Soulless Night: AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 Top 10 Perform

by Jason Matthews

In case you missed it, an article in last week’s Entertainment Weekly said that this season of American Idol is unconscionably bad. If you’ve seen even a moment of the last month of performance shows, you would be hard pressed to disagree. Unoriginal song choices, lackluster arrangements, charmless Idolists and restless judges, not to mention the terrible voices. For the first time since Taylor Hicks Soul Patroled his way past the luscious Katharine McPhee, American Idol is a chore to watch. Besides Crystal, Siobhan and maybe Lee, there isn’t one compelling Idolist. Even Ryan seems bored with the proceedings, and he can make ANYTHING riveting. Just a sorry state of affairs.

Simon has the right idea, leaving at the end of the season. Maybe we should consider joining him.

Here are reviews of the performances, from best to worst.

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX

Lee Dewyze – “Treat Her Like A Lady” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose

At least one Idolist came to play tonight. If Lee was told to “bring it,” his performance would have been the musical “it’s already been broughten” comeback. Soulful, powerful, melodic, heartfelt—four things he hasn’t been in weeks, but was tonight in spades. The best of the night, and it wasn’t even close.

Crystal Bowersox – “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight

Massive style points for changing instruments, getting up and delivering sans-guitar, and for the first time ever, truly looking like a star. Wasn’t her best vocal, she was distracted by the piano a bit too much, but the whole performance was fun to watch, and a welcome change of pace. She caught back up to Siobhan after two consecutive weeks of falling behind.

Siobhan Magnus – “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan

The biggest tragedy isn’t that Siobhan toned down the Lambert-vocal antics. Or that she followed Usher’s misguided advice to dress simple. It’s that she didn’t sing the Kanye version of the song, ‘Through the Wire.” Isn’t that what we all wanted, our quirky Idol singing music’s quirkiest rapper? I would pay all the dollars I will ever make to hear Siobhan do a non-auto tune version of “Golddigger.” The glory note she’d deliver on “holla we want pre nup, we want prenup, yeah”? Let’s all put that in our dream journal, with a gold star next to it.

Casey James – “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave

Did my DVR mistakenly record a drunken frat house session of Guitar Hero? Cause I THOUGHT this was supposed to be the singing competition known as American Idol. This is not a jam band concert, Casey! It’s a show about people with amazing VOICES. Even Blake stopped beatboxing eventually.

Didi Benami – “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin

We love Didi, right? So can we band together and get her to keep the “emotions” in check? Nobody wants their American Idol to be a cryer. Kelly only cried when she won, and I don’t think Carrie Underwood even HAS tear ducts. Love the torch singer dress, the crazy fake lashes and the intensity, but she’s coming off the rails faster than a Paula Abdul soundbite. Can she try having some fun next week?

Michael Lynche – “Ready for Love” by India.Arie

Instead of writing about Big Mike, I wish I could just paste a screenshot of Usher staring hatefully at him while he strummed his guitar during mentor rehearsal. I’m all for musicality and range, but on R&B night the one African-American crooner left on the show is playing the guitar? With his back to the judges (who aren’t even turned around to watch him)? Does that make sense to anyone? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

Aaron Kelly – “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers

Putting Aaron in the hammer spot and slapping a hot jacket on him doesn’t do anything to make him more interesting, but at least he looks awesome. The Clay Aiken-ing of his skin problems and little-boy hair is truly commendable. The Idol stylists are working harder than the actual Idols this year. Aaron is everything that is wrong with the show this year: fine to listen to, gorgeous to watch, but not spectacular in any way and severely lacking in charisma.

Katie Stevens – “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin

What’s more fun than watching Miley try to mack on Tim Urban? Watching Katie barely legal herself over Usher. Flirting with the mentor instead of practicing, when you keep landing in the bottom three? Way to prioritize, Stevens! No, no, don’t worry, all that work paid off. You didn’t at all seem like a 5-year-old trying on Mommy’s makeup for the first time. And you didn’t at all sound like a teenager singing along (poorly) to the radio in your off-white 2-door Ford Focus. I’m sure Usher will accept your friend request aaaaaany day now.

Andrew Garcia – “Forever” by Chris Brown

Why is he hunched on top of a stool? Is he TRYING to look like a kid playing dress up? Straight up now tell me does he really think Chris Brown is the way to keep him on the show? It’s a fantastic jam, to be sure, but that song has such a stink on it, going acoustic can’t Febreze the smell out.

Tim Urban – “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker

Did Usher just take Tim through puberty? ‘Cause it sure was awkward enough to seem so, as did the performance. Starting legs spread on the steps? Not a good look. Looking to the rafters instead of connecting to the audience? Way to listen to anything Usher told you, Tim! Did Paige secretly mentor Tim this week? If not, why does this feel so much like he’s throwing a fight? I’ve never wanted Simon to be wrong more than with his prediction about Tim’s fate.

Is this the worst Top 10 in the history of American Idol? Let me know in the comments!



  • Reply
    March 31, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    This makes me even happier to note that I don’t watch American Idol. I guess I’m weird that way. I’m very happy with Elmore Leonard’s JUSTIFIED on FX and THE GOOD WIFE (even though it’s doing re-runs at this moment) right now for my Tuesday viewing habits. Thanks, PCN.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Jason – I don’t watch AI anymore, but I have a blast reading your critiques of each show!

