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Jason Matthews

Crystal vs. Lee: The Final Battle – AMERICAN IDOL Season 9

by Jason Matthews

America, as it often does, in its infinite wisdom, is about to make a mistake: They are going to name Lee DeWyze as the next American Idol.

Even more than last week, this week is hugely predictable. Even though Crystal outperformed, outcharmed and outclassed Lee, as she always does, Lee is going to win. Lee was a deer in a world full of headlights, while Crystal was the picture of calm (hippie) professionalism. Lee was uneven, pitchy and amateurish, while Crystal was invested, take-charge and spectacular (Simon was right, making “Black Velvet” interesting to listen to is as hard as fixing the economy). Lee biffed his final number, Crystal brought the house down. The judges seemed eager to tell Lee he was failing, and couldn’t jump high enough to stroke Crystal’s gross dreads. None of it matters. Crystal is about to join the exclusive club of Idol runner-ups who are better than their victors.

The producers started the mistake. Crystal was too far ahead from the beginning, a runaway winner. Worried the season would be boring, the judges started pushing other, lesser Idolists. Anyone remember the shortlived reign of Siobhan? Or the minute-long memory of a Tim Urban dark horse victory parade? But as the season wore on it became clear Lee was the patsy to beat. Suddenly he was pulling the anchor spot, getting a bagpipe backup and lauded with praise from the judges. And Crystal? She got her props, but it was always an afterthought, the presumed finalist. She couldn’t have been taken for granted more. Now look where we are.

In every way, Crystal Bowersox outshines Lee DeWyze. She is a better singer and musician. She is a better role model for aspiring Idolists. She opens far more interesting avenues for next season’s talent pool. She is unique, whip-smart and timeless. She is in the mold of the best and most successful former American Idols (Carrie and Kelly). Most importantly, she will sell more records. But don’t tell that to America, ’cause they want Lee.

Apparently, we haven’t gotten our fix of generic bland alt-rocker boys, ’cause we’re about to crown a third in a row (and our picks are getting more generic, more bland and less alt). And that’s just not OK. For this, and the above reasons, the departure of Simon, the misfire of Ellen DeGeneres, Randy’s continued uselessness, the diminishing of Ryan’s natural wonders owing to forced gusto over lacking Idolists, a scary decline in production quality, time management and contestant choice, for the fact that we’re batting .225 in winners picked (and that’s generous) and the fact the show is just too damn long, I suggest we call it a day on this once transcendent reality show.

Enjoy the finale for the spectacle and travesty that it is. Say your goodbyes to Simon. Gaze lovingly at Ryan Seacrest one more time. Visit Randy’s dog pound. Fake laugh at Ellen’s fake jokes. Be put off by Kara, again. Try to remember that day four hundred years ago when we were all in love with Didi Benami. Relive the mistake that was Andrew Garcia. Laugh at the rest of the talentless kids we put through this year. Marvel at the Idol Elders, all better in a blink than Lee is in a whole evening of effort. And then watch as he is crowned the next American Idol, while Crystal politely congratulates him, the judges force themselves to be happy for him, the Top 12 duly crowd around him, and he brutally murders U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

When that is all said and done, America, I suggest we follow the advice of our country’s greatest TV personality and call a “Seacrest OUT!” on this mistake of a season.

Thank you for sticking with me through the season, PCNers, I hope you enjoyed the reviews.

Jason OUT!

Photos: FOX

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Final Showdown in Sight: Predicting Top 2 on AMERICAN IDOL S9

by Jason Matthews

As the dying whale carcass of this show lumbers slowly to the season finale shore, the machinations of the producers have become more and more transparent. It is clear as day that all involved want Crystal and Lee in the finale. From the low-fi song choice given to Casey to the anchor spot and gospel choir backup for Lee to the continued gushing over Crystal, American Idol was practically BEGGING us not to vote for lazy, lady-haired cougar bait Casey. Really though, who can blame them?

When you get to Top 3, reviewing performances is a bit redundant. We know all we need to know about the talent and skill of these kids, good or bad (mostly bad), so it’s really just who we like and don’t like as contestants. To that end we won’t be reviewing the performances from last night. But here’s a quick recap of last night’s show:

Ryan hates this season the most ’cause he had to give up his patented ‘THIS… is aMERIcan IDOL!” to the Top 3. The judges wake up, remember they are on camera, and then swiftly go back to sleep. Casey’s up first, he’s barely trying. Same as it ever was. The producers keep cutting to the audience where people are holding up signs for Lee. Always a good idea to show how little the audience respects the talent currently on stage. The judges automatically transfer $50 into your personal bank account so you won’t vote for Casey.

Crystal’s up, she’s fine, same as always, and the judges crank their BS up to 11 and practically step on throat of Melissa Etheridge’s reputation (who, by the way, has a really kick-ass new single on the radio) to call Crystal great for the 47th week in a row. Crystal forms her Caucasian dreadlocks into the shape of “DUH.”

Lee hits the stage, the crowd goes donkey-balls nuts, he sings as gruffly, blandly, Nickelback-y as humanly possible and the judges take turns having a compliment orgy over the thing. Somewhere in the world, David Cook just rolled his eyes, put on a pair of leather pants and full on blew the minds of an arena full of people. Same as it ever was. Lather, rinse, repeat, credits.

To make a very near perfect generalization, the Top 2 for every season of American Idol is always a dead heat, talent-wise. The Sanjayas, George Huffs, Scott Savols and Haley Mercados never make it this far. A fun personality and a catchy hook only get you so far; you have to be a real gamer to sing in the finale. Because of this, Top 3 is the most predictable results week of every season.

Casey James is going home. Let’s talk with facts, people, and those are the facts. Crystal and Lee gave two standout performances each, showed charisma, made smart choices, worked the crowd, and, you know, CARED. Casey looked half in the bag, bored by the spectacle, disinterested in the judges’ comments and not particularly upset when he got called out for being mediocre. He may become a top-selling country artist (and I believe he will be), but for now, he’s a disappointing, unworthy Idolist. All he had to do was show he really CARED about being the next American Idol and we would have considered vaulting him over Lee. We’re desperately seeking reasons to not be fake-wowed by his wannabe Daughtry ass, but Casey refused to give us any. And for that he will be sent home, so he can spend more time with his “music,” and by “music,” I of course mean “putting shiny conditioner in his lady hair.”

We’ll be back next week for an in-depth analysis of who deserves to be the Next American Idol. Until then, let’s all thank ABC for moving the Lost finale to Sunday so we Idolists can be free to attend the funeral for this hollow, empty season.

