Saturday, April 03, 2010

American Idol Top 10

Season Nine. Top 10 meet Usher and sings R&B/Soul songs. Let's jump right into it...

Siobhan Magnus- "Through the Fire"

This Tuesday, April 6th, will be the birthday of Chaka Khan, but she could not have been too happy with what Siobhan did with one of her songs. I think this was easily her worst performance and it seemed out of tune throughout. While Siobhan has made a name for herself on American Idol for singing "big songs", this one came across as somewhat boring. She also went through with her typical large-mouthed scream at the end, after having previously been called for the predictability factor on that.

Siobhan looked pretty distraught while hearing the harsh comments from the judges that seemed to go on forever. After that, there was some more manufactured television drama with cameras following her back stage, where if they would have stuck around, I am convinced they would have seen her smash a few tables or stick a pin in a voodoo Ryan Seacrest doll. The previously pimped contestant really got taken down a few notches this week, but despite the poor performance and despite having to go first, I figured her fans would be extra motivated to save her and I did not even expect her to land in the Bottom Three. Grade C-

Casey James- "Hold On I'm Coming"

Despite playing the guitar every week, Casey has now confirmed that he plans to do it each and every week he is on the show. That does not allow him to move around the stage very much and despite having pretty good vocals, it does make it more difficult to picture him as a big-time front-man. Watching the show with my family, a comparison was made between him and Taylor Hicks, but to me, it seems like Casey is not up to par on the showmanship front.

This was a good song choice for Casey and allowed him to show off his blues-rock influence, but it still felt like something was missing, and as the judges mentioned, perhaps was a bit too "safe." Grade B

Michael Lynche- "Waiting For Love"

I had never heard this song before, but it would wind up being one of the very few newer songs o be performed. Big Mike brought the acoustic guitar into the act this time which caused him to not exhibit the cheesy hand gestures and dance moves. In fact, he sang the whole song, behind the judges' back, practically in the audience. If you ask me, the contestants should be forced to stay on stage the entire time.

Big Mike sounded good as usual, and was able to fuse doing something new, with his now typical smooth old school vocals. The song itself was a little boring, but he sounded good once again and perhaps won over some new fans, and I still think he will go further into the competition than many Idol pundits are predicting. Grade B+

Didi Benami- "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"

From the beginning of the season, I have felt that Didi has one of the best and most "commercial" voices in the competition and has had a couple of really strong performances. Last week was a disappointment though and this week was one as well. Between the ball gown she wore and the diva-ish performance she gave, it just was not her vibe. There were certainly some few bad notes. If she would have performed this song in more low-key acoustic, "singer-songwriter" mode, it would have been much better. That is indeed what Didi seemed to be advertised in when the competition began. We learned in the results show that she is not really that experienced of a guitar player and seemed lukewarm about that. If she had survived this week, that would have made even more fans give up on her.

The ever emotional Didi cried when she rehearsed before Usher, but held back when Seacrest, in one of the weirder moments in American Idol history, tried to get Didi to bring up her deceased best friend and perhaps break into tears again. Had that happen, Didi might have gotten enough sympathy votes to survive. Just really weird and awkward television and not one of Seacrest's better moments. I knew Didi would be in trouble this week after the performance and would almost certainly be in the bottom three. Based on her artistry and look, and perhaps fragility, she had gotten some comparisons this season to previous contestant Brooke White, but was never able to achieve Brooke's like ability factor. Grade C+

Tim Urban- "My Sweet Love"

The Vote for the Worst darling takes on Anita Baker? This was going to be something to behold. Now Tim is probably a better singer than the infamous Sanjaya Malakar, but that might not be saying much. He certainly is getting that same sort of buzz at this point for surviving and people are on watch waiting to see when the backlash finally gets him voted off the show.

Needless to say, I thought his performance this week was just average at best, and felt quite weird at times. On the chorus, he sounded a bit like Kermit the Frog. The fact though that he looked into the cameras and sang a love song convinced me that enough young girls would be power-voting for him again and keep him around for at least one more week. Simon Cowell seemed to concur with that thought. For her part, Kara DioGuardi. both show nights this week, got on her musical elitist high horse about how much Tim smiles and laughs while getting criticized. That's just going to win him more votes Kara. He is a shrewd contestant and had a pretty good response to throw back at the judges on Wednesday about it. However, I do think the laughing and the weird facial expressions are just him always trying to play a part for the camera and not his genuinely being happy at all times. Grade C-

Andrew Garica- "Forever"

The pressure was really on for Andrew to finally have a bounce back performance and I definitely think he did. Perhaps because he had been so bad and expectations were so low, I wound up rating it a little higher than I should have. For one week though, I was kind enough to move Andrew from Worst to First. Having just watched it back a second time, it was still good, but perhaps not as good as I thought on Tuesday.

Picking a Chris Brown song though? That takes some cajones. I wondered if it was too soon to bring the music of the well-known woman beater onto this family show. Nonetheless, Andrew really found his acoustic YouTube vibe and I thought he sounded very good with not a note out of key. Maybe he has his mojo back, or maybe, as I suspect, this was a bit of a fluke, and he will struggle next week with something from the Lennon/McCartney songbook. His best bet though for the rest of the competition will be to sing while sitting and playing an acoustic guitar. Despite surpassing expectations, Simon called him boring, and then the previously mute Mama Garcia got involved in things, perhaps talking some trash in Spanish. I can almost picture the sitcom, but Andrew telling his ex-gangbanger Mama to "be nice" and "calm down" was really pretty funny. I think he was genuinely scared of what she might do. It probably won him the votes of every Hispanic with a crazy mama out there. Sure enough, she was miked in the audience for the Results Show. Grade A-

Katie Stevens- "Chain of Fools"

Katie once met Usher at Disney World but he sort of blew her off. She just makes people dislike her for some reason, even now on the show. I am not sure I get that, but she does remind people a lot of that Rachel character from Glee. She has been missing Jordin Sparks both Jordin Sparks vocals and personality. Also, her father, who spends Result Nights getting his drink on, really needs to start wearing pants on Tuesdays.

