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American Idol, Unplugged

For their final performances before the Top 12 are announced, the top 8 guys on season 9 of American Idol relied on their security blankets: the guitar. Many of them pulled out a stool, took it easy and tried to just focus on the singing. Was it a good choice?



Top 8 guys on American Idol


The top 8 guys on American Idol



Lee Dewyze started off the night with “Fireflies” by Owl City, accompanying himself on his guitar, wearing a simple green plaid button down and jeans. This was a much better song for him than he's done before, though it wasn't that exciting. I think if he ever really brings it, he'll be a serious contender, though. [VIDEO OF LEE]

Randy Jackson noted some pitch problems but complimented Lee because "you made it your own." He thought the song was a little "soft for a big voice like yours." Ellen DeGeneres liked that he "made it a little rock." She also noted pitch problems, but said that "a lot of people like you." Kara DioGuardi told him, "You look confident tonight. That's what we've been waiting for: you to step up." She called it a "solid job." Simon Cowell agreed with me that it was "nothing to rave about." He didn't think he'd had a moment. Still, "I think you've got a great chance of making the top 12."

Next to take the stage was Alex Lambert, who went with “Trouble” by Ray Lamontagne, also with his guitar. He wore a black blazer over a violet button down and jeans. Alex is growing on me; maybe because he's also growing in confidence. His tone is very commercial; reminding me of a lot of artists who are recording today. This was a nice song for him. [VIDEO OF ALEX]

Randy thought it was a good song choice, but he wasn't "jumping up and down." He thought the performance was too fast. Ellen said, "You're becoming a mushy banana... You're ripening so fast.'' He told him that every single week, he's consistently getting better. She also loves his innocence and advised him, "Don't become a cocky banana. No one likes that." Kara said, "The only thing standing in the way of you winning is you right now." She said that he was still stiff up there, and she wanted to see more vulnerability. Simon agreed, telling him to relax and have a good time. "You've got to kind of imagine Randy in a bikini or something." He told him he's got a distinct voice and people like him as a person, but "you've got to get out of your head."

Tim Urban, also on guitar, did Jeff Buckley's version of the Leonard Cohen song, "Halleluia." He wore a black button-down with jeans. Now, I've said this before, and I'll say it again: it's wise to avoid comparisons to previous American Idol contestants unless you can match them. Many loyal AI viewers recall Jason Castro's powerful version of this song in season 5, and Tim's couldn't match it. At least this week, though, he was on pitch. [VIDEO OF TIM, JASON CASTRO'S VERSION]

Randy called it one of the greatest songs ever. "You walked in some pretty big shoes, and I think you did a pretty good job." Ellen said that she's been really hard on him so far, and she ran up on stage to hug him, telling him, "That was fantastic." Kara said that she thought he'd be going home but now she thought he might be in the top of the boys. She thought he showed emotion. Simon said he felt responsible for him doing well, because of giving him a confidence boost last week. This week, he called him very, very smart with this song. "It's not the best version I've ever heard, but for you it was terrific." Afterwards, Ellen argued with Simon, saying she was responsible for that performance. That's when Randy jumped in and said he and Kara deserved credit. Does this mean we get to blame them when contestants bomb?

Before he performed, Ryan interviewed Andrew Garcia and asked him about the fact that the judges haven't stopped talking about his performance of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" during Hollywood week. He was hoping for a repeat with the Christina Aguilera song, "Genie in a Bottle," accompanying himself on guitar and wearing a navy cardigan over a white t-shirt with jeans. Once he got to the chorus, I was feeling this song more. He has a talent for concentrating on the melody of these pop songs, which too often become about flash and dazzle. [VIDEO OF ANDREW]

Randy liked the cardigan (he was wearing one that night). He said he hadn't been sure about the song choice: "It was a good idea; it didn't quite work for me." The song, he felt, had no range. Ellen thought it was a great song choice: "That's what you needed to do." She thought the genie came out of the bottle too late, saying the end of the song was better. Kara said that he'd peaked too early in the season and said he was fighting with the rhythm of the guitar. "It just wasn't great." Simon agreed with Kara. He thought it was a "little bit desperate." He thought Andrew had a good voice and is a cool guy but is going backwards.

