May 26

American Idol Season 9: Final Two Perform

Ok folks, it all comes down to this.

Casey James is gone and we are choosing between Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze to be the Season 9 winner of American Idol.

Last week was the first show that seemed like it was actually, finally, a competition. It has been a season of a lot of m’eh. There have been very few “moments” of brilliance this season. The competition has been pretty much Crystal and therestofthem. I’m hoping that this does not bite her in the ass with a come from behind victory from Lee. But it all depends on how things go tonight.

They have three songs to perform tonight: their favorite from the season, one chosen by the executive producers, and finally, the song that they will release as a single if they win.

Lee DeWyze is up first. His favorite pick is “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel from “Inspirational Week.” Yeah, I hated it the first time as I recall. Randy didn’t think it was energetic enough. Ellen thought he performed it better than the first time. Kara agreed with Randy that he needed to bring more to it. Simon expected more passion.

Crystal Bowersox chose “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin from “Billboard Week.” She definitely brought the energy tonight. She also looks fantastic. This was every bit as good or better than the first time. Randy thought it started it slow but by the end it was “dope.” Ellen thinks she can fill the room with just a guitar. Kara loved it again tonight. Simon said she is back on her best and there’s a real competition tonight.

Lee’s second song tonight is “Everybody Hurts” by REM. He hasn’t really done anything to make this song different. The only change to the arrangement was the addition of the choir. I’m really not feeling it. Randy thought it was pitchy at the start, but improved. Ellen wants to see him get more involved with the song. Kara thought he told a great story. Simon thought it was a brilliant song choice but his nerves were getting the best of him.

Crystal’s next song is “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles. The intro arrangement was pretty cool. Actually, the entire arrangement was pretty cool. Crystal knocked this one out of the fucking park. Randy thinks she’s in it to win it. Ellen called it “Fantastic.” Kara blabbed something ridiculous. Simon is “almost allergic” to that song… but he said she took that song and absolutely nailed it.

Lee’s final song, the song that he will release as a single if he wins is “Beautiful Day” by U2. Since when do they release a cover as the single? What happened to the original?! Do.Not.Like. Lee is no Bono. Lee may be Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, but he is most definitely not Bono. This arrangement is pretty bad… Yeah. Not a fan. Please get off the stage. Randy thought he got his groove in the middle of the song. Ellen thought he was taking all the energy of the room in. Kara thought he got swallowed a bit by the song. Simon thinks Lee exemplifies the purpose of this show, a performer who needs a break.

Crystal’s final song is “Up to the Mountain.” I don’t know this song, but it’s a pretty acoustic jam with a gospel choir. She wins. This was her “moment.” It took a long time to get here, but that was it. The shining moment. Absolutely stunning. Randy called it one of the greatest performances ever on the show and at the perfect time. Ellen can’t compare her to any other contemporary artist. Kara thought she was completely emotionally invested in the song and she has “blossomed.” Simon, in his very last judgement on the show, called it the song of the night and called it “outstanding.”

I don’t think there is much competition. I called it WAAAAAAYYY back at the beginning of the season: Crystal Bowersox is the next American Idol.

The finale is tomorrow night. It’s generally a great show.

Do you think there’s any possibility that Lee will actually win?

May 19

American Idol Season 9: Semi-Finals

Michael Lynche was sent scuttling back to the gym last week, leaving us with the top 3. Lee Dewyze, Casey James, and Crystal Bowersox.

It’s pretty much the top three I’ve expected, with my personal hope of Siobhan making it this far being a pipe dream.

Just based on everything I’ve seen so far, I think it’s going to come down to Lee and Crystal in the top two. Crystal will win.

This week the contestants got to visit home. I’m gonna pretty much skim over the usual “key to the city, cry on stage, look really tired” video montage if they play them tonight and just get to the singing. I’m sure you can understand, right?

This is the week that the judges pick songs for the contestants and they pick one themselves.

Casey James is up first with “Ok, It’s All Right With Me” by Eric Hutchinson. I like the song… but this is one of those strange picks where if Casey had written it, I would love it… but as a cover, it’s not special. Randy thought the song was “just all right with me.” Ellen doesn’t think he brought enough for this stage of the contest. Kara thought the song choice was bad. Simon compared the performance to the salad course of a meal.

Crystal Bowersox picked a great Melissa Etheridge song, “Come to My Window.” I’m not sure it was her best vocal ever, but it was definitely Crystal doing what she does best. Randy didn’t like the arrangement, but loved her vocal. Ellen thought it was a great song choice (of course) and said that Melissa would be proud of her. Kara missed the moment, but thought it was good. Simon didn’t think it was stunning, but loves that she has not compromised as an artist this season.

Lee Dewyze chose “Simple Man” by Lynrd Skynrd. It was ok… one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. I still find myself wishing I was listening to Adam Duritz from Counting Crows instead. Randy thought it was a brilliant song choice. Ellen rambled about gazelles or something. Kara thought he showed everything he has. Simon called his song choice “on the money.” He said Lee crushed the other two in round one.

