Tonight’s the night when [[American Idol (2010 Series)|American Idol]] gets serious. We’re down to the Top 12 contestants, and those contestants will be singing the hits of The Rolling Stones. This is interesting for me, because being a Led Zeppelin guy, I’ve never really given the Stones any due consideration. Shocking, but tonight I may be hearing some of their songs for the first time sung by voices other than Mick Jagger’s.
We begin with [[Michael Lynche]], who briefly talks about his time growing up in St Petersburg, and about how he drifted away from football after his mother died. He’s singing a Stones song called Miss You. Like his performance last week, Mike alternates between a husky vocal and a falsetto. There’s a sweeping shot of the judges, and we see Kara boogieing along.
Randy: Big Mike comes out – he’s been good every week. I wasn’t so crazy when the arrangement started, but it reminded me how great a performer you’ve become. And dawg, you slayed it, way to start the show. Ellen: What’s not to love about that Mike? At some point I’m gonna be disappointed, but not yet. Kara: First night, big stage. It’s hard, you gotta fill up that stage. And what was so great about the Stones is they were incredible performers. And that’s what you delivered tonight. That’s what this is all about – conveying the message of the song and being hot onstage. And you did that. Simon: You’ve definitely got your confidence up after last week. If I’m being honest, particularly if you see the clip of the Stones back, I thought at times your dancing was kinda corny. You sang it well, but it was verging at times on being a tiny bit desperate.
[[Ryan Seacrest|Seacrest]] takes issue with some of Cowell’s criticism, especially after Mr Simon is prickly with him. He walks off the stage and faces up to Cowell, who backs away and is clearly uncomfortable. We wonder how tongue-in-cheek the encounter was, or if there are tensions from the fact that Cowell is leaving?
Hot stuff contestant [[Didi Benami]] is next up to perform. We get some cutesy family footage and Didi with a tea cosy on her head. She hits the stage to perform Playing With Fire. This is a smouldering little number, and I like her interpretation of it. But you already know I’m a Didi fan. She looks hawt tonight too.
Randy: Always interested to see what songs you guys are gonna pick. For the first time for me in weeks, Didi you were on fire tonight. That was one of your best performances. Ellen: You have an amazing voice, and I love that you lost your way and didn’t let it spin you out. Kara: I think sometimes when you push on your vocals you lose your way a bit. But what I liked tonight, what I saw was an intensity that you attacked the song with. And that’s what those lyrics are about. And you got dark – there’s something very compelling about the sweetness of your voice and the eerieness of the song. Simon: What I like about you is you are beginning to show us the kind of artist you’re going to be. Very cool choice of song. I thought you were going to lose it 30 seconds in. Twice. But I’ve been a fan of yours ofr the last two or three weeks, and it was a very solid, if not brilliant performance. You can still do better than that.
We hear about [[Casey James]]’ early life and misfortunes with a vaccine. Casey’s mother talks about how close the family are, and he waxes about his performing family members. On stage tonight, he’s got his electric guitar back and he’s playing It’s All Over Now. He gives the song a certain country twang, which suits it, and helps define him as an artist, as Kara would (and probably will) say. A lively performance, and a nice touch with the slide guitar I just noticed at the end.
Randy: I’m excited about this, you know why? You’re back to the Casey that I love. I think you could make a career out of this. You are back for me. Ellen: Casey, for most women their hearts are gonna start racing just looking at you. But for people like me – blondes – I thought it was fantastic. Kara: I think that I said last week or the week before that you were trying to be a rock star. Well, tonight you were a rock star. One of the earliest Stones songs – it had blues and soul. But this shows your soul and the fact that you can riff and go off and the best parts of your voice. This was your best performance since we met. Simon: You look great. You sang it well, you played the guitar well. But for me, that was more of an audition performance. Not using this stage, and the platform you have to do what I’ve seen with other artists over the years – which is to do something incredible.
Fourth performance of the evening is flame-haired Texan [[Lacey Brown]]. Ah, the inevitable Christian platform, which I hope they don’t overplay for Lacey. I find it a turn-off. As Steven Tyler once said, “let the music do the talking”.
Anyway, Lacey is singing Ruby Tuesday. She’s accompanied by a string section tonight, and I love the tone of her voice – vulnerable in the verses, but cresting and powerful in the chorus. And let it be said – Lacey’s a beautiful girl, with a gorgeous smile.
Randy: Definitely very interesting. I loved the string quartet and started off very interesting arrangement. I wasn’t jumping up and down about it vocally, because it wasn’t one of those wow moments, but I was actually surprised – it felt when you hit the first chorus you were going to lose it. Definitely the most interesting of the night so far. Ellen: Lacey, I thought it was weird in the slowest part of the song you were standing and moving, and when it started building you sat down. I think that it was the opposite – you should have started sitting and then stood. And it was a little sleepy for me, but I’m a fan of yours. Kara: I gotta agree – it was 50/50 for me. Hearing your voice right up clear is great and I love that you’ve been doing that. There definitely were some issues where you didn’t hit the notes right. I liked the drama, but you need to put more into it. Simon: I kinda know what you’re saying – I think there’s a slight issue with you, you perform like an actress. It’s very very thought through. Nothing wrong with the vocals, but you’ve kind of got to stop overthinking this and let yourself go a little bit. You’re in danger of doing the same thing week after week.
