March 31st, 2010, 11:14 AM
American Idol had the sense to ask Usher to mentor the Top 10 contestants for R&B/Soul week. That makes sense because he’s an R&B singer. Having #1 hit-less Miley Cyrus mentor during #1 Billboard Hits week? Baffling. Most of the Top 10 improved over last week, with Lee DeWyze, Crystal Bowersox, Michael Lynche and *gasp* Andrew Garcia impressing the most. In other news, Ryan Seacrest continues to overstep his boundaries with Didi Benami and being obnoxious. Recaps and video clips (by MJ)…ahoy!
Siobhan Magnus – “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan: Whoa, the golden child took a golden stumble this week. Pitchy McPitcherscreech, what was that? She really had trouble throughout the whole song and hit a lot of bum notes that made me screw up my face. Bad sign. She’s a clear judges’ favorite though because even though she had major issues, Randy, Ellen and Kara all buffered their “That was pitchy / Not your best / Song was too big for you” criticism with “but we LOVE you / but you DESERVE to be here / but you’ve PROVEN you’ve got the goods”. So much bum-kissing going on! Siobhan seemed to take their half-criticisms well until Simon said what we all really thought, “It sounded as if you’d run a marathon and you were singing while out of breath. You were all over the place, I think you look all over the place…It was by far your weakest performance. I’m getting bored with your screaming at the end.” AMEN-elujah! Siobhan’s expression changed to a combo of pissed-off and about-to-cry. – VIDEO
Casey James – “Hold On, I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave: Casey worked hard to show his charisma by smiling a lot and working his electric guitar. It was a smart song choice on his part, although the camerawork was all sorts of disappointing last night: whooshing too far away from the contestants, focusing too long on the band or backup singers - it made it difficult to feel a connection to the performers. Casey’s one of the guys who delivers a decent, non-disgusting performance each week, but he is always forgettable for me. I don’t look forward to hearing him sing and yet I don’t dread it either. Kara and Ellen both felt it was too safe and generic. Kara wanted to hear more of his vocal range. Randy and Simon disagree and both really loved it. Simon thought it was Casey’s best so far because he showed a different side of himself by rocking out the R&B song. – VIDEO
Michael Lynche – “Ready for Love” by india.arie: Big Mike toned it down (woohoo) this week, just sitting (behind the judges) with his guitar and delivered an honest rendition of the melancholic tune. I find Michael annoying when he preens and struts around for the upbeat songs, but I admit that this was really excellent. His vocal control was unwavering and he (finally) seemed sincere. I’m an india.arie fan though, and I know the song. I’m not sure if it connected with folks who don’t know the song as well. Despite the mellow energy, the judges all felt he really nailed the song’s intention. Simon read my mind again and said it was the first time that he took Big Mike seriously as an artist. – VIDEO
Didi Benami – “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin: I’m a Didi fan. I want to continue being a Didi fan. But man alive is she living up to her Idol persona of “emotionally fragile, Didi Benami“. Her performances are as up and down as her emotions. For reasons unknown, the song is incredibly personal to her and she broke down in tears when she first sang it for Usher. That’s all fine and good, but oddly enough, there’s zero connection when she sang it live. She was in this olllld-fashioned, sequined gown, changed the melody too much and didn’t really emote beyond making pleading eyes into the camera. What a shame. The judges are all equally disappointed in her, saying it was too overly dramatic, didn’t stick to the melody and that Didi’s lost her way as an artist. They prefer her to be the acoustic guitar-playing, singer-songwriter. Didi is bummed by the feedback, but things get worse when Ryan continually tries to pressure her into talking about why the song is so significant to her. Didi dodges the personal question more than once, but Ryan doesn’t take the hint and makes everything awkward for her, for the judges and for us at home. Zip it, Seacrest! Even the judges had to yell to Ryan to leave her alone. Sometimes Ryan acts like a normal, kind human being, and then there are times like this when he acts like a moron with zero tact. When she refused to spill it, Ryan took it upon himself to blab that she once sang it at an audition for someone special in her life. ZIP. IT. SEACREST. – VIDEO
Tim Urban – “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker: I hate this dope. I DO NOT LIKE HIM. Boring song, mediocre performance as always, stupid puppy dog-Furby-serial killer eyes at the camera and those deliberate speeches where he acts like a dumb, happy-go-lucky guy impervious to criticism, but in actuality knows he can ignore all advice/comments on his suckage because he’s getting by on his looks. Yes, I am bitter that he is still here - I admit it freely! Basically, Tim was rubbish, the judges told him so and he just laughed it off like a douchebag. – VIDEO
Andrew Garcia – “Forever” by Chris Brown: Well, well… it only took over a month, but Andrew finally turned out a lovely performance again by acoustifying “Forever”. It’s already a pretty song that happens to be set against a pop, dance beat, so when Andrew stripped all of that excess away to get to the core message and melody, it was real purdy-like. The judges were really excited that Andrew is “back in the game”. Just when I had written him off, too. The only criticism came from Simon, who said, “As a person, you come over as very boring”. LOLZ. It’s true, but got Andrew’s zebra print-wearing mama up (playfully) in Simon’s face to defend her baby. Annnnnd cue commercial. – VIDEO
Katie Stevens – “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin: Katie’s voice works well with R&B/Soul, but as usual, I was turned off by her pageant-y mugging into the camera. The pouty, trying-to-be-sexy faces don’t work for you, girlfriend. She looked sorta cute, although I didn’t understand what was up with her one-piece gunnysack shorts number and the tight, spandex/leather pants situation going on down there. Oh well. The judges applauded her decent vocals, but all thought it was still old-fashioned and borderline hokey. – VIDEO
Lee DeWyze – “Treat Her Like a Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers: Maybe Lee is this year’s Kris Allen (well, Kris may be better). He’s a humble guy with a groovy rock voice that I love. The only problem is he needs to really turn the dial up on his stage presence. Still, I totally enjoyed his set (of one song) last night. The crowd were in a frenzied frenzy of sorts over it and the judges raved, all agreeing it was the best of the night. Go, Lee! He’s my fave guy in the bunch. My fave lady? She’s up next! – VIDEO
Crystal Bowersox – “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips: I love this song! Crystal’s promised surprise from last week was…that she’d be tickling the ivories (playing the piano for those unfamilz with the terminology). J’adore Bowersox, but I found the piano intro distracting because it was clear that she was focusing hard on hitting the right keys, and her vocals got lost. But then she got up from the piano (thank God) and set her voice freeeeee. It was much better and she got some glory notes in. But I wanted to hear more (the piano segment wasted too much time which could’ve been spent on Bowersox ferocity). Overall, the judges admired her risk, still loved her, but Simon warned her to not stray too far from her usual guitar-playing schtick because that’s what America fell in love with. He doesn’t want her to go too far out of her comfort zone because she was perfect already. Crystal promised that she’ll only do what’s comfortable for her, but she wanted to stretch herself to prove she could try something new. – VIDEO
Aaron Kelly – “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers: Ah, little Aaron. His nerves really seem to get the best of him on-stage because his voice got all goat/sheep-like in the vibrato again. He also got locked in that stiff, straddled legs stance and was a bit uncomfortable to watch. Compared to Kris Allen’s grand slam rendition of this song last year, Aaron was like a wiffle ball. The judges still try to be kind to the young lad, but they weren’t particularly into it. – VIDEO
American Idol results are tonight! I would be over the moon to see Tim Urban go home, but I sense that Didi Benami may be in danger. Which contestants did you love and hate last night?