Randy and Kara have picked “Daughters” by John Mayer for Casey James to perform. I’m generally a fan of John Mayer but I hate this fucking song. It’s just so boring and sing-songy. Casey has perfectly picked up on the Mayer Mumble. I can’t understand a word. Randy thought the song fit him like a glove. Ellen thought it was beautiful. Kara thought it showed the more sensitive artistic side of Casey. Simon thought it was a good song choice, but thought the arrangement was kinda lazy and sleepy.

Ellen has picked a song for Crystal Bowersox — “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. This is an awesome choice. It’s almost as if Janis Joplin was resurrected to sing this tonight. Fantastic. Randy thought it was a great song with great vocals. Ellen couldn’t have asked for more. Kara thought we heard parts of her voice we haven’t heard before and commended the risk of not playing an instrument. Simon says she proved she has got soul and she should thank Ellen for putting her in the final.

Simon got to choose the final song of the night for Lee Dewyze — “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. I think it is kind of unfair that they brought out a full choir to sing behind Lee. How do you not vote for someone who had a full choir backing them? Of course, being that it was the best performance Lee has ever given, I’d find it pretty hard to not vote for him, too. Shocking, I know. Randy called it his biggest moment at the best possible time. Ellen called it “stunning.” Kara called it an incredible epic moment. Simon said he proved that he is a fantastic singer and a great person.

Here’s my unexpected ranking of the night:

  1. Lee Dewyze
  2. Crystal Bowersox
  3. Casey James

Lee had a really great night. I can’t deny it. Casey will go home. Lee’s performances tonight actually make him seem like he could sneak up from behind and win. The final competition might actually be fierce for the first time all season. It’s taken far to long to get here! So what do you all think? What is your prediction for the finale?

May 12

American Idol Season Nine: Top Four Perform Songs from the Movies

Bye Bye TwinklyBits! You had a better run than expected. Now you’ll put out a middle of the road-nothing special country/pop album that sells just enough copies to warrant a second album before you hit puberty and disappear into obscurity. That’s just the way it is.

The top four are performing tonight. We are just two weeks away from the end of what has been one of the hardest to watch seasons I can remember. The chasm between the talented and the crap has never been this large.

They have to perform songs individually, and paired up into “very special duets.” The theme is “The Movies.” Tonight’s mentor is Jamie Foxx. I remember thinking it was a ridiculous choice last year and I’ve not seen anything to change my mind since then.

Lee DeWyze chose “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal from one of the Batman movies… Returns, maybe? I didn’t understand a single word of at least the first verse. Hey Lee – take the gravel out of your mouth wouldja? He’s not done a single thing to make this song his own. It’s rushed and never found a groove at all. Honestly if you’re going to take a song like this that has a very stylized sort of madrigal sound, you could do almost ANYTHING to the arrangement to make it your own. He did nothing. Plus, he was flat a lot. Randy didn’t think he did anything with the song and it was pitchy. Ellen thought there could be more done with the song. Kara thought he was out of tune and got lost in the arrangement. Simon thought he picked the wrong song and did nothing to make it his own. He compared it to karaoke.

Michael Lynche picked “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson from the “Free Willy” soundtrack. The song started too low for him for sure. Again, he’s done absolutely nothing to make this song his own. Michael performed this song with a lot of gospel feel and Michael kept it exactly the same. If not for the live choir on stage, I’d think he was singing along to one of those 1990’s karaoke tapes. Randy didn’t love it as it was just “alright.” Ellen thinks he is consistently good, but this was a predictable performance. Kara missed the “goosebumps” and he played it safe. Simon thinks he chose the wrong song, but he did at least feel like he meant it.

The first duet of the evening is next. Lee and Crystal are performing “Falling Slowly” from the film “Once.” A beautiful song that Kris Allen made popular last year. The original gives me chills. I didn’t really love the arrangement, it was too rock-driven and less intense than the lyrics call for. That being said, they sounded good together. Randy thought it was amazing. Ellen called them the “New Captain and Tenille.” Kara called it one of her favorite moments of the entire season. Simon called it “a fantastic song.”

Casey James decided to sing “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel from “The Graduate.” He’s broken out a mandolin and the arrangement is pretty sparse, almost bluegrass which is actually pretty cool. Though I will say it does feel a little bit like a campfire sing-a-long rather than a multi-million viewer performance. He sang it well, but didn’t do much with the interpretation or melody. Randy thought he sounded “cool” and laidback. Ellen liked the changes but wished he had gone a bit further. Kara thought it was a good choice and liked that he showed some vulnerability. Simon didn’t think the song had enough substance or importance.

Crystal Bowersox is performing “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins from “Caddyshack.” So Crystal is back to being that fun bluesy rocker chick that we all know and love. This performance was so far and away better than anything the other contestants have done. It was very cool, the arrangement was changed drastically and made modern. The reggae-ish breakdown was a great choice. I would totally listen to this version over and again. I’ve already forgotten what everyone else sang. Randy didn’t think it was his favorite performance but liked her changes to the song. Ellen thought she made the song better. Kara agreed with Ellen, she made the song better. Simon said she is “back in the game.” Wait, she was out of the game??

Jamie Foxx has NO other trick up his sleeve other than getting in the singer’s face and telling them to seduce him. Seriously?

Michael Lynche and Casey James are on deck to perform their duet “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” by Bryan Adams from “Don Juan de Marco.” I hate this song. This performance does nothing to change that. I can’t really even comment on the shitacular-ness that this was. The only thing nice was Casey’s guitar. Randy called it a “nice one.” Ellen admitted to having “loved a woman.” Kara called the duets “incredible.” Simon thought the duets were a million times better than the solo performances.

