While I sat and watched American Idol last night, I had to remind myself throughout the show that theme was not "Ballads Gone Wild." I understand that Idol Gives Back is going on this week; however, with the theme being "Inspirational Songs," I felt more tired than inspired by the end of the show. (Rhyming not completely intentional.)
Multiple Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys was the mentor this week. I really thought she did a good job with trying to get the contestants to connect with their songs. For some, it worked; for others, not so much.
Guitar player, Casey James was up first last night singing Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Casey had the only upbeat song of the night, but there was such an emotional disconnect going on during his performance.
Like I have been saying for weeks now, Casey needs to put the guitar down and show that he can really sing. I think taking the time for the slight guitar solo, wasting bars in the song that he could be singing, only proves that he's more into showing off his guitar skills than he is about showing off his singing voice (or lack thereof).
The judges seemed to see things from my perspective, saying that Casey was becoming boring by just going up on stage and playing guitar every week. Even Ellen DeGeneres told him that now that they were in the Top Seven, all of the contestants were really going to need to step it up. It was the first time that Casey really got a mouthful from all the judges, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Lee Dewyze was up next singing Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer." During his mentoring session with Alicia Keys, she had Lee read the lyrics of the song aloud, so he could feel what he was singing. No big shock here, I loved Lee's performance. I thought it was a great song choice for him. You could feel the sincerity in the lyrics he was singing. Another big improvement was that Lee looked comfortable on stage. His "deer in the headlights" look never showed up during his performance once. He is finally building a much needed stage presence, which is nice, because he looked calm and collected.
I have to agree with Kara DioGuardi who said that this performance was Lee's moment. I think he has had a couple performances in the past that were really good and served as momentum for him to truly break out and leave it all on the stage. Simon Cowell told Lee that he "made the song sound as if it had been written a week ago." Simon ended his critique of Lee's performance by calling it "brilliant."
Following Lee was Tim Urban, who sang the Goo Goo Dolls' "Better Days." I actually thought the song fit the vibe that he was attempting to go for; I just wish he had sung it a bit better.
As much as I still think Tim should not have been brought back this season into the Top 24, I really hope he got the votes to stay in this week to bump off a contestant who has really been grating on my nerves, that being Mike Lynche. But, I digress. We'll get to Mike's performance in a bit.
Aaron Kelly was next, singing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." I remember this song being my jam in junior high. I was really banking on Aaron picking one of the many Idol coronation songs that was on the approved list of songs that the contestants could sing this week, but no such luck.
Aaron's vocal wasn't totally off base this week. I thought it started out okay; he seemed to struggle towards the middle, then gained momentum at the end with his glory note. It was a pretty 'out there' song choice, but Aaron seems to like to take risks. All the judges seemed to like the performance. Simon did tell him that if he heard Aaron singing that song on the radio, he would turn it off. Seems fair enough.
Siobhan Magnus took on the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey duet, "When You Believe." After singing the song during her mentoring session, Alicia told Siobhan that her final note that was drawn out was "money." She also told Siobhan to take a pause before that note to let the audience know that she was about to have a moment.
While I am not keen on this song, I thought Siobhan sounded really good. Her glory notes were amazing. All her notes were on point and I thought she was going to be buried in praise from the judges. Not so much.
Randy Jackson basically said that he didn't like it, because it was a Whitney/Mariah song and we should just bow at their feet until the end of time. (Okay, so I'm embellishing, but he might as well have said it.) Ellen disagreed and said she loved it, and that it showed that Siobhan could handle a big song like that. Kara said that it was sung technically well, but she would rather hang out with Siobhan than hear her sing, because she doesn't know who she is as a singer. Simon ranted about Siobhan's somewhat absurd ensemble, which included butterflies on her arms, and called the performance old fashioned.
Honestly, I am really surprised by the judges' responses. I thought Siobhan sang a lot better than Aaron Kelly. He was the one who got a truckload of praise for taking a risk, while they basically threw Siobhan under the bus. I am amazed at the fact that Siobhan was told that she sang well, but basically still wasn't good enough. In my book, if you sing well, you sing well. I thought Siobhan had a good performance and I hope she got the votes to stay in another week.
Mike Lynche was up next singing Chad Kroeger's "Hero," from the Spider-Man soundtrack, which Simon would point out after his performance. The song also served as the Final Two duet song during the season seven finale, which meant Mike was yet again doing a song that David Cook (and David Archuleta) had already sung on the show. Yes, my judgmental hat is firmly planted on my head. However, like one of my friends pointed out to me during his performance last night, doing a song that David has already done could be a good thing because the last time he did as much, he was almost eliminated.
Even if I wasn't already completely over Big Mike thanks to his ego and attitude, his performance this week was not good. His voice was not meant for that song at all. He had weird phrasing throughout the performance, but of course when all was said and done, that smug smile of his appeared across his face. Are you kidding me?
This is why Tim Urban needs to survive this week, because Mike needs to go. He has this male diva attitude going on and that's the last thing this competition needs. At least when Matt Giraud was saved last season he was gracious and then brought his A-game to each performance that followed the save. Mike has never seemed gracious about the save, and this week's performance was just heinous. I have no idea what he was thinking with that song choice and I hope he reaches the end of his Idol journey this week.
Last, but definitely in no way, shape or form least, was Crystal Bowersox, who performed The Impressions' "People Get Ready." During her mentoring session, Alicia was very impressed with Crystal, and said that the audience would enjoy her performance.
Sans guitar, Crystal was center stage in a black gown, with her microphone stand, which we found out after her performance was brought from back home. Crystal was so good last night, it didn't even bother me that she teared up at the end of her performance. I don't think she was doing what I sometimes call "pulling a Vonzell." (In short, during season four, Vonzell Sullivan had an off night, she cried her eyes out after her performance, then made it past Anthony Federov into the Top Three. Basically, crying for sympathy votes.) Crystal's emotions seemed sincere and reminded the audience that the contestants are still people.
Randy gave Crystal a standing ovation, Kara thanked Crystal for putting down her guitar and taking a risk. (Did you hear that, Casey James?) The best line of the night came from Simon, who told Crystal, "That was inspirational."
I agree with Simon, it really was a brilliant performance, and for me, the competition is over. They should just give Crystal the cheesy coronation song now, so she can put her spin on it and have it ready for finale night. In my mind, there is no way that Crystal is not the next winner of American Idol. As much as Lee Dewyze is stepping his game up, he's still nowhere near where Crystal is, performance-wise. I think Lee will make a fantastic runner-up to Crystal. They both embody what Idol is supposed to be about, which is finding the best unknown talent and showing America what they are all about.
Please remember that Idol Gives Back is taking place this week. You can support the cause by downloading the contestants' performances this week on iTunes or by going to the Idol Gives Back website.
What did you think about the performances this week? Who do you think should go home? And who else thinks that they should do away with ballads next week?