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American Idol: Pitchy, Predictable And Pandering

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I knew from the moment that it was announced that the Top Four American Idol contestants were going to be singing "Songs of the Cinema" that this week was going to be a mess. And for the most part, I was right.

I'm just annoyed at the fact that Idol re-used another theme week and then brought back Jamie Foxx to mentor the contestants again this season. I actually was looking forward to his critiques, but I felt he was so much better last season with the contestants. I felt that he pushed the contestants to connect more with their song and really try to understand what they are singing about. Last night it was all about whether he thought the contestants were an artist or a contestant. And he had t-shirts to give the contestants after they performed for him that said either "Artist" or "Contestant." Seriously? And once again, instead of having the contestants perform two songs individually, they had one solo and one duet with another contestant. Fantastic.

Lee Dewyze kicked off the night with "Kiss From A Rose" from the movie Batman Forever. I completely cringed when I read the song choice spoilers after the Idol dress rehearsal, but figured that Lee would switch it up, so that it would suit his voice. He failed to do that this week. He attempted to sing the song straight, without taking any chances on changing the arrangement, and as much as it pains me to say this, it was a hot, pitchy mess. I just wonder how do you go from having a really fantastic performance from the week prior to what happened last night?

I am confident that Lee will be in the Top Three next week, but he needs to stop pulling punches and start swinging when it comes to his song selections and performances. Randy Jackson said last night that he thought that Lee should have done Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory." (I don't entirely disagree with this, but I prefer my favorite band's music to be left as is.) I really think that if Lee had taken "Kiss From A Rose" and had really made it his own, he would have had a much better performance.

Mike Lynche was up next singing "Will You Be There" from the movie Free Willy. Other than being fairly predictable, it was an alright vocal. It definitely was not one of his best performances of the season. I think his nerves actually got the best of him this week, which would be a first for the seemingly naturally confident contestant. He played it fairly safe this week, which will more than likely put him in the Top Three.

Singing the first duet of the night was Lee and Crystal Bowersox. They sang "Falling Slowly" from the movie Once. I didn't think that their voices would mesh well, but I was pleasantly surprised. Crystal sounded contemporary for the first time during the season with this performance. It was nice to listen to. And Lee definitely bounced back from his first performance.

Lee Dewyze & Crystal Bowersox singing "Falling Slowly."I loved the chemistry that resulted from Lee and Crystal facing one another throughout the performance. They really brought the best out in one another. After the performance was over, Crystal called Lee her "musical crush." They received well-deserved praise from all the judges.

Casey James followed singing "Mrs. Robinson" from The Graduate. What can I say, other than Casey sure knows how to pander towards his fan demographic. I thought that Casey had a better handle on his vibrato this week. His big mistake was using the smaller side stage to perform on.

For me, it really seemed that Casey failed to connect with his song choice. I didn't get anything from him sitting on the stage strumming away. I almost feel like he was focusing on keeping his vibrato under control, so he wouldn't be called out for sounding like a lamb again. Not that the judges gave him any kind of real critique anyway. Randy and Simon both focused on the song and teased Kara DioGuardi. (She did have Casey take his shirt off during his audition, so it's kind of fitting.) I have a strong feeling that we will be seeing Casey eliminated from the competition this week.

Crystal was next singing "I'm Alright" from the movie Caddyshack. I'm gonna be honest, the first thing I noticed was the outfit Crystal was wearing. I seriously think it was in tribute to Siobhan, it just seemed kind of wacky to me.

Crystal definitely bounced back this week with her performance. I enjoy her singing more when she's performing an upbeat song, rather the mid-tempo ballads she has done over the past couple weeks. Overall, she got a mixed bag from the judges, but she did a lot better than any of the other contestants this week.

Closing out the night was Mike and Casey singing "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman" from Don Juan DeMarco. Another really odd pairing, but when it's down to four people and there's not a whole lot of options, I guess this is what happens.

This was an alright performance. Definitely wasn't as good as Crystal and Lee's duet, but it wasn't horrible. Both guys struggled when they sang their separate parts (Casey's vibrato was alive and well), but together they sounded pretty decent. The judges seemed enthused about it. Simon commented that the duets were a lot better than the individual performances and I would have to agree with that.

There was something that really annoyed me last night, and that was the judges failing to mention Kris Allen's performance of "Falling Slowly" from last season. It was a huge performance for him, one that Simon even deemed "brilliant."

At this point now two out of the three songs that Kris had stand out performances with last season have been covered. I tell you what, I will not be shocked in the least if I hear an acoustic version of Kanye West's "Heartless" by the end of this season. Over the past seasons, the judges have brought up past performances in their critiques for comparison; Carrie Underwood's performance of Heart's "Alone" is one of them. It wouldn't have killed them to mention him.

Yahoo! Music's Reality Rocks blogger Lyndsey Parker wrote in her latest blog, "It seems to me that if the Swell Season themselves have credited Kris for popularizing the song, then the judges on Idol would and should have done the same." I agree with this, because last season Kara referred to the Academy Award-winning song as an obscure song choice. I think Entertainment Weekly's Michael Slezak posed a great (and wonderfully snarky) question: "Is it possible Fox has expanded George Carlin's 'seven dirty words' list to include the name of last season's champ?"

Overall, I thought the performance show this week was on the sleepy side. I am tired of this theme being used, and I'm tired of hearing songs already done pretty much to perfection being sung again. This season seriously needs a swift kick in the pants. I know it's Top Three next week, but better late than never, right?

On the flip side, I am excited about Daughtry and Bon Jovi performing on the results show. Personally, I can't go wrong with two of my favorite bands performing on Idol.

Time for you to sound off! What were your thoughts on this week's performances? Who do you think is going home? And what are your thoughts on the judges not mentioning Kris Allen's performance of "Falling Slowly" from last season? Do you think it just slipped their mind or was it a not-so-subtle dis?

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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.