Tonight’s rankings:

  1. Crystal Bowersox
  2. Casey James
  3. Lee DeWyze
  4. Michael Lynche

So who do you think is going home? At this point I don’t think one crappy performance is enough to send someone home. I think it’s a collective process at this point — who has generated the biggest most fevered fan base? I think the time has run out for Michael.

May 05

American Idol Season 9: Top Five Sing Songs of Sinatra

We’re down to the top five.

Last week Siobhan was sent home. I’m very sad that this happened. I really wanted her in the top 3 with Crystal and Casey. Now it looks like either Lee or Twinklybits will be taking her spot.

This means there’s just one girl left.

The dreamy Harry Connick Jr is the mentor tonight and the Idols are singing the Sinatra songbook. I’m excited to hear that Harry is actually writing the arrangements for the contestants. That’s pretty damn cool.

Aaron “TwinklyBits” Kelly is opening the show with “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words).” I’m sensing a bit of nervousness tonight. His voice is a bit quivery in places, but all-in-all he did not-so-bad. Sort of so what? The arrangement was very cool. Randy thought he did a really good job. Ellen said the piano was pitchy, but thought it was a beautiful vocal. Kara didn’t think it was as strong as last week and he needs to be a bit “bigger” on stage. Simon didn’t think it had enough conviction and the performance was a bit corny at the end.

Casey James is next and he’s picked “Blue Skies.” He’s not playing the guitar tonight which makes him look a bit uncomfortable. I gotta say, this was pretty fucking terrible. To properly sing these kinds of songs you have to have a really clear voice that rings like a bell. Think Nat King Cole or Rosemary Clooney… they would hit notes without a hint of quiver or vibrato and it’s smooth as glass. Casey just doesn’t have that voice. He’s great with the bluesy jams, but this is totally outside of his abilities. Randy called it his worst performance that was pitchy all over the place. Ellen thought it was very stiff and uncool. Kara compared his vibrato to a lamb. Simon thought he seemed a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable.

Crystal Bowersox is singing “That Summer Wind.” She looks amazing tonight in a full length black gown and the dreads are neatly tucked back on her head. She really can sing anything. This was a great song for her. She definitely put a bit of her own spin on the arrangement, and it fell in a beautiful part of her voice. She’s proving herself to be much much more than the rocker/folker chick that she started out as. Randy called it a bit “sleepy.” Ellen wanted her to loosen up a bit more and she commented on her many sides. Kara liked her phrasing and thought it was good departure from her norm. Simon doesn’t know if it was the right song for her and wants her to really step up her game.

Michael Lynche takes the stage now and he’s picked “The Way You Look Tonight.” I think Michael is probably the most comfortable with this genre tonight. His voice is clear and suited for this style for sure. He’s done a pretty good job with his interpretation, with the exception of it being somewhat over-dramatic. The hand gestures, the over enunciation, the self-indulgent super slow intro… it’s all a bit campy for me. But I do have to say his vocal is probably the best tonight. Did I just say that? Randy called it an unbelievable vocal. Ellen thought he had the most comfort on stage tonight and thought it charismatic and smooth. Kara thought he interpreted the song perfect, liked the drama, and put his own flavor on it. Simon thought it was the best of the night.

Lee Dewyze is closing the show tonight with “That’s Life.” I actually like this. For the first time this season, Lee has impressed me. There were no stupid monotonous belted notes. He stuck to the melody and his attitude was absolutely spot on. He was very comfortable on stage and had the exact “swagger” that the judges have been looking for all night. It was a great arrangement and he sang it quite well. It was the perfect song choice for him. I’m still a bit stunned. Leave it to the “standards” week to turn everything on its ear. Randy loved it. Ellen thinks if this were the last night of performances Lee would win the whole thing. Kara said, “You can win this thing.” Simon thought Harry brought out Lee’s personality and confidence and thought it was by far the best performance of the night.

Here’s my ranking for the night:

  1. Lee Dewyze
  2. Michael Lynche
  3. Crystal Bowersox
  4. Aaron Kelly
  5. Casey James

I’m not sure Casey will get voted off though… it’s hard to tell if the guitar/rocker guy vote will be split between Lee and Casey sending Casey home, or if there are enough tween girls voting for the sexy Casey knocking TwinklyBits out of the competition. It’s too close to call at this point. What do you think?

Apr 28

American Idol Season Nine: Songs of Shania Twain

It’s Idol night!

I’m really not excited about it. I’m faking my enthusiasm. I’m half tempted to fast forward to Crystal, Siobhan, and Casey and forget anyone else is on the show, especially since man-candy Tim Urban was voted off last week.

Idol Gives Back raised over $45 million last week. Good for them. The show was pretty blah, though. The only performance I really enjoyed was the pairing of Jeff Beck and Joss Stone.

Tonight’s theme is the “Music of Shania Twain.”

Shania is a super nice lady. I got to hang out with her several times back in my Nashville days. She’s the mentor this week and I expect she’ll have some good advice. Much better than Alicia Keys, for sure!

