This week, they took on Elvis songs, with last season's runner-up, Adam Lambert, as their mentor. He expressed his goal as being constructive but honest. While interviewing Adam in the audience, host Ryan Seacrest made an amusing slip of the tongue, telling him, "My tongue is not nearly as talented as yours." Adam reacted by giving a significant look to the camera but saying nothing. Ryan then added, "For singing."
The Top 9
First on the program was my girl Crystal Bowersox, performing "Saved." Adam called her so authentic and real. When she asked about going acoustic or electric with her guitar, he told her to go electric. He also advised her, week to week, to "Do something different, surprise people." Wearing a brown scoop-neck top with a leather vest and brown pants, Crystal did, indeed play an electric guitar. It was hard to hear over the band and the background singers, though. She gave the song a real gospel feel, and it seemed like a great song for her. During the breakdown, she really got into it. [VIDEO OF CRYSTAL]
Randy Jackson said, "That's the way to come out and give it up. I thought I was listening to someone's record." He compared it to the "second coming of Bonnie Raitt." Ellen DeGeneres joked, "I'm just so tired of telling you how great you are." Instead, she used the time to wish people in the audience a happy birthday. Kara DioGuardi said it was "another solid performance." She loved the up tempo song and Crystal's use of personality and drama. Simon Cowell joked, "That was a lyric I could personally relate to, the lying and cheating." Then he got serious: "What I loved was that you didn't choose an obvious song; [you] chose a song that suited you." He praised her for not "falling into the karaoke trap."
Andrew Garcia was next, taking on "Hound Dog." Adam told him during rehearsal that it was boring and needed more punch. He advised him to change it up. Andrew performed alone at the mike, wearing a black jacket with a white V-neck T-shirt, a chain dangling from his pocket. Despite the cool look, his rendition was a little bit loungy while trying for funky. He walked around with the mike stand, which seemed to be his solution for spicing up the performance, even carrying it to the second stage. The whole thing felt very rehearsed and needed more life. [VIDEO OF ANDREW]
Randy said that he hated to agree with Simon Cowell's earlier prediction, but "That was definitely not good karaoke." Ellen wished he "had put a little more swagger into it" but liked how he changed it. She said, "You pulled it off." Kara sighed and said, "It's Elvis; you've got to own it." She felt the mike was a crutch, preventing him from really opening up. Simon found the performance lazy and unpredictable, "like you see in one of these musicals. There's always one part no one wants to see and... that was the one part." He felt the coolness has been sucked out of Andrew.
Connie Seacrest, Ryan's mom, appeared in the audience with him. She looks great.
Next was Tim Urban, doing "Can't Help Falling in Love." Adam said that Tim did a really lovely job and had some pretty guitar work. He urged him to leave his comfort zone at the end and go higher, into a falsetto. Sitting on a stool and weaing a short-sleeved riverboat shirt, he performed mostly in darkness. He was singing very tenderly but abruptly ending phrases, which should be more extended. The second verse was better, with more sustained phrases. Ryan could be seen briefly, dancing in the audience next to the second stage. Tim didn't end with the falsetto that Adam had suggested. [VIDEO OF TIM]
Ryan said, "I actually liked it." Ellen compared it to drinking: "The first time I took a shot of tequila I didn't know if I would like it or not. Then I took another, then another, then another, then really enjoyed it. I feel the same way about you." Kara said it was "my favorite Tim performance ever." She found it "authentic, real," and "from your heart," as well as current. Simon thought it was beautiful and very well thought out. He said Tim has "managed to go from zero to hero in two weeks."
Lee Dewyze had chosen a song which had been performed by previous Idol contestants, "A Little Less Conversation." Adam remarked that in his face there's nothing going on and advised him to smile a little bit and be playful. Lee accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, wearing a black jacket with a banded color and slightly puffy sleeves. The band picked up after the first verse, and his version was definitely more solid rock than playful, especially if you compare it to Jon Peter Lewis' performance in season 3, and he was less engaged with the audience than Chris Daughtry's performance in season 5. I also noticed that he really wasn't smiling. [VIDEO OF LEE; VIDEO OF JON PETER LEWIS; VIDEO OF CHRIS DAUGHTRY]
Ryan told him, "You are definitely in the zone." He called it "another great, amazing performance." Ellen thought he'd made it current and liked him engaging with the audience. She thought that "every time you show more confidence." Kara said she's "never seen you ever go for it vocally like you did tonight." Still, she wished it was a little bit lighter, more playful. Simon asked Kara what she meant by more playful and interpreted her comments as meaning more passion. After all, Lee's "not going to skip around the stage." His assessment was short and sweet: "That was on the money, full stop."
Aaron Kelly chose a beloved Elvis tune, "Blue Suede Shoes." Adam said that he'd underestimated him but that he needs more energy. "He doesn't quite believe in himself yet." Aaron started out by coming down the spiral staircase, wearing a teal T-shirt and a distressed denim jacket. He did have lots of attitude, more than we've seen from him, especially as he danced onto the second stage. In the breakdown, he got much more into it, with a bluesy feel. He does have a great voice, but he's got to loosen up more. [VIDEO OF AARON]
Randy wished that he'd done the whole song like the bluesy part. Ellen acknowledged it was a big song to take on but gave him "A for effort." Still, she thought he "didn't get all the way there." Kara liked that he left his comfort zone. She thought he seemed younger in this performance but had some nerves. Simon thought it was "like somebody at a high school doing a concert." He labeled it "very karaoke."