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Strangeness in the Night: AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 Top 5 Perform Sinatra

American Idol is officially asleep at the wheel. That’s the only explanation for how they allowed these 5 clowns to attempt to croon on national television, when not a one of them has the charisma, vocal chops or musicality to pull it off (yes, Crystal included). Harry Connick Jr. pulled a Ryan Seacrest and did EVERY job ever invented last night, from writing the arrangement to playing on stage with the Idolists to actually mentoring them (which means giving them constructive criticism that helped to enrich the performance, not saying nice things about them in the manner of Adam Lambert) to carrying the humor of the show. All Crystal, Mike, Aaron, Casey and Lee had to do was say words out loud in a melodic fashion, and yet they STILL failed miserably. What an abject failure of a performance night.

Why couldn’t Harry have just performed for an hour using different voices attributed to each Idolist (I’d die to hear his Aaron Kelly squeak)? Wouldn’t that have been more fun? Wouldn’t that have sounded better?

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

Lee DeWyze – “That’s Life”

Photo: FOX

If Harry Connick Jr and Elijah Wood had a kid, it would be Lee DeWyze exactly. Wears a suit well, dreamy blue eyes, lovely singing voice, short as a hobbit and awkward when speaking. Lee gave the best of a bad bunch of performances. He dressed for the theme of the night, which is always a smart move. And he looked like he was actually enjoying himself, the way Frank Sinatra used to perform. Spectacular arrangement by Harry; wild to watch him stare in horror at his less talented doppelganger.

Crystal Bowersox – “Summer Wind”

Crystal was the only Idolist Harry took seriously. I loved his observation that the more obscure she makes her connection to the song, the more personal the audience will feel toward it. She looked FANtastic, shockingly sexy even. While the performance was a bit boring, with an unflattering, clunky arrangement, Crystal showed surprising genre range. Since Crystal is going to win this thing no questions asked, it’s good of her to give us a little taste of all the sounds she’ll be recording down the road. And it’s an ever better opportunity for us to prepare for all the sounds we’ll be ignoring when she records them.

Mike Lynche – “The Way You Look Tonight”

Was Harry blacking it up for Big Mike, or do we have to give him a pass for the jive talk ’cause he’s from the Treme? So look, Crooner Night carries an obvious level of fakeness, which, added to Mike’s natural resting state of corniness, automatically leaves a trail of bullshit a mile long. Putting a teeny tiny hat on such a giant head doesn’t make matters better. But if anyone was built for this night, it’s Big Mike, and he milked it for all it was worth. He’ll be back next week to give us more of that corniness we hatelove so much.

Aaron Kelly – “Fly Me To The Moon”

Never looked better, never sounded worse. He looked like the best-looking Newsie of Christian Bale’s dreams (speaking of, Aaron would make a FANtabs Cowboy Kelly in the remake), even though he was basically dressed for church. But that voice. That voice has no power to it. No danger to it. There is nothing sexy about it. So why would we buy him singing any Sinatra song, least of all “Fly Me To The Moon?”

Casey James – “Blue Skies”

The encapsulation of everything wrong with American Idol this season. Casey has the voice and attitude to croon. He has the look and the sex appeal. He can make it happen. So what does he do? Gives a half-assed, jokey, sloppy, karaoke performance that ensures him a ticket home. Who Gordon Gekko’d his hair? When did he put his voice into a meat grinder? Where was the pork pie hat? Why was he in an obnoxious purple shirt? What was he thinking??? Now we have to sit through a finale with boring-ass Lee. Thanks a bunch, Casey. Go take off your shirt for some cougars!

Does Idol have a chance to turn things around this season? Does anyone out there still care about these kids?

(Spoiler alert: both of those questions are rhetorical.)

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AMERICAN IDOL Top 6: You’re Still (Not) The One

After a week off to rest, recuperate and actively avoid the awful monolith that is Idol Gives Back, I return to find that nothing has changed, the season is still boring, Randy is still useless, Ellen is still unfunny, Simon is still bored out of his mind and Ryan is still trying too hard to make everyone happy (classic Seacrest!). We are in the death throes of a harpooned TV whale, slowly sinking to the bottom of the pop culture sea. If there is any karma in this world, you can bet Paula Abdul is that harpoon. Let’s go ahead and put the once majestic mammal out of its misery.

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

Photo: FOX

Casey James – “Don’t”

Ooh, I do love to see the mentor sing along with the Idolist. Shania and Casey would make a dream performance in Hair Heaven. Just locks and locks for days. Casey was great tonight. Nice voice, beautiful control, smooth vocal. Good choice of stool. He sounded so good he could make this a radio hit tomorrow. Shania loved the performance. I, however, love Casey’s secret double chin and super girl face more.

Crystal Bowersox – “No One Needs to Know”

Either the producers told her to take a dive this week to make the next month appear 2% less completely predictable, or the judges huddled up before the show and picked Crystal out of a hat as the Idol to roundly hate on for no good reason. Was Crystal just all right? Yes. Was the song sort of lounge-y and lullaby-ish? Yes. But it wasn’t BAD. And the judges don’t need to uniformly agree not to LIKE her this week. What kind of gross collusion is that? Just let the hippie win already!

Lee DeWyze – “You’re Still the One”

Lee was the right Idolist to get the BIG Shania hit; he just didn’t do anything special with it. Crystal would have killed it. Like, whoa. Siobhan would have been too karaoke. Aaron would have been a joke. Big Mike would have dripped cornball juice on it. And Casey didn’t need the recognition juice from the song. This was the chance for Lee to write his ticket to the Top 3 and he biffed it with note-perfect mediocrity. Limp opening, serviceable middle, bland alt-rock ending. I wish Shania had sat him down and showed him the Kris Allen “Heartless” performance as a lesson on how to white-guy reevaluate and rock a hit. Instead, we got something forgettable. May I make a bad joke? Lee is still the (bland) one.

Michael Lynche – “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing”

My Idol break did nothing to make Mike seem less corny. If anything, it’s worse. He certainly FEELS the song, which is all well and good, but his “sincerity” just comes off as totes cheeser balls. Nice falsetto at the end, though. While I’m here, it was nice to see Shania love Big Mike so much, always a joy to see the mentor enjoy their time. I did notice one thing, though. I was watching Shania gesticulate with Mike and it appeared to me as if…well, does Shania Twain have…frists?