Lee Dewyze is up first. He picked “Still The One.” Shania suggested that he start with just piano and not be lead by his guitar. Probably good advice, but I wish she had told him to stop screaming in his monotone. This was kind of a mess. Randy thought he found a way to make it his own. Ellen thought it was “better than pretty good.” Kara thinks he always sounds “so relavent.” Simon thought it was the perfect song for him to do.

Michael Lynche chose “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing.” Shania wants him to connect to the song. I have to admit, I totally tuned this out. It was apparently boring and had no real power behind it. I really only caught the last note. Randy thought he did a great job. Ellen compared him to Luther Vandross. Kara thought he was very connected to the song. Simon thought the comparison to Luther was spot on, but he thought the performance was “wet.”

Casey James picked “Don’t.” Shania thought he was lacking a bit of confidence and wanted him to really sing instead of relying on the performance. This is probably my favorite performance of Casey’s. It was honest and emotional. He didn’t fall back on his great guitar skills to cover a generic blues/rock song. It was a fantastic performance. Randy called it the best Casey James performance ever. Ellen agreed wholeheartedly. Kara thought he was vulnerable and raw. Simon thought it was his best performance so far and thought it was a much needed performance.

Crystal Bowersox
is on stage next. She picked “No One Needs to Know.” Shania wants her to be a bit “happier.” It’s a pretty bouncy song. It’s one of my favorites off her second album. This version is a little less perky than the original and the bluegrass instrumentation certainly changed it up a bit. Not my favorite performance of Crystal’s but still quite good. Randy didn’t think it was her best but still loves her. Ellen didn’t think it was her favorite, but it was still great. Kara thought it was good. Simon thought it was limp.

Aaron TwinklyBits Kelly will be picking something really sappy, I suspect… perhaps “From This Moment?” Nope.. “You Got A Way.” Same vein, different song. Shania tried to bolster his confidence. Once again, he’s picked a song that is too big, too old, too sophisticated for him. Randy thinks he is the country artist on the show this year? Ellen thought he showed a lot of maturity and emotion. Kara thought he really felt the words and changing the “when we make love” lyric was smart. Simon thought this was the kind of record Aaron should make. Let me get out my credit card and not buy that.

Siobhan Magnus chose “Any Man of Mind.” Shania told Siobhan to get into character for this performance. While I find the idea of Siobhan doing a country song a bit ridiculous, this was still pretty fun to see her pull this off. I’m still a fan. Randy loved it. Ellen thought it was fantastic. Kara proclaimed that Siobhan is back. Simon thought the song was perfect and fun.

Here’s my ranking:

  1. Casey James
  2. Crystal Bowersox
  3. Siobhan Magnus
  4. Aaron Kelly
  5. Michael Lynche
  6. Lee Dewyze

So… did Shania deliver?

Apr 21

American Idol Season Nine: Seven Songs of Inspiration

You’ll have to forgive the terseness of this recap tonight. I’m exhausted and I’m going to buzz through it as quickly as possible. Besides, I’m pretty sure I say the same things about the same people every week.

It’s Idol Gives Back week. Prepare the box of tissues for the show tomorrow night.

Alicia Keys is the celebrity mentor and the theme is “Songs of Inspiration.”

Casey James has picked “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac. Alicia wants him to give a lot of personality. So this is what it would sound like if Bob Segar covered a Fleetwood Mac song. I”m pretty sure you know what that sounds like. You either like it or don’t. I happen to dig it. Randy thought it was good performance, but not his best. Ellen called him consistently good, but that’s not good enough. Kara compared him to a jam band that didn’t show his difference from others. Simon didn’t think it was a particularly “inspiring” performance, even called it a lazy song choice.

Lee Dewyze is here to perform “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel. I suspect he’s going to have some trouble with this, simply because it actually has a melody. His trick of hanging out on one note will make this song suck. Oh good, a new problem, he’s marble-mouth singing. You know, mumbling the words as though he has a mouth full of marbles. I probably didn’t have to explain that, huh? I was going to say he was actually singing the melody right up to the last “li li li’s” where he did his monotone trick. This is what it sounds like when Adam Duritz from Counting Crows covers a Simon and Garfunkel song. Randy thinks he is a great artist ready to make great music. Ellen loved the song choice and thinks he’s getting better and better. Kara thinks he had his “moment” tonight. Simon called it best of the night even though we’re only two in. He thought it was emotional and inspirational.

Tim Urban picked “Better Days” by The Goo Goo Dolls. It’s a pretty cool song, but maybe not the best choice for an Idol performance. He had some pitchy moments in the first verse that were a little rough. It ended better than it began. Randy thought it was just “ok karaoke.” Ellen called him the “soup of the day” some days she likes it, some days she doesn’t. Today she didn’t. Kara thought the execution wasn’t great, but it was commercial. Simon thinks the performance might have been a step too high for him.

Aaron Kelly chose “I Believe I Can Fly.” Talk about a predictable song choice. Syrupy, sappy. Oh poor TwinklyBits… this song is much bigger than you are. Just… *pbbt*. Randy thought it was a strange song for him, but he did a good job. Ellen thought he handled a tough song real well. Kara thought it was a rough beginning but ended great. Simon thought he gave it his all, but if he heard it on the radio he’d have turned it off in 10 seconds.