Casey James went unplugged with "You'll Think of Me" by Keith Urban, sitting on a stool with his guitar and wearing a white button down with black embellished patterns. He's really coming into his own; each week he seems more and more like a seasoned pro. The danger is that he's so good people will start to just expect it. [VIDEO OF CASEY]

Randy felt it was a safe choice. He advised him to go for more "edge." This is funny, because last week they criticized him for concentrating too much on his guitar performance. Ellen observed he's more comfortable sitting on a stool and playing guitar. "I thought you sounded great; I really liked it." Kara said she's "kind of back on the Casey train." She liked that it was honest and he sang from his heart. But "I'm missing that spark." Simon said it was his second best: "It made you sincere." He didn't think the performance was that memorable. Still, "You sounded great, I have to say."

Taking the stage next was little Aaron Kelly with "I'm Already There" by Lonestar. I thought this was a strange song choice for a young guy, since the lyrics are about a man on the road, calling home to his family. That might have been OK, though, except for his wobbly opening while he sat on a stool and his nervous hip shaking once he stood up. He also failed to handle the key change. I know some people have compared him to David "Archie" Archuleta, the runner-up from season 7, but I only see a superficial resemblance. Vocally, he's definitely inferior. [VIDEO OF AARON]

Randy told him he has the makings of "the great, man." He advised him to work on his lower notes. Overall, he thought it was a job well done. Ellen complimented him for his confidence but said she "just didn't think that was terrific." Kara praised him because, "You give it your all." She agreed with me about the song not being relevant to a 16-year-old's life.. Simon countered, "Kara, what you just said is complete and utter rubbish... It's a beautiful song. It was the right type of song for you to do, compared to last week. It wasn't a great vocal but... it had emotion." He criticized the other judges for telling contestants they can't do certain songs. To Aaron, he said, "I could tell you were trying hard." Simon on his last season is becoming a real softie.

The opposite of faltering, nervous Aaron, Todrick Hall took command of Queen's "Somebody to Love." At the beginning of the song, I actually kind of loved it, with him directing the background singers so they could stay together on the a capella opening. But then he just couldn't help himself and added one of his characteristic runs. This guy always errs on the side of too much. He wore frosted jeans and a wool aviator's jacket and brought a gospel feel to the song, which I liked until he fell into his old habit of sawing the air with his hand. I do think, though, that he's trying to concentrate more on just singing the song, and this was a great song choice for him. [VIDEO OF TODRICK]

Randy proclaimed, "Todrick is back." He said the song "proved you can really sing." He went further, calling it "one of the best vocals I heard all night." Ellen called him "a brave, brave young man" and wished he'd brought even more of a gospel feel to it. She summed up, "Good job." Kara said, "You can't listen to that and say that wasn't good singing." But at some moments, she said she didn't know whether to laugh at it or love it, comparing it to Godspell. Randy interjected, "Or Glee." Simon agreed that "it was good in parts." He agreed with Kara's assessment, saying, "That was American Idol: The Musical." Having said that, he liked that "at least you made an attempt to perform" and felt "it may have saved you."

Ending the night was Michael Lynche with Maxwell's version of the Kate Bush song "This Woman's Work," wearing a black suit jacket, white shirt, tie, a red flower in his pocket and jeans. He started out in falsetto, and at first I wasn't sure what to think of it. But as he launched into the verse, I realized that he can do what Todrick can't: figure out the best way to add a flourish, reserving it only for where it's needed. He's much more believable on stage, and I felt he really came into his own on the bridge. Very solid ending, and I actually liked the falsetto. [VIDEO OF MICHAEL]

Randy gushed, "I got to give it to you again, dawg. This is crazy." He added, "It was dope. It was unbelievable." He loved the last note. Ellen called it "one of my favorite songs," adding, "Oh, my god, that was so beautiful. It feels like the show just began. You are the one to beat now." Kara was tearing up as she said, "I've never cried after hearing someone like that... It was amazing." Simon spent his first few seconds hugging Kara to comfort her. He said, "This was so needed tonight, because if you think back to the beginning of the show, it was all a bit boring. You come out with an incredibly difficult song to sing." He declared it "not only the best performance tonight; it's the best we've had of all these live shows so far."

Kudos to Michael Lynche and Casey James, with a nod to Alex Lambert and Andrew Garcia.

Can you believe we've got to lose two more guys tonight? So who should it be? I didn't think so before, but I now believe that Aaron Kelly is in serious danger. I agree with Simon that Todrick probably did enough to save himself, and I suspect Lee Dewyze has his share of fans. This means it will either be Alex Lambert or Tim Urban heading out the door.


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.

Moral:
Keep moving forward or the judges will call you out.


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Tags: american idol, music, television
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