This week, she took the stage with what must have been the Connecticut version of the Snooki poof and with lots of neck snapping as part of the performance. Not sure I agree with Randy Jackson, that Katie is like a "young Christina" , but it was decent enough. Like she has in past weeks, Katie runs out of gas vocally a little bit towards the end of the song. Simon said it reminded him too much of Star Search, after having earlier dissed Didi for reminding her of a singing performance on Dancing With the Stars. It is only a matter of time before Simon attacks Kitchen Nightmares, The Celebrity Apprentice, and RuPaul's Drag Race. Despite having a couple fairly good weeks running on the show, I was certain she would once again be in the Bottom Three. Grade B-

Lee Dewyze- "Treat Her Like a Lady"

In interviews, Lee can be about as articulate as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, but this was certainly his best performance to date and what would qualify as a "moment" for him in the competition. I was not familiar with this song, and perhaps others who had not heard it, found it easier to appreciate the re-arranging that Andrew must have done. The title of the song sounds like something Big Mike would have sung, but Lee gave a very good performance and I could have imagined this being on the radio.

The performance was so strong that Simon told him that it could have been the night to change his life forever. That caused Lee for some reason to eat his guitar pick, but it is that sort of "growth" that American Idol voters tend to relish. This was supposed to be a "girls' season" on American Idol, but it looks now like Lee and Big Mike are probably going to outlast all but maybe one of them. Grade A-

Crystal Bowersox- "Midnight Train to Georgia"

As usual, Crystal was stellar, but I wish she would have taken my advice to do the Jackie Wilson song. Without a guitar for the first time, Crystal played piano for the first half of the song, before standing up and singing it without any instrumental accompaniment for the end.

It was really good, of course, but I do not think it was quite her best, maybe because she seemed to be a little tentative all around while focusing on the piano playing, which she has apparently not done much of since her childhood. There is not much Crystal can do at this point to surpass expectations, unlike a couple of her male counterparts, but if this was a semi-off week for her, then she really should be ok. Her talent is obvious, and I also think that despite the dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings, and bad teeth, she has appeal to Mainstream America. I am pretty sure that she will be back with the guitar next week doing a Beatles song. Grade A-

Aaron Kelly- "Ain't No Sunshine"

As soon as I figured out what his song choice would be, I instantly realized how many people it would piss off. While Aaron's version last week of the Aerosmith song had been notably done a few times by other Idols, this particular song was one that just about a year ago to to the date, Kris Allen had a genuine "moment" with and cemented himself (even if others did not know it yet as I might have) as the true front-runner to actually win it all. No matter what Aaron did, the comparisons to Kris, especially from his uber-fans, would not be kind.

To be sure, I did not find Aaron's version on par with what Kris did, either with the first version or in the Final 2, but it was maybe better than I thought it would be. Aaron seems to have really grown in confidence on the Idol stage and despite being very shy and soft-spoken at other times, has developed a bit of a swagger while singing; perhaps more than he deserves at this point. There is no denying though that he can sing, even though he needs more seasoning. My brother Kevin, who has some entertainment industry experience, compared Aaron's voice to that of Richard Marx, and I definitely see where he was coming from. Marx was never really known for having that great of a range though, was he? Grade B

This is how I ranked them on Tuesday:

1. Andrew Garcia
2. Lee Dewyze
3. Crystal Bowersox
4. Michael Lynche
5. Aaron Kelly
6. Casey James
7. Katie Stevens
8. Didi Benami
9. Siobhan Magnus
10. Tim Urban

Who should have been eliminated: Tim Urban
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Katie Stevens
Who was eliminated: Didi Benami

As I mentioned here on Tuesday, Katie and Didi were really the only obvious choices for elimination. I stuck with my macro-prediction of the 10th place finish for Katie based on the fact that she hit the Bottom Three on Miley Cyrus night, which should have brought in more fans of teenage girl singers, and because Aaron had been gaining in momentum from some of the demographics that Katie needed.

I definitely was not surprised though when it was Didi, as the next female to be axed by the evil power of Tim Urban. When given a chance to sing for the elusive judges' save, she was ready with "Rhiannon" which was a strong performance for her from the semi-final rounds. It was not as good as the first time though. The pressure of the moment, and the reality of what had just happened, and the knowledge that the save was quite unlikely, despite the fake judge confab had to have at least a little bit of an effect on the performance, and it just seemed sort of sad at the moment. Grade B-

So, it was the end of the road on the second night of Passover for Didi, who happens to have an Israeli father. Sort of a shame because Didi has a really good voice. I guess she just needs to figure out what kind of performer she really is though. The Rhiannon vibe is more her thing though than what she did on the last two Tuesdays.

Looking ahead to next week, it will be songs from Lennon and McCartney, once again leaving George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Stuart Sutcliffe completely out of luck. Just two weeks after the Rolling Stones theme though huh? The vastly superior Season 7 had the Beatles as the theme for two weeks in a row, so it seems weird that it is going to happen again. I wonder if a mentor dropped out and a new theme had to be found on the fly?

I think we can be pretty sure that Tim will be one of the weaker singers again next week and will be in danger or leaving, but will he be able to survive the Bottom Three for the fourth straight week? Will Katie Stevens survive it for the third? Barring a Kristy Lee Cook "Eight Days a Week" (which she managed to survive) disaster from one of the other kids, the person leaving is almost certainly going to be one of those two.