Tuesday, April 6, 2010

‘American Idol 9′ – Top 9 performance recap

It’s time for another Idol performance show and this week, the Top 9 take on music from the Lennon/McCartney songbook. This is slightly different from the Beatles’ theme from Season 7 (remember, they did Beatles two weeks in a row), eliminating anything not written by the pair. Still, there are hundreds of songs from which to choose and it will be interesting to see who sings what and if they are any better than the Season 7 performances.

We’ll be live blogging starting at 8 p.m. (EDT), so check back once the show starts for my impressions and the judges’ comments.

The show opens with Ryan in the control room. He shows us the judges and contestants ready and waiting for the show to start. “This is the Top 9 of Season 9, and this is American Idol!” Voiceover man introduces the judges, and as has become the custom this season, Ryan enters via the Adam Lambert Memorial Staircase (ALMS). Lacey Brown is in the house tonight. Must not have anything else to do.

Ryan reminds us that last week we said goodbye to Didi Benami. One person in the audience says, “Aw.” He then introduces the contestants. A video package on John Lennon and Paul McCartney follows. Paul McCartney sends his best wishes via video. “Get out there, go for it, and enjoy yourselves. Good luck,” says Sir Paul.

Randy says there should be big highs and big lows this week. “Come one, bring it,” he says. Ellen likes “Blackbird,” “Come Together,” “Across the Universe,” etc. Kara says the songs remain timeless because they are as meaningful today as they were when they came out. Simon agrees. He says certain songs shouldn’t be changed, while others can be. He wants to hear something a little different from the original.

Tonight the Top 9 will describe each other. I’ll try to condense this as much as possible!

Aaron Kelly – “The Long and Winding Road”

Katie says their nickname for Aaron is Yoda and they all mimic his mimicry of Yoda. Aaron is like everyone’s little brother. Yeah, we get it. Aaron’s voice isn’t quite strong enough for this song and it breaks a few times. Thing is, he seems to be feeling it, which is a good thing. The arrangement is pretty close to the original and it’s a bit of a snoozefest. As usual, I am totally annoyed by the swaying hands. He flubs the lyrics at one point and the background vocals are horrendous. Not terrible, but not amazing either. Think David Archuleta lite.

Randy likes Aaron’s voice but thinks the arrangement is sleepy. He says it laid still. Ellen thinks this is a big song and that it felt like a “long and winding song.” Kara says when it comes together for Aaron, it works. She says every week feels like the same performance. Aaron says he has something faster planned for next week if he’s still there.

Simon wonders why Aaron chose the song. Aaron says the whole journey has been a long and winding road. He stuck with the arrangement because it’s a great song. Simon says the song was old-fashioned and boring (boos erupt from the Kelly family). Simon takes umbrage to this and asks if he can continue. He wants Aaron to become young and relevant, and take some risks.

Aaron says he definitely believed the song this week. Backstage he tells us he’s still fairly confident and won’t be disappointed.

Katie Stevens – “Let it Be”

Katie gets stool time with Ryan. It’s prom season and Katie’s had five offers for dates from guys who are watching. She says they should send her their phone bills and whoever has voted for her the most will “win” the date.

The Idols all lurve Katie. Andrew says Katie does the “Single Ladies” dance. Siobhan is jealous.

Katie is also sticking with the original arrangement. She sings this like she is soloing with the church choir. Her voice is shrill and her phrasing a bit off, but once she gets to the bridge and digs in, she relaxes and things come together. Not bad, actually.

Randy says, “To me, this is your best performance ever.” Ellen says this is a perfect example of changing it enough to make it your own. “That was amazing.” Kara says, “You’re blossoming on that stage, your attitude, you are confident considering you’ve been beat up for two weeks. I’m proud of you.”

Simon says when you’re in the bottom three consistently, you’re doing something wrong. “Tonight, you got it right. You were absolutely leaning in the direction I hinted at, that’s more country.” He says it felt as though she was singing it about somebody rather than being robotic.

During the break, there’s a commercial for a new “Mom Idol” contest.

Backstage, Katie says she wanted to come out with a bang and is pleased with the judges’ reactions. She gets lot of hugs from the other contestants.

Andrew Garcia – “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Andrew cracks everyone up. He’s Michael’s PIC (partner in crime). He’s also become one of Lee’s best friends.

