Welcome to American Idol’s Top 6 do Shania Twain. Well, not do Shania Twain, although I’m sure that would be a ratings hit for FOX.
Anyway, the tension is starting to build. You can virtually count the contestants on the fingers of one hand. And if you’re from certain parts of America, you probably can count the contestants on the fingers of one hand. Ain’t that right, Cletus?
Dramatic introductions abound. Seacrest shares the lowly occupations of the Idol finalists – mother, paint salesman, glass blower (*smirk*). In a parallel universe it could be so much more fun – a demented hobgoblin, a bridge-guarding troll, a banshee (that’d be Magnus) and a pretty, flaxen haired lady (that’d be Casey). Hi-five to America for raising $45 Million from last week’s Idol Gives Back extravaganza.
Point: I hate it that Randy leads the booing for Simon Cowell every single week. If I was Cowell, I’d walk to the end of the judging panel and slap him.
We get a fitting tribute to Shania “Eileen” Twain’s midriff. She is officially hot stuff. I do love Shania. But anyhoo, let’s stop drooling over Eileen and get on with the show…
The endlessly earnest [[Lee DeWyze]] is taking on the classic Still The One. It’s a very downplayed version, definitely Lee’s own rendition, and I had chills from the very start. The backing vocals feel a bit lame, but you can’t fault Lee’s vocals. Good lighting on this one as well.
[[Randy Jackson]]: This is one of my favourite songs of all time. The great Shania Twain. Not just because she’s here. I love this song, I think it’s one of the greatest songs ever written. I was a little worried about you doing this, it started out a little pitchy. But you know what I love? Midways through the song you found a way to make it your own, cause it was low in your register and I think you found your sweet spot. I think you did a pretty good job right there. [[Ellen DeGeneres]]: I think you did better than a pretty good job, I think every song you take, you make it your own. It always sounds like your version instead of you singing someone else’s song exactly like its been sung before. You couldn’t look cuter. And I say “All aboard the Shania Twain!” [[Kara DioGuardi]]: The sound of your voice on every song makes it sound so relevant. And all I can think of is ‘look how far we’ve come’. Really. Look how far you’ve come, since the beginning to now. That’s a love song, and I don’t know if you related to it in the love portion, but you cracked a smile a few times, and that’s when I was like ‘all right, maybe he’s feeling the song’. It was a good job. [[Simon Cowell]]: I agree with everything everybody said. I thought that was absolutely the perfect song out of Shania’s catalogue. Really really good. Started off a little bit hesitant. When you watch it back, you’ll realise you were pulling some kinda weird faces however. I don’t think it was a smile.
Following on from Lee, [[Michael Lynche]] is up next with his version of It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing. Not a song we’ve heard over here, but Shania gets emotional when she describes it as one of her favourite songs.
Mike gives a soulful rendition of the song that even has Ms Twain swaying in the front row. Staring off with just Mike and the piano, it’s a beautiful ballad. And he does this kind of song effortlessly. Toward the end, he mixes in a bit of drama and does a bit of falsetto singing. The sound quality is brilliant, sounds just like a recorded version.
Randy: Here’s what I love, man. You’ve really found your zone on this show. You’re definitely that balladeer, that love, R&B singer. And what I love about a great song – and I say this always, it could be a country song, a rock song an R&B song, whatever – you did a great job and you’re really in the zone of who you are. And I hope you keep that in the future man, because there’s a big wide open space for you. Very good. Ellen: I gotta say, I was a tiny bit nervous you taking that song on, but it felt like Luther Vandross. It felt like Luther singing that song and I felt your emotion, I felt you get into it, and I think you really needed to follow her advice and show us that emotion. I thought it was beautiful. Kara: One of Shania’s greatest gifts, other than being an incredible songwriter, is how connected she is when she sings. And I always feel that from you. I always feel that you go to that place that relates to you. And that’s what I appreciate most. And the melody is so beautiful. I thought it was great that you didn’t change it too much. You changed it enough so you put your mark on it. So, great job! Simon: I know what Ellen meant when using the comparison with Luther. Until you mentioned it, I didn’t recognise that. But it was spot on, it was a good analogy. I thought the performance however, was a little bit wet. I’ve said this before, but it was like you were in a musical acting out the words.
Shania, perhaps unaware of the developments in portable tissues, calls for make-up to dry her eyes. Poor lamb, she needs an assistant to mop her emotional lashes. I’ve heard that non-runny mascara is great for when you’re crying at other people singing your songs.
The blonde troubadour [[Casey James]] is next to the stage, with another Shania song, Don’t. He’s claiming that this is going to be a radically different performance for him this week.
Fair enough, he’s seated and playing an acoustic guitar tonight. Now that he’s taking on a ballad, his voice has taken on a different tone. I feel like he’s struggling a little bit with the vocals here. Still, he’s living up to his promise of something different and he’s kind of in a safe place with country-style songs anyway.
Randy: For me, this is one of the best Casey James performances ever! And you know what else? I hope that you really learned something here. Because as you guys are thinking about going forward as an artist, this could be a great thing in your wheelhouse with what you already do with guitar. Nice job man. Ellen: I was going to say exactly the same thing. You sang that like that’s really where you belong. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be, because you’ve got that Bob Seger sound about you. That’s great rock. Beautiful and I actually think it was your best performance that you’ve done to date. Kara: Casey, artists do not hide the good, the bad, the ugly. They show it all, and that’s what you did in that performance. You didn’t hide, you didn’t cover it up with guitar, you were vulnerable, you were raw. And that’s what you need to do, and if you keep doing it you’ll be at the front of this competition. Simon: I think last week was a much much needed wake up call for you, because you weren’t for me taking part in the competition. I actually agree with Randy, I think this is probably your best performance so far. I actually felt you were singing the song. It didn’t feel like somebody else’s song. And I suggest that you come down here and give this one a kiss on the lips (pointing to Shania).