Siobhan Magnus – “Any Man of Mine”

Boots?  Love. All the stage roaming? Hate. Dudechickbro, just chill the hell out at the mic stand and sing.  The movement is slowing her already tortoise-fast voice and the music is practically lapping her. And she gets no points for the glory note, because it was pandering. It was begging for votes. David Cook never begged. Carrie Underwood never begged. Taylor Hicks didn’t even beg. Because the first moment you beg is the first moment you start losing.

Aaron Kelly – “You’ve Got a Way”

Very cute watching Shania go into instant Mama-Bear mode the moment Aaron started to struggle. She looked liked she might try to adopt him right there. He could do worse for a stage mom. OK, let’s get real for a hot moment: This teen talent show shenanigan has gone on far too long. A nice Archuleta voice is fine and dandy, but Top 5 on American Idol? I don’t think so. No power or second level to his voice. No grit. No life experience. Just admirable determination and want. Which isn’t good enough to make it to May.

Is it time for Aaron to go back to school? Or will Siobhan give birth on stage to her Idol doom? Let me know in the comments.

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Elvis Night on Shaky Legs: AMERICAN IDOL S9 TOP 9 Perform (Again)

by Jason Matthews

Photo: FOX

We already did this group of nine, and weren’t much happy with them the first time, so let’s not waste time with a second overly wordy and witty introduction. The faster we get to the results show, the sooner we can boot out all the kids we should have kicked off last week (ahem, Tim, Andrew, and Aaron) instead of making Big Mike grovel his way into getting an unnecessary save. Hopefully, we’ll get this awful season back on track (not likely).

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

Crystal Bowersox – “Saved”

Another good performance. Expert singing, fine arrangement, thoroughly enjoyable. What else is there to say about Crystal? Oh yeah, that’s right, there’s this: It was safe. When will Crystal show us something NEW? Or anything shocking, interesting, scary or mindblowing? The answer is “never.” She’s just going to be good every week. And that’s fine. After all, being just good every week worked for Kris Allen. What’s that guy doing these days, car commercials? Yeah, that’s kinda like having an impactful singing career.

Michael Lynche – “In the Ghetto”

I can’t be mad at Michael for America’s stupidity in voting him off, causing the judges to use the save on him instead of keeping it for Siobhan, who needs it way more at this point. I’d sure like to be mad, though. I still don’t fully buy his act, but I can admit he sounded great, and came from the heart. He was good; for now at least, he was worth saving.

Lee Dewyze – “A Little Less Conversation”

Lee sang well, but his rough voice wasn’t suited for such a slick-sounding rock song. For such a fun song, his alt-rock growl was not Elvis-like fun. Maybe he needed to have a big, show-stopping stage number backing him up, taking the lead on the good times. A big band or a crazy light show, even. Just him up there with his growl was good, but not good enough.

Casey James – “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy”

If someone doesn’t start paying attention, Casey James is gonna sneak his way into the finale. Which will be a crime, because he isn’t actually doing anything of merit. He gives the same performance every week, never extends himself, and never challenges his artistry. But that hair and smile and voice are keeping him under the radar. A Crystal/Casey finale will be aurally nice, but utterly boring to actually listen to.

Siobhan Magnus – “Suspicious Minds”

Loved watching Siobhan and Adam crush on each other. Loved seeing Adam step up his mentoring game for Siobhan. Loved her starting the song with her back to the audience. Loved the outfit. And that’s all I loved. Her arrangement was all over the place. Her voice was weak to start, ragged during the glory note-heavy middle, and desperate in the climax. I’m not sure if she’s second-guessing what got her here or she’s running out of game. But Siobhan is fading, and fast.

Katie Stevens – “Baby, What Do You Want Me To Do”

Katie’s performance was missing the one thing she needed the most: actual emotion. Making the “frustrated,” “sassy,” and “bitchy” faces isn’t the same thing as actually feeling those emotions. I doubt there’s been anything in her life that gave her the emotional experience to pull from. She’s so the Veruca Salt of this Top 12. I’m not exactly sure what she’s so upset about, either; didn’t they love her last week? And the week before? Why rankle them now?

Tim Urban – “Can’t Help Falling In Love”

A malevolent masterstroke to play to the tween crowd and steal votes in the face of the double elimination, but a calculated error in thinking he had the voice for this song. He couldn’t keep up the falsetto, dropping his voice out at least once per verse. And the whole thing had a bad frat-guy-with-a-soul-patch-under-a-tree feel to it. The guy’s just not good enough. Saying this was the “best Tim Urban performance ever” is like saying Dukes of Hazzard has “the best Jessica Simpson performance ever”; it’s such a back-handed compliment it’s practically a forehand!

Aaron Kelly – “Blue Suede Shoes”

Did you see the look he gave at the end of his taped segment? After he confessed to picking the wrong song and suggested he would be a total trainwreck? He stopped talking and a look of pure terror came over his face. This kid knows he doesn’t belong here. Knows he isn’t capable of being the big shoulders in this competition. Why should we vote for him if he doesn’t think himself worthy of our votes? It’s time we let the weak ones go, to send Aaron back to school. Elementary school.

Andrew Garcia – “Hound Dog”

Sure, slow down the most fun Elvis song there is. Yeah, that’s a good idea. That’ll keep you on the show another week. NOT. As boring as it is to keep saying Crystal is “good,” it’s even more boring to continue to say how much Andrew misses the point. In the face of Adam TELLING him he was boring, he chose to be MORE boring. In the face of Simon saying he has no personality, Andrew chose to show LESS personality. Maybe if we predict he’ll stay on the show, Andrew will choose to leave?

At this point, which two Idolists do you want to see in the finals? Let us know in the comments.

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All You Need Is IDOL: Season 9 Top 9 Review

by Jason Matthews

Lennon/McCartney was hard to swallow two years ago when the group was super strong, and it doesn’t go down much more easily now, with a lesser cast of Idols. Watching Tim, Andrew, and Aaron fumble their way through the defining music of the 20th century does not good television make.

But hey, at least we got to learn new things about our Idol wannabes. Wait, no we didn’t. Oh, is Crystal a mom? Does Tim smile a lot? Casey has hair! Katie is a teenager! Siobhan is “unique”! Wow. Shocking tidbits, those. I would have rather learned important things like: why Andrew got a neck tattoo, whether Siobhan ate paint chips as a child, if Aaron has ever seen an R-Rated movie, and if Lee and Andrew are the real-life Troy and Abed. But alas, those facts continue to go unrevealed.

