The top ten compete tonight. Last week we said goodbye to Paige Miles after her atrocious slaying of “Against All Odds.”
This week, the theme is Soul and R&B hits with celebrity mentor Usher.
I’m not a real big Usher fan, but I do at least understand how he might have something interesting to say to the idols, unlike Miley Fucking Cyrus last week.
Siobhan Magnus is opening the show tonight. She’s star struck meeting Usher. She’s chosen “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan. I absolutely love this song and I think Siobhan can actually pull it off. Usher seems impressed. There’s a couple of strange notes in the prechorus that made me cock my head a bit, but when she got to the power notes she absolutely nailed them. I really do think Siobhan has the ability to win. Randy thought it was a touch pitchy. Ellen thought she was lost from the trail for a moment, but it wasn’t her best performance. Kara thought she was a bit nervous and the lower parts were a little rough but she’s a great singer. Simon thought she was out of breath and it wasn’t a good performance.
Hopefully America remembers just how good she is and doesn’t base their votes on tonight solely.
Casey James picked “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave. He blew the lyrics in his session with Usher who said, “He’s already a rock star.” This song couldn’t be more Casey’s style. If you like blues and roots rock, you will buy Casey’s album and enjoy it. Whether or not he’s got mass appeal remains to be seen. He’s definitely pretty. He’s got a great voice for this genre, and he’s probably the best guitarist that has been on Idol. Randy thought it was a hot night for Casey. Ellen called him consistently good, but thought it was a little generic and safe. Kara thinks he has more range than he has shown us, but he’s great. Simon called it Casey’s strongest week so far and thought it was authentic.
Michael Lynche is here to bore us with another lite jazz version of something or other. Oh, it’s “Ready for Love” by India.Arie. This song is seriously gorgeous and made me fall in love with India.Arie about 10 years ago when it came out. This might be the first performance of Michael’s that didn’t annoy the ever loving shit out of me. He didn’t flip into that tired falsetto. It was mostly a note-for-note cover with a few interesting changes in the last verse. His breath breaks in some phrases were distracting to me, as the verses were meant to be legato and fluid, but overall he managed to keep the “churchies” out of his voice and came across as honest and endearing. A great night for him. Randy thought he was in the zone tonight. Ellen thought it was beautiful. Kara had never heard the song before (!?) and thought he did a lovely performance. Simon thinks he can finally take Michael seriously as an artist.
Didi Benami is singing “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” She had a bit of an emotional breakdown during her time with Usher who wants her to show that emotion during the song. So he’s basically asking her to cry through the performance? Interesting tactic. The arrangement is too slow which makes it seem really strange and stilted. I’m really not getting this song choice at all. If I were Didi, I’d have picked something like Corinne Bailey Rae or I’d really like to see what she could do with Macy Gray’s “I Try.” This was just all wrong and I’m disappointed about it. Randy thought the performance was sort of flat and there was no big moment. Ellen thought it was overly dramatic. Kara thinks Didi has lost her way as an artist. Simon thought it was like “swimming in jelly.” It was over the top and old-fashioned and never reached the climax.
Tim Urban is going to perform an Anita Baker song. Is now a good time to mention that I despise Anita Baker. I hate her hybrid man/cow voice and she’s one of the few artists that I will actually make an effort to turn off if she comes on my radio. “Sweet Love” is the song he’s going to inflict upon us. Usher insisted that he pretend that he was the person Tim is in love with.
Usher is totally gay, by the way.
Anyway – this sounds a bit like a college a cappella group leader taking a solo with a band. It’s pretty emotionless, though technically good. I do like Tim’s tone and think he’s pretty cute, but I haven’t seen him completely click with a song yet. This was a bit too sleepy for me. Randy compared him to a singing waiter who was mostly in tune. Ellen wants to know why he chose that song because it was a weird choice. Kara called it Broadway Vegas with no soul. Simon doesn’t think it makes any difference what the judges say. He thought it was an inappropriate song, but nobody cares, the audience will vote, so “well done.”
