I was so happy last night when American Idol was over, because it was pretty painful to sit through for the entire two hours. Especially when the top two performances of "R&B Week" occurred in the last twenty minutes of the show.
To start with something positive, I thought Usher did a fantastic job as the Idol contestant's mentor this week. He gave them each very solid advice, and by the end of the show my former 10th grade crush was on him was alive and well.
Siobhan Magnus kicked off the show singing Chaka Khan's "Through The Fire." I am with the the judges on this one, it was a strange song choice for her. Throughout her performance, she had crazy pitch problems going on, which is unusual for her. Siobhan closed her performance with an off-pitch, unnecessary screechy note. She was definitely having an off night, and it felt like her critique from the judges just dragged on and on. After being ripped a new one by the judges, Idol introduced backstage cameras, where the audience got to see an upset Siobhan walk back to the contestant holding area where she was greeted by the rest of the Top 10.
Casey James was up next with Sam and Dave's "Hold On I'm Coming." Apparently, I'm the only one that thinks Casey needs to put down his guitar and just sing. I think if he performed sans guitar for at least one performance, the judges and the audience would realize that he's not that good of a singer. I realize that he's got the heartthrob thing down (which I really don't understand), but for me he's a guitar player, not a singer.
Last night, I didn't notice until the last 30-40 seconds of Mike Lynche's performance of india.arie's "Ready For Love" that he was sitting on the small platform behind the judges. His advice from Usher was to connect more with the audience and I don't know if moving closer to the audience is what Usher meant, but it's Big Mike's boat and that's how he decided to row it. Mike had a very solid vocal performance, he picked a great song to sing, but for me, I am waiting for the week that allows him to mix it and step away from R&B songs. This was probably the best theme for Big Mike, but he does tend to usually pick songs with R&B flavor to them and I would like to see some versatility from him.
Didi Benami sang Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" last night. In her session with Usher, she got very emotional after singing for him, which prompted me to yell at my TV, "Hug her already, Usher!" Didi's performance last night was definitely not as good as she has been in the past. She had a note going very wrong towards the end of her performance that just made so sad for her, because I knew the judges were just going to tear her apart. Judge Kara DioGuradi told her that she has "lost her way" in the competition. Judge Simon Cowell told her that she sounded like one of the singers on Dancing With the Stars. Ouch. As if things couldn't get more awkward, host Ryan Seacrest prods Didi for more information about why the song makes her so emotional. Ryan, you don't have to have Didi cry every week, let the poor girl be.
Next was Tim Urban who sang Anita Baker's "Sweet Love." In his session with Usher, he was told to sing the song as if he was singing it to the person he was in love with. This resulted in Tim singing somewhat creepily into the camera for the first moments of his performance. Judge Randy Jackson told him, "It was mostly in tune." (Face-palm.) I think judge Ellen DeGeneres said it best during her critique, "Oh boy. Why?" And Simon said what probably everyone in the audience and at home was thinking, that it didn't matter what any of the judges said, Tim would more than likely get through to next week. I think Simon has realized that this season is almost a complete mockery of what Idol used to be.
Andrew Garcia sang Chris Brown's "Forever." I don't know if that was the best song choice in the world of R&B, but I liked that he performed a contemporary song. With this week's performance Andrew went back to his acoustic guitar shtick and he sounded good. Personally, I found it to be predictable and boring. He won praise from all the judges, but Simon who also called him boring. I don't know how much longer Andrew is going to last in this competition, because it seems that he has already showed his hand this season and doesn't seem to have much else to offer.
Katie Stevens dared to sing Aretha Franklin's "Chain Of Fools." To be quite honest, I sort of zoned out during her performance. I did notice that she had a really pretty pink ring on. I was ready to ram my head into the nearest wall after Randy referred to Katie as "a young Christina." As in the completely amazing, multiple Grammy award winning singer, Christina Aguilera. I wasn't the only one that thought Randy was way off base, Simon disagreed with him, and then told Katie that she performs like a robot.
Next up was Lee Dewyze who sang the Cornelius Brothers And Sister Rose's "Treat Her Like A Lady." Usher told Lee during their session that he really needed to believe in himself, so that the audience will be able to believe in his performance. I loved Usher's reaction after Lee left their session. He was just like, "Wow!" Well, did Lee ever deliver this week. He was pitch perfect the entire song. He sounded fantastic and he finally didn't look like a deer in the headlights. Dare I say, it almost looked like he was having fun during his performance. I have been waiting for Lee to just let go and finally have his moment. After being pelted with bad performances throughout the night, I have to agree with what Ellen told him, "The show just started." Albeit, there were only 20 minutes left and two performances to go after Lee's. All that aside, as an Idol viewer, I was a very happy camper. I love that Simon has not strayed from his support of Lee, even during weeks where he wasn't as good as he was this week. Simon told Lee, "This may be the night your life changes forever." That's right, Lee was that good this week. I am really hoping that he makes Crystal Bowersox fight for her probable Idol win. I think it would be amazing to see them as the final two standing.
Speaking of Crystal, she sang Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train To Georgia." She switched it up this week singing on piano instead of with her guitar. She mentioned in her pre-video clip that she had not played piano in awhile, which was apparent during her performance, where she seemed uneasy at first. Her performance gained momentum after she rose from the piano and continued the performance without any instrument. I was thrilled to see her finally mix it up. It showed that she can stay true to who she is as a singer, while showing that she does not need her guitar as a security blanket. Crystal received praise from all the judges, but Simon told her to not let the Idol process change who she is during the competition. I understood what he was saying, but I think it was important that she showed the audience that she can still be amazing without being behind her guitar. (Did you hear that Casey?) Crystal did go back and forth a bit with Simon about knowing who she is as an artist, which I don't encourage, but she sounded less argumentative and more sincere with her approach. In any case, Crystal had a fantastic performance and I hope she continues to bring surprises throughout the season.
Most Idol performance nights, I read song spoilers before the show airs. I pretty much gasped out of horror last night, upon reading that Aaron Kelly would be singing Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." The same "Ain't No Sunshine" that became season eight Idol winner, Kris Allen's first legit moment on Idol and was the song he chose to reprise at last year's finale. There are a lot of songs on Idol that I think should be remained untouched after they have been done brilliantly. So Aaron Kelly, if you're not going to top Kris Allen's performance from last season, then you probably need to adjust your song choice. Aaron has now performed a song that David Cook had previously done and this week a song Kris has done. I'm waiting for him to sing Heart's "Alone" next. It's not that Aaron isn't talented, I just think he should pick songs that have not been done, so he can make his own moment, since he has shown he's not able to top songs done by two previous Idol winners. That's all.
I really thought the backstage cameras are completely not needed. This is American Idol, not The Real World. I really didn't care to see them backstage or hear their comments after their performances. I think stuff like that can be used as filler during the results show. If there's now magically time to show the contestants reactions after their performances and show them backstage, why wouldn't producers give that time to the contestants and allow them to sing a little longer?
Overall, this week's show might as well have been dubbed "The Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowersox Show." They were the only two contestants that pulled out solid and entertaining performances of the entire night. I think those two, plus Siobhan assuming she gets back on her game next week are the only contestants worth paying attention to this season.
What did you think about "R&B Week" and did you enjoy Usher as the contestant's mentor? What do you think about the backstage cameras? And who do you think is going home?