The Top 7 with Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys was this week's mentor, saying she wanted to help them find out what they're made of. Her advice for nearly every contestant, though, was pretty similar: telling them to feel the song and put emotion behind it.
First up was Casey James with "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac, an often-played song. Alicia urged him to connect with it because it's so well known. He wore a black jacket with a white V-neck T-shirt and jeans, playing the electric guitar, with some background singers on stage. He started out a little off pitch, and his rendition of the song was good but not his best. He did throw in a guitar solo, momentarily distracting from his vocals, which were just OK for him. [VIDEO OF CASEY]
Randy Jackson said it was a good performance, but "it wasn't your best performance." He said he's "looking for something a little more special." Ellen DeGeneres thought he had great guitar playing. She added, "You're consistently good, but I don't think anyone's going to be talking about that tomorrow." Kara DioGuardi said that his version of "Jealous Guy" had been amazing on Beatles week. "Then tonight, it's like jam band. That's not showing us what makes you different." Simon Cowell was amazed he chose that song, which he found "not particularly inspiring." He said there was zero emotion and no originality.
Next, Lee Dewyze went with "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel. He wore a brown shirt with a chocolate brown tie. This song was much better than anything he's done so far, showing some emotion for the first time. While I usually get nervous when people sing lyrics like, "I am leaving, I am leaving," I think this performance rendered him safe. [VIDEO OF LEE]
Randy said this year the show is about artists, and Lee's a great artist. Ellen called it a beautiful song choice. She liked his soul and depth. Kara said that Simon previously said that he'd had his moment, "but I think you had it tonight." Simon remarked, "Even though we're only two in, that was the best of the night." He called the performance sincere, emotional, and inspirational.
Tim Urban chose "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls, which Alicia thought sounded like "it could be his own song." He started out by popping his "p's" into the mike and was off-key on the chorus. He wore just a simple black riverboat shirt with jeans, strumming guitar, which was drowned out by all the strings on stage with him. The only possible reