I had zero expectations for last night's episode of American Idol, due to feeling underwhelmed during the semi-finals over the course of the last three weeks. Honestly, I thought that giving this crop of contestants the music of The Rolling Stones was going to just be a hot mess all around. Surprisingly, that wasn't entirely the case.
Michael "Big Mike" Lynche opened the show with "Miss You." Mike was on key for the most part and he was utilizing the stage. The downside of his performance was that it came off as totally cheesy. Judge Kara DioGuardi compared his stage presence to that of Mick Jagger. Think again, Kara. Mick Jagger is a legendary front man of one of the most popular bands in the world. Big Mike's performance didn't come close to an actual Rolling Stones performance.
Didi Benami was up next, and even though she's not my favorite singer in the competition, I totally feel compelled to root for her. It could be because of an anecdote that Idol season eight winner, Kris Allen, shared last week at a radio event I attended. Kris said that while he was on Idol, he had gone to a restaurant in LA and Didi was his waitress. She told him that she was planning on trying out for Idol the following year. He met her again a few weeks ago, when he sang during the Top 24 results show. Didi went up and reminded him that she had waited on him the year before when he was in the competition. Kris said his first reaction was, "Whoa, that's so cool!" When I hear something like that, it just automatically makes me want her to do well.
Last night, Didi sang "Play With Fire." She reminds me of season seven contestant Brooke White with a little bit of swagger. Didi had a really good vocal, up until one of her very last notes unfortunately fell flat. On the bright side, she was able to work the stage a bit. I liked that she was not playing guitar this week. If she stays in the competition, I would really like to see her not perform a ballad. She needs to show another side of herself, musically speaking.
Casey James followed, singing "It's All Over Now." Before I say anything else, I really liked Casey's pre-performance video clip with his mom. She seems like such a doll, I kind of wanted to give her a hug after the clip was over. I wish Casey made me feel the same; however his performance last night continued to make me feel like I was watching a guitar player trying to be a singer. He plays guitar very well, but his singing is just not up to par. I think he needs to realize that he's Richie Sambora and not Jon Bon Jovi. Fortunately for Casey, he had one of the better performances of the night, so I think he will be safe this week.
Lacey Brown sang "Ruby Tuesday." I think the song fit her unique voice. It is still very obvious that she is trying to shake her nerves, which showed in the beginning of her performance. Overall, she had a very nice vocal. Lacey also received some solid feedback from judge Simon Cowell, who suggested that she needs to stop over-thinking her performances. And some solid advice from me: sometimes it's okay to tell the stylist "no" when they try to put you in some crazy outfit that not even a runway model could pull off without looking ridiculous. Just say no.
Following Lacey was Andrew Garcia singing "Gimme Shelter." I appreciated that his performance was upbeat and that there was not an acoustic guitar in sight. I think that Andrew's performance this week was a step in the right direction. He has needed to change it up, since his acoustic shtick was becoming boring fast. His singing wasn't perfect this week — there was a note towards the end of the song that made me absolutely cringe. I have to agree with judge Ellen DeGeneres that outside of his Hollywood Week performance this was Andrew's best performance to date. I wouldn't mind him getting another shot next week, but I do think there's a possible spot in the bottom three this week with his name on it.
Up next was Katie Stevens. I still don't think that she deserved a spot in the Top 12, and I think she knows that a good portion of the Idol viewing audience feels the same way. This is probably why Katie played it very safe last night, singing "Wild Horses." I could tell that her arrangement of the song was very much inspired by Alicia Keys and Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine's unplugged version of the song, which tells me that Katie was looking to sound current. Her performance was the best she has sounded since the Top 24. Will she be in the bottom three? I can see it, but I don't think she will be going home this week.
Next up was the contestant who definitely has no place in the Top 12, Tim Urban. I found his reggae take on "Under My Thumb" to be ridiculous. He came off as a pretentious Jason Mraz wannabe. Unfortunately, he is being backed strongly by the website, Vote For The Worst.
