American Idol 2010: Top 5 sing Frank Sinatra with help from Harry Connick Jr.

Let me have a little pre-blog grumble about the Rat Pack and Frank Sinatra in the context of reality TV shows. It’s not that I hate Sinatra or swing or that genre of music. It’s just that it doesn’t appeal to me. And, I suspect, it doesn’t appeal to a lot of people of my generation or younger.

The thing about this kind of music is a) it’s hard to fake, and b) it’s out of most people’s cultural experience. So imagine giving these songs to a teenager and a bunch of twentysomethings who’ve barely heard the songs, ask them to learn the lyrics and find some way to put a unique stamp on them. All in the space of one week.

Tonight, the top 5 [[American Idol (2010 Series)|American Idol]] finalists take on Frank Sinatra. The cards could not be stacked more heavily against them. Happily, they have the charismatic and very funny Harry Connick Jr to mentor them. And he’s accompanying them on stage too!

Also, Antony Hopkins is in the audience, Aaron’s had a haircut and Casey’s lost weight. He looks skinnier than usual.

Aaron Kelly

Harry jokingly calls [[Aaron Kelly]] “Big Mike”.Aaron’s song choice this week is Fly Me To The Moon. I like how he’s styled tonight. Not so much of the wet head and a more conventional haircut. Looks handsome, and quite a bit older. Aaron croons his way through the song effortlessly, and his voice holds up well to this genre which is very different to his normal style.

[[Randy Jackson]]: One of the things I was looking for tonight is who’s in it to win this. It’s getting down to the wire. Who’s got the fire? Who’s gonna bring it hard? Sinatra week. I mean, one of the best singers in the world ever. You got the great Harry Connick. I can’t tell you dude, I was so worried more about you ‘coz you’re so young. But dude, you did a really good job. [[Ellen DeGeneres]]: I thought the piano was a little pitchy. I was worried also for you and I can’t believe I didn’t hear any country in that at all. I thought you really pulled that off. That was beautiful. [[Kara DioGuardi]]: I thought it was good, I did. Compared to last week though, it wasn’t as strong. And last week you really came into your own. I think you’ll be here again and what I want you to learn is a bit more charisma. Fill up the stage more. Frank Sinatra was just about as tall as you, but he filled everything up, he commanded it. You still need to break out as a performer. [[Simon Cowell]]: I’m more with Kara on this. I adore Frank because Frank was the king of cool. And he had a swagger, he had a believability. And if he was a lion, you were just a mouse. It didn’t have the conviction for me, and I thought the vocals toward the end were a bit corny. And the thing about you – which is a good thing – people like you after your perform. And you do try hard, I’ll give you that.

Casey James

Seacrest acknowledges [[Casey James]] as the ladies’ favourite this year. His mentoring session with Junior is hilarious, the two have a lot of fun together. Casey is singing Blue Skies. It’s a very laid back, groovy version, and very enjoyable. He struggles with the big notes though, and that may be his downfall tonight.

Randy: This was like, for me, your worst performance dude. It was pitchy all the way until maybe the last note. And it’s funny when somebody sings and the orchestra sounds out of tune, you know you’re in trouble. And you were just kinda out of your element. I knew this was gonna be a tough one for you because this is about intricate melodies and singing with the band and it didn’t work baby. It didn’t work. Ellen: I don’t know whose idea it was, but I think it was a bad idea to have the piano on stage. Not good. I feel like what Simon was just saying about Aaron. The whole thing is about being smooth and having swagger, and that felt very stiff to me. I didn’t feel that you were cool and moving around in an easy way. It didn’t feel effortless to me, and I agree with Randy. I’m sorry. Kara: Casey, it took you a long time to warm up and feel more relaxed. By the end you had it a little bit more. At least you held some notes. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you hold a note for longer than two seconds in any performance. But the bad thing is you kinda sound like a lamb. It’s got a little vibrato or something. You gotta work on your vibrato, it’s a little out of control. Simon: This is really, really uncomfortable. Good news, the band were great. Bad news, you weren’t fantastic. I actually thought you came over a bit embarrassed and a bit awkward. You just didn’t feel comfortable. The good news is, you’ve got a booking for next week. I’m kidding. That was a joke.

Oooh, Casey looked devastated on stage receiving that harsh criticism. I’d like to shout out to “outraged lady” in the front row, who looked like she was about to murder the judges. Connick Junior sticks up for Casey, claiming he killed it in rehearsals.

Crystal Bowersox

[[Crystal Bowersox]] and Harry have a talk about her making obscure references about why songs are personal to her. She has a playful tinkle on the ivories with Connick Junior before getting up to sing the song. Which is called Summer Wind, by the way.

