I have never wanted in the past eight seasons of American Idol to fast forward to the final two finale more than I want to right now. After tonight's performances from the guys, I am pretty sure that I don't want a guy in the finale. In fact, in my own Idol dream world, I think Crystal Bowersox and Siobhan Magnus should be in the final two and then just call it a tie. In other words, last night's show was not entirely enjoyable.
Lee Dewyze opened up the show with Owl City's "Fireflies." I am not a huge fan of this song, but I will hand it to Lee for performing a contemporary song. I would usually advise against singing something from this era, but Lee seems set on taking risks during his turn on Idol. Having said that, if he is going to survive the Top 12, he has to sing better.
Since the Top 24 kicked off, Lee has struggled with pitch problems with each of his performances. I was very happy when judge Ellen DeGeneres called him out last night about his actual singing, because eventually the audience isn't going to care that he pulled a David Cook and made the song his own. The audience is going to start expecting competent performances that are sung on key without all the pitch problems. I believe Lee is going to be in the Top 12, I just hope he starts focusing on his singing more so than the arrangement.
Call me shallow, but it gets harder and harder to focus on Alex Lambert's singing due to his mullet. I don't think he's going to have any trouble cracking the Top 12, but when he gets there I hope the stylists strap him down and cut his hair. It's time to leave the 1980s and join the rest of us in 2010.
Now that I got that off my chest, Alex sang Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble." It was another solid performance for him. However, Alex is still struggling with looking like a deer in the headlights on stage, which was addressed by judges Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell. Both judges advised him that he does need to loosen up during his performances, because he is coming across too stiff. Simon advised him to not focus on his performance so much as he's performing and to distract himself by picturing judge Randy Jackson in his underpants. Joking, of course, but I agree Alex has to shake his nerves in order to survive Top 12.
This season's token pretty boy, Tim Urban, was up next singing the Jeff Buckley version of "Hallelujah." I feel that there are songs that have been performed on Idol by past contestants that were so good that the song shouldn't be touched ever again on Idol. For me, this list includes Heart's "Alone," anything performed by David Cook during season seven, and "Hallelujah."
During season seven's Top 16 week, contestant Jason Castro sang "Hallelujah." It was subtle, perfectly phrased, and was his ticket into that season's Top 12. I completely scoffed at Tim Urban last night for thinking there was any way he could top that performance. He won praise from the judges, because it was his best performance of the season. Ellen even ran on stage and gave him a hug, which I thought was a wee bit overboard, but to each their own. I would like to see Tim go home tonight, not because of his song choice, but because he has consistently made my ears hurt since the Hollywood rounds of the competition.
Former front runner Andrew Garcia performed Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle." When host Ryan Seacrest mentioned that Andrew was performing a Christina Aguilera song, I immediately thought he was going to perform "Beautiful." Which now, thinking back on it, would not be a good choice for him to sing either.
I think Andrew is backing himself into a corner. He peaked way too soon in the competition during the Hollywood round singing an acoustic version of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," and now nothing he has performed since has come close to being as good. For example (and as another chance to reference my favorite American Idol winner), David Cook did not pull out "Hello" until Top 16 week during season seven. And that is when David needed to have a moment, because up until that point he was just giving middle of the road, good performances. He needed a memorable moment and he created one. It got me to pick up the phone and vote that night.
Another issue with Andrew, other than botching a couple of the words in the beginning of his performance last night, is that he's become predictable with his style. All he has done all season is perform acoustic arrangements of various pop songs. In the Top 12, he's going to need to part with the acoustic guitar and learn how to work the stage and engage the audience, because I can't be the only one who thinks he's just boring now.
Next up was Casey James, who sang Keith Urban's "You'll Think of Me." For the most part it was a competent performance. He's going to be in the Top 12. I don't entirely understand his appeal; to me he comes off as a guitar player wanting to be a lead singer.
Following Casey was 16-year-old Aaron Kelly performing Lonestar's "I'm Already There." I definitely disagreed with Kara last night when she said it was the wrong song choice for him, because he is only 16 and doesn't have the life experience to understand what he's singing. And major props to Aaron for telling Kara that when he's singing, he's the storyteller. Because he's right. I was so happy when Simon said that he disagreed with Kara, because Aaron's musical genre is going to be country and he picked a good song and sang it well.
My only note on Aaron's performance last night was that he has to shake his nerves. He sounded like he was mumbling at first, and then as the song progressed, he looked more confident. He needs to have that confidence from start to finish, and he could have a decent run in the Top 12.
Up next was Todrick Hall who sang Queen's "Somebody To Love." As soon as he sang the first note of the song last night, I thought that the performance sounded like something from Glee. And Todrick is no Rachel Berry.
To my surprise, the judges, give or take Simon, loved it. Their praise of what I deemed to be a ghastly performance only leads me to believe that they want Todrick in the Top 12. I am hoping that the rest of America heard what I heard last night and didn't pick up the phone to vote for him.
Mike Lynche or, as he is known to the audience, Big Mike, was in the elusive "pimp spot" last night singing Maxwell's "This Woman's Work." I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. The performance was smooth and showed a different side to Big Mike that the audience hadn't seen. It also moved Kara to tears. It was good, but I don't think it was that good. I don't think he is going to have any problem cracking the Top 12 tonight.
Overall, last night's Idol was painful to watch and listen to. This season so far has been quite the hot mess, and the guys last night for the most part were no exception. I really don't think the talent level is up to par this season, but I look forward to hearing improvement from those contestants who make it to the Top 12.
Last night for me was really interesting listening to the judges' critiques, especially while listening to Kara. While last season on Idol she proved herself to be pretty much useless, last night she really stepped up to the plate. She was clear and concise about what worked and what didn't in the performances. She broke everything down to Andrew Garcia about why his performance last night didn't work and why. Could it be that Idol is setting up the audience for Kara to become the new Simon next season? Or could it be that someone just gave her some tips on public speaking and how to sound coherent? I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Watch American Idol tonight on FOX to find out which six girls and which six guys will make up this season's Top 12.