Siobhan Magnus is doing “When You Believe” by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Alicia told her to take a “pause.” Um, ok. *Insert standard “I like her quirky style” and big voice statement here*. I hate Mariah Carey with a passion. You know that right? I really like Siobhan though. So there’s that. Randy called it “Just Ok.” Ellen loved it. Kara thought it was really well song, but she’s trying to sound too theatery. Simon didn’t think it was the right song and the arrangement was old-fashioned.

Michael Lynche has been planning to sing “Hero” by Chad Kroger and Josie what’s his bucket for years. I think the thing I like about this song is the intensity of the original. Mike seems to be sucking all of that out of the arrangement. It’s rather boring. He’s also not hitting all the notes in tune. Not my favorite. Randy thought he held his own. Ellen thought he did a great job. Kara didn’t think he cut through and made it unrecognizable. Simon thought he sang it pretty well, but thought his doing a song about Spiderman was a mistake.

Crystal Bowersox is going to hit the stage without an instrument tonight. She’s performing “People Get Ready” by The Impressions. Total a cappella intro was cool. She has never sounded better. Seriously. And then… she burst into tears at the end. Holy shit that was awesome. I’m teary eyed. Randy gave her a standing ovation. Ellen said she has never looked more beautiful. Kara thanked her for taking a risk and said she just schooled everyone. Simon said, “THAT was inspirational.” He said she sang it fantastically and it was in a different class.

Here’s my ranking:

  1. Crystal Bowersox
  2. Casey James
  3. Siobhan Magnus
  4. Lee Dewyze
  5. Tim Urban
  6. Michael Lynche
  7. Aaron Kelly

So… were any of you inspired? And can we discuss for a moment how utterly useless Alicia Keys was this episode?

Apr 07

American Idol Season Nine: Top Nine Perform Lennon and McCartney Songs

The top nine finalists perform this week. We said a sad goodbye to Didi Benami on Wednesday. I wasn’t quite ready for her to go, as I think Katie and TwinklyBits are still on the chopping block and Didi at least had something interesting about her.

The theme tonight is Lennon/McCartney, the most successful and arguably the most important songwriting duo who has ever put pen to paper.

I’m such a huge Beatles fan that I’m going to just say these are my favorite songs ever.

Aaron TwinklyBits Kelly is opening the show tonight. He picked “The Long and Winding Road.” He seems to be having some pitch issues tonight. It’s almost as if he is having issues breathing as his phrases are totally unsupported. He stuck almost exactly to the melody with nearly an identical arrangement to the original. He does seem to be improving every week, though. Randy thinks he has a nice tone but thought it was kind of sleepy. Ellen called it the “Long and Winding Song.” Kara thinks it was a good performance, but needed to be great and he needs to pick an uptempo song for next week. Simon thought it was old-fashioned and boring and he needs to become young and relevant.

Katie Stevens chose “Let It Be.” She actually looks like a teenager tonight with her big earrings, pink dress and ponytail. This is the first performance of Katie’s that I actually like. It started tender and soft and her tone was quite pretty. Whatever she did differently this week worked. The arrangement and her minor melodic changes were stylish and surprisingly pleasant. She may have finally picked the exact right song for herself. Randy called her it her best performance ever. Ellen called it a perfect example of changing a song just enough to make it her own. Kara said she was blossoming on stage. Simon said she got it right tonight and wasn’t robotic like her past performances have been.

Andrew Garcia picked “Can’t Buy Me Love.” He put a bit of a modern rock-a-billy intro and break into the song, but stuck mainly to the melody. This was a definite middle-of-the-road performance. UMB noticed that the arrangement didn’t go to the minor chord in the chorus which made the melody sound a bit off. Andrew sang it just fine, but since I’m not a big fan of his voice it didn’t do a thing for me. Randy thought it was an ok performance that bordered on corny. Ellen thought it was perfect song choice. Kara wanted to love it but didn’t feel like it was anything new. Simon thought the arrangement was corny and irrelevant.

Michael Lynche landed on “Eleanor Rigby.” Wait, that sounded painful… that’s probably what killed her! First line in and I already hate this. Dude, you’re not Maxwell stop trying to sing like him. Ok… so here’s the deal. I actually really liked the arrangement that Michael did. I just kept wishing it were someone else singing it. Someone who wasn’t trying to throw such a gospel-cum-syrupy R&B spin on it. His voice is alright… it’s his style I don’t dig. Randy isn’t sure it all worked, but thought parts of it were brilliant. Ellen thought it was incredible. Kara called it “fire” and that his vocals were amazing and commercial for today. Simon thought it was a little too Broadway musical styled.

Crystal Bowersox takes the stage next with her version of “Come Together.” Her arrangement includes a dijeridoo which is pretty f’n awesome. I’m running out of adjectives to describe how on point and talented Crystal is. I’d buy her album right now. UMB called this an incredible “Bonnie Raitt moment.” Crystal knows exactly who she is as an artist, she makes the right song choice every week. She makes arrangements fit her style as though they were always meant to be performed that way. She’s already won this competition. I’m getting really tired of making this statement every single week, but there it is. Randy didn’t know that it was her best, but it was totally solid performance. Ellen is distressed because she’s running out of ways to describe how good Crystal is. I feel ya, babe. Kara called it one of her favorite Crystal performance. She compared it to a Bonnie Raitt performance. Simon thought it was something he’d listen to on the radio right now and absolutely terrific.

