Tuesday, March 16, 2010

‘American Idol 9′ – Top 12 take on the Rolling Stones

We’ve reached the Top 12 and the show moves to a bigger theater with a larger audience, and certainly, a bad case of nerve-itis for some! This week also starts the theme nights, and for the first time in the show’s history, this week, Idol will feature an entire evening of Rolling Stones’ tunes. Stones’ purists might want to step away from this one!

Who will tank and who will soar? Let’s find out.

We’re on the big stage now. Ryan walks out between the Idols, who are in two lines. The lighting is bronzy. A weird voice-over man introduces the judges and Ryan who comes down the grand staircase. The audience goes wild. Ryan welcomes us to the show and reintroduces us to the big stage. “This is when we begin the countdown to the finale,” he reminds anyone who might not know this by now.

There are 450 people in the audience. Ryan calls this a “platform suited for a superstar.” He brings out the Top 12. They line up. It’s certainly a moment they’ll remember. Ryan tells them to get set.

We are covering the Rolling Stones and there’s the obligatory video clip of the Stones, performing live. The Stones formed in 1962 as a cover band, and have released over 50 albums and sales of over 200 million. They are truly the greatest rock ‘n roll band of all time. “American Idol is honored to play tribute,” Ryan says.

Michael Lynche – “Miss You”

In his pre-performance clip, Michael tells us he lost his way when his mother got sick and died. Prior to that, he was caught up in sports. After her passing, he bought a guitar again and began playing. His wife says she was surprised since she didn’t know he even played. Michael says having a baby has brought his family together again. He thinks his mother would be proud of the man he’s become.

Excellent choice of song. The arrangement is more R&B than the original, but just right for his vibe. Mike moves smoothly through the song, but his dancing and moving about the stage is a little bit distracting. He shows off his falsetto again, and then drops back down for the jazzy ending. Nice.

Randy says it’s time to knock it out of the box. He said he wasn’t crazy when the arrangement started but thinks he slayed it. “Way to start the show, baby.” Ellen says it was the way to start the night. Kara says the first night on the big stage is hard and you’ve got to fill up the stage. She thinks Mike delivered Mick Jagger’s swagger and was hot on the stage. Simon says Michael has his confidence up, but thinks the performance, particularly the dancing, was kind of corny. He thinks when Michael watches it back, it was verging at times as desperate.

Ryan asks what parts looked desperate. Simon asks if Ryan is talking to him or Michael. Ryan walks up to Simon and says he’s trying to help Michael out. He’s not playing. Weird. Do I sense a bit of tension here tonight?

Didi Benami – “Play With Fire”

Before the clip, Didi tells us her mother can’t be there because she doesn’t want to see her get judged. Didi was raised in Knoxville, Tenn. and moved to L.A. four years ago. When she was born, she screamed bloody murder, her mother tells us. Mom is in L.A., staying at her apartment. Didi says she’s the one who pushes herself.

Interesting choice. Didi isn’t playing guitar tonight and the arrangement is very dark. I like the way she enunciates. She trips over some of the lyrics a couple of times, but really, it’s a very unique interpretation and she does very well with it.

Randy says he thinks for the first time in weeks, Didi’s on fire. “One of your best performances.” Ellen says that she loves that although Didi lost her way, she got right back in the song. Kara says that when Didi pushes her vocals, she loses her way. But she said it was two steps in the right direction. Simon says Didi is trying to show them the kind of artist she wants to be and calls the performance brilliant.

Casey James – “All Over Now”

Casey grew up in a little town in Texas. His parents were divorced when he was four. He had a bad reaction to pertussis vaccine when he was an infant and didn’t talk for a long time. Casey’s whole family plays and sings. Mom says they went through a lot together, but it was all worth it because something good came out of it.

Casey puts a country blues spin on this classic and it works. He’s playing electric guitar again, has really stepped up his game. Casey is so comfortable on stage and his vocals are sharp. I think this is a record!

Randy says Casey is back to the Casey he loves and thinks he could make a career playing this kind of music. “You are back,” he says. Ellen says for most women, they’re hearts are going to start racing, but for people like her… blondes… (a joke). “I think it was fantastic,” she says. I love Ellen.

Kara says tonight Casey was a rock star. She likes that the song had blues and soul. “This was your best performance since we met,” she says. Simon doesn’t agree. He thinks it was like an audition performance, not using the stage and the platform he has to do something incredible. “It has to be more than that,” he says. Simon thinks Casey should use the stage more.

Lacey Brown – “Ruby Tuesday”

Lacey was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas. Her parents are church pastors, and her dad tells us Lacey doesn’t have much experience singing outside the church. He says the feeling of seeing her on the stage is indescribable.

Lacey’s accompanied by a string section. People in the audience are waving their arms about. She’s very pitchy and her phrasing is strange. It’s like everything she’s done so far, and for me, a bit boring. Still, her voice is interesting and it was a good choice of song.

