Saturday, May 01, 2010

American Idol Top 6

While I was not overly enthused about a Shania Twain theme, I do think it was a pretty good one all around, with none of the contestants coming close to being horrible. However, there were some surprising results and a somewhat surprising (though not extremely so to me) elimination. Despite the theme, I thought all the guys were stronger than the girls, and now, in what had been referred to early on as a "girl's season", has just one left. While she still happens to be the favorite to win, that might not be much of a sure thing anymore. I also think Shania might make a decent replacement for either Kara or Ellen on the judging panel next season. I just never noticed how heavy her Canadian accent really is.

Lee DeWyze- "You're Still the One"

Every week, I read more about Lee's local connections and specifically to the suburb of Arlington Heights, where I grew up. When he inevitably makes the Top 3, how they produce his "Homecoming" will be really interesting and the Village of Mt. Prospect is already worried about the cost. The whole High School visit could be awkward though, considering Lee was kicked out of Prospect and then reportedly did not graduate from the alternative High School he then attended. He also chose this past week to get a new tattoo of the Chicago City flag on his arm. I wonder if any imprisoned Windy City Alderman have ever done so.

This week, he sang perhaps Shania's biggest hit, and I think pulled off a pretty impressive showing. There were a few shaky notes at the beginning, as Lee is almost never without a vocal hiccup but then got in a decent zone with the song and made it seem believable and current, which are the strengths to which Lee has been playing to the whole competition. Those who power voted David Cook and Kris Allen to Idol crowns are likely more in Lee's corner than anyone else at this point. Grade B+

Michael Lynche- "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing"

Maybe it only hurts when Big Mike squeezes the air out of the seemingly dozens of people he has hugged and picked up into the air since the beginning of the season. Anyways, I thought he once again did a very fine job vocally, demonstrated his range, and he also managed to move Shania to tears. He always seems into the performances, which I consider a positive, but a lot of other Idol viewers find too annoying as part of his overall performance style.

Despite having a good night, I was thinking at the end, that the math just might not be there for Big Mike to survive once again (after having been the lowest vote getter a few weeks back and then being saved by the judges), considering a couple other singers exceeded expectations and one other one probably scared fans into a panicked voting frenzy. In making the difficult (but ultimately incorrect) prediction of Big Mike being cut, I was taking into consideration how the Shania Twain Countryish theme, would be pulling in a smaller than usual amount of African-American viewers. Grade B+

Casey James- "Don't"

I "don't" know this Shania song, but it fit into the theme set by Casey last week by singing a song that starts with "Don't." Casey premised this performance by admitting he has not always given it his all vocally on the show, and promised that this week would be different.

There certainly was a better result as far as making an emotional connection than the previous week and this was definitely one of Casey's better moments. If he had been this consistent throughout, he would likely be the favorite to win it all. There was just enough of a country vibe, mixed with some soft rock balladeering. While he still played the guitar on the number, it was clear that he was mostly focused on the lyrics and the singing. To use a cliche, it was something I can picture on the radio. Grade A-

Crystal Bowersox- " No One Needs to Know"

Crystal has never come close to having a bad American Idol performance, and while I certainly would not call this one bad, it was surprisingly disappointing and a bit of a letdown after her powerful showing the week earlier.

Deliberately, Crystal seemed to do the most of all the contestants to embrace an older school country vibe and the result was a song choice and a performance that left a lot of people cold and a great singer doing something that was just not style of music. While the performance was credible, Crystal just seemed hesitant. If this was the first time anyone saw her sing, they would not have been greatly impressed. Grade B-

In addition to Seacrest's ill timed remark to Crystal how Shania's "really white teeth", there were some other aspects of the performance that did Crystal no favors. Her fans must have been extra motivated to vote, because she stayed out of the Bottom Three. However, from the outfit, to the somewhat flippant way she talked back to the judges in an awkward exchange over "biggest isn't always better." Also, the way she dedicated the song as a message to her boyfriend to "man up" and marry her could rub some people the wrong way. She cried on stage last week (which I was not cynical enough to think was planned) but I almost wondered if the boyfriend was supposed to jump on stage at the end and propose to her. I was practically waiting for that to happen.

Aaron Kelly- "You've Got a Way"

As one of the contestants with the most on the line, the timing of this theme week came at a good time for young Aaron. Perhaps the best thing he did, was sing the song while sitting on a stool, as to not demonstrate the sometimes awkward movements and hand gestures during performances. Instead, the focus went more to his vocals, which were decent, but a bit on the boring side.

As he had done a couple weeks earlier, there was some discussion about Aaron changing a lyric to make it more age appropriate. Even if he had not dedicated the song to his mom, people might have been a bit weirded out about him singing a lyric about making love. However, he sang about that, plus drinking and drug use on that Kid Rock song he did pre-Idol. A stronger than expected performance aside, his shrewd mention of singing the song to his mother meant that enough Red State grannies would be voting for him to make me realize he would survive into next week. Grade B

Siobhan Magnus- "Any Man of Mine"

A few years back, this very same song delivered the somewhat surprising result of a Mandisa elimination, so after Siobhan was eliminated for covering it, we will probably never see it done on Idol again.

While she gave the most uptempo performance of the night, and some might have found that a welcome relief, I still thought she sounded odd at parts. As she typically does though, she hit (or least gave the impression) to non-singing folks like myself that she hit the big notes. I was kind of hoping she would not impress a bit more at the end, as I really did not want to have to put Crystal at the bottom of my rankings. So, while she brought it home a bit at the end for me, I think the judges were too high on Siobhan's performances. Grade B

I thought that anybody could make it into the Bottom Three this week, and while I incorrectly took Big Mike to go home, I thought it could have been any of them besides Crystal or Lee. Perhaps country and Cape Cod just did not make a good mix this week for Siobhan, but her Blue State Massachusetts roots meant she was never going to win this season anyway. (Perhaps the 2012 Presidential election could go better for a Bay State resident.)

The rankings:

1. Casey James
2. Michael Lynche
3. Lee DeWyze
4. Aaron Kelly
5. Siobhan Magnus
6. Crystal Bowersox

Who Should Have Been Eliminated (based on the one night only, because I feel horrible even typing this.....) : Crystal Bowersox
Who I Predicted Would Be Eliminated: Michael Lynche
Who Was Eliminated: Siobhan Magnus

Season 8 saw a Rat Pack week for the Top 5 and Season 9 will feature the music of Francis Albert Sinatra. Might be boring, might be interesting. It's sort of hard to think what songs they each might do. Will Lee sing "My Kind of Town" in homage to Chicago? Will Aaron change the words to "Strangers in the Night? Would anyone dare tempt fate by singing "My Way?"

One thing for certain though is that with the number of Idol judges and hosts equaling the number of remaining singers, there will only be one song each by the remaining hopefuls. Before last season, this was typically the time when they had to take on numbers.