Tim Urban is up next with “All My Lovin’.” His arrangement started with just him and his electric guitar. He’s made very few interesting melody changes. He’s hammering on one my all-time pet peeves, though…. putting an “and” in front of every line where they don’t belong. “AND all my loving.” “AND close your eyes and I’ll kiss you AND tomorrow I’ll miss you.” It distracts me. Otherwise, he sounded good tonight. No pitch problems, no real issues of corniness. For the most part he stuck to the original version of the song, which means he might get some flack from the judges for not standing out enough. Randy thought it was a much better performance than the last couple of weeks. Ellen thought it was his 2nd best performance. Kara thought it was good and loves that he has such a good attitude. Simon thought he did really well tonight, and there was no gimmick and he didn’t try to oversing it.

Casey James decided on “Jealous Guy,” a solo John Lennon song. He’s playing acoustic guitar with a cello accompaniment which makes this seem like an incredibly intimate vibe. He’s got a definite Bob Segar vibe to his voice tonight. He’s another contestant who really knows who he is. He’s definitely got the modern blues market cornered. This is one of his best performances, not necessarily the best vocal he’s ever done, but the overall package was perfect. He seemed vulnerable and he made the song lyrics up front and center which added to the mood. I think he had a great moment tonight. I can’t say I like the way he ended the song unresolved, but whatever. Randy loved the sensitive side and thought it was a great performance. Ellen called it his best performance to date and he really poured himself into the song. Kara commented on his vulnerability and thought he was showing a lot of depth. Simon called it the best performance of the night and thinks he has made the biggest improvement of any contestant over the last several weeks.

Siobhan Magnus is gonna perform “Across the Universe.” I seriously have chills right now. This was absolutely stunningly beautiful. Totally reserved, soft and intimate. She added some minor variations to the melody that showcased her ability to hit those really high notes at low volume which is not easy to do. I’m on the verge of tears, actually. Brilliant. Randy thought it was a little sleepy but loved the tender side. Ellen loves that she always honors who she is and called it beautiful. Kara thought it was restrained and polite which is a big change for her but left her a bit confused. Simon called it much stronger than last week and likes that she is unique.

It’s weird how they can hear the same performance that I do and come away with a totally different impression. Siobhan is clearly influenced by artists like Tori Amos, Nellie McKay, and Kate Bush. I’m guessing the judges aren’t real fans of that style.

Lee Dewyze picked “Hey Jude.” He’s playing acoustic guitar and it seems a bit like an annoying drunk guy sitting around a campfire. And then a guy emerges from backstage playing the bagpipes in full kilt regalia. Because that makes total sense. This was an utterly pointless performance. Firstly, he’s playing the song in a key that is obviously too high for him to sing as he keeps bowing out of the top notes. Secondly, by the end of the song he was basically just shouting a rather non-melodic “na na na nananananananaaaaa” at us. Whenever they pull some strange theatrical trick, in this case the celtic piper, it always seems to be during a performance the producers feel we need to be distracted from. This one would certainly qualify. Randy thought it was a hot performance. Ellen thought it was confident and comfortable. Kara noticed a few off moments, but thinks she could hear him on the radio. Simon wouldn’t have included the bagpipes as he was doing fine before he came out.

Maybe it was just the quality of songs they had to pick from tonight, or they are actually all stepping up their game… whatever it is, tonight didn’t make me want to shoot myself in the head or willingly implode my eardrums.

I’m concerned that I’m the only one who was moved by Siobhan, since the judges didn’t totally dig it. She’d better stick around. I think if she were to end up on the chopping block they would actually use their save for her.

My ranking (not necessarily the rest of America’s apparently…)

  1. Crystal Bowersox
  2. Siobhan Magnus
  3. Casey James
  4. Katie Stevens
  5. Tim Urban
  6. Michael Lynche
  7. Andrew Garcia
  8. Lee Dewyze
  9. Aaron Kelly

It just suddenly struck me that there are only 3 girls left. How did that happen? We haven’t said goodbye to a guy in a few weeks now. For that reason, I’m suddenly feeling a bit better about Siobhan’s chances at staying around. TwinklyBits was the weakest this week and I think it’s time to say goodbye. Let all the tweeners who are voting for him keep Tim Urban around another week or two while we pick off Andrew and Lee. Though Katie going home soon wouldn’t bug me in the least… that is unless she keeps performing as well as she did tonight.

What do you all think? Was it the songs that made tonight so much better than previous weeks, or have the rest of the contestants figured out that they have to really do something spectacular to try and gain some ground on Crystal?

Mar 31

American Idol Season Nine: Top Ten Perform Soul and R&B Hits

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:

  1. Crystal Bowersox
  2. Casey James
  3. Lee Dewyze
  4. Michael Lynche
  5. Siobhan Magnus
  6. Andrew Garcia
  7. Tim Urban
  8. Aaron Kelly
  9. Katie Stevens
  10. 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?

Mar 24

American Idol Season Nine: Top 11 Perform

Last week we said goodbye to the screechy Lacey Brown, who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Lilly should have been in the Top 12. And TwinklyBits should have left a space for Alex. But you all know that already, yes?