I was a little bit worried that this genre would expose some of Crystal’s weaknesses, but she gives an easy, jazzy performance. As I should probably mention, I’m not a fan of the Frank Sinatra back catalogue. Not through any active dislike, but it’s not a style of music that appeals to me. However, I think Crystal acquits herself on this track with grace and a good voice.

Randy: I don’t know. It was a great arrangement and it was one of your more subdued performances. I don’t know if you did anything different with it. It was OK, but it was a little sleepy for me. Ellen: At first it felt like you were swallowing every word, but then you started really singing and I wanted to see more of that when you were starting to snap. I want you to loosen up a tiny bit more, that’s the only thing I miss. But man, if I saw you sing for the first time, I would never know that you’re that other girl too. You have so many diferent sides to you, you’re really impressive. Kara: Well, it’s out of your element, but I kinda liked it. I wouldn’t see you singing this kind of music. But what I really liked, I liked your phrasing. Phrasing was a big thing this week. Frank Sinatra had impeccable phrasing, swing, rhythm and you showed you could hold your own in that department. That’s why I kinda liked it. Simon: I love this song. I don’t know if I would have chosen it for you though, because it felt a little bit indulgent. The first half was too jazzy for me, too small nightclub and then the second half obviously you got a lot better. I’m not going to lie and say it was one of your best performances. I think you’ve had two okay weeks, and if you survive next week as Randy said, now it’s about being in it to win it. It’s not about singing for yourself anymore, it’s about using this opportunity to nail it week after week. I expect better.

Whoa. A real tongue lashing from Cowell. Crystal fights back and defends her interpretation.

Michael Lynche

[[Michael Lynche]] is looking very dapper tonight in his hat and suit. He’s singing a song tonight called The Way You Look Tonight, a classic, well-established song. Again, Harry Connick delivers some straight advice about interpretation, putting himself alongside Adam Lambert as one of the most useful mentors of the series.

Mike cuts an imposing figure on stage as he launches into the song. He’s delivering a brilliant vocal, warm and jazzy. The arrangement is probably one of the best of the night. And seriously, this song could have been made for Big Mike. An awesome rendition. We all knew he would be this good.

Randy: Harry – unbelievable arrangement, unbelievable vocal. Mike is in it to win it. This is what I’m saying. This is what it’s about. Dude, what is great – I don’t care what song you sing, do it interestingly and do it well. That’s what you did and that’s what this competition’s about. Mike, you threw down the gauntlet tonight. I’m watching you!  Ellen: You seem to have the most comfort on stage. You seem to have more experience and you just move easier than everybody else. And you really showed that tonight. You looked the part, you sounded the part. Very very smooth,  a lot of charisma. Very good. Kara: Mike, you found the drama in the song. You took us up, you took us down, you took us on a journey. You did everything right. But above all, you didn’t lose yourself in the song. You still did things that I said: “I know who that is, that’s Big Mike.” And that’s what this is all about. Simon: This has been a tricky night. You’ve got Harry on stage, you’ve got the Sinatras in the audience. You’re singing my favourite singer of all time. I understand the pressure you’re under. If I’m being honest with you, the first three performances have been OK, and now with you that’s all changed. I think you just put yourself back in the game. I actually felt that you listened and everyone worked together on that performance and it all just clicked. As Randy said, that was a a fantastic arrangement.

Lee DeWyze

Harry Connick hints that his wife has a crush on [[Lee DeWyze]], and calls the husky voiced singer a “new and improved version of me”. He gives Lee some good advice on phrasing. His song tonight is That’s Life.

I’m not sure how different this performance is for Lee. It’s the same old Lee in a suit, really. Isn’t it? He avoids his usual rawkkkk vocals and gives a more conventional delivery. The voice is still distinctive. He’s smooth as ever though, and I think we all love Lee, don’t we?

Randy: Another great arrangement by a Louisiana boy. But what I love about this, you stayed your rocker self. Even though the band was playing, I could hear the guitar with it. Dude, I loved it. Ellen: At first I was distracted by Harry’s organ… I think if this was the last night of performances, you would’ve just won this whole thing. Kara: I wanna ask you a question. Do you think you can win? You’d better go home tonight and write “I can win this thing.” 100 times. and believe it, because that’s the confidence you need. That was amazing. Simon: What I really liked – and Harry, you’ve been absolutely incredible tonight working with the contestants. What you’ve managed to do for Lee tonight is brought out his personality and confidence. You gave it 110% and it was by far the best performance of the night so far.

Er…it’s also the last performance of the night, Simon…

Now, over to our readers: let us know who you thought was the best singer of the night. I don’t agree with Simon that Lee was the best though. I think Big Mike was best, followed by Lee and Crystal in joint second place.

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