American Idol 2010 – Top 11 finalists sing Billboard Number 1’s

They had a swift theme change on American Idol this week – from teen songs to Billboard #1’s. [[Ryan Seacrest]]’s customary interview with the judges takes great pains to point out that that the viewers must vote, vote, vote if they want their favourite singer to survive another week. Randy tells us that this week is crucial – because the remaining ten contestants will be on the American Idol summer tour. Whoever gets voted off this week won’t be on the tour, and quite frankly it’ll suck to be them…

Cowell trots out that line about tonight being the worst night to go. But it sounds like an echo, because they’ve said it every week since the Top 24. And they’ll continue right up to the finals. Except those will really be the worst week to lose.

Hannah Craptana herself, Miss Miley Cyrus, is the guest mentor on the show. She’s younger than most of the contestants, except perhaps Aaron or Katie. I imagine Crystal Bowersox inwardly seething at having to grin in the photo-op… Anyway, let’s get down to those performances, shall we?

[[Lee DeWyze]]

Lee is singing The Letter by The Box Tops. Concentrating on stage presence this week, Lee has ditched the guitar (and the hat?) and opts to wander around the stage like some gravelly voiced crooner. And you know what? It works. He seems more comfortable with the backing singers and brass section on stage with him, and he delivered a good vocal.

[[Randy Jackson]]: It’s cool that you chose this kind of bluesy soul version of the song. You know what dude? You knocked it out of the box. [[Ellen DeGeneres]]: (Talks utter gibberish about pens running out of ink, a wonderful ink-based metaphor for how much she enjoyed Lee’s performance this week) My favourite is back. [[Kara DioGuardi]]: You’ve raised the bar for yourself. I have never heard you sound better, look more comfortable, you’re finally owning the stage. You can do it even more, now that I can see the control you have over your vocals. But the first time you stepped on that stage to now, the progress is tremendous. [[Simon Cowell]]: There must have been thousands of Number 1’s you could have chosen from. I’m really surprised that you chose that song, because that to me was not a recording performance. That was you doing something quite corny. You sounded quite good, you were bouncing around on stage a bit. I think you’re missing the point I made last week about having a moment. That doesn’t define you as a contemporary recording artist.

[[Paige Miles]]

Paigey chooses to sing a dusty Phil Collins number, Against All Odds. She narrowly avoided elimination last week, being in the bottom two with Lacey Brown, so she needs to make a good effort tonight. Sorry, but from the outset the vocal is weak. Even Paige looks fed up at this stage. The performance is half-hearted, she’s off-key a considerable amount. I do love this girl, but she’s getting worse each week instead of better.

Randy: Really, honestly? I don’t know if your voice is back or what’s happening, but that was honestly terrible. There was nothing about it that was great. The pitch was all over the place, nothing came together at all. Ellen: I’m gonna start with the positive – you didn’t fall down and that’s a good thing. You look stunning. You’ve never looked better. Your hair looks great, you look beautiful and I am now going to turn over the music critique to Kara and Simon. Kara: Paige, somewhere along the line I think you stopped competing and stopped listening to what we were saying. Because that’s a really big song, you took on the Mariah version and if you’re gonna do that, it better be spectacular. And I have to say, it was the worst vocal that I’ve ever heard from you and possibly the worst of the season. Simon: How do you think you did? To be honest with you, it was like there were five of you singing that song. And it got progressively worse each one. It was just all over the place, and the awful thing was, I knew the point where you knew as well. I think you’re going to be in serious trouble tonight, sweetheart. I think what Kara said is right, you stopped competing weeks ago and you stopped believing in yourself, and you were so good.

[[Tim Urban]]

Oh god. Tim, who is constantly critiqued for his lack of personality, opts to sing Crazy Little Thing Called Love, a classic Queen track. In the same way Paige punched above her weight trying to sing Mariah, Tim is trying to match the greatest frontman in rock. Idiot. There’s actually a point where it sounds like he’s singing “I ain’t Freddie”, and I think the world collectively thought, “No, you really aren’t.”

Kudos on the slide across the stage, but Tim’s performance is vocally weak. He tries the audience interaction thing. It doesn’t really work. Nice try, but it was never going to meet Mercury’s high standards, was it? Can I also ask what the hell was going on with the guitar during that performance as well? It sounded awful.