Randy says it was definitely interesting. He says he wasn’t jumping up and down, but was pleasantly surprised. “Definitely the most interesting so far.” Ellen says it was weird she sat down when the song got moving. She says it was a tiny bit sleepy, but she’s a fan.

Kara says it was 50/50 for her. She loves that they’ve been hearing Lacey’s voice right up front, but she thinks Lacey could have put more into it. Simon says Lacey performs like an actress. Nothing wrong with the vocals, but he feels Lacey need to stop overthinking this as she is in danger of doing the same thing week after week. Hey, that’s what I said.

Andrew Garcia – “Gimme Shelter”

Andrew tells us his father is a musician. Dad thought Andrew was going to be a custodian when he was little because he kept picking up keys. Then he picked up a guitar. The family didn’t have money for lessons, but they did what they could. Dad gets all emotional again. Dad is very proud.

No guitar for Andrew tonight. He doesn’t stray too far from the original for once, and the results are satisfying. He really has a strong voice, much more rock than what we’ve heard so far. I really like this performance. I am, however, reminded a bit of Gokey here. Gotta keep an open mind, thought.

Randy is laughing. He says he loves the song, the Stones, and Andrew, but it was pitchy everywhere. Ellen says, “What do I know? I think it was your best performance yet.” Kara says there were definitely elements where they heard the vocals they liked in the beginning. She doesn’t think he connected with the meaning of the song and wanted more intensity.

Simon says Kara says Kara is taking things too literally. She says she wants to make Andrew better. She is strident. Simon says he’s somewhat in the middle. He thinks Andrew gave it 100 percent, but that something didn’t quite connect. He wonders if Andrew did better at rehearsal. He hopes Andrew makes it another week.

Katie Stevens – “Wild Horses”

Katie’s brother’s college friends are in the audience holding up Katie’s face. She says the song speaks to her about the moment. She said her father introduced her to the music, but falters when asked who the lead singer is. Ouch. Her mother tells us the first time Katie performed in public was at a wedding when she was 8. She sang “From This Moment” with her brother. It was terrible. Katie hopes she’ll put Connecticut on the map. I think it’s already on the map, dear.

Katie starts out singing on a stool. Her vocals are strong, but pitchy, and she totally oversings it. In her defense, the arrangement is very symphonic, but it all seems very pageanty. I am having Katharine McPhee flashbacks, although Katie isn’t a good as Kat. Still, the girl can sing, I can’t deny that.

Randy says they’ve been giving her misdirection. He thinks she sang it very well and calls it a very strong performance. Ellen says it started a little pitchy, but once Katie got into it, she sounded great.

Kara says it’s never technically perfect with Katie, but she was going in the right direction. She thinks it was better than last week. Simon says this is the only week Katie has chosen a very strong song. He reminds us he recorded the song with Susan Boyle. (We know this, Simon. Oh, do we know this.) He didn’t like the second half of the song, but liked that she connected with the song.

Tim Urban – “Under My Thumb”

Tim is also from Texas. He is one of ten kids. When he was a kid, he wanted to be a professional football player. His dad says Tim was his sisters’ doll. Tim started playing guitar when he was 15 or 16.

Tim’s given this a reggae spin. I am having a Jason Castro flashback. Good night for flashbacks here. It really feels like Tim doesn’t give a rat’s butt and is doing what he wants to do. He actually has a decent voice, but this arrangement is sing-songy and weird! Gotta give him props for not giving a crap what the judges would say, kinda like Jason!

Randy says he didn’t get it and calls it very bizarre. “It didn’t serve you or the song well.” He says he didn’t understand it. Ellen says she felt like she was at a resort and thought it was too laid back. Tim didn’t use the stage and she wasn’t wowed. Kara agrees with Randy and Ellen, but applauds him for doing something different. Simon also applauds Tim for doing something different, but says it didn’t worked. “A lot of people who are Rolling Stones fans are turning their televisions off,” he says, and calls this a “crazy decision.”

Tim says he knew it would be a huge risk. He didn’t want to come out and try and be like the Stones so he decided to do something he could make his own.

Siobhan Magnus – “Paint it Black”

Siobhan is from Barnstable, Mass. on the Cape. They do a lot of “aaht” in their house – gotta love that Mass. accent! They have a piano in the living room and use music as an outlet. Her father is amazed at the notes that come out of his daughter. He is also proud. I want to see more of dad! I totally dig his accent.

Siobhan has been completely made over. Her hair is curly and she’s wearing a cocktail dress. She looks beautiful. But bless her little soul, she’s still got on her earthy flats. I’m starting to love this girl!

The song starts out slow and the lighting is dark. Her vocals are positively stellar. She connects to the lyrics and really, really sells it. It might be a bit “Broadway,” but when she belts out that note, sheesh. Wow. Very strange, but appealing in a dark sort of way. My favorite of the night so far.