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

Courtesy FOX

Lee Dewyze – “Hey Jude”

Has Lee always been doing that David Cook super-fast-vocal-raise-from-the-side-of-the-mouth thing? How did I JUST notice this? No wonder Lee is doing so well on the show. And the show does love him. Not only did they give him the coveted anchor spot, they gave him the most recognizable song, a bagpiper and a crowd-pleasing “sing it with me” moment (always good for a voting boost). That wasn’t an Idol performance, it was a darn rock show! And it easily wins the night.

Siobhan Magnus – “Across the Universe”

This is tough for me because my all-time favorite crazy person singer, Fiona Apple, did a ridiculously beautiful cover of this song (with an equally amazing music video where she sings on a platform that rotates her 360 degrees while people destroy a coffee shop around her. It’s awesome, seriously, YouTube it NOW!), and the difference between Fiona and Siobhan is basically invisible (’cause you can’t measure crazy), so I’m partial to my favorite Shadowboxer. BUT, Siobhan was captivating, beautiful, controlled and riveting. She took a HUGE chance not screaming her glory note, but that’s the beauty of her—she has no fear. She takes the risks. And it’s what going to vault her past Crystal in the end.

Katie Stevens – “Let It Be”

As pretty as she’s ever looked. As precocious and steely in her Ryan interview as she’s ever been. And she absolutely gets points for nailing the “Single Ladies” dance. This was a good night for Katie. She’s going to get major votes simply for the song choice, but she actually delivered a very worthy, star-like performance. We’re about two weeks from making her the Dark Horse favorite to win this whole thing.

Crystal Bowersox – “Come Together”

Here’s the problem with Crystal: She’s never going to transcend the stage she’s on, the way Adam Lambert, David Cook, and Fantasia did. She’s always going to deliver a rollicking, fun set. She’s solid, but there’s no second level. “Come Together” is a lay up for her. Of course she’s going to nail it! But where’s the daring? Where’s the ambition in it? I’d rather watch Siobhan go crazy with the screaming, risk failure and be a roll of the dice between brilliant and awful, then sit through a billion same safe songs from Crystal. Because safe is what we expect, but brilliant is what we hope for.

Michael Lynche – “Eleanor Rigby”

Big Mike is the Tyler Perry of American Idol, not nearly as fun or enjoyable as the trailers would lead you to believe, lots of bluster only to be revealed as scarily soulless. And worse yet, like Tyler, Mike has the platform to do something and actively chooses not to use it! He could be redefining R&B for the masses, showing that adding some rock and country to it is OK. But he instead chooses to pander for votes with his Peebo Bryson, “preach it” shenanigans. Maybe he is a good singer, but I can’t get past his utter fakeness.

Casey James – “Jealous Guy”

This show can be grossly manipulative sometimes (read: “all the time”). Watching Casey’s boring, slow, not at ALL authentic ballad, I knew the judges were going to trip over themselves to call it brilliant. To say he was brave to use an acoustic guitar! To commend his control and command! Because he has that face, and that hair and the show needs him bad, they were gonna give him a pass. It’s a fraud, and I’m not gonna stand for it. I’m not giving him a pass. He is less interesting by the week, relies too heavily on his guitar, and hides behind his look. It’s a joke. It’s a decoy. And it’s going to get better artists sent home early. I think I may hate Casey James.

Aaron “Yoda” Kelly – “The Long and Winding Road”

Charisma, stage presence? An American Idol needs not these things. Country, he makes the Beatles. Sleepy, he makes me. Solid performance? Maybe. Assured vocal? Yes. But I sense much bottom 3 in him.

Andrew Garcia – “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Being the Latin Buddy Holly, as Andrew attempted to pull off tonight, isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s the road he should have tread weeks ago, but someone should tell him this very important point: big hair does not equal big personality. It just makes you look doofy, and not in the “fun” way the incessant and obnoxious video package wants us to believe. And it doesn’t fix his bigger problem: he’s not any good! You can be completely devoid of personality and still run the Idol table, so long as you have the skill (see: Underwood, Carrie). But you have to have the skills. Andrew doesn’t.

Tim Urban – “All My Loving”

If Simon is gonna wave him through, content to let a Haircut Idol crap on the legacy of the show he built with his two furry hands, content to let DIDI go home over an idiot with a sparkly smile, then why should I bother reviewing him? You know what he did up there; he was a C- vocal with an A+ look. Whatever. He’ll be back next week.

What did you think of Beatles night? Can anyone make a Beatles song their own?

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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!

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Party in the US AI: AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 Top 11 Perform

by Jason Matthews

When Simon leaves Idol at the end of the season, can Miley Cyrus take his place? She makes the show SO fun. She’s just as bitchy, just as divisive, and just as deliciously awesome as our grumpy British boss. Let’s be real: in the history of things, “Miley Cyrus” is a perfect idea. A 17-year old trapped with an 80-year-old cigarette smoker’s voice. Brimming with sexuality, but only able to take it so far cause of the Disney thing. (She will simulate sex in the first video she shoots after her contract expires. Count on it.) A secretly horrible voice, making the catchiest jams of this decade? There’s no one better than Miley.

Who didn’t love Miley? Telling Crystal how to sing better? Trying not to molest Tim? Not hiding her hate of Andrew? Dorking out with Siobhan? And acting out in the best and grossest ways in the audience?  Everyone loved it. The performances tonight were uniformly abysmal, but it was still the best episode of the season, for obvious Cyrus-related reasons.

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

Siobhan Magnus – “Superstition”

How can you not love the mutual coofest that was Siobhan and Miley? Did you see how with Siobhan, Miley desperately wanted to seem cool to her, whereas with Katie, she thought she was too cool for school? And Siobhan with her full-on, no-shame admittance of her love of Miley? It’s too great! Can we have more of them smiling at each other with their beautiful girl crushes, please? Don’t we all just want two hours of Siobhan dorking out with Hannah Montana, interspersed with her looking superfly and glory-screeching through Stevie Wonder hits? Isn’t that what happiness looks like?

Casey James – “Power Of Love”

Ooh, dicey call, not kissing the Miley ring. Her evil eyes during the mentor rehearsal should have clued Casey in that maybe a tip of the hat to “The Climb” would have been a better way to go. But for the rest of us, singing “Power of Love” is all the ring kissing we need. One of the best pop songs of the last 30 years, instantly making us nostalgic for Back to the Future, Casey could have burped this song and I still would have loved it. Helps that he delivered a solid vocal, nice stage presentation, and a super fun arrangement. Can Casey sing Huey every week?

