Our esteemed American Idol critic, Jason Matthews, is unavailable this week so I’m doing a mash-up review of Idol and the “Madge-ical” Glee. It was all music, all night long on Fox tonight.

Courtesy FOX

On Idol, Alicia Keys mentored the remaining seven hopefuls on inspirational songs, this week’s theme. I like how she repeatedly stressed connection to the lyrics because I think that’s what some of these kids don’t get. They think they can wow the judges by hitting high notes and with awesome guitar riffs but great singing for me has always been about the emotion behind the words. Bruce Springsteen may not be a technically perfect singer but man, when he sings about the working-class guy who dreams of bigger things beyond his small-town roots, his voice aches as if he’s pouring his guts out right onto the stage.

First up is Casey James. I like this dude; he’s cool, has a rocker’s voice and can really play the guitar. And I disagree with Simon that Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” isn’t inspirational. It was the first song I heard on the radio after 9/11 and it made me weep. (“If you wake up and don’t want to smile/If it takes just a little while/Open your eyes and look at the day/You’ll see things in a different way/Don’t stop/Thinking about tomorrow/Don’t stop/It’ll soon be here…”) But I do agree Casey isn’t pushing himself and is showing us the same thing every week. He’s a competent performer but at this point needs to blow us away. Nerd verdict: Should be “Causing a Commotion,” not playing it safe.

Lee Dewyze went next with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” I think the judges overpraised him. His voice has a built-in roughness that served him well on a song about a poor boy but the connection wasn’t all the way there. When he sang, “He cried out in his anger and his shame,” I felt neither. Lee was earnest, but not quite truthful. Nerd verdict: He needs to go “Deeper and Deeper.”

Tim Urban performed the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Better Days.” He’s definitely improving but I’ll have better days when he’s no longer on the show. Nerd verdict: “Borderline.”

Aaron Kelly followed Tim with R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” He’s a child so I don’t want to be too hard on him. I’ll just issue my Nerd verdict: “Take a Bow,” then pack your bags.

Siobhan Magnus was fifth, singing “When You Believe,” a duet between Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. The girl’s got nuts picking that song! And surprisingly, I liked it, butterfly outfit and all (she looked like a wood nymph). She had nice control, especially in the beginning. Her signature high note wasn’t annoying this time because she didn’t scream it. But while I enjoy seeing her come out with a different look and style each week, I still don’t get true emotion from her and don’t know what her musical personality is. Nerd verdict: “Who’s That Girl?”

Michael Lynche followed Siobhan with another snooze-inducing performance. His rendition of “Hero” was overwrought like all his other ones in past weeks. Even if the song had been inspirational, it was no longer by the time he hit us over the head with it. Nerd verdict: “Papa, Don’t Preach.”

Crystal Bowersox closed the show with “People Get Ready.” I already had goosebumps in anticipation because that song always rips me up. Then Crystal blew it sky high. It was like she was performing at the Grammys while everyone else was doing their high school talent show. I was half expecting Jeff Beck to come out and back her up. Then she cried, and I felt a lump in my chest. The competition is over. Just crown her now and everybody can start rehearsing for the tour. Nerd verdict: A “True Blue” star.

Photo by Art Streiber

After the uninspired Idol (except for Crystal), the fun kicked into gear with Glee. The Madonna songs took me back to when I was in school and I found myself singing along loudly to the whole show.


We find out Sue has long idolized Madonna and wants her Cheerios to do routines to the singer’s music. The “Ray of Light” routine was one of my favorite numbers. Performers on stilts were swinging cheerleaders around by their legs! It was like when you were a kid and your dad swung you around like that. Remember how great that felt?

When Will saw this routine, he decided the glee club’s assignment would also be to put together a performance to a Madonna song. Rachel and Finn did a surprisingly successful mash-up of “Borderline” and “Open Your Heart,” feeling a little something for each other in the process but Rachel’s still seeing Jesse St. James, who decided to quit Vocal Adrenaline and move in with his uncle so he can attend McKinley High and be with Rachel.

As Madonna fever spreads, everyone at McKinley seems to want to lose their virginity: Emma with Will, Finn with Santana (well, she suggested it), and Rachel with Jesse. This resulted in “Like a Virgin” being sung by all six characters in a montage cutting back and forth between their respective bedrooms. I’ve heard this song a million times and there was nothing virginal about it even the first time I heard it. But having it sung by virgins on the show made it sensual for me. It gave the song an innocence Madonna never had.

But the showstopper for me was the group performance of “Like a Prayer” at the end. In music (and life), there are certain notes that will make you cry when you hear them. It’s different for everyone and most of us don’t even know what they are. During the “Prayer” number, the gang hit those notes for me and it was a little like finding religion.

Nerd verdict: Got me Into the Groove



  • Reply
    April 21, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I like this! Combining AI with Glee, very brilliant.

    CASEY JAMES – Could not agree with you more. He could do better. It’s as though he and Bowersox are almost too embarrassed to show how good they are because we would become even more painfully aware of how lousy the competition is this season.