  • Reply
    March 31, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I can’t believe you put Siobhan as your 3rd favorite performance, since it was clearly her worst, and there were others who were better than her. Even if she didn’t Paige herself, she didn’t hit most notes. I was almost crying as I heard her. I must admit I’m not a great fan of her voice -I love her personality ‘though-, but I do give her that she sings great most of the times.

    I saw that BO-WER-SOX is in it to win it, even if her vocals weren’t the best and did get a little nervous and distracted by the piano. Lee proved he has the chops to become a real contender -he just needs to stop looking like a kid at a PDA meeting.

    I liked Casey this week, the vocals and the arrangement worked. But he does need to stop the “Guitar Hero Jam” thing going on. Andrew was way better than he has been; he wasn’t great yet, but good (and I’m going to disagree with you there: I love Forever, I despise Chris Brown, but love that song -and I still LMAO with the “Wedding Entrance” dance).

    I liked Big Mike‘s vocals, but the performance seemed gimicky. I can’t remember Katie-bot’s performance, so I’ll pass on that. Didi was meh but if I was in her shoes I would’ve slapped Ryan’s face so hard he’d had to search for his teeth in China. Who the hell is he to put anyone in that spot!?!? I think the reason she was crying afterwards wasn’t the judges calling her performance flat -which it was- but the way Seacrest manhandled her on live TV.

    Teflon Tim really can’t connect to a song. He looked like a deer-in-headlights throughout the whole performance. He seems like a nice guy, and sings mostly in tune but I think a computer shows more emotions while singing.

    And now I don’t get Aaron Kelly. I started to like him last week, but now I can’t stop wondering “What is he thinking?”. Ain’t No Sunshine, really? I mean! Kris Allen slayed that song last year (I was a little angry at Simon for saying “I’ve heard that song done brilliantly many times before” and not acknowledging that those many=3 and brilliantly=twice-by-reigning-Idol, but whatever). Aaron cannot match the emotional connection KA gave the song, and he also lacks the musicality to rearrange the song as Allen did. And, I mean, I think there is an unwritten rule that prays “Never sing a song that was a previous contestant ‘moment'” (right next to “Avoid trying songs done to death”): very few people have done good with previous Idols “moments” (clear exception was Allison, handling Carrie’s “Alone”), so some songs should be declared off-limits

    I’d suggest some off-limits songs: “Stuff Like That There”, “Superstar”, “Alone”, “Heartless”, “Mad World”, “In A Dream”, “My Funny Valentine”, “Hallelujah” (ejem Tim), “Tracks of My Tears”, “Summertime”, “I (Who Had Nothing)”, “Billy Jean”, “Imagine”, “Music of the Night”, “I Believe”…

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      March 31, 2010 at 7:22 pm

      You know what would be awesome? You and Jason doing a Siskel-and-Ebert style AI discussion! I’d watch that for sure.

      Kris’s rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine” last year WAS memorable. Poor Aaron sounded like he was singing about his mother, not a girl. And I also thought “Alone” should have been retired after Carrie killed it, until Allison stepped up. I’d add “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” to the list of songs that need to disappear forever from the Idol songbook.

      • Reply
        March 31, 2010 at 8:33 pm

        And Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now), since it’s been done -terribly- so many times on Idol now I can’t even stand the original.

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          March 31, 2010 at 8:49 pm

          Plus “Over the Rainbow” and Mariah’s “Hero.” I could keep going…

      • Reply
        April 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

        Haha! I was thinking the same thing about Jason and Poncho, PCN! Although I was thinking it would be combo of Siskel-and-Ebert with the Muppets’ Waldorf and Statler! Who needs to watch AI when I can the goods here?

        Love the recaps, guys! Thanks.

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          April 1, 2010 at 11:38 pm

          Muppets would make the show extra special!

          Glad you’re enjoying the recaps, Christine. Did you never start watching this season or did you just give up because it’s sucky?

          • Reply
            April 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

            Never did start to watch AI this season. Brian DVRs it, but his reaction has been kind of meh.

      • Reply
        Jason Matthews
        April 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

        PCN, you set up the balcony, I’ll bring my thumbs.

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          April 1, 2010 at 11:39 pm


          How’s your play rehearsal going?

          • Reply
            Jason Matthews
            April 1, 2010 at 11:58 pm

            Coming along nicely. Gonna be a great show. Thanks for asking!

  • Reply
    April 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    The acoustic version of FOREVER was actually a highlight for me!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 1, 2010 at 11:39 pm

      I’ll just say it was the best Andrew performance since the live shows started.

  • Reply
    April 1, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    oh my gosh – why don’t they just get rid of all the sucky people already? again, first season of AI i’ve ever seen, and it’s ridiculous. Crystal, to me, is the only one with true talent. siobhan, yeah, she’s different and quirky, but she ALWAYS has pitch problems. Always. and lee? come on. he’s a copy of every one of the last couple of idols. no originality. no charisma. ain’t nothing special. if this is indicative of the show as a whole, count me out.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 1, 2010 at 11:42 pm

      This isn’t indicative of the show, Jenn. For some reason, this season can’t seem to get off the ground. They should just give the title to Bowersox now instead of dragging it out another month and a half.

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