The arrangement has too much brass and is very cabaret. Andrew’s hardly playing the guitar. I am totally reminded of Bobby Bennett here. Andrew even looks like him. I’m not really getting this, and the fact that he’s singing on the platform behind the judges doesn’t help him sell it to them. Andrew could be in danger.

Randy thinks it was a solid performance with an interesting arrangement, but a little corny at times. “It was OK.” Ellen says, “First of all, you can buy love, right Simon? Perfect song choice for you, I loved it.” Kara says she wanted to love it but she doesn’t think she’s heard anything new from Andrew. She thinks he should have done more with the interpretation, but liked the breakdown. Simon thinks the band overpowered the arrangement and made it irrelevant. “You and the band got it wrong tonight.”

Michael Lynche – “Eleanor Rigby”

Katie was on the same plane with Michael and told her mom he was the “Incredible Hulk.” Casey says Mike snores really loud. They all mock this strange sound Mike makes. Mike comes from a performing family (the Lynche Mob). He picked “Eleanor Rigby” because they performed it on the road and he loves the strings.

He’s got the full strings behind him. It’s a rather “Lutherish” arrangement if that makes any sense. The phrasing is choppy, but his vocals are really, really nice. I never have an issue with Mike’s vocals. He brings a lot of drama to the song and it works nicely. Interesting in that this was David Cook’s standout moment Season 7 and Mike’s wasn’t anything like it at all.

Randy is loving the fact that Michael has learned he can do whatever he wants. “That could be a joint on your album.” He loves seeing the artist in Mike blosson. Ellen says there are so many sides of Michael. She says it was incredible and she loved it.

Kara says it was fire. “Those vocals were amazing.” She loves the way it build and how he sold the story. She says he made that song commercial and relevant. “That’s what this show is about.” Simon didn’t love it as much as the other three. He thinks it was the kind of thing you hear in musicals. He’s not a fan of musicals. He doesn’t think the song made Michael contemporary at all and in fact, thinks he went backwards. He’s slightly confused about who Michael wants to be as an artist.

Crystal Bowersox – “Come Together”

Crystal is getting stool time with Ryan. She’s got a little cold. She tells there’s finally a sign in Elliston, Ohio (“Home of Crystal Bowersox”). The contestants call Crystal “Mamasox.” Tim thinks she’s an awesome individual. Andrew calls her a wonderful mother. Crystal mothers all the Idols. Siobhan says Crystal sincerely cares about them. Lee met her in Chicago at the auditions. Crystal says she’s continuing to stay true to herself. She chose the song because it’s fun to do.

We’ve got a guy playing a didgeridoo on this one. Now that’s different. Crystal’s blueses it up a little. You can hear the congestion in her nasal passage, but that doesn’t deter her at all. It’s a very cool arrangement, but retains the vibe of the original. I think she’s sung better, but I really love her energy on this one, sick or not. She sneezes when it’s over.

Randy says, “Another solid performance… I don’t know if it was your best.” He thought the didgeridoo was a bit distracting. Ellen loved the didgeridoo. She says she worries about finding a new way to tell Crystal how great she is. Crystal said she was worried about finding a new way to cover this song that’s been done so many times before.

Kara says this is one of her favorite performances from Crystal. She likes where she took the melody. “It was playful and sexy… you were more accessible.” Simon says, “That’s a performance I could hear on the radio.” Simon says the reason Crystal is working is that Crystal remains true to herself. They bring the didgeridoo player (Ernie Fields, Jr.) out again. He’s a freelance musician who just learned to play this giant instrument. Simon says it was quirky and loves the way she worked with Ernie. “Much better than last week.”

Tim Urban – “All My Lovin”

Siobhan says Tim is always smiling. Casey says Tim goes from zero to one hundred. Tim says he wants to brighten everyone’s day. Siobhan says it would be cool if Tim’s teeth could sparkle.

Tim’s playing an electric guitar. He’s got the Beatles haircut going on. He plays like three chords. Finally, the band breaks in. I like Randy’s term from last week – pedestrian. Tim is an average singer in a bizarre situation. He does no better or worse than usual. Thing is, Tim actually sounds a little like the Beatles on this.

Randy says Tim is in his own category. He says he’ll judge them based on Tim’s previous performances. Randy says he’s rockin’ a Beatles’ do. “It was a good Tim performance.” Ellen thinks it was his second best performance after “Hallelujah.”