[[Crystal Bowersox]] describes Shania as having “an aura of positive energy all around her”. She’s singing Shania’s No One Needs To Know and calls it a message to her boyfriend. Nice stage arrangement – she has the musicians assembled around her.
It’s funny, but Crystal kind of draws you in. She’s got that little rug that she takes on the stage to perform on, and all these little individual things that add up to make her unique – the hair, the dress sense, even the look. I like the stripped back sound on this song, but Crystal’s voice isn’t quite in the right place tonight. She’s a tad shaky. I feel like I’m waiting for someone to unleash the fury this week, everything’s so sleepy.
Randy: I love the whole Nickel Creek version with the acoustic bass and the snare drum and the whole thing with the lap steel. I thought it wasn’t my favourite performance, but I love you and I love seeing you try different things and try and mix it up. And I’m happy someone tonight is trying to do more of a country version of one of Shania’s songs. Ellen: I say it every week. There’s just nothing you can’t do. You have a great voice. It wasn’t my favourite performance of yours either, but that’s like saying what’s your least favourite colour of the rainbow. You’re just brilliant and you’re always gonna be good, but it wasn’t my favourite performance. Kara: I agree with the guys – it’s impossible for you not to be good, because you’re always coming from a place of truth and it always feels honest. It was believable, and that’s why I always respond to you. Was it your best? No. But you’re still amazing. Simon: Shocker. We don’t like Crystal this week, that’s really the story. I thought it was limp, it was very much something you’d expect…and I’ve seen this happen before when you’re in a coffee shop and you hire a band to sing to you and you don’t want them to. And that’s kind of what it reminded me of. And I thought the song – sorry, Shania – was a little bit forgettable compared to some of the other songs. This is the only week where I haven’t really liked your performance.
If Crystal was expecting a proposal onstage from her boyfriend, it didn’t happen….ooo-er.
Nearing the end now, and [[Aaron Kelly]] is up next with Shania’s You Got A Way. Country should be Aaron’s strong suit and bloody hell, it is. Right from the first note, he’s got this one pegged – soulful voice with a touch of gravel in it. After a few weeks of lame performances, and punching above his weight, I think Aaron got it exactly right.
I find it helps when the contestant is singing a song I’ve heard before, and this is one of Shania’s most recognisable hits. Fantastic performance from Aaron. Very convincing.
Randy: Dude, this is definitely your wheelhouse, you’re our country artist on the show this year. And dude, I think you did a really good job. Ellen: This is gonna be tough. Everybody is doing well, and I still can’t get over the fact that you’re 16 years old and you sang that with… (he interrupts to say he’s 17 now)…oh, never mind. Then I’m not as impressed. I thought you were 16. I mean, the amount of emotion and depth that you showed when you sang that song just now, the maturity that you had to embrace those lyrics. Good job. Tomorrow’s gonna be real tough. Kara: Ellen, I completely agree with you. I mean, it was like you really felt those words. And you changed some lines. It was “when we make love” which was…you know what I mean (he says he was singing to his mother) Simon: Aaron, I’m gonna be honest with you. I think that last two or three weeks you’ve really struggled. Particularly last week, I just didn’t get it at all. However, tonight you were like a different artist. And you know why? Because this is the kind of record if you’re gonna make records, you should make. For the first time in weeks, it felt sincere, it felt believable and once again, it didn’t feel like you were singing somebody else’s song.
Closing out the show tonight is human-slash-banshee [[Siobhan Magnus]] with Shania’s brilliant Any Man Of Mine. I’m pumped from the first few notes. You know when you love a song and you haven’t heard it in ages?
Siobhan’s wardrobe decisions are as erratic as ever. She looks like a thrift shop Lady Gaga tonight. Tattoos on full display. Sorry, but her voice is woeful, it’s all over the place. Shania’s in the audience clapping along in support, but with a wistful look in her eye. And in order to give Twain a complete, full-service slap in the face, Siobhan does her stupid “trademark” scream, eyes looking slightly dead as she gives the audience exactly what she thinks they want.
Randy: I loved it! I love the whole punk country look, with the boots, the whole nine, the big notes. I loved it, I loved it. Ellen: Way to pull the Shania Twain into the station. Good one. Good way to end the show! Fantastic! Kara: Guess who’s back? Siobhan! Simon: Do you know what? I really really liked that song, and I’m not normally a fan of country music. I thought the song was perfect. I think the screaming at the end. The audience are with me on this one, it was almost like you were giving birth up there. But it was fun, it was good.
WTF Moment! Seriously? Not one single judge called out the shitty singing on that track? What’s going on? That was awfulness personified.
The Shania week wrap-up!
Best of evening: I thought Big Mike did a great job, followed by a fantastic vocal from Aaron. In fact, the guys were the strong suit tonight.
Biggest fall: Crystal Bowersox. Probably her weakest night so far, I can only hope that her fanbase will pull her through.
My bottom two: Siobhan Magnus must go! She’s out of her depth, has been for weeks and the “kooky chick who screams” gimmick isn’t going to sell records. I still snigger when they call her a glass blower. Sadly, Crystal rounds out my bottom two tonight. Not a great song choice, and she didn’t seem to be too excited during the performance. Maybe she’s not a Shania fan?
Lame Ellen quip of the evening: “Way to pull the Shania Twain into the station.” We can only hope she did it for a dare, or because somebody was holding her cat to ransom.