Crystal Bowersox keeps emerging as the clear front-runner, with Lee Dewyze and Siobhan Magnus still coming on strong, as well, on “American Idol.” Also good this night were Michael Lynche (split decision), Aaron Kelly (recuperating from laryngitis) and Casey James (another split decision). Before I give you some of the judges’ comments, let me give you some of my own comments.
I have a dear friend who has watched “American Idol” almost as religiously as I have watched over these past several seasons, and we both are so horribly disappointed in the level of talent and the injustice of the voting public (the Inmates have seized the Asylum) that she (out in Denver) told me that the only one she can discuss the show with is her 13-year-old niece, as everyone else who is an adult of any age has already quit watching the show, and she will be next.
Why? Because, this year, most of the talent is not that talented, with a few notable exceptions (thank God.) We both bemoaned the loss of Denver’s own Lilly Scott, who was far better than either Paige Miles or Katie Stevens.
Here’s another thought: Why would “American Idol” feel that a 17-year-old legacy entertainer (Miley Cyrus), who is arguably only marginally more talented than the contestants and simply has inherited this opportunity for fame from her famous father (Billy Ray Cyrus) and his show biz connections, be called in to “mentor” the contestants? Is the adult talent pool really so sparse that “American Idol” has to rely on a girl who is (literally) at least 11 years younger (and much less talented in every way) than someone like Crystal Bowersox? What conversation brought her name to the fore, over veterans like Barbra (Streisand) or Cher or, if you want more current names, Pink, Colbie Callet and/or Norah Jones. Why Miley Cyrus? It was ludicrous, and, watching her “critique” the likes of Crystal (and, really, anyone over the age of 17), while wearing the shortest shorts I have seen on television in a long time, I had the feeling I was watching television in some other country…probably some Latino version of “A.I.”
The night opened with Simon commenting that this was the worst possible night to get cut, because, if you make it into the Top Ten, you go on tour, and that means some money. The songs this night were to have been Billboard Top of the Chart songs, and Billboard has been around since August of 1958. As Simon said, “This is probably the worst night to go.”
So, who is going to go?
If there is any justice, it will be Paige Miles, who was, quite simply, awful. She looked nice (as Ellen said) but she sounded horrible. She couldn’t find the key in rehearsal and that “lost-in-the-jungle” world of flat in rehearsal just returned with a vengeance as she sang the Phil Collins song “Against All Odds.” Here were the judges’ comments: Randy – “That was honestly terrible. Nothing came together at all.” Ellen: “You didn’t fall down and that’s a good thing.” “Kara: “It was the worst vocal that I’ve ever heard from you, and probably the worst of the season.” Simon: “It was as though there were five of you singing that song, and it got progressively worse. That song, I think, has just killed you.” When asked, afterwards, by Ryan Seacrest, her reaction, Paige said, “I’ve been trying to find that song that I can sink my teeth into.” Well, Paige, this ain’t it! Pack your bags.
The next really bad vocal was Didi Benami rendering “You’re No Good” which Simon rather callously called an ironic thing for her to be singing. Having said that, Randy said, “I loved it.” Ellen said, “You’re just so good. I love you,” and Kara lauded her greater expression. Me? I thought she was bad and I agree with Simon.
Then there was “Glee-boy,” also known as Tim Urban, who came out attired in a Charlie Brown-like horizontal-striped polo shirt with a lavender jacket, jeans and white sneakers and proceeded to do a flashy little slide across the stage as he sang “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Randy called his vocals “boring” and Ellen said it reminded her of an “audition for a high school musical. Corny.” After saying that, she then remarked that, “There’s a large group that will love that and then there’s me.” You AND me, Ellen. Kara said, “You took the song and acted like you’ve already made it and you haven’t. You have a lot of work to do.” Simon, weighing in with the cruelest words of all, said it was “completely and utterly pointless and silly. You have zero chance of wining right now.