Randy: What’s hard for me is that this is a singing competition. We’re supposed to be trying to find the best that we can find, and every time you guys hit the stage you should be showing up and wowing us. The dopest thing that you did was the slide dude, the vocals were so boring. I was like “What show is this?” It was like bad karaoke. Ellen: See that’s thing thing, you have a lot of fans that actually love you. It really felt like it was an audition for High School Musical. I felt like it was corny, it was pushed too hard. There’s a large group of people who will love that performance, then there’s me. I just didn’t get it, sorry. Kara: Ellen hit the nail on the head. It was Zac Effron in Hairspray. And little girls will love that. But I mean you took the song, you didn’t do much with it, you didn’t change up the melodies. And grabbing at the audience like this – you’re not established, you haven’t sold hundreds of millions of records, and you’re not at that place yet. You acted like you already made it. And you haven’t, you have a lot of work to do. Simon: I don’t think the sliding around was the problem, because it kind of distracted from the song, so I kind of understand why you did that. The problem was it was completely and utterly pointless and silly. And I’m kind of surprised that it was a number one record. And again you’re not actually taking part in this. You’re just there singing and dancing and you’ve got zero chance of winning this right now. Unless you actually start to take some proper singing lessons and get your act together and sound like a relevant contemporary artist.

[[Aaron Kelly]]

One of Idol’s young uns is next, Aaron Kelly. After we get the news about laryngitis and his crush on Miley out of the way, we find out that he’s singing Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. Let’s hope it’s not armageddon for Aaron this week. Har har!

How to critique this one? It’s kind of a pedestrian, countrified version of Aerosmith’s biggest, but not bestest, hit. They incorporate the bit where Steven Tyler screeches “Yeah, yeah, yeaaaahhhh”, but Aaron hasn’t got the vocal chops for that, and so the song has no dynamics at all. Not a good night for the Idols.

Randy: It wasn’t a perfect performance, and I know that you were a little under the weather with your voice and everything. But after the last two, thank God that you came on the stage and started singing. I like you and I think you’re really talented and I like the way you sang that first verse. Ellen: First of all, that was a perfect song choice for you, and I could tell you were sick, because every time you sing I go back home and watch it back and you’re pretty much always pitch perfect. I see your career already. You are so good, that was amazing. Kara: Ellen said it. Best song choice of the night. Maybe one week you were off, but week to week, you really know how to pick a song that accentuates the strength in your voice and shows consistency. Because you do have that country twang and I can hear it. I’m not gonna beat you up on the vocals, because it wasn’t perfect and we know why. What I am gonna say is – more stage presence from you. Simon: It was very brave. You’re a little tryer, aren’t you? If I had any criticism, I’d say for your age, you’re making yourself old fashioned. But there is zero chance you are going to go home.

[[Crystal Bowersox]]

Crystal takes a Janis Joplin song – didn’t we see it coming weeks ago? Crystal gets Miley to sign her guitar, so even if American Idol doesn’t work out for her, she can eBay the guitar. Anyhow, over to Crystal’s version of Me And Bobby McGee – this girl knows how to rock a song. It’s my first time hearing this track, but everything comes together on it, Miss Bowersox giving of a serious professional vibe that we just haven’t seen tonight so far. Amazing. Really, standing ovation stuff. Stand up judges!

Randy: The show is called American Idol – that is what’s called “being a star”, and a great singer. That’s the way you do it! You slay it, you come out here and you sing what’s in your heart. People been comparing you to Janis, she’s amazing. Dude, that’s what it’s all about. I’m so happy now. That’s what it’s about, she’s what it’s about. Ellen: I was driving the other day and this song came on the radio and I thought “Oh, she should sing that!” There’s nothing wrong with that performance – you’ve got an amazing voice and you’re consistently great. The only thing is, we’re missing a bit of personality, which we saw last week. I feel that there’s a little bit of something missing between you and the audience. Even when people are going crazy, you’re standing there, stoic. You’re probably shy. Kara: It’s interesting you bring that point up. You said last week that you had a lot on your mind. Were you thinking about anything tonight during that performance? Because I did feel more. I saw you smiling, I saw you moving a little bit more. Would you ever consider putting the guitar down for a performance? (Crystal says “Like I just told Ellen, I have big plans for next week…”) Simon: Well, I wouldn’t change anything. Up until now, we have listened to a karaoke competition. Then somebody comes on – and I’ve heard Pink sing a version of that song, which is one of the best versions I’ve ever heard – and that was as good as that in my opinion. What Randy said is right, this is about finding a recording artist. I’ve seen you progress over the last couple of weeks – you’re doing your own thing. You’re not sliding about the stage, jumping into the crowd like we’ve seen before. Gimmicky. You’ve just took a song, nailed it, and your only gimmick is a carpet.