The quirkiest contestant, Siobhan Magnus, had chosen "Suspicious Minds." Adam said that "she's got the pipes, but it feels a little sleepy to me." He advised her to pick up the tempo. She wore a very avant-garde outfit: a white jacket and skirt combination which, along with pouffed hair, looked very '80s but in a cool sort of way, especially paired with short, white boots. She started out facing the camera, away from the audience, then walked down the stairs, singing to the camera. This was probably a good idea for appealing to home viewers, but it probably didn't endear her to the judges. I don't know if she was doing it faster than she'd rehearsed it, but it did feel slow at the beginning, and she slowed it down even further during the bridge. She reached for some notes near the end, and it felt like needless showboating. [VIDEO OF SIOBHAN]
Randy thought that the slower part was "where you really came alive to me." Ellen thought she looked fabulous and also liked the second half more than the first. Kara observed that "Siobhan has two voices." The first part of the song was one of them, and "the second was this crazy screaming thing." She found it confusing and "wasn't crazy about it." Simon said, "It was like you were put into a time machine and you came back in 20 years time." He thought the first part of the song was terrible and that when she went for the big notes, she didn't quite hit them. He thought it was "very erratic" and "screechy," that she's "lost who you were."
When Ryan asked Simon what he wants to see, he said that he doesn't find her performance believable. Siobhan replied that she doesn't even know what she is: "If I can't even label myself, I don't think it's necessary to be labeled."
Ryan reminded people that next week will be "Idol Gives Back" from two studios.
Going on a suggestion from Siobhan, Michael Lynche selected "In the Ghetto." Adam told him to bring the storyteller out. He said that Michael "deserves to get right down to the end. He's an amazing singer." Sitting on a stool with an acoustic guitar, wearing a black leather jacket and dark jeans, Michael focused on showing off his voice. It felt more genuine than last week's performance, more real. I buy that this is him much more than did last week's performance, which seemed very old-school and probably alienated younger voters. [VIDEO OF MICHAEL]
Ryan said the song was a "little sleepy" but "those were hot vocals." Ellen said simply, "I'm glad we saved you." Kara said it was a beautiful song and "you definitely sang it well." Simon said it was "a million, billion times better than last week" and a "brilliant choice of song." Reaction shot of Michael's wife in the audience looking happy.
Next was Katie Stevens, who has been compared to Lea Michele from Glee, and this week the show actually followed American Idol during the voting window. I think anyone who was paying attention would have noticed that Katie's personality and vocal abilities simply can't compare to Lea's. Katie went with "Baby, What Do You Want Me to Do?" to harness her frustration with the judges' comments. Adam advised her to show that anger and to sell it a little more. She entered through a slit in a lit wall, wearing a blue tunic, black leather leggings, and a little vest, with lots of sparkles. She kept doing that head thing she adopted a few weeks ago, which I suppose is her way of showing attitude. I found it annoying and distracting. [VIDEO OF KATIE]
Ryan praised her vocals and said he was entertained. Ellen said it was "a very horny song" and clarified there were "a lot of horns in it." She ended with "Man, you can sing." Kara said, "I think you showed us judges... Good job." Simon found it "a bit loud, a bit annoying." He didn't like the song very much. (Again, right on the money, Simon.)
Ending the night was Casey James with "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," which he called old-school Elvis. Adam advised him to build more of an arc with the song. Wearing a blue striped button-down, Casey performed on an audience stage with his guitar. The background singers were on the spiral staircase. It was very bluesy, which is his wheelhouse, and he did go for a little drama on the second verse. Overall it was nice, but I'm not sure it will win him any new fans. [VIDEO OF CASEY]
Ryan didn't see anything different but thought it was "another solid performance." Ellen loves his voice. "It wasn't as exciting as I'd like to have seen, but you're always good." Kara thought it fell short, because she knows what he's capable of. Simon thought it was "a wasted opportunity with a song that was completely forgettable, but your vocal was good."
At the end of the show, Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch from Glee were on stage with Ryan and the top nine, making the "L" symbol next to Ryan's face as he said the final good-byes and urged viewers to vote.
Kudos to Crystal Bowersox and Michael Lynche with a nod to Aaron Kelly and Casey James.
I'm not sure how many people will be pulled out for the bottom, since we're losing two, but I expect to see Andrew Garcia there again. This time, I don't think he'll escape the cut. Tim Urban could also find himself there, but so could Siobhan Magnus, Katie Stevens, and Lee Dewyze. Katie might have finally worn out her welcome, in which case she could be the second elimination of the night. But as last week proved, these eliminations can be surprising. At this point, it's really anyone's game.
If you can't loosen up to Elvis, you're probably not going to loosen up.
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.