Wednesday, May 5, 2010

'American Idol 9' - Top 5 performance show recap

It's Frank Sinatra week, aka Big Band, and the Top 5 will be mentored by Harry Connick, Jr. This theme is always challenging. Who will shine and who will fall flat. Read on for all the details.

Ryan enters via the Adam Lambert Memorial staircase for the cold opening. The contestants are also on the stairway. At the bottom, Harry Connick, Jr. (HCJ) gives us his best, “This is American Idol!” After the intro theme, Ryan descends the staircase once again. He intros the judges and reminds us that last week, we had to say goodbye to Siobhan. No one boos. The Top 5 hit the stage and the crowd goes wild.

Nice video package on HCJ. He did his first recording at the age of 10 and won three Grammys for the soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally. This week, HCJ will mentor as the Idols sing the songs of Frank Sinatra. We segue into a video on Frank. After we are reminded how awesome Frank was, Ryan and HCJ chat. As an added bonus, HCJ composed all the music for the Top 5 performance show. That’s totally cool.

Ryan reintroduces HCJ who gets the special ALMS entry. He’s brought along his band and he’s playing piano as well. Harry really is something. He says the contestants really need to be singing the words and the melodies.

Ryan intros Frank’s daughters, Nancy and Tina. They’ve brought Simon one of their father’s monogrammed hankies.

Aaron Kelly - “Fly Me to the Moon”

HCJ calls Aaron “Big Mike.” Then he teaches Aaron a musical “turnaround.” He thinks Aaron has a “sweet voice.” Aaron, who at least looks the part in a tie and dress shirt, manages to warble out the opening of the song. He’s totally off-key and it takes him half the song to get into any kind of groove at all. Even then, he misses more notes than he hits. It’s incredibly awful. Frank is rolling. HCJ forces a smile and weak applause.

Randy says he is looking to see who’s in it to win it. He thinks Aaron did “a really nice job.” Ellen thinks the piano was a little pitchy. She was also worried, but thinks he really pulled it off. “Beautiful vocals.”

Kara says she thought it was good, but not as good as last week. She wants more charisma from him. “Fill up the stage more.” How is that possible, he’s teeny tiny? Simon is with Kara. He’s still fondling Frank’s hankie. He says if Frank was a lion, Aaron was a mouse. He said it didn’t have the conviction and was a bit corny. “You do try hard and I’m going to give you that.”

The contestants have two numbers tonight.

Casey James – “Blue Skies”

Casey gets some stool time. He’s got his hair all slicked back. Ryan tells us we almost lost Casey last week. One of his friends called him and said they had a gig Tuesday night for $50 and free food. Apparently, the guy doesn’t have TV and had no clue. He and HCJ have a few laughs. HCJ says the song is a device to create a bluesy vibe. He’s pulling for Casey.

It’s time for Casey to sing without a guitar or any props. Can he do it? He looks a bit lost and doesn’t move too much. He’s completely off key and his vibrato is particularly goaty. Or maybe it’s because I’m watching this on my 7 inch digital TV since our cable was knocked out by a storm. I prefer Casey with a guitar and not singing Sinatra. It was rather sad.

Randy says this was Casey’s worst performance. “It didn’t work, baby, it didn’t work.” Ellen says she thinks it was a bad idea to have the piano on the stage. She says this is about being smooth and having swagger. She thinks it was stiff and didn’t feel effortless.

Kara says it took Casey a long time to warm up, but at least he held some notes. She says he kind of sounds like a lamb! How about a goat, Kara. Are you just now noticing Casey’s annoying vibrato? She’s sorry.

Simon says the good news is the band was great. Bad news, “you weren’t fantastic… the good news, you’ve got a booking for next week.” Ouch. Casey says he was uncomfortable. HCJ thinks Casey sang it better in rehearsal and that it’s hard to hear up on that stage. “You killed it about two hours ago, but that’s not going to help you,” HCJ offers. Casey is gone.

Sir Anthony Hopkins is in the house.

Crystal Bowersox - “Summer Wind”

Crystal tells HCJ she has a deep connection to the lyrics. HCJ says he can hear it. He’s dying to find out what the song means to her. He has the bluest eyes.

Crystal looks beautiful in a strapless dress. She has a huge sunflower tattoo on her back. She sounds like a 1940s blues singer. Her voice isn’t quite strong enough to carry a song like this, but it is quite pleasing. She sings it softly to start and then kicks in towards the end. This whole thing, the gown, the fancy hair, are so not Crystal, but I think she did the best with this she could.

Randy says it was a great arrangement and was subdued and a little sleepy. Ellen says at first it felt like Crystal was swallowing every word. She says there are so many different sides to Crystal and it’s impressive.

Kara points out this is out of Crystal’s element, but she liked it. She compliments Crystal’s phrasing. Simon doesn’t know if he would have chosen the song. He says the first half was too jazzy, but the second was a bit better. He says this wasn’t one of her best performances. He expects better.

Crystal defends herself and says she always tries to do what is best for the song and that you wouldn’t sing this one big. You’d start out sweetly and get bigger as you go along. She says she doesn’t feel like she needs to sing really big notes just because she’s on American Idol. You go girl!

Michael Lynche – “The Way You Look Tonight”

Mike tells Ryan he’s in a 12-piece band and this has prepared him for Idol. HCJ tells Mike he needs to really sing it to his lady and find “that fleeting moment of truth.”

Michael is wearing a fedora and three-piece suit. This song is perfect for Mike and he totally nails it. I am feeling Luther again. I think this is Mike’s best performance to date. Awesome job.

Randy says “Unbelievable arrangement, unbelievable vocal, you are in it to win it!” He says Mike’s thrown down the gauntlet! Wow. That’s the first time the gauntlet’s come out this season! Ellen says Mike seems to have the most comfort and experience, and he really showed it with this one. “Very smooth, a lot of charisma, really good.”

Kara says he found the drama in the song and took us on a journey, but above all, he didn’t lose himself in the song. “And that’s what this is is all about.” Simon says this has been a tricky night. He says the first three performances were okay, but Mike just put himself in the game. He says he felt Michael listened and it all just clicked. “Fantastic, well done.” Mike’s gonna make it to the Top 4!

Lee DeWyze – “That’s Life”

HCJ’s wife thinks Lee is hot. He urges Lee to emphasize “pauper” and “poet.” Lee is singing next to HCJ who is playing organ. Lee sounds like he always sounds and that doesn’t really match the song or band. It’s just awright for me. HCJ is pleased, though, and I imagine the judges will lap this one up.

Randy says “another great arrangement.” He says Lee stayed true to himself and loved it. Ellen says at first she was distracted by Harry’s organ! She says if this was the last night of performances, Lee would have just won the whole thing.

Kara asks Lee if he thinks he can win. Lee says he does. She urges him to go home and write “I can win this thing” one hundred times. She thinks he can win this thing.

Simon compliments HCJ. He says that HCJ brought out Lee’s personality and confidence. “You gave it 110 percent and it was by far the best performance of the night so far.” Lee goes back to shake HCJ’s hand. He ought to. I think we just witnessed the coronation of Lee DeWyze.

Best and Worst

I am always puzzled as to why, when the judges are constantly harping on the contestants to be young and current, and then haul out Frank Sinatra for them to sing. That being said, I liked Michael the best of all, by far, and then Crystal. Lee would be next, then Aaron and Casey. I don’t see any way Casey will survive this week, and that’s my prediction. Incidentally, Vote for the Worst has switched from Michael to Casey.

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