[[Michael Lynche]]

Big Mike wants to speak to women with his next song, When A Man Loves A Woman. Classic track. It’s a simple arrangement up on stage – Mike, a string quartet and a piano. He belts out an effortlessly soulful version of the song. Perversely, I’m not feeling it from Mr Lynche tonight. It’s just not up to the quality of the performances he’s done in earlier weeks.

Randy: I don’t know if it was the perfect song choice, I don’t think it was your best vocal, but you know what I love, man? It’s the same thing that Simon was saying about Crystal. You know who you are, you’re this R&B soul dude. The best thing you can do is sing the ‘I don’t know what’ out of who you are and be theat every time you hit the stage. That’s what you did today. I loved it. Ellen: I did feel like it was sort of a safe choice, it was like driving the speed limit. You have an amazing tone, you have a great great voice. And this woman loves that man (pointing to Lynche). Kara: You know I love you. Technically it was really good, you hit all the notes. But I felt it was a bit boring and loungey at times, too overindulgent. Too many riffs. And I lost my connection to you performing it. I’m sorry, but you know I still love you. Simon: I kind of know what you’re saying. It’s like you wanted one scoop of ice cream and you got eleven. It’s almost too much. I think if I advised you about choosing that song, no disrespect I would have taken all this lot off the stage. I would have had just you, piano, very simple. The truth is that this audition could have taken place 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago. You made it very loungey. The good news is that you’ve got tons of charisma, you’ve got a very very good voice, and people like you.

[[Andrew Garcia]]

Miley ‘makes’ Andrew lose the guitar for a week in an effort to break out of his comfort zone. He’s taking on a version of Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine. I think when we first met Andrew, we assumed because of his distinctive look and ability to turn around a Paula Abdul song that he had massive potential. For me, this performance is good, but it exposes the weaknesses in his voice. Sure, he’s away from his guitar, but he lumbers through the song, looks uncomfortable for most of the performance. I’m steadily getting the impression that this is actually the best that Andrew is capable of.

Randy: Aw dawg, man. It wasn’t good, man. It was the wrong song choice, because this is not the kind of vocalist you are. It just didn’t work dude, it wasn’t good. Ellen: You know how much I love you? You have a lot of fans, and I hope they vote for you, but that isn’t enough to get a whole bunch of people on board that are kind of teetering right now. It just wasn’t fantastic at all, and I hope people vote for you. Kara: I feel bad for you, I do. You’re chasing that moment, which was brilliant, and I think it’s playing with your head. I think it’s messing with you. And you don’t know what to do up there, you’re really confused. And that’s what I’m getting from you, because these motions with your hands, it was like someone was moving you like a puppet. It didn’t even feel like Andrew. I don’t know who that was. That’s not you, you have more swagger. You need to get back to when you did Straight Up and get back to that, because you’re far from that. And I feel sick saying that. Simon: Maybe we just overrated that moment in hindsight. It’s wasn’t like listening to Beethoven for the first time, it was a cute version of a Paula song. You’ve had enough time to sort yourself out. I think Miley gave you good advice to lose the guitar, because you were hiding behind it. I think the problem with that was the arrangement was horrific. You sucked the soul out of that song. You did. Sucked it out and tortured it and ruined one of the great pop songs of all time. And at the same time, you made yourself really corny.

[[Katie Stevens]]

My heart drops when Katie’s segment starts. She’s bottom of the league table for me. But tonight, she’s singing Big Girls Don’t Cry by Fergie. Starts out well, a strong almost sultry vocal, but from the minute she hits the chorus, the vocals are shrill and – sad to say – pitchy. This simply isn’t good enough. And let me say, I like Katie – nothing against her personally, but I can’t support this. She shouldn’t be on that stage.

Randy: I don’t know if it was your best performance. It was a little sharp, a little pitchy here and there. But what you did that was cool was that you actually listened to us, you picked a younger song. Even the outfit is younger. So I’m liking that you’re at least listening. Ellen: I think it was your best performance so far. I thought you sounded great. And you look great and you’re evolving, changing and you’re like the Dakota Fanning of American Idol. I liked it a lot. Kara: This is the lane for you. Pop with R&B leanings. Today you actually moved like you felt the song. It was a different Katie. This is where you belong, this is your vibe. You still got mad pitch issues, but this is where you belong. Simon: I think you meeting Miley was probably the best thing that could have happened to you. There way you looked tonight compared to the pageant horror outfit we saw weeks ago, it’s chalk and cheese. Do I believe that you’re believable in this area? I’m still not sure. I would still go with the advice I gave you before, because I think you could find a loyal market. I think that you’re competing right now in a very difficult place.