Didi Benami – “You’re No Good”

That performance should carry a NSFW label. It was hot! Maybe it was a bit screechy, but I’ll take her pseudo-sultriness and saucy mean-face growl-singing over the cornball hairspray nonsense of Tim Urban, or the soulless yipping of Andrew Garcia any day of the week and twice on Sunday. At least she was taking a risk, playing outside her comfort zone. Trying! Big points for our girl Didi tonight, no matter what the cranky judges thought.

Aaron Kelly – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”

His best performance, and it wasn’t even close. And by that I mean I stayed awake through it. Dug the dramatic blue light walk to the mic, the slow intro and the first chorus. Can’t tell you about the rest, though, cause I zoned out and didn’t come back in ’til Randy started yo’ing at me. But hey, Aaron was legitimately riveting for a good thirty-five seconds. That’s progress!

Katie Stevens – “Big Girls Don’t Cry”

Were we watching Miley mentor Katie, or a scene from Mean Girls 2? Miley’s non-advice, her looks of “Bitch, don’t you DARE think you’re gonna be where I am,” her insincere well wishes? Classic bitch work, Miley. Really great stuff! Katie could have really used her help, too. You could tell from the first note Katie didn’t believe she could pull it off. She was stiff, stilted and out of rhythm. Fergie gets that song done by oozing sensuality; Katie isn’t old enough to know what that is. Miley fakes it, and knows how, but darn if she was gonna teach Katie how to do it. Poor Katie…

Crystal Bowersox – “Me and Bobby McGee”

I could stare at Miley’s stunned reaction to Crystal all day long; I want it as my screen saver. How cool was Crystal to include Miley in her collection of female singer autographs on her guitar (when Miley CLEARLY doesn’t deserve having her name associated with a talent like B-Sox)? Doesn’t even matter that it was her coolest moment in the show (as her actual performance was quite subpar). Crystal may be treading water, or even losing momentum, but she’s gaining fans and that’s way more important for her post-Idol career.

Michael Lynche – “When A Man Loves A Woman”

Mike created some love tonight! Ellen was making out with Ryan’s hands, Miley was so sprung on Big Mike, Jungle Fever balloons were popping all around her crazy precocious head, and Kara was working overtime to produce more fake tears. But how was the performance? He sang just fine, looked fine; it was fine. Manipulative like whoa, as is his M.O., but fine all the same. It’s funny when Kara calls Mike over-indulgent when that is his sole reason for being on the show! It’s like calling Crystal a hippie; no need to restate facts about things, judges.

Lee Dewyze – “The Letter”

One thing’s for sure: Michael Bublé has nothing to worry about. Simon was right—that was a magnificently poor song choice. Why Lee thought he could croon on stage and not look like a buffoon is anyone’s guess. He should never move away from rock music. It fits his voice the best and hides all his weaknesses (did you notice how badly he was scraping his lower register?). He’s not Danny Gokey; he shouldn’t perform like him.

Tim Urban – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”

It’s always fun when the female mentors invent reasons to touch the male contestants. Miley was throwing her raccoon eyes and Florida Grandma face all over Tim’s business. Thankfully (or maybe not), he survived long enough to deliver a super karaoke performance, whose only saving grace was his hot blue-gray blazer. Everything else was corny. Also? When a contestant jumps into the crowd, that’s a sure sign of desperation. He should write Paige a thank-you note for gifting him a place on the Idol tour.

Andrew Garcia – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

When you can’t impress Miley Cyrus, who is still knee-deep in her “SHINY!” phase, how can you expect to impress America? Answer: You can’t. Talk-singing isn’t going to do it. A voice flatter than Ellen’s jokes?  That’s not it. Corny arrangement, clunky dance moves and an amateur presentation? Boring our poor Miley in the audience (AGAIN)? Nope! It’s safe to say Andrew failed to impress this week.

Paige Miles – “Against All Odds”

Paige must have summer plans ’cause I have never seen someone try so actively to get kicked off American Idol. Everything was bad. E-ver-y-thing. Shaky opening, low-energy start on the steps, random wandering on the stage. Did she fire her tone? Wow, that was so, so bad. Miley was right; it was a Pitch Party in the USA.

Should Miley mentor the Idols every week? Would you buy a Miley/Siobhan duets CD? These were obviously rhetorical questions, but let’s talk Idol in the comments!

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 9: Top 12 (S)Tumbling the Dice on Stones Night

by Jason Matthews

No more fooling around; it’s time to pick our next American Idol. For better or worse (we miss you, Katelyn! Smell ya later, Lilly!), this is our Top 12 and we have to crown one of them. The first impression one gets with this group is how vast the gap is between the talented and untalented. Crystal, Siobhan, Lee, Casey, Didi and Big Mike are so clearly the Top 6 that the next month and a half is mostly just an exercise in patience. A waiting game, while the also-rans get their moment to shine. So let’s all hold our breath for a while, revel in Simon and Ryan’s delicious man love banter, and continue to ignore Randy (and, increasingly, Ellen), and just wait it out ’til the real game begins.

Reviews of the performances, from best to worst.

Siobhan Magnus – “Paint It Black”

Adam Lambert just switched teams. Siobhan has never looked better, like a goth wet dream mixed with ’80s Madonna as envisioned by a Pretty in Pink fanboy. Loved the insane red stage, the dramatic lighting, the ominous arrangement, and her sinister opening. Her emotion was palpable, at once brilliant and frightening. And the crazy glory note that went on forever, then kept on going, and then had children who also delivered glory notes? That was either damn awful or mad genius. I’m almost 80% sure it’s the latter.

Lee Dewyze – “Beast of Burden”

He mumbled the start, opened up nicely in the middle, and finished with his signature bland white rocker snarl, but it was all tempered nicely by his acoustic song choice. He was actually kind of sweet up there, charming, even. Not to commit blasphemy, but it was a very Kris Allen-like performance. He for sure gained fans with that one, me included.

Didi Benami – “Playing With Fire”

Why is it so scary watching Didi perform? Is it because there is even odds she has a complete meltdown at any moment? Or because we just don’t want to see her cry again so we hope she does well? She’s such an emotional whirlwind, that girl! Thankfully, she did well this week. Going with jeans maybe wasn’t the best star choice, but otherwise she looked amazing. The camera has never loved her more. Starting on the steps was a nice choice, and it’s good to see her shine without needing her guitar. She definitely stumbled midway through, but she hung in there and finished strong. Nice soulful, sexy arrangement, great tone.  All in all, this was a nice week for our girl Didi.

