Tuesday, April 6th’s “American Idol” competition featured the songs of Lennon and McCartney, with the judges saying, in advance of the singing, “Certain songs shouldn’t be changed. But, overall, I’d like to hear something that is not exactly like the original.”
Well, that was certainly the case with some of the front-running contestants, between the diggery doo player on Crystal Bowersox’s version of “Come Together” and the bagpipe player descending the stairs as Lee DeWyze finished the night, singing 9th, and performing “Hey, Jude.” Ellen commented that she liked the confidence that Lee showed, “even when that guy (the bagpipe player) got separated from his parade.” Simon, laughing, said, “I don’t know what you lot are drinking in the house. You were doing great and then the bagpipe player walked down the stairs. It was like he showed up on the wrong show.”
I have to admit that Lee, one of my favorites, did not score points tonight for being on pitch (the word “bad” was particularly, well, bad) and the entire song sounded like it was about one note too high for him, pitch-wise. He seemed to be straining to hit the notes, to me, and Randy, who began the critique, said, “That guy was funny” (meaning the bagpipe player), before going on to say, “It was another hot one.” Ellen ultimately voiced her confidence in Lee, saying, “I thought it was a great job. I loved it.” Kara, at least, noted some pitch difficulties, saying, “Good, a few off-key notes, but I am still a fan.” Sadly, this night, Lee was not at his best, for me, but I still think his talent puts him through and that the ones who should be worrying are Aaron Kelly, Andrew Garcia, and…if the judges carry any weight…Siobhan Magnus.
I, personally, liked Siobhan’s rendition of “Across the Universe,” but Randy was right when he said, “It was a little sleepy for me.” Kara, too, said, “It was very restrained and polite. I am still a fan, but I am a little confused.” Simon asked Siobhan what she was connecting to when she sang the song, and Siobhan almost broke down in tears talking about her little sisters and not changing who she is. All agreed, in pre-performance comments, that Siobhan is “amazingly weird” and “unique.” Katie Stevens said, “Those notes she hits are ridiculous.” (echoing Kara’s usual comments). Randy commented, “Nobody screams artist more than you I love seein’ that from you. I love the artistry in you. Just follow it and go with it.” Ellen, too said, “Always honor who you are. You march to a different drummer. And you listened to us tell you to cool it on the high notes for a while.” Simon felt that Siobhan “came back from last week. You are unpredictable. Much, much, much better than last week.” Still, the remarks were less glowing for Siobhan than for most, she has been in the bottom 3 before, and only time will tell if America’s teen-aged voters liked her slow ballad.
The first singer of the night was Aaron Kelly. He sang “The Long and Winding Road,” which Ellen called “a long and winding song.” The most germane comment was Kara’s. She said, “When it comes together for you, it works. Every week feels like the same song from you.” I would agree with the second half of those remarks. Only Simon called it completely like it was: “Very old-fashioned. Very boring. You’ve got to become young and relevant.” Therefore, my unscientific prediction is that, once again, the “A’s” have it and Aaron or Andrew may be in trouble, with Siobhan…who deserves to stay…potentially at risk.
Second performer of the night, Katie Stevens, wore a pink dress and a ponytail and sang “Let It Be.” The word “blossoming” seemed to be in evidence tonight, with Kara using it for Katie in saying, “You’re blossoming on that stage. You’re confident. You never looked better and you never sounded better.” It is true that, for once, Katie was not off-key. Simon said, “Tonight, however, you got it right,” but an argument soon broke out between Simon and the rest of the panel as to whether this performance showed that Katie had a country-and-western vibe. Simon said, “It felt as though you were singing it about somebody, rather than being robotic,” and, after that, the argument about the best vocal direction for Katie broke out.
Third up was Andrew Garcia, who, at least, sang an up-tempo song (“Can’t Buy Me Love”). Randy felt his performance was “solid,” although he also called it “a little corny at times. It was OK. It was all right.” Ellen said, “First of all, you can buy love,” but, after the joke that line got, went on to say, “I thought it was the perfect song choice, and I loved it.” Kara said, “I wanted to love it,” which was a left-handed way of saying that she did not love it, but complimented Andrew on “the breakdown.” Simon said, “The problem for me was that you had the band in back of you. It was old-fashioned and, unfortunately, irrelevant. You and the band, together, got this wrong tonight. Sorry.” Andrew countered, “I’m glad I had fun doing it,” and I’m glad he did, too, because it might be the last song he sings on “American Idol.”
