Ryan asked the judges about the performances so far. He asked Ellen about the importance of song choice, and Ellen DeGeneres said it was very important, joking that she once sang "Who Let the Dogs Out" at her grandma's funeral, clearly a bad choice.
Crystal Bowersox kicked off the program, revealing in her video program that she has a twin brother who's "kind of a square." In response to Simon Cowell's comment last week that she sounded like she was just another performer on a subway platform, she said that she actually has performed in such a location. This week, she wanted to prove she could make Simon stop and listen. She did “As Long As I See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater, putting a "gospel/church spin on it." Again, she performed with her guitar, this time wearing a purple scoop-neck shirt and dark jeans, with a short-sleeved black mesh cardigan. Her take on the song was heartfelt and focused on her vocal strengths, which was a good choice. Every week she reminds me more of this generation's Janis Joplin.
Randy Jackson said, "Truth is reality" and that "you are the truth; you do what you do." He said he loves that she's genuine. "I love that girl. That girl is hot." Ellen called it "pure, raw, natural talent." She said she's so glad that Crystal is back: "Please stay healthy; we need you here." Kara DioGuardi said this song fit her better: "You are that Americana rock." She called the performance "effortless" and said she'd hit a new level, which is "hard to do in these early days." Simon said he knew she'd been really sick these past 24 but praised her for not playing the sympathy thing. He told her that he'd underestimated her last week. "This was like the moment we realized, like Kelly Clarkson, that we've got a serious artist here." [VIDEO OF CRYSTAL]
In the unenviable spot of following Crystal, the quirky Haeley Vaughn was next. Surprise, surprise, she makes her own hair accessories (bad news for fans who want to imitate her quirky style). Also, she doesn't know "how to not smile." In an effort to "show off her serious side," according to Ryan's introduction, she sang “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, this time without her guitar. She was wearing a cute dress with a black top and a cream and black patterned miniskirt but gave it her own flair with a big, red flower in her hair and too much jewelry. At first, I wasn't sure I recognized the song. Once she got to the chorus, I knew the pop song and said to myself, "Wow, she's falling apart here." Yet another case of someone whose personality is bigger than her voice. The thing is, I don't even think she has it in her to be better than this. [VIDEO OF HAELEY]
Randy said, "It didn't work for me," calling it "excruciating." Still, he insisted that she can sing and has talent, but it was pitchy and she had no connection to it. Ellen told her to never stop smiling and that she's adorable. But she agreed with Randy that she hadn't connected to the song. "I just didn't feel it worked out." Kara said she has "Alex Lambert factor," with people rooting for her at home (who?). She called her a really good performer but said she needs "about a year of really strengthening your instrument." She also pointed to pitch issues. Simon agreed, saying, "It was a complete and utter mess." He said in theory it should have worked, but "there's a certain irony in you singing a song about climbing when you actually fell off." Kara felt this was too mean, but Randy said, "It's true."
Next up was Lacey Brown. According to her video, she likes to refurbish furniture. This week, she went for “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer, wearing a white top with puffy sleeves and black designs, with numerous beaded necklaces. Interestingly enough, that song had been suggested last week by Kara. With the initial notes, she faltered, and she was playing around a little with the melody. I noticed a couple audible breaths into the mike. As she got into the second verse, she seemed a little more comfortable, but she was off again on the chorus, as she tried to play with the melody. [VIDEO OF LACEY]
Randy directed his first remark at Kara: "Interesting choice." He liked the song choice but felt for most of the song it was a karaoke version; she didn't bring anything to it. Ellen thought it was adorable (fast becoming one of her favorite critiques). She called Lacey an "up person" and said, "I like your personality, and I like you." Kara thought that last week, "we were losing what is special about you, which is your tone." She thought this song brought that back, but she added, "You have to step it up from here." Simon thought it was "marginally better than last week." He thought that she needs to showcase herself as an artist, rather than just participating in a contest. He found the performance not memorable.