Our fifth performer tonight is [[Andrew Garcia]]. I think we’re all disappointed in Andrew, but still have enough goodwill toward him to hope he breaks out of his rut tonight and blows the judges away. Andrew’s singing Gimme Shelter tonight. He’s ditched the guitar, but looks a little stiff or uncomfortable without it. The vocals get a little more passionate as the song progresses – and that’s the thing with Andrew, there’s talent there if he can just tap into it. The crowd seem enthusiastic!
Randy: You know I love you. I love the song I love the Stones, I love you. But it was pitchy everywhere dude. Just a little under a lot of times. Ellen: What do I know? I thought that was your best performance yet! I loved it. Kara: There were definitely elements where we heard that tone we’ve been missing. The thing is, it’s war, children, written about Vietnam. I felt it at times, but mostly I didn’t – it’s the connection that bothered me. Simon: You’re taking this too literally at times (to Kara). I think I’m somewhere in the middle here. I think you gave it 100%, but my gut feeling is that you were better in rehearsals than you were on the night. Something didn’t quite connect. But you’ve had so much mixed criticism you had to move forward. I genuinely hope you survive another week.
Little [[Katie Stevens]] claims to be familiar with the music of the Rolling Stones. She even gets Mick Jagger’s name right in Ryan’s pop quiz. She’s drawn the short straw and got Wild Horses, a song I don’t have much love for. Shit! Shockingly I judged this on the Susan Boyle version, but Katie’s rendition is ten, twenty times better. I love her vocal on this. OK, there are moments when the tuning disrupts things but it’s a good effort. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be the best of the night for me.
Randy: I know we’ve been giving you a lot of misdirection. It’s a great song if you sing it well, and I actually thought you sang it really well. There were a couple of moments with pitch things, but you corrected it and it was a really strong performance. Ellen: First of all, I almost wore that. Second of all, it started a little pitchy, and once you got into it, you sounded amazing. Kara: It’s never technically perfect with you. But what I liked tonight was you made some variations on the melody, and where you were going was the right direction and that shows your talent. And it was better than last week, it definitely was. Simon: I would say this is the only week where you’ve actually chosen a really strong song. I didn’t like the second half of the arrangement, because I think you lost the emotion. But this is the first time where I’ve felt you actually connected with a song. You gave it 100% so well done.
I had no idea that [[Tim Urban]] came from a ginormous family. I lost count of how many brothers and sisters he had. Tim’s Stones song tonight is Under My Thumb. I don’t like it, it’s got that lazy rhythm, and Tim sounds pitchy. Love the tone as always, and the look is extremely marketable (how I can say good-looking without sounding gay).
Randy: I didn’t like that dude, it was very bizarre, the whole reggae version of it. I didn’t really like that – it didn’t serve you or the song well. Ellen: I’m gonna boo myself first. I felt like I was at a resort and drinking a pina colada and listening to somebody sing. It’s a cool take up on it, but for a night like this where you should use the stage and wow us… Kara: I’ve gotta applaud you for doing something so incredibly different with the song. Whether you like it or not, you made it your own. Simon: I have to applaud you for doing something different. It is quite a boring song anyway. Having said that, it didn’t work. And a lot of people who are Rolling Stones fans would be turning their television sets off at that point. That song just doesn’t work for me with that kind of beat. I think it was a crazy decision.
Siobhan gives a bit of background – she’s from another family of enthusiastic breeders. In her VT, she’s wearing a hideous pair of glasses. Just saying. Siobhan gets one of the definitive Rolling Stones songs, Paint It Black. Black dress, that’s a good start. Didn’t Adam Lambert do this last year? I’m getting strong deja vu. Er, bizarre Siobhan. I neither loved it or hated it. My overwhelming feeling is confusion.
Randy: Bringing the drama to American Idol season 9. That was hot. Ellen: I love the way you look tonight, I love the way you did that song. You rise above. In a sea of people, like Snookie’s Poof. You just stand out. Kara: I’m having flashbacks of Adam Lambert. I have to say, the best interpretation tonight. You did the most with the song. Simon: I think it was the standout performance of the night. Now I see the development from where we were on those middle shows to tonight. I also think there are a lot of people who’re gonna love that and a lot of people who are gonna hate it. And that’s a hell of a lot better than being boring and indifferent.
One of our favourites, [[Lee DeWyze]] tells us about his stagefright and how he used to only perform if people wouldn’t look directly at him. He’s a diva already! His song choice is Beast Of Burden which is obscure to me. All I can think of is Donkey from Shrek. OK, Lee’s on guitar but the voice is shining through tonight. You know I love that throaty singing voice he has. Good song.