Fourth performer of the night was Michael Lynche, who sang “Eleanor Rigby.” The vote was 3 who liked it and 1 (Simon) who felt his performance was “the sort of thing you see and hear in musicals. I don’t think it made you contemporary at all. It was over-the-top. I’m confused now about what kind of artist you are.” The 3 others, however, were “lovin’ the fact that the points that did work were great. I love seeing the artist in you blossom (more blossoming comments)” from Randy, with Ellen commenting that the song was “ huge risk” and saying, “I thought that was incredible.” Kara said, “Those vocals were amazing. That was fire. Committed. You made that song commercial and relevant to this generation. Great job.” But, after that, Simon popped Kara’s cocoon bubble of praise with his put-downs. Still, Big Mike, who is from a Florida family of performers and had a brother who advanced fairly far in the competition in another season, should be safe.
Fifth performer was the always-reliable Crystal Bowersox, who sang, “Come together.” Randy called her singing, “Another solid performance” and added, “It definitely worked.” Ellen said, “I loved the diggery do (Aborigine instrument). The only thing I have to worry about each week is a new way to tell you how great you are. An amazing job. I loved it.” Kara said, “I think this is one of my favorite performances. You were more accessible tonight.” Simon said, “That’s a song that I could hear on the radio today.” After that, comments were about the playing of Ernie on the diggery do, when Randy said, with a laugh that he looked as though he were about ready to pass out.
The sixth performer this night was Tim Urban who sang “All My Lovin’.” Tim usually is panned by the critics, but voted on by his gallery of fans. Tonight, however he sang the song relatively straight and received praise from all the judges. Randy said, “You’re like in your own category. I think that was a much better performance than the last couple of weeks. A good Tim performance.” Simon would later take issue with this idea of a separate category for Tim Urban, calling it insulting to the other contestants. He said, “Taking everything into consideration, there were no gimmicks. The song suits your voice. You take the criticism like a man. This is a shortcut to fame and you’ve handled yourself really well.” Ellen said she felt that Tim’s version of “All My Lovin’” was “second best after the Jeff Buckley version of ‘Hallelujah.’” Kara said, “It’s best when you have a guitar in your hands. You’re to be commended for that.” So, for Tim, it was a good night, and he later said, “I wanted to pick a song that I knew fitted me. I definitely had fun with it.”
Seventh performer on Tuesday was Casey James, who sang John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” The song had a C&W vibe with just a cello accompaniment. Randy called it “a sensitive vibe. I was really impressed that you took that kind of risk. I love that you did this.” Ellen said, “We just need to see more of that side (the quiet side) of you.” Kara felt that Casey had shown his “vulnerability,” and praised him for “showing depth.” “Towards the end, you showed that you really know where to take your voice.” Simon, after calling Casey “Goldilocks,” said “the best performance of the night, so far,” and called his improvement from the week before, “absolutely ginormous.” “From the midway point, you put your stamp on it. I am very, very impressed with you tonight.” So, Casey, the cute, lean, guy with the rock star looks stays.
Eighth (out of 9) performing “Across the Universe” was Siobhan Magnus,” who did a good job, I thought, (unlike the judges’ assessment) and she was followed by Lee DeWyze, also one of my three favorites, who did not, in my opinion. It doesn’t really matter what I heard, because the performers at risk after Tuesday night are the “A’s” (Andrew and Aaron) the most, and, very possibly, Siobhan after the judges reamed her quiet rendition of a song. This seemed somewhat unfair, as all four of them have been telling her not to put the Big Showstopper Finish at the end of each week’s performance, so Siobhan sang a song, a la Streisand, and her reward? Potentially being among the lowest three, when she is arguably among the top three, talent-wise.
I’m still pulling for Crystal, Lee, Siobhan and Casey and any of the others can go home and I won’t care.