However, if you thought those words were tough, Simon told Katie Stevens, the hopelessly tone-deaf contestant who, week after mind-numbing week is off-key (Let’s just call it what it is and quit using the euphemism “pitchy,” shall we?), “You sucked the soul out of that song.” The song was “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and Randy added, “It wasn’t good, Man.” Simon (and all) did comment on Katie’s “new look” which featured a much more girlish sleek hairstyle. In Simon’s tactful words, she had abandoned the “pageant horror” look and the difference was as great as that between “chalk and cheese,” which is a British expression, methinks.
Lee Dewyze, who sang the Boxtops “The Letter” did a credible job, I felt. I enjoyed the fact that Lee wasn’t crouched behind his guitar wearing some horrible woodsman-fell-that-tree outfit or a knitted cap. He had on a nice suit and looked like a true Michael Buble artist and sang well. He was moving around on the stage (although he kept using the same left hand gesture over and over) and Ellen used the analogy of a favorite pen that has been running out of ink and said, “My favorite pen is back. That was fantastic!” Kara, too, enjoyed Lee’s “owning the stage. The progress is tremendous. Believe that you’re good.” Only Simon demurred, saying, “You’re doing something quite corny.” I beg to differ, Simon. Lee was good tonight.
Aaron Kelly, the extremely young (16) singer from Sonestown, PA, who suffered from laryngitis and tonsillitis during the week rose above his illness to sing “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” and Simon pronounced him as “very brave,” saying,”You’re a little try-er, aren’t you? There is zero chance that you are gonna’ go home.” I think Simon is right in Aaron’s case, and Randy said, “Thank God you came on the stage” (as he followed “Glee” boy Tim Urban) and “I’m a fan.” Ellen, too, said, “You were pitch perfect and you’re in 3rd grade or something. You are so good.” Kara felt it was the “Best song of the night” and a “good attempt.” Aaron should be safe for another week.
Michael Lynche, the big man, did a falsetto, soul vibe-y version of “When A Man Loves A Woman” while attired in a velvet jacket, with string accompaniment. I liked it and so did Randy, who liked the R&B soul vibe and said, “I loved it.” Ellen felt it was “a safe choice, but said, “This woman loves this man.” Kara, however, pronounced it “boring and lounge-y, over-indulgent and too many riffs.” Simon, also, felt it was a song that one would hear 30 or 20 years ago, nothing current. While partially agreeing, Michael did sing it well. He should stay, although he should not win, ultimately. If he does, he’ll be the next Ruben Stoddard, and look where his career has gone.
Casey James sang Huey Lewis’ “The Power of Love,” a song I love, and Randy said, “I believed it.” Ellen felt it was “the best vocal of the night.” Kara said, “We just saw another level. It is all there. Everything.” Simon, however, rained on all their parades, complaining, “That song was old-fashioned 25 years ago when it came out.” Yeah? And? Your point, Simon? Casey’s guitar prowess earned some kudos, with one comment being that he might well be the best guitar player the show has seen.
Saving the best for near last, Crystal Bowersox’s rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” was, quite simply, the best of the night. Randy said, “That’s the way you do it. This is what it’s about.” Ellen said, “Consistently great,” but begged for a little more connection with her audience and we all learned that she would probably perform without her guitar next week. Kara urged her to “let go completely” and Simon said, “I wouldn’t change anything. Up until now, we have listened to a karaoke competition. I’ve seen you progress all over the place.” He said her version of the song was actually better than one sung by Pink that he had heard.
I mustn’t forget to mention Siobhan Magnus, who looked totally different than her normal flat hair look tonight. She had teased hair and a much sexier vibe. The singing was still great, though he warned her about always ending on a screechy high note. Andrew Garcia was his usual not-very-good self, but he keeps hanging in there, for some reason I do not understand.
The competition staggers onward. Rather than have to listen to something as bad as Paige Miles’ version of “Against All Odds,” I’d like to pit the 6 best against one another right now, and that means: Crystal, Lee, Siobhan, Aaron, Michael and Casey. Just lose Didi, Paige, Tim, Katie and Andrew as quickly and painlessly (for the audience) as possible. Please. I beg of you. Don’t make me listen to that last quintet again.