Other than awful singing, I cannot stand it when the contestants speak while the judges are giving them feedback. Last season, the back talk from the contestants was just out of control. I'm all for standing up for yourself, but the judges are there to let you know what you need to work on. Granted, Tim didn't talk back to the judges, but he started yammering on about what he was trying to do with the song and honestly, I didn't care. I just wanted to yell, "Shut up and listen to the judges!" All he needed to do while the judges were speaking was pay attention. The time for the contestants to speak is when Ryan Seacrest asks them a question while he's giving out their numbers for people to call and vote.
Some advice for the contestants: don't let Ryan bait you into talking back to the judges. He will do this and if you take the bait, you will end up looking like an idiot. (Lil Rounds, I'm looking at you.) All you have to do is give a PC answer, smile and hold up your fingers with whatever your last two voting digits are. It's that simple.
I think Tim will definitely wind up in the bottom three. He's my personal pick to go home this week. Will it happen? I guess we'll have to watch to find out.
What I love about Siobhan Magnus is that she's not afraid to take a risk and do something unexpected. Her take on "Paint It Black" was amazing. She sang in her lower register, which she hasn't done much of this season and sounded fantastic. The arrangement had somewhat of a My Chemical Romance flair to it, that really added some drama to the overall sound. What I didn't deem so awesome was her Adam Lambert-esque shriek towards the end of the song. It sounded really sharp and I thought could have just ruined her performance. I hate to even say it, but it really reminded me of the scream Danny Gokey did at the end of his performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On" last season during Rock Week. It was bad. Siobhan seems to be a fan favorite and all the judges were thrilled with her performance; so as long as fans weren't complacent when it came to voting, we should see her around another week.
Lee Dewyze was the next to take the stage, singing "Beast of Burden." Someone did his homework, because for the most part he had his pitch problems under control. I felt like he definitely took the judges' advice and really worked with the Idol vocal coaches to work out his pitch problems. His nerves seemed to be under control, although in the beginning of the song, it sounded like he was somewhat mumbling, but pulled it together quickly for the rest of the performance. Again, Simon had the best advice for him, which was to stop thinking that the other contestants are better than him and to believe in himself. Simon felt that he played it safe with the song choice, and suggested to Lee that next week he needs to carve out his moment on the show. Simon also seems to have quite the man-crush on Lee, and to that I say, get in line.
Next up was Paige Mills, who sang "Honky Tonk Women." In spite of having laryngitis, Paige sounded fantastic. She hit some huge notes during her performance. I really hope she does not get voted out this week; for the first time I think we all got to see what her signing voice is made of. She also showed fantastic stage presence throughout her performance. The judges all thought she did a great job, even though she was feeling under the weather. Paige told Ryan after the performance that that was her first complete run-through of the song, due to her voice not holding up during dress rehearsal. I really hope that people voted for her, because I would like to see her get the chance to really shine on the stage.
Aaron Kelly followed with "Angie." I thought it was pretty boring. It was on pitch for the most part. Ellen said it was his best performance of the competition. I feel like Aaron is backing himself into a corner with all the ballads. I don't think I have heard him sing a single upbeat song all competition. If he makes it through to next week, it is time to mix it up.
And last, but certainly not least was Crystal Bowersox, who sang one of my all-time favorites from The Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." I really loved her pre-performance clip, where her dad talked about her doing shows back home, getting her stage set for her, and then watching her perform. It was just extremely touching.
Crystal's performance this week was nothing short of amazing. She put this gospel/soul spin on the song, which went apparently unnoticed by the judges, who said nothing about her arrangement. They did say that she seemed more playful with this performance, where in the past it felt like she was over-thinking her performances too much while on stage. Simon told her that Siobhan had out-sung her this week and, that it sometimes comes across like she thinks she has the competition in her pocket.
"I haven't thought that I've got the competition at all," Crystal said after Simon had finished his critique. "But, thank you for saying that."
There you have it, the Top 12 has performed, last night the viewers voted, and now we get to find out who is the first to leave tonight.
Which performance did you like the best? Who did you vote for? And who, other than myself, cannot wait to see season seven Idol winner (and my personal favorite) David Cook perform on the results show?