[[Casey James]]

Brave move for Casey James tonight – he’s taking on a movie classic, The Power Of Love by Huey Lewis and The News. OK, he’s back out with the guitar, and I think he looks strongest when he’s got his instrument out. (ha ha) The vocals are good, but bordering on shouty. The arrangement lets him down, it’s not as heavy as the original, and the backing vocalists serve to water the rock element down even more.

Randy: You know I’m a fan of yours, and I love you playing the guitar. I think you’re probably the best musician guitar player we’ve ever had on here. I wasn’t a fan of the song choice, but I gotta give you props, you did it well. Ellen: Same here, I was not a fan of the song choice. I think there was a much better song. But that being said, I think it was the best vocal of the night. You sounded great. Kara: You’re just on another level. If you had ten hit songs, you’re just ready to make an album. TYou’re just there, it’s all there. It just gets better and better. Simon: Casey, I promise you, this is not personal. I don’t know what you’re listening to Kara, because that song is old fashioned. He didn’t make it current, he did an identifiable version of the Huey Lewis version. It was like watching and listening to an 80’s cover band. There was no effort, no originality. Nothing different. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s because I’m English.

[[Didi Benami]]

Hottest girl in Idol 2010, Didi takes the stage to perform You’re No Good. It’s a funky band effort with a standing bass and acoustic guitar on stage (they were backed up with musicians, not just floating there). Maybe Didi’s vocal was a little weak at the top of the song, but it’s a good, jazzy tune and a confident, assured stage performance. I do like this girl, and no, it’s not just the inner horny reviewer talking.

Randy: I love the idea of it: the outfit, the whole thing, my man playing the bass. Just the pitches were a little all over the place. It never quite caught, you never hit the pitch right. Ellen: I don’t get the song choices tonight. I didn’t think it was the right song choice for you and I do love your voice. so you’re not no good, you’re good, but I just didn’t get that song choice. Kara: Didi, I felt like you were playing a character. It felt very dramatic almost, like you were very slinky and moving in a way…it didn’t feel like it was you. It felt like you were trying to be something that you aren’t. It just left me confused. Simon: There was a certain irony, you screeching out you’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, over and over again. It was like a musical, the bad part just before the interval. The playing off with the bass player and all that kind of stuff, and it didn’t sound like it was you. It felt rehearsed and learned. You actually fell into the trap of the girl who left last week, she was trying to play a part and you suddenly filled that role. It sucked the life out of you a little bit.

[[Siobhan Magnus]]

Interesting…we’re saving ‘the best’ for last. The producers must have high hopes for kooky underdog Siobhan. She’s giving us a blast of Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious, which is a great track, but also a reality TV staple. Yikes! That’s a very different hairstyle for her, isn’t it? It feels like the plot of She’s All That, where the dorky kid gets a makeover and ends up looking hot. Or was that Not Another Teen Movie?

There’s no doubt that Siobhan has quickly become a player in this game we call ‘Idol. Great voice, but she needs to stop leaning on that screechy high note at the end of every bloody song.

Randy: I’m always so excited to see you because you’re so fearless. I never would have thought you’d have sung that song, but you know what? I’m happy that you did. You just went for it, and you just go for it, and you should inspire all these kids. Ellen: To quote Oliver, “More, please!” You’re just so good. I love you. Kara: You express yourself every time you perform and I think you’re more comfortable there than you are anywhere else in your life. And I see that every time. I don’t think it was your best performance, but that end note that you do? How do you not say that’s amazing? Simon: I think there’s going to be a real split with you on this one, Siobhan. Some people will like it, and I’m afraid that a lot of people won’t. And this singing with the screaming at the end. It’s like you’ve got to reverse it. Maybe start the song next week with the screaming at the start and get softer. Because it’s becoming, I guess it’s your thing, but you didn’t hit the notes anywhere near as well as you did before. And I’m going to say this to you and all the contestants. You’ve got to start puching yourselves now, and you’ve got to start choosing better songs and you’ve got to make yourselves relevant. Because tonight for me, was not a good night overall.

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