Andrew Garcia picked “Forever” by Chris Brown. Usher wants him to look directly into his eyes. Googly eyes with Usher? Nice. I have to admit I’m not familiar with this song. I’m fairly certain the original doesn’t sound so Jason Mraz-y. I’m actually digging the song, but I’m no more impressed with Andrew than I have been. His voice is rather weak. I suspect the judges will eat this up, though. Randy thought it was his best performance in a long time. Ellen thought it was amazing and strong. Kara called it a “giant leap in the right direction.” Simon called it miles better than his past few performances, but he comes across as kind of boring.
Katie Stevens will now bore us to tears and make us say she’s too old with “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin. Usher thought she had good energy and a good voice but she lacks a connection to the song. This might be the best she’s ever sounded. There’s actually some life in this 17 year old. That being said, she still sounds much older than she is and it was a rather dated cover of a song that is a quarter of a century older than Katie. How much cooler would it have been if she had picked a Joss Stone tune? Something younger and hipper? It’s like broken record week here at Chez Jester because the same performers are having the same problems every week. Randy thought it was one of the best performances of the night. Ellen thought her voice was great but wished the song was current and younger. Kara thought it was one of her best performances, though not really young or commercial. Simon thought it was pretty good but a bit robotic.
Lee Dewyze is performing next, even though he’s just getting over walking pneumonia. Out of all the great soul and R&B songs in the world, he’s decided to go with “Treat Her Like a Lady” by the Isley Brothers. Usher thinks he has an amazing voice and thinks he needs some confidence. One of my main problems with Lee is that he has a tendency to take a great melody and turn it into a monotonous gravelly mess. It’s as if he finds a note he likes in the melody and decides to hammer it to death. The performance was actually good, and when he’s actually singing instead of growling he sounds great. Unfortunately he hasn’t learned how to use that growl sparingly. The judges will love it. Randy called it “unbelievable.” Ellen called it the best performance of the night. Kara thought it was “amazing.” Simon called tonight the night his life has changed forever.
Crystal Bowersox is performing “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips and is playing the piano instead of the guitar tonight. Usher thinks Crystal “has a real shot, kid.” The real truth is that Crystal has already won this competition. It happened many weeks ago, and ever since, she’s just been performing to simply show everyone else how it should be done. She picks songs that she can connect with and everything she sings comes across as authentic and real and honest. Her voice is interesting and tonight she hit some notes that we’ve not heard from her before and they were just as on point as the others. She knows exactly who she is, who she wants to be, and she’s going to take us there week after week. She is absolutely in a different league than anyone else. Randy thought she did Gladys Knight proud. Ellen thinks she is in it to win it. Kara can’t wait to see what she does next. Simon thought she picked the best song and only had issue with the backing vocals making it seem old-fashioned.
TwinklyBits (has this caught on yet?), I mean, Aaron Kelly, is gonna tackle “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. One of my hands-down all time favorites… Kris Allen totally KILLED this song last year. Usher actually gave him some musical advice about the chorus that seemed constructive. Can I just start with an obvious statement that Aaron singing this song about a chick is highly improbable? So there were parts of the song that were actually pretty good. There were other parts that were wavering and unsupported. I didn’t like his interpretation of the “I know I know” chorus. He tried to incorporate what Usher suggested, but didn’t really carry it through to be something remarkable. It was very middle of the road for me. Randy thought it started rough but ended up all right. Ellen thought it was a good song choice. Kara thought it could have been more energetic. Simon called it a “cupcake” performance but he should be safe for next week.
Here’s my ranking for the week:
- Crystal Bowersox
- Casey James
- Lee Dewyze
- Michael Lynche
- Siobhan Magnus
- Andrew Garcia
- Tim Urban
- Aaron Kelly
- Katie Stevens
- Didi Benami
I’m afraid it’s Didi’s week to go home, which really bums me out. I’d rather see TwinklyBits or Katie go first. I’m also scared that Siobhan’s off night is going to put her in serious jeopardy. Though, I think the judges would use their “save” to keep her from going home. What do you guys think? Who did you vote for? Are you ready to just crown Crystal the winner now?