We’ve finally reached the point where the Pop Star Mentors come to impart their advice to the Idol hopefuls.

The very first mentor… is…. Miley Fucking Cyrus?

Are you kidding me?

She can’t sing. She’s ugly. She’s probably a product of incest. She’s definitely a Disney whore who’s every move was carefully calculated and planned by some Public Relations guru.

Why does anyone think she’s a good mentor?

This night is just going to suck isn’t it? Wait… don’t tell me… I’m about to find out.

The theme tonight is #1 Hits on the Billboard Top 100.

Lee Dewyze has chosen “The Letter” by The Box Tops. This choice is actually a pretty timely pick since Alex Chilton (the lead singer who went on to head up Big Star) just died suddenly last week before a South By South West performance. Miley Fucking Cyrus had nothing to offer him. Seriously. Nothing. Lee does not seem to be comfortable on stage at all. Watch how he shrugs his shoulders and squats down trying to make himself smaller. As for the song, he’s trying to throw some of the Joe Cocker vibe into it, but he kept running out of steam at the end of ever phrase in the verses. He also missed the opportunity to hit some nice high notes and instead chose to keep singing the sam emontone pitch over and over again. The band was pretty hot, he was not. Randy thought he knocked it out of the box. Ellen called him her “favorite pen.” Kara said he had never sounded better or looked more comfortable. Simon thought it was cory and had no relevance to being a current artist.

Paige Miles picked “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins. Miley Fucking Cyrus offered up a lame “Watch your pitch.” Brilliant! What insight into the life of a performer! Three notes into the song Paige’s pith is off. This is painfully bad. This must have been what it was like to watch the Hindenburg disaster… you can’t do a damn thing about it but keep repeating “Oh, the humanity!” I can’t imagine anyone being worse than this tonight. It can’t get any worse, can it? It was a jumbled mess of sour notes, breathy whispers, ambitious runs that fell flat on their face and a sleepy arrangement. Awful. Randy couldn’t form a sentence and finally called it “honestly terrible.” Ellen congratulated her on not falling down in those heels. Kara thinks Paige stopped competing and called it the worst vocal of the season. Simon called it “all over the place” and thought she knew it on stage too.

Tim Urban chose “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen. Miley Fucking Cyrus offered him a hug and called him “great” before suggesting that he do something “cool and different.” *sigh* So I have to say I don’t think Tim has ever sounded better. His pitch was dead on. He had a Michael Buble-inspired arrangement and carried it off pretty confidently. Sure it was a little bit hokey to go out into the audience of reaching and clawing girls, but you have to admit he pulled off that slide across the floor without a hitch. I think it would be very wise of the other guys not to underestimate Tim. Randy thought the vocals were boring. Ellen compared it to a High School Musical audition that was corny (there’s another kind!?). Kara thought it was Zac Efron in Hairspray and reminded him that he hasn’t sold millions of records. Simon thought his stage antics smartly distracted from the song. He thought it was a pointless and silly choice.

Ryan just said that we’ll be hearing Aerosmith and Janis Joplin from Aaron and Crystal after the break. Is it wrong that I hope Crystal is doing the Aerosmith number?

Aaron Kelly aka TwinklyBits has laryngitis and tonsillitis. He’s singing “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith. Miley Fucking Cyrus thought he was “really really good.” Honestly, I would never have known he had throat problems, since he sounded just as pitchy and boring as he normally does. UMB however thinks this is the first time he’s actually liked anything TwinklyBits has sung. I’m certain the judges are going to give this a glowing review, but I was really underwhelmed. Randy was excited that he came out and sang since the last two sucked. Ellen thought it was a perfect song choice and said he’s normally pitch perfect and tonight he was so good. Kara called it the best song choice of the night. Simon called it a “brave choice.” He said that Aaron is making himself seem old-fashioned and there’s zero chance that he’s going home tomorrow.

Crystal Bowersox is performing “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin. Miley Fucking Cyrus suggested she make it more “gospelly.” This was a brilliant performance. Of course we knew she’d do a Joplin song at some point. Kudos for not picking the most obvious choice. I might have actually gasped if she had picked something like “Mercedes Benz” but outside of the obviousness of a Janice song, she made it interesting. She came out soft in the verses and then kicked major ass on the nonsensical scatting that happens at the end. The arrangement was great and her voice was in fine form. I’m ready to declare Crystal the winner of this thing and get this god-forsaken season over with already. She’s the most talented of the bunch. Randy called her a star. Ellen loved the song choice but wants a little more connection with the audience. Kara felt more from her this performance and wants to see her not hide behind the guitar. Simon said, “Don’t change anything.” He thought Crystal’s version was as good as Pink’s.

Michael Lynche picked “When A Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge. Miley Fucking Cyrus fell in love with him and had nothing to say or critique him on. That’s so helpful! My problem with Michael is that he tries to sing too many damn notes. It is perfectly fine to hold a half or god forbid a whole note with out throwing a gospel run in it. I also wish he had a little bit of grit in his voice. He’s such a big guy he needs to have a little dirty ball soup going on. I want a growl! His performance was a perfectly pleasant smooth-jazz cover version of a great Motown hit. He’s got a nice voice but no stage presence. And no balls. Randy didn’t think it was the best song choice, but thought he sang it quite well. Ellen thought it was a safe choice but likes his tone. Kara thought it was really good technically, but it was boring and a bit lounge at time with too many riffs. Simon wishes it had just been Michael and a piano with out the rest of the band but the song choice was again not very relevant.