Kara says Tim’s best performances are when he plays guitar. She likes that he came out and took some of their criticism. “You’re to be commended for that.” Simon isn’t going to judge him on a “Tim” performance. He likes it. “It suited your voice… it sounds very current.” He likes that Tim takes the criticism like a man. “This is a short cut to fame and you’ve handled yourself very well. I’m proud of you,” Simon says.

Hmmm… are the judges using reverse psychology here in order to lull voters into a sense of false security? Weird they all changed their tunes so drastically.

Casey James – “Jealous Guy”

The other Idols call Casey a playboy. They make up romance novel names for him like Fabio. They also comment on his booming laugh and flowing locks. Andrew says Casey’s hair glows on stage.

I love, love, love this song. Casey’s playing acoustic guitar tonight and is accompanied by a cello. I don’t love his vibrato, but I do like the simplicity of the arrangement. Of all the Idols this season, Casey uses his guitar the best to supplement his vocals. He’s not the best vocalist, but you tend to overlook it because of the overall effect. I think Casey had a moment up in here! Very nice.

Randy loves the acoustic guitar and the sensitive vibe. He says he was really impressed that Casey took this leap. He likes that Casey set himself apart. “I love that you did this.” He says he really felt it. Ellen says it felt like it was about someone and thinks it was Casey’s best performance to date. She says she felt him pour himself into the song.

Kara says Casey showed vulnerability that’s been lacking previously. She thinks the arrangement was tasteful and Casey showed depth. She says he showed that he knows his voice. But she thinks he can still push himself more. Simon says this was the best performance of the night so far. He says the difference between week on week with Casey has been “ginormous.” He is very, very impressed.

Casey says he was thinking about being a jealous guy when he was singing.

Siobhan Magnus – “Across the Universe”

Everyone calls Siobhan weird! They also comment on her “crazy notes.”

Siobhan is wearing a floaty white skirt and sitting on a stool. The performance feels like a Broadway solo, but her vocals are absolutely stunning. Siobhan puts so much emotion into this, I am moved to tears. That says it all.

Randy says he loves to see what Siobhan is going to do and wear. He thought it was sleepy but he loves seeing the tender side. Ellen says she is a big fan of people who march to the beat of their own drum. “You are special… you are really talented… always remember that.” She is happy Siobhan “cooled it” on the high notes.

Kara says on a vocal level it was great, but it was restrained and polite. She isn’t sure the performance was commercial enough. Simon wonders what Siobhan was connecting personally. She says it was the lyric “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” She’s here for her baby sisters and nothings gonna change that. She gets emotional.

Simon says they aren’t going to take that away from her and that she came back much stronger. He likes that she is unpredictable. “You were much, much, much better than last week.” Some guy hollers out and they make him stand up.

Ryan brings the hollering guy, Earl, up on the stage to hug Siobhan.

Lee DeWyze – “Hey Jude”

They all call Lee the “resident worrywart!” Every week, he thinks he’s going home and they bet him money that he won’t go home. Crystal is happy Lee and Andrew can “get together, get married, and have lots of little Danny Gokey babies!” Heh!

Lee’s on acoustic guitar. I like the gruffness in his voice. He invites the audience to sing along and all of a sudden, a bagpiper comes down the Adam Lambert staircase. It’s quite the production. It’s fun! It’s fresh! It’s a winner!

Randy says the bagpiper was funny! He loves that Lee relaxes when it’s over. “It was another hot one for you… please believe!” Ellen says the confidence Lee showed was cool. She wonders if the bagpiper got separated from a parade! “Great job, I loved it.”

Kara says there were some good moments and some off moments, and she can hear him on the radio. “It’s hot, it really is.” Simon wonders what “you lot” are drinking in the house (regarding the weird accompaniment). He says the bagpiper seemed like he turned up on the wrong show!

Best and worst

I’ve been particularly critical of this year’s Idols, but to be fair, I think they all really brought it this week – to the best of their abilities anyway. I can’t even decide who I liked the best, but based on my reaction, I’d say Siobhan, followed by Michael, Crystal, Casey, and Lee. I liked Katie this week too. Bottom three then would be Aaron, Andrew, and of course, Tim.

I don’t think Aaron has anything to worry about, yet anyway. Tim has VFTW and one other Idol fan site voting for him now, so I think he’ll make it through once again. This would leave Andrew as the odd Idol out this week. His performance wasn’t bad, just the least interesting, which is really saying something!

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