Randy: You know what I love? You’re an amazing singer. You did a real singer songwriter kind of thing – it put me in mind of Rob Thomas/Dave Matthews. Ellen: I thought it was great, and I thought you sounded great. But of all the people on stage tonight singing Rolling Stones, I expected a tiny bit more from you, but that being said, it almost didn’t come together. Kara: You are growing faster than anybody on this stage. Every week you’re getting better, more confident, taking more risks, not as pitchy. Simon: I really like you as a person. I like the whole story. What’s held you back Lee, is your personality, because you don’t shine at the moment. And what you did tonight is you chose a very safe song, a forgettable song, and other people have had bigger moments. And the frustrating thing is, you have a very good voice. Stamp your mark on the competition and stop thinking other people are better than you.
After a few poor weeks, culminating in the catastrophic Smile last week, Paige returns to the stage with Honky Tonk Women. Paige disappointingly drops the Christian bomb – it’s on between Lacey and Paige for the god-fearing vote. Smoky vocals tonight from Paige, with a touch of country inflection. Lovin’ that outfit and those legs. Definitely an improvement on last week, and boy does Paige look good! I approve, the crowd approves!
Randy: When I heard you were doing this song, I thought this might not be a good look, it might be a mess. But you know what? You did alright with it, you kind of pulled it off. I wish you had more energy, but I liked it. Ellen: I loved that you used the stage. You have such great presence on stage and star quality. No one would know that you were struggling with your voice. Kara: For someone who was struggling, you really hit some big notes for someone who had issues with your voice this week, so I have to applaud you for that. You attempted to do a lot with that song. But the Paige we fell in love with is back. Simon: Taking your laryngitis into account, you did great. You really hit some great notes. The song’s a bit generic, what you’d hear in a bar. I still think you’re better than that. You still haven’t connected. But at moments, we heard the big voice that we really liked in Hollywood.
The video for [[Aaron Kelly]] is a bit of a disaster. Let’s start with the fact that his adoptive mother is called Kelly. Yes, Kelly Kelly – so good they named her twice. And then he claims that he doesn’t get his singing voice from her. Well, duh – she’s not your bio-mom. We have to assume by extension that his school doesn’t do science but does a nifty line in intelligent design. Take note Paige and Lacey fans.
Anyway, the amazingly mature-voiced one takes on the Stones’ Angie. Good voice as always, but it looks like they’ve done some work on his image this week – he’s not quite as wet looking as before. Still not entirely convinced he can take the competition, but he’ll do well.
Randy: Your mom was absolutely right, you were born to sing. The tender moments, I could almost hear a little Justin Timberlake thing. Dude, it was hot. Ellen: Are you trying to do your hair like mine now? I thought that was such a great song choice for you. And next to Siobhan, those are the two song choices that stand out for me so far. Beautiful. Kara: Aaron, I beat you up goo last week, but you showed me, man. When you connect with the feeling of a song, it’s very powerful and that’s what you did tonight. Really great. Simon: I feared for you when I heard it was Rolling Stones week – I thought you and Rolling Stones was going to be an absolute disaster. But you chose absolutely the right song. What I think you did cleverly was you sang the song within the limits of your vocal this time.
Interesting. Simon’s clear favourite gets to close the show with You Can’t Always Get What You Want. And we delve into Crystal’s past, with an interview with Daddy Bowersox. He talks about her songwriting, and we see some cute childhood photos of Ms Bowersox. Sometimes you forget that Crystal is only 24 years old. But she performs like a professional every time. The vocals are confident, funky and powerful. However, it’s good, but not her best work.
Randy: I don’t think it was your best performance – there were a couple of little problems in there. But I’ll tell you what – I love you. You’re always great, I’m always excited to see what you’re gonna do. Even though it wasn’t my favourite performance, I still love you. Ellen: Here’s the thing. You sing with such ease. It’s so effortless for you. What I’ve been missing from you is personality, and you started adding a little bit of that tonight and being playful. Just let yourself have fun onstage. Kara: It’s that you’re so comfortable up there, it’s like she thinks she’s almost got this. It comes off a bit like that. But tonight, you loosened up more. It wasn’t your greatest vocal performance, but you’re so comfortable, it’s easy to watch. Crystal: The interesting thing is, you came out here tonight 100% the clear favourite, and I think you chose a song that didn’t have what you needed. And this is the first time you’ve been beaten by somebody, which is Siobhan. And you’ve got to learn that just when you think you’ve got the competition in your pocket, you’ve got to dig deep and deliver every week.
Well, that’s it for one week. In America within a few short hours, one of these esteemed singers is going to be eliminated. Who will it be? Will we get surprised by having a favourite contestant eliminated? My power-four: Crystal, Casey, Big Mike and Didi were good, but possibly not great. Paige raised her game, but did Katie and Aaron do enough to secure their places for next week? I don’t know.
At this point, it’s over to you lot – what do you think?