Andrew Garcia will be singing “Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye. He blew the lyrics and Miley Fucking Cyrus suggested he put the guitar down to connect with the audience better. Andrew has apparently gone to the School for the Incredibly Enunciated and graduated with high honors. This performance is stiff and staccato and uncomfortable. I. Heard. It. Through. The Grape. Vine. There was no soul, no oomph. He was frantically stumbling all over the stage and not looking at the audience. The arrangement was hokey. This was a terrible song choice and a terrible performance. It was still way better than the earlier Hindenburg, though. Randy said “It wasn’t good, dog.” Ellen did not think it was enough to get any fans on board and a terrible song choice. Kara thinks chasing the Straight Up moment is messing with his head and she pointed out how uncomfortable he was on stage. Simon thinks that the arrangement was horrific and he sucked the soul out of that song and ruined one of the great pop songs of all time.

Hey look… it’s a show about teenagers who can really sing… Glee, I mean.

Katie Stevens is going to murder “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. Miley Fucking Cyrus told her to “remember why you love music.” This song is really not a younger choice. This song makes Fergie sound 50 what on earth will it do to Katie? Ohmygodthisissoboringandoffpitch. The best part of the performance was watching Katie’s hair get stuck in her lipstick and her moment of panic to try to get it out without touching it. So yeah, yuck. Boring high school talent show performance by the third chair alto. That pretty much sums it up. Randy thought it was sharp and pitchy all over the place but likes that she tried to go younger. Ellen thought it was her best performance so far. Kara thought this was a perfect song choice and found her vibe but she’s still got “mad pitch issues.” Simon thought meeting Miley Fucking Cyrus was the best thing that could happen for Katie. It was a good performance, but she still doesn’t know who she should be as an artist.

Casey James picked “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News. Miley Fucking Cyrus told him to make eye contact with the audience. Seriously, that’s awesome advice from a worldly performer. ::eye roll:: This is my favorite performance from Casey of the season so far. It was fun, exciting, and perfectly suited for his voice. He made some cool melody changes. My criticism is that the arrangement was a bit clunky. It really should have gone to the bridge (the “they say that all in love is fair” part) instead of that second chorus getting stuck in there. I totally dig the John Mayer / Kenny Wayne Shepard / Jonny Lang vibe that he has nailed down perfectly. I think Casey will be the last guy standing with Crystal Bowersox. Randy didn’t like the song choice but thought he did it well. Ellen didn’t like the song choice either but called it the best vocal of the night. Kara thinks he’s ready to make an album and he’s in the zone. Simon thought it was old fashioned when it came out 20 years ago. He thought it was like listening to an 80’s cover band with no originality.

Those are some fighting words, Simon.

Didi Benami takes the stage next with “You’re No Good” by Linda Rondstadt. Miley Fucking Cyrus still gets nervous and thinks Didi shouldn’t “let it take over.” Really? You think it’s a bad idea to let the nerves take over, Miley!? I keep forgetting Didi is on the show, which really sucks because I really like her. She’s in that weird middle ground where she’s not god-awful so you remember her, and she’s not fantastic so you remember her. She really needs a “moment” on stage. Last week was *almost* a moment. This was not that moment. This totally had a Nouvelle Vague vibe to it, jazzy, lounge-y, and quirky. She’s riding a very fine line between über-cool and hokey. I honestly am not sure which side of the line this was tonight. Randy loved the idea of the performance but thought she was pitchy all over the place. Ellen didn’t get the song choice. Kara thought she was playing a character that left her confused. Simon thought it was ironic that she kept saying “You’re No Good.”

Siobhan Magnus is closing the show with “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. Miley Fucking Cyrus wants her to “bring the swagger of your voice to the stage.” Is that even English? So look… Siobhan is this season’s Adam Lambert. You know, the contestant that seemingly beamed down from outer space and is here to entertain us with their alien whoops and hollers? Yeah… That’s Siobhan. This was fun, youthful, exciting, and her voice is great. I don’t even mind it when her head flip-tops open and her liver screams. She had a great arrangement, made smart melodic choices, hit the notes with power and looked like a star. This was not nearly as cool as last week, but it is as consistently good. Randy called her “fearless” and thought it was great. Ellen wants to see more performances. Kara thinks she expresses herself really well on stage. Simon thought some will like it and a lot will not. He said everyone including Siobhan needs to push themselves more.

Ok… so here’s the ranking:

  1. Crystal Bowersox
  2. Siobhan Magnus
  3. Casey James
  4. Michael Lynche
  5. Tim Urban
  6. Aaron Kelly
  7. Didi Benami
  8. Lee Dewyze
  9. Katie Stevens
  10. Andrew Garcia
  11. Paige Miles

And we will hopefully say goodbye to Paige tomorrow night. Though you could cut any of the bottom 4 and it would mean nothing to me whatsoever. Don’t care. What do you think? Am I far off the mark? Is TwinklyBits better than I give him credit for?