This year's teen sensation, Katie Stevens, revealed in her video that she can say, "Give me a kiss" in six languages (ick). She chose to perform “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae, wearing a blue and black top with black leggings and blue high heels. The reasoning behind her choice was that she wanted a more youthful song. To me, it still sounded like she was trying to be older than she is, and it was pitchy in spots. She definitely deserves to stick around, though. [VIDEO OF KATIE]
Randy thought there were some bright moments in it, reminding her of "the girl we saw in the audition." He felt the first half of the song was weaker than the end. Ellen thinks she has a great voice and liked it, but said she still wants to see her "younger somehow." She said, "I don't want to hear something I would hear in my dentist office." Kara agreed, saying, "I'm so frustrated with you Katie, because I see so much in you." She observed that the song was "almost in the wrong key" for Katie and that she needs to be stronger from the top of the song. She said, "I'm really pulling for you, girl." Simon did acknowledge she had taken their notes. He said that if she came to his label and asked for advice, he'd tell her to get some experience and tell him what kind of artist she wanted to be. In other words, she needs to start finding her own voice.
Ryan asked Kara for advice, and she had a great suggestion, to pick a song that talks about something she's going through. Randy also suggested she think about artists her age that she likes. I'm thinking that Katie doesn't listen to current pop music, which might be a factor in her song choices.
Didi Benami was next, and her secret was that she was the school mascot in middle school. For her song choice, she went for a "soul thing" with "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers. She wore a cream and rust-colored blousy top with a wide belt and jeans, a much better choice than last week's multicolored sweater vest. At the top of the song, sitting on a stool, she started a little higher than the song is written. She played with the melody throughout the open, until she reached the chorus, which was more recognizable. I have to say, there's a place to take liberties, but with a song this well known, you have to eventually get to the melody or listeners will be frustrated. Her gospel take on it worked for her, especially once she got to the bridge, where she improvised. [VIDEO OF DIDI]
Randy wasn't sure what to think, saying he wouldn't have chosen a soul song for her: "It shows more of the imperfections, the things you can't do, [more] than the things you do well." Ellen loves her voice and said she has a great presence. She would have rather heard the Bill Withers song "Lovely Day" or "Use Me." Kara said flat out, "It wasn't good." She criticized her for lacking consistency. "It felt like a karaoke bar." She added, "I'm still a fan." Simon called it "screeching" and said it was a bad choice. Again, he found it frustrating because she's a "cool artist" and wasted her opportunity by doing something "really generic."
Didi wouldn't talk to Ryan when he tried to interview her afterwards, clearly trying to smile despite the instinct to cry.
For some reason, Michelle Delamor decided to go against type with her song choice, going with “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed. Her little-known fact was that she works with a children's choir. She was wearing a white dress with a fitted bodice and ruffled botton, along with skinny jeans and a leather bolero jacket. Her version of the Creed song was sort of an R&B diva version. I felt like I was watching a Vegas lounge act. Don't get me wrong: she has a good voice, but I found this version strange. Plus, she tried to make it a bigger vocal showcase by adding a lot of runs, and they were all over the place. Oh, and she popped her "p" on the last "open." [VIDEO OF MICHELLE]
Randy noted a few pitch problems. He liked her outfit, though. He said she didn't do enough with the song and that it fell flat. Ellen agreed she looks fabulous. She said she forgot it was a rock song and liked that she tried to do something different. "It almost worked but not quite." Kara said it was, "My favorite performance of yours ever." While it wasn't technically perfect, she said it felt believable. She likes that Michelle listens and is trying. Simon said he was with Kara. He thought the first half was stronger than the second, and he admitted the judges give a lot of contradictory advice. "You kind of got 80 percent of it right." A shout-out to Vera Wang in the audience, asking her about Michelle's outfit, "Is it good?" (But the camera showed Michelle's family instead of Vera.)
Next to take the stage was Lilly Scott, who plays lots of different instruments. She did “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, wearing a black dress with an embroidered top and some really long feathered earrings (which have become her trademark). Accompanying herself on the 12-string guitar, she hooked me with the first notes. I love how she brings something fresh to classic songs. Her version was heartfelt and bluesy with a little bit of a gospel feel. She reminds me of Maria McKee from Lone Justice. [VIDEO OF LILLY, "Soap, Soup and Salvation" by Lone Justice]
Randy said this season has "the most unique contestants we've ever had." He said that's one of the toughest songs to sing, but she "worked it out" and it was his favorite performance of the show up to that point. Ellen said, "You have it." She said she forgot she was at a singing competition and was just a fan enjoying the song. Kara said Lilly had had her first "moment" of the competition and predicted, "You are going to change the game." Simon said this performance made the point about becoming relevant and using the show as a showcase. He wasn't "crazy" about it, saying that she over-sang it in the middle. Comparing her to Crystal, he said that Crystal was better but he still liked it.
