Allen performed the song earlier this season as apart of Idol Gives Back, that maybe it would not be up for grabs this week. I thought wrong. Katie was on key the whole song, but I feel like she hadn't emotionally connected to the song like Kris had and especially like Brooke White had when she performed the song during season seven. I don't think it was smart for Ellen DeGeneres to tell Katie that she wouldn't be in bottom three this week, because there's a good possibility she will be. Katie needed to have a good night, but I think we will be saying goodbye to her in the next couple weeks, if not this week.

I was pleasantly surprised by Andrew Garcia's performance of "Can't Buy Me Love." I like the fun twist he put on the song, it added a different energy into it. I may have started to sing-a-long at one point. I didn't mind his guitar playing, because he wasn't sitting on a stool just strumming along. He did have an unflattering note towards the end of his performance, which is unfortunate, but it happens. This may not have been Andrew's best performance, but he chose a song that was not sang previously by another contestant. And as an added bonus he sang something upbeat, rather than stripping the song down and going the acoustic route.

Mike Lynche performed "Eleanor Rigby." I never thought I would ever hear "Eleanor Rigby" on Idol the first time this theme was performed, let alone the second time. Yes, as a David Cook fan I was completely annoyed that Big Mike chose to perform a song that David had done. I do realize that they're two completely different singers. Big Mike did sing well, but his take on the song was definitely not my cup of tea. I have embraced this song as a rock song and as a David Cook song. I just sometimes wonder if the contestants think about which contestants have covered the song before they go ahead and cover it again. I think he may have done himself a disservice with that song choice. I do have to say that I disagree with Kara DioGuardi. (Big shocker.) I don't think Big Mike's version was contemporary, to me it seemed somewhat old fashioned. And for Randy Jackson to say that he should record it for his album, I am almost at a loss of words. I hope this is the last time a song that David Cook has previously sang on Idol is performed this season. Like I have said before, if the contestant isn't going to be good as the person who originally performed the song on the show, pick a different song.

Crystal Bowersox was up next performing "Come Together," which now has been sang three seasons in a row. Carly Smithson sang the song during the same theme week during season seven. Kris Allen sang the song during "Rock Week" last season. And in my opinion, they both pulled it off a little better than Crystal. I did really like Crystal's twist on the original melody, which included a didgeridoo player. I have never even heard of a didgeridoo before, but I liked what I heard. And leave it to Crystal to do something different while continuing to stay true to herself. I would have really loved it if she would have gone with an electric guitar last night and really rocked out. I didn't realize last Crystal had botched a couple words during her performance until it was pointed out by both Entertainment Weekly's Michael Slezak and MTV's Jim Cantiello. After a quick trip to YouTube, I didn't think it was all too noticeable, but she definitely moved away from the mic briefly, then finished out the song. Overall, it was a great performance from Crystal.

Next was Tim Urban singing, "All My Loving." What I'm about to say may be shocking, so I hope you're sitting down. Tim was actually pretty good last night. (I still can't believe it.) I was staring at my TV watching him sing thinking, "I am actually going to have something nice to say about this kid." It was a perfect song choice for Tim and he was completely on key the entire song. (Seriously. I can't believe it.) I even thought Randy telling him that it was a good "Tim performance" and not judging him based on the other performances of the night was kind of not cool. Tim definitely deserved the positive critique from Simon Cowell, but part of me wonders if this will kick Tim in the butt later. During season seven's Top Six week, Simon finally gave Carly Smithson this great critique after a stellar performance of "Jesus Christ Superstar." The next night Carly was eliminated from the competition. If Tim gets eliminated this week, I'm not going to complain. Just saying. It would almost be better if he went out this week, because he gets to leave on a high note and not as the joke of the season.

Following Tim was Linus from Peanuts with his security blanket, I mean Casey James, who sang "Jealous Guy" and played guitar. Again. It was a good song choice for Casey and I liked the acoustic sound, but really it's time to step out from behind the guitar. I will not be convinced that Casey wants to be a singer until he performs sans guitar. We know that Casey plays the guitar well, but this is not "Guitar Idol." Time to mix it up. And of course I disagree with Simon about Casey having the best performance of the night. For him to say that is just absurd. He may have had the best song choice of the night, I will give him that. But best vocal? Not so much.

Welcome back, Siobhan Magnus. I loved her understated performance of "Across The Universe." It was a very smart move for her to do a toned down performance and spare the audience from a crazy, unnecessary screechy glory note. Again, the song was done during season seven courtesy of Michael Johns, but I thought it was a great pick for Siobhan. What I did not love was Ryan Seacrest letting some random audience member up on stage to hug her. How awkward was that? I am looking forward to seeing Siobhan interact with Adam Lambert next week. They both are able to hit some crazy notes when they sing, so I think him mentoring her will be very interesting.

In the coveted "pimp spot" was Lee Dewyze singing "Hey Jude." I do realize that the song has never been performed on the Idol stage. However, Kris Allen performed it during the Idol summer tour. (I'm partial to my favorite former Idol winners. That's all I'm saying.) I really wanted Lee to be able to pull this song off. But from the first note, I thought he sounded sort of sharp. He started to pull the performance together, and then the craziest thing since seeing a didgeridoo player on stage happened, a bagpipe player made his way down the stairs behind Lee and joined him on stage. Bagpipes? I think it was said best by MTV's Jim Cantiello in his Idol recap, "Hell, if we're going to burn the house that Kelly built down, we might as well dance on its ashes." The judges praised Lee for the confidence he showed while performing on stage. "Even when that guy got separated from his parade, you didn't get rattled," Ellen told Lee during her critique of his performance. I look forward to seeing Lee in the Top Eight, I hope he leaves his bagpipe player at home.

 I am happy that the contestants improved this week, I don't think I would have made it through the entire show if they managed to butcher the Lennon/McCartney songbook. It goes to show that when the contestants have great music to work with, it only enhances their performances.

Who do you think is going home? What are you hoping is next week's theme? And did you prefer the didgeridoo player or the bagpipe player?

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.
  • Stefan

    OK, so everyone knows that this years Idol is bit week. There were actually a couple of episodes that had not one “good” performance, never mind “great”.

    As a whole the contestants have been getting better over time but compared to the last few seasons this one is still like eating great toast in my opinion.

    About last night. Mister good looking model with sexy curls stole the show. It’s the first time that he did and I was truly impressed. My girlfriend and I almost watched his performance again. “Almost”!! With other great performances in the past ie David A’s Imagine etc. I would watch them again and again. I’d even search them out while working for a quick break.

    Nothing has moved me like that this year however. My family all watch together and agree that this season has been weaker than the others. I felt glad to get at least one solid performance during Lennon and McArtney week.

    I think pretty boy should go home tonight, but I don’t think it will happen.

    We’ll see.

  • Toni Schram

    Spot on recap with the exception of Casey James. Yes, I agree, he should really expose himself and get out in front of his guitar. However, his performance on Tuesday was stellar-such emotion and grit coupled with those bluesy vocals. I pre-ordered (one of
    the few, thus far) and am throughly enjoying more each time I listen to it. IMHO, it WAS the performance of the night…

  • Kirsten

    Toni: My big issue with Casey, other than not putting down the guitar yet this season, is that there’s a quality to his voice that reminds me of season two’s Carmen Rasmusen. That slight yodel-ish sound he makes when he carries long notes really irks me and is a huge musical turn-off. But, again I give him props for picking a great song. I’ve only heard it once or twice before, and being a song that has not been performed on Idol before, I can appreciate that.

  • Toni Schram

    I didn’t watch Season 2, so I can’t compare. I appreciate you further explaining your views.