    LEE DEWYZE – Alicia Keys stressing the lyrics went in one ear and out the other. “And he carries the reminder of every glove that cut him til he cried out in his anger and his shame, I am leaving I am leaving, but the fighter still remains” speaks of some deep truthful emotion which he just glossed over.

    TIM URBAN – Okay, maybe I’m not exactly screaming in frustration about him still being on the show, but either he was off key last night or my TV speakers are broken.

    SIOBHAN MAGNUS – For me, she is this year’s Adam Lambert. I don’t think she has ever met a note she didn’t want to squeeze the drama out of. I wonder what would happen if she decided to just be?

    AARON KELLY (aka “The Guy Who Needs To Go Home Next) – I honestly can’t sit through ten seconds of him. But, then again, I find it excruciating to watch Justin Bieber act tough when he’s singing. Different tastes. But I dare anyone over the age of 10 to buy this guy’s CD.

    MICHAEL LYNCHE – I hope someone tells him what you wrote. I like the big guy, but I am so sick of the Luther Van Dross phase he’s doing. I am begging him to tear it up and let loose.

    CRYSTAL BOWERSOX – Was it just me or is there an uncomfortable moment during every mentor night where the mentor knows that when they speak to Crystal they are addressing a powerhouse who does not need their advice? Alicia Keys is talented, but Alicia knew Crystal was a colleague not an apprentice. The only thing missing last night from Bowersox’s performance WAS Jeff Beck backing her up on guitar.

    As for GLEE…….

    I think I am starting to lose interest in this show. Don’t get me wrong, I did like it last night, but it was more because I felt nostalgic for the days of when MTV played music videos rather than the plot line.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 22, 2010 at 10:33 am

      I would love to see Siobhan just be. Stripped down, no funky hairdo or outfit, and just sing without trying to impress us with how long she can hold a high note. When Crystal hits a high note, it has real emotion behind it. When Siobhan does it, I imagine her thinking, “Check this out, folks, look how awesome I can be.” She’s showing us her craft, which she has plenty of, but needs to show us the artistry, too.

      I did notice Alicia didn’t have to tell Crystal to connect with her song lyrics more. I’d say she ended up connecting quite deeply.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2010 at 10:25 am

    This is cute. Hope you do it again.

    Okay, now down to business.

    American Idol:

    Please send Aaron Kelly home.


    Please do more episodes like last night where you showcase a music artist’s songbook.

    Me likey!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

      Wouldn’t it be cool if they do the U2, Springsteen, or Michael Jackson songbook?

  • Reply
    April 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I love your nerdy reviews, PCN! Specially with the fact that I think you and I have similar tastes. My 2 cents:

    On American Idol, I’ll rank the performances from my least favorite to my favorite.

    7. I swear I look more fun when playing Guitar Hero than Casey James on American Idol. His was my least favorite because I can’t even remember what he sings.
    6. Based on improvement alone, Tim Urban deserves credit. Other than that #EPICFAIL
    5. Aaron Kelly needs to understand that singing big songs doesn’t make you big. Simon was 100% right: I would’ve changed the station if I heard that. He’s so trying to emulate Archie or Allison, but he needs to find HIS song.
    4. Michael Lynche manages to go from cheesebag to soporipher. I think he would be the best “face” for a BenzoVelveeta campaign.
    3. We all know that Siobhan Magnus can hold a note. Phrasing… not so much.
    2. Lee Dewyze was cool. He kind of connected to the song IMO, but there’s still something missing there, beside his pitch problems.
    1. I think Crystal Bowersox has placed her People Get Ready among my favorit AI performances ever. I actually did shed a tear with her. I give her an A for A-mazing!

    About Glee, though I didn’t love the episode as much as “Hell-O”, it was way cool. I loved Like a Virgin (also because I could hear Santana-my-future-bride’s voice at last). Like a Prayer was a classic Gleeky feel-good song.

    Anyway, I can’t wait ’til next weeks Kristin Chenoweth’s reappearance!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      If Michael were hired to be spokesperson for BenzoVelveeta, I wouldn’t buy it!

      Not only would I have changed stations on Aaron (I HATE that song!), I probably would’ve shot my radio and then sold my car.

      You like Santana? She’s slutty and bitchy!

      • Reply
        April 22, 2010 at 1:24 pm

        Yep. I wouldn’t buy BenzoVelveeta either, but he could be a believable face for the campaign, couldn’t he?

        Aaron Kelly has like an F in song selection.

        Correction. I love Naya Rivera.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    April 21, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Great Idol review, PCN ~ if I hop on board now, I’ll have a great sense of who’s who. I skipped straight past your Glee review and the comments, since it doesn’t start here until next week as you know. And I’m counting the sleeps!

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    April 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    You can skip IDOL altogether this year. Just download some Bowersox tunes and you’re set.

    I don’t like GLEE being delayed down there! Part of the fun is discussing it afterwards.

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