Casey James – “It’s All Over Now”

From jump street, he had immediate big stage rock star presence. He’s relying too heavily on his guitar, not showing us enough of his vocals, but for now he’s doing enough. There is a richness to his voice that is great to listen to; he’s definitely getting better. If only he would trust his own instrument! He’s easily safe this week, but he needs to start stepping it up.

Katie Stevens – “Wild Horses”

Dramatic spotlight lighting! A totally robotic vocal! Trying to be sexy, but barely managing smoldering!  Still not making up for the loss of Katelyn Epperly! Oy, this girl is at such the disadvantage. There’s no way she survives the next month. Until then…by far her best performance so far, and her smartest song choice, but she still has a WAYS to go before she can stand with the big guns in this competition.

Crystal Bowersox – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

Very underwhelming for performing in the pimp slot. She doesn’t get points for admitting she was in her head and out of focus, but you do have to admire that even her lackluster performance was better than half the people in the competition. At this point, Crystal is her own worst enemy. She is so well liked and revered so early on, she has nowhere to go but down. This is exactly how Kris beat Adam last season.  Watch how she stacks up against Siobhan as the weeks go on. By Top 6 we may be looking back at today and wondering how we ever thought she was the clear favorite.

Michael Lynche – “Miss You”

Simon was right; Big Mike was corny up there. And it wasn’t just the dance moves. He’s got a smooth, silky voice, and his showmanship is in the right place, but he can be so cheese-on-crackers up there. Good energy, super likeable personality, a fine vocal, but the whole thing was more than a touch goofy.

Lacey Brown – “Ruby Tuesday”

Lacey is everything people find tiresome about this show. She’s another poseur, a wannabe singer with no personality, utterly lacking in real drama, and just standing up there performing mediocre karaoke. Way to not use the biggest platform in music, LACEY! I wonder if SHE thinks she can win this competition?

Andrew Garcia – “Gimme Shelter”

We learned tonight that the small stage the Idolists were on the last three weeks was masking just how small and uninteresting Andrew’s voice truly is. Working on the big stage, he was swallowed up. Even with that desperate glory note at the end, he still came off charisma-free. Not to mention his clunky, mismatched fashion. Also? For one the Stones’ signature songs, that was the worst arrangement of the night.

Aaron Kelly – “Angie”

What are the judges seeing that I am not? Aaron Kelly is a charisma suck, a gaping black hole of personality, passion and interest. I wasn’t sure the performance had started ’cause the whole thing was so snore-inducing. I dozed off before he even got off the steps. I think even Aaron fell asleep during that performance. He’ll be safe this week ’cause America loves it some shaky talent tweens, but his days are numbered. And wow, someone needs to get FIRED over that hair of his.

Paige Miles – “Honky Tonk Woman”

She unleashed her big voice for the first time ever, which was good, but just made us feel sorry something so beautiful was trapped in a vessel so dull. The main problem with Paige is that she just isn’t vital. There are literally forty of her on the charts right now, and she’s not good enough to outshine any of them. Beyoncé didn’t even flinch watching her work. Jennifer Hudson just rolled her eyes and went back to shining her Oscar. Paige needs to show us a big personality, not just a big voice.

Tim Urban – “Under My Thumb”

Well, that was some weak, forgettable, Tiger Beat nonsense, lacking in every way: vocally, musically, and aesthetically. Just a safe, small performance by a guy who knows he doesn’t belong. I hope someone was keeping an eye on poor Alex Lambert, because he probably drowned in his own tears watching the spot he so deserved to be in get wasted by Tim.

Who should be the first to go? Do you think Siobhan has what it takes to beat Crystal? Make some noise in the comments!

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Next Stop, Top 12: AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 Top 8 Guys Perform

FOX/Michael Becker

by Jason Matthews

Now I get to do that great breakdown of the remaining contestants, analyzing their pros and cons, and determining who truly belongs in the Top 12. Let’s consider which 6 should move on, and not which 2 should go home.

Casey James is a great country voice and a real fan favorite. He’s in. Michael Lynche has been a vocal homerun hitter and continues to be a compelling story. He’s in. Alex Lambert and Tim Urban are one voice two mullets, and they are both equally awesome and vital. Both are in. Lee Dewyze has the best voice of the group, but is a nothing performer. Since we don’t have a true male rocker to match wits with Siobhan, Lee needs to be in the Top 12. He’s in. That leaves us with three guys for one remaining spot…

Out of Aaron, Andrew and Todrick, only Todrick brings something original to the show. Tim and Alex cancel Aaron out, Lee and Casey block out Andrew, but there isn’t another guy doing stylish Neyo-style R&B. With Paige Miles going home, the show needs a dynamic R&B singer. Will Todrick make it through, though? Doubt it. Andrew is still riding the Paula Abdul wave, so he gets the final spot. Aaron and Todrick sadly get the boot.

We’ll tackle the early chances for the Top 12 next week, but at this moment, none of the guys look likely to overtake the powerhouse Crystal, or the enigma that is Siobhan. It is still the girls’ season to lose.

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

Alex Lambert – “Trouble”

He basically did the same exact thing as last week. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. He was awesome then, and still pretty brilliant this week. My concern is now that he got a bit of praise, he’s going to keep doing the same trick over and over again. I call it the Andrew Garcia Corollary. He’s got maybe 2-3 weeks of the Jack James MorcalBluntJohnson thing before he’ll have to knock it off and try something new. Here’s hoping his other tricks are as good.

Casey James – “You’ll Think of Me”

A solid “B” performance, not much more you can say about it. He was sincere, invested, and professional; he’s the Jason Castro of this season. Casey isn’t getting much better, per se, but he is getting more polished. Tonight, he looked as if he’d be doing this for years and years. And he didn’t even need to show his chest. He doesn’t have a chance in the world of winning American Idol, but he’s definitely earned the right to stay around for a while.

Lee Dewyze – “Fireflies”

I was wondering when someone was going to do this song, just always thought it would be Tim Urban. It was kind of odd watching his voice project an image of Nickelback making sweet, ugly love to The Postal Service, as dressed by the state of Montana, but it didn’t sound bad. One thing he does need to watch out for is the soft notes. His voice is more suited for those harsh, vibrato notes, so when he has to project sweetness it comes off more as whiny. Going back to rock and staying away from emo pop would be a good idea.