Randy says she brought the drama and calls it hot. Ellen says she loves the way Siobhan looks and the way she sounds. “You rise above in a sea of people, you are Snookie’s poof.” Kara is reminded of Adam Lambert and says it was the best of the night. Simon also thinks it was the standout performance of the night. He thinks a lot of people will love it and a lot of people will hate it, which is a good thing, and better than being boring.

Lee DeWyze – “Beast of Burden”

Lee tells us six months ago he was working at the paint store, living paycheck to paycheck. Ryan went onto the Web site of Lee’s old paint store and quizzes him about paint colors. Stupid. Lee grew up in Mt. Prospect, Ill. His dad remembers the first time Lee sang. He didn’t want anyone to look at him. He sounded good and his family encouraged him to continue. At least now he can sing while people look at him.

He’s done a “David Cook” on this song, completely changing it up and making it very contemporary. He’s wrung all the soul and blues out of it, but strangely, it works. His voice is strong and he seems completely in the zone. Very good performance.

Randy says it reminded him of Dave Matthews and thought it was “dope.” Ellen says she was expecting more from Lee and that it almost didn’t come together, like a hospital gown. Kara says the energy was low, but that Lee is growing faster than anyone. Simon says he really likes Lee as a person, but that what holds Lee back is his personality. He says he chose a safe, forgettable song, and other people had bigger moments. Simon wants to see Lee come on the stage and have a “moment.” He thinks Lee still thinks other people are better than he is.

Paige Miles – “Honky Tonk Woman”

Paige was born and raised in Naples, Fla. Her father died when she was four. Paige grew up singing in the church. Paige is really pretty.

Paige has countrified the song and gets her groove on. She has nice range and a super big voice. I love the little break in her voice. Weird song, but she nails it. Best performance for Paige in the entire competition.

Randy says Paige did all right. Ellen loved that Paige used the stage and says Paige had great star quality. She said it was amazing since Paige has been struggling with her voice this week. Kara says Paige is back. She tells Simon she had laryngitis. Simon says taking that into account, she did great. “You still, yet, haven’t quite connected” But he’s happy they heard the “big voice” they heard in Hollywood.

Paige said she didn’t rehearse and this was her first fullout! Pretty amazing.

Aaron Kelly – “Angie”

Aaron’s from Sonestown, Penn. He was adopted at 5-years old. He’s the only one who sings in the family. Mom tells us music has been Aaron’s main passion since he was 9. Mom says he was born to do this and she is very proud. Aaron says she’s given up so much to make sure he’s happy. Nice kid, nice mom, a surefire hit with the tweenies.

Good song choice and a real nice arrangement. It’s like a whole new Aaron. His voice is stunning. He’s in tune, passionate, and there’s a nice inflection in his voice that I haven’t heard before. I wasn’t expecting much from him, considering it was Rolling Stones week, and I have to say, I’m totally amazed.

Randy says Aaron was born to sing and loved the tender moments in the song. He says it was hot. Ellen wonders if Aaron is trying to copy her hairstyle. She says it was a great song choice and next to Siobhan, for her, they were the two best. Kara says when Aaron connects to the song, it’s very powerful. Simon says he feared for Aaron when he heard it was Rolling Stones week, but that he chose the absolute right song. “What you did cleverly was sing the song within the limits of your vocals.” Simon thinks it was Aaron’s best performance.

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

Crystal grew up in a tiny town in Ohio. Her dad drove her from gig to gig. She started writing when she was 10. Dad thinks she is a good songwriter, noting a song she wrote called “Daddy.” He tears up. Crystal’s dad is totally cool.

Crystal’s doing this acoustically. She puts a nice blues spin on it and rips it in two. Man, can this girls sing. It’s outstanding. She plays with the song, changes the tempo, and I think, it’s a record.

Randy says it wasn’t her best, but he’s always excited to see what she’s going to do. Ellen says Crystal sings with such ease and that it’s effortless. What she’s been missing is personality and she saw some tonight. “Let yourself have fun on stage.”

Kara agrees. She says Crystal loosened up. Crystal says she was thinking too much. Kara doesn’t think it was her best, but she’s so comfortable. Simon asks what she means by saying she’s thinking so much. She says she’s got a lot on her mind and she wasn’t in the right zone. Simon says she came out the favorite, but the song wasn’t strong enough and for the first time, she was beaten by Siobhan. Crystal says Siobhan was amazing.

Crystal has one of Lilly’s earrings in her hair.

Best and Worst

This could have been a total disaster, but for the most part, they all stepped it up and put on a pretty good show. Siobhan won the night hands down, but I think Crystal was a close second. I’d put Aaron (yes, Aaron) third, Casey fourth, Michael fifth, and Lee sixth. Didi, Paige, and Katie follow. This leaves my bottom three Lacey, Tim, and Andrew. I think Tim’s time is up, and despite the support of VFTW, I expect Tim will be out this week.

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