Katelyn Epperly was next, and her video package showed that she's been learning to be an audio engineer. Wearing a one-shoulder white ruffled blouse, khaki short-shorts and big gold hoop earrings, she looked a little more contemporary this week. She was "taking it down a notch," singing "The Scientist" by Cold Play, accompanying herself on piano, bathed in blue light. Her first notes were somewhat faltering, and then she found the melody. Her tone was pleasant, and there was nothing wrong, per se, with this version, but she could have made more out of it by starting at a lower level of intensity and then picking it up. The whole song felt like it was at the same level. [VIDEO OF KATELYN]
Randy liked it but said, "It was really way slow." He thought she fell off pitch at the end. "I wasn't over the top about it, but I liked it." Ellen liked that she was playing guitar -- whoops, she corrected herself, piano. She likes the song but felt it was "way too slow" and would put people to sleep. "People can't vote if they're asleep." Kara said, "I kind of love you." She said, "You have an incredible instrument and could do a lot of things with it." Her advice: "Figure out who you are, real quick." Simon asked her if she'd heard the Natasha Beddingfield version, which he thought was almost identical. He felt it was a smart, contemporary song choice but that she can be "corny" when she performs. Still, he thought it was "a million times better" than last week.
Paige Miles, who likes to color (really?), tried to prove that she does have the best voice, like the judges asserted last week. So what did she pick? "Walk Away" by Kelly Clarkson. Just a little tip for future Idol contestants: If you're going to pick a song by a previous AI winner, make sure you knock it out of the park. Paige didn't, especially with a flat high note near the end. She was wearing an outfit that looked straight out of a Renaissance Faire: a gray paisley top with sequins and a long black vest. [VIDEO OF PAIGE]
Randy pointed out the song was written by Kara, but he didn't love this performance. "You've got this big voice," and he "just wants to hear you sing." Ellen disagreed, saying she loved it and found it fantastic. "You changed just enough to make it yours." She also liked her energy. Kara said she could see her having a hit with that song. Still, she said that it's actually a bit of an angry song, and she shouldn't have been smiling so much throughout it. Simon agreed with Randy and said, "I'm afraid two weeks ago you have failed to find the right song for you." He said she's got a strong voice and has to find a better fit.
In the pimp spot was Siobhan Magnus, who had a mohawk just a short time ago. She wore a midnight blue dress with a sweetheart neckline over a medium blue and white polka dotted shirt and a headband. For her song, she chose "Think" by Aretha Franklin, which proved to be a much better choice for her than I would have guessed. It was a little rough in the opening, but she found her way into it, easing up on the bridge. In the second half, she loosened up and performed more naturally, and she hit a really high note near the end that was pretty good until the very last second, where she pinched her voice and fell off the note. [VIDEO OF SIOBHAN]
Randy said that she picked the "dopest, coolest, greatest singer of all time," which was "so bold and so fearless." He thought, "It was dope. You slayed it." Ellen loved it, too. She observed that most people would say don't pick such a big song, but they also said, 'Don't mix sleeves with a blanket,' and look at the Snuggie. It's huge." Kara really liked the high note and asked her how she hit it. Siobhan said she'd figured it out singing Kelly Clarkson in the shower. Simon said, "You're such a strange person" and added he meant that as a compliment. He thought there were parts of the song that were terrible, but "that note was incredible." He called her "interesting and very, very talented."
Kudos this week to Crystal and Lilly, with a nod to Siobhan.
In the most danger this week are Haeley Vaughn, Michelle Delamor, and Didi Benami, with a faint possibility of a wild card from Paige Miles, who hasn't had enough exposure so far to guarantee her safe passage. Much as I'd like to see Haeley packing her bags, I think her quirky personality has probably endeared her to enough people to keep her safe. This means it will probably be Didi and Michelle heading home.
In the event that these videos are removed, go to the official American Idol site, click on "VIDEOS" and then "PERFORMANCES" and search for the videos you'd like to see. Unfortunately, the American Idol site does not allow for direct links, which makes it difficult for me to embed their links in my write-ups.
Even the judges admit their advice is sometimes contradictory.