Tim Urban – “Hallelujah”

This song had “Bad Idea Jeans” written all over it. There are just too many versions of this song for Tim to have a chance to stand out. It’s designed to make you sound good, but soundalike. And soundalike it was. There wasn’t enough soul to his performance, and he came off very young, which in this instance was not a good thing. He, Alex and Aaron are all fighting for the same voting base. He needs to channel older if he wants any chance to winning that group. Also? Get rid of the Zefron mullet already. A Seacrest-style buzz cut gets him into the Top 6.

Todrick Hall – “Somebody to Love”

You gotta give it up to Todrick—he was the only guy to actually bring a show to the show. Cool staging, nice arrangement, great style. Maybe it was theater, but at least it was entertainment, and not yet ANOTHER dude on a stool. His voice isn’t much of anything, and he doesn’t have much to offer, but the guy is likeable. On this show, likeable goes a long way. It would be cool if that long way started now.

Michael Lynche – “This Woman’s Work”

It’s the size. That’s the problem. I can’t take him seriously because he’s so cartoonishly big. The falsetto seems ridiculous coming out of him, the preaching church-style vocal moves are corny, and after weeks and weeks of BIG MIKE, I can’t take him seriously when he pulls the humble card. Maybe it was good tonight. Maybe it was soulful and beautiful and daring. But taking the whole package in? As Randy would say, for me, for you, it didn’t work for me, dude.

Andrew Garcia – “Genie in a Bottle”

No one has fallen out of my good graces as quickly as Andrew. He’s been exposed as having a bad voice, so these gimmicks better hold up, and hold up WELL, or he is gonna get that surprise Top 7 Michael Johns boot. He’s not even connecting to the music anymore; he’s just doing his schtick. And the schtick isn’t just getting old, it’s applying for an AARP card. It won’t happen, ’cause he’ll make the Top 12, but the show would be better without him on it.

Aaron Kelly – “I’m Already There”

Didn’t Aaron learn from Paige that a walking-in entrance is a bad way to start your performance? Didn’t he learn from one million previous Idol performances that a sketchy first note takes you too far into the red to comfortably pull yourself back out? And who is dressing this kid? Another kid? Everything about this performance was misguided. It got better vocally as he went along, but it wasn’t enough. And man alive was it boring. I drifted off for a bit, thought about how crazy it is that Avatar didn’t win Best Picture and how gorj Didi looked last night and how funny Community has been lately, and when I got back, Aaron was STILL singing! Just the worst.

Be honest, do any of guys have a chance to beat Crystal or Siobhan? Who do you think will make the Top 12. Comment it up!

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Last Stop Before Top 12—AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 Top 8 Girls Perform

by Jason Matthews

This intro was originally planned as a complex breakdown of the remaining eight girls, detailing the pros and cons of sending each to the Top 12, analyzing why each were or were not vital to the show.  It was full of Idol factoids, complex mathematics and fun jokes at the expense of Lilly Scott’s total witch troll hair.

Sadly, that paragraph will never see the light of the Internet, because it just isn’t required. Katie Stevens and Paige Miles so sung themselves out of the competition that even attempting to drum up tension is like dancing about architecture. Let’s just break the performances down, say some fun stuff and get the guys out of the way, so the real competition can finally begin.

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

Crystal Bowersox – “Give Me One Reason”

Photo: Fox

Crystal doing Tracy Chapman is like catching fish with dynamite—it’s just not fair to the other girls.  She’s basically Will Hunting up there, burning pages of perfectly solved, impossible math proofs, cause it’s just too easy. Her talent is effortless. She looked amazing in the black, her dreads were actually appropriate for once, and she has the Rockstar moves down pat. I also loved her full-on pitching a squat on her amp during the judges’ comments, and then making Ryan join her, instead of getting up. When you got her kind of skills, you get to sit, while the rest of us stand.

Siobhan Magnus – “House of the Rising Sun”

She is utterly mesmerizing in every way. How in the world did she become everyone’s extra special Idol favorite? And Siobhan had the Superstar hair on “blast” tonight! The a capella was riveting, her tone was amazing, and the arrangement was perfectly suited for her. Even though the performance was a touch low-key, she was still riveting. This girl can do THINGS with her voice, things we might not understand for a long, long time.

Didi Benami – “Rhiannon”

From jump street, ten million hundred thousand times better than last week. You could tell when she stepped on stage that she was gonna make it work. Didi brought back her perfect, lovely tone; her voice was a Tony the Tiger-style grrrrreat match for Stevie Nicks. I wanted to hear something a bit bigger from her, a bit crazier. At some point we need to hear Didi get LOUD! But it is nice to see and hear her return to the captivating, emotional work she showed us in Hollywood Week.

Lacey Brown – “The Story”

You shouldn’t get credit for not sucking at singing a perfect song. Oh, did you do good karaoke on this national karaoke contest? Whaddaya want, a cookie?! Brandi Carlisle should demand a residual from that performance. She sang it well, as the judges said, but there was exactly ZERO dynamism to her personality or performance. What does she bring to this competition? What is unique to her beyond the crazy cool burgundy hair? More than two girls were worse than she tonight, but it still feels like she’s stealing a spot in the Top 12.

Katelyn Epperly – “I Feel the Earth Move”

That is what an American Idol performance on auto-pilot looks like. Everything is as it should be, the notes were fine, the melody was fun, the arrangement was bouncy, she looked super cute, but the whole thing was completely hollow. She made a less-than-zero connection to the music; it was practically an anti-connection. Did she have somewhere else to be tonight? Was she worried about what might happen to Ben on Lost? Something was going on in her head, and it wasn’t competing on American Idol.

Lilly Scott – “I Fall To Pieces”

I guess this is what it’s like to go to a Bjork concert. It was technically masterful, had a funky arrangement, fascinating vocal…and utterly crazy to watch at all times. She doesn’t have nearly the best voice of the girls, let alone the whole group, and she will be an afterthought in the Top 12.

Katie Stevens – “Breakaway”

A pyrrhic victory for wee Katie. She finally picked the right song and it’s the last one she gets to sing.  Even with her big voice she couldn’t match Kelly’s power or spirit. There was something so clearly defeatist about her. She knew she was going home before she belted note one, and you could read it on her face. Poor kid—at least there’s a lucrative Disney contract waiting for her. I look forward to hearing her voice a colorful talking elf in the next princess movie.

Paige Miles – “Smile”

There was nothing to like here, save the hair and makeup. The entrance was misguided, the arrangement was maudlin, and she was boring and ineffectual with her vocal. She knew, we knew, the judges knew, AMERICA knew she was done. Hard to watch, knowing how done she was. It’s possible Paige printed her boarding pass for her flight home during that performance. And who would have noticed? We certainly weren’t paying any attention to her.

Are you pleased with the 6 girls being sent into the Top 12? Who do you think has the chance to win it all? Sound off in the comments.

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Girls’ Night: AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 – Top 10 Girls Perform

by Jason Matthews

My predictions for the girls last week were dead wrong; let me own up to that right away. I forgot my Idol history, and was thus doomed to fail. If there’s one thing Top 24 has proved year after year is that the token hottie ALWAYS gets kicked off immediately (think Amy Krebs or Stevie Wright). I should have known Janell Wheeler would be toast.

With Ashley Rodriguez, that was owing to a lack of compelling personal story. Nearly every contestant this year has a tragedy in his or her life or a wacky background; Ashley was just like a prettier Jordin Sparks, not a reason to keep her around.

Staying with Top 24 Idol history, the two girls traditionally kicked off in Top 10 week are singers who just aren’t as dynamic as the rest of the group. They may be cool people with great style, but lack that oomph we want in a female Idol (think Alexandrea Lushington or Casey Carlson). This spells bad news for the Lacey Browns of the competition.

Let’s see how our girls did with an extra day to prepare. Here are reviews of the performances, from best to worst.

Siobhan Magnus – “Think”

Going after Aretha on this show is a dicey prospect. That is, unless you have a sneakily amazing voice like Siobhan. She absolutely cuh-rushed that big note. There were better performances tonight, but none as electric as hers. And Simon is right—she is strange, and oddly compelling. That slow speaking voice, which makes you really not sure what the next word is gonna be or when it will come? Intriguing. Aside from her wardrobe, Siobhan worked it out. She’s definitely one of the ones to watch.

Crystal Bowersox – “Long As I Can See the Light”

A professional performance from note one. I don’t know if it’s because she was in the hospital and now we’re inherently rooting for her to overcome and triumph, but there was a softness and likability to her tonight that we hadn’t seen before. Great song choice, wonderful tone, and as crazy as it sounds, she’s getting prettier as the weeks go on. Here’s what that all means: Jewel can officially retire from music now; her services are no longer required.

Katelyn Epperly – “The Scientist”

Aside from Siobhan, Katelyn is the most fun to hear talk. When she’s riffing with Simon or sparring with the judges, there’s a great confidence and intellect on display. That might be the key to her: she’s smart. It comes across on stage. Picking Coldplay was a master stroke, being the only person on the piano helped her to stand out, she took Kara’s style tips and looked incredible, and the vocal itself was wonderful—so sweet, so loving. I continue to be surprised by how much I like her.

Paige Miles – “Walk Away”

Oh, I get it now—she’s the big ’90s pop singer. That Mariah-on-“Dreamlover”-meets-“Miss Independent”-Kelly-Clarkson voice—we can work with that. She’s still not very exciting to watch, but she CAN sing. And picking Kelly to do, and then doing it well, is exactly the right way to stay in the competition. I was worried she was starting to get lost in the shuffle of quirky indie rockers that have infested the competition this year, but she’s standing out perfectly as a pop diva. Hers was the only nakedly fun performance of the night, and it probably kept her on the show.

Lilly Scott – “A Change Is Gonna Come”

What do we do with this girl? She’s playing up the kooky Bjork angle, which is fine artistically but makes for a very divisive position on the show. She’s not as talented as Crystal, not as likeable as Didi, and not as unique and sparkly as the Haeley/Siobhan/Katie trio, so how is she going to keep up her fanbase? And I completely disagree with the judges on her Sam Cooke. It was too talk-singy, passionless, slow and pitchy. She’ll be fine for now, but as the weeks go on and the field crowds around her, she’ll be pushed out. And the show will be better for it.

Haeley Vaughn – “The Climb”

OK, let’s just take a minute here to breathe. Taking on The Beatles is one thing; every precocious young singer tackles those legends at some point. But it’s a whole OTHER thing to go after Miley Cyrus. “The Climb” is universal perfection. You can’t just smile and throw glitter around. You have to BRING it. And Haeley cannot and did not bring it. Lispy, soundalike (in a bad way), weak, rushed, horrendous bridge into the first chorus, and the end was a travesty. Miley can rest easy, but Haeley should not. She’s in the doghouse until further notice. (She’s LUCKY she didn’t do “Party in the USA” or I would have rioted the set. Rioted!)

Didi Benami – “Lean On Me”

This was heartbreaking. The complete wrong song choice, even MORE indulgent than last week (get a better dictionary, Didi), a scratchy, uneven vocal, and a mediocre arrangement. What is our beloved Didi doing? Why would she ever not be playing her guitar? Why is she not doing Rilo Kiley or late-career Tori Amos? Hell, she could win the whole show if she just did Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”! I love how she invests herself into each song, really grabbing the emotions of the lyrics, but she’s stopped being fun to watch. It’s now like watching a baby take its first steps—you’re just waiting for her to trip and fall over. Sad, sad development here.

Katie Stevens – “Put Your Records On”

She’s a bouncy, cute girl with severe Tracy Flick issues. Trying WAY to hard, utterly unable to pick the right song (mostly because she has not spent even one second of her life considering what kind of artist she wants to be, or even what being an artist means), and oddly old-sounding and young-looking at the same time. Like Kara says, her instrument needs a TON of work. Give it 2-3 years and she could win American Idol. But this year? Not a chance.

Michelle Delamor – “With Arms Wide Open”

Done. Gone. See ya, Shells! I mean, Creed? Are you TRYING to get kicked off? You can soul it up all you want, Beyoncé the thing to death, Andrew Garcia that beat and it STILL wouldn’t matter. Because it’s Creed, and that’s a FAIL every day of the week and twice on Sunday! The only good thing to come out of Michelle’s slow, painful, Scott Stapp-ian performance is that it means Didi will be safe this week.

Lacey Brown – “Kiss Me”

Give her this much—she handled her first-week nerves like a champ. It seemed like she was even having fun. Let’s hope she did, because it’s going to be her last performance on the Idol stage. There is absolutely nothing dynamic about her; we would not miss her at all if she were gone. Fun look, nice person, nobody doesn’t love a little Sixpence None the Richer, but she’s just not important enough to keep around. The Idol history lesson never fails; Lacey will be kicked off.

So who do you think was better this week, the girls or the guys? Were you more or less affected by Crystal because of her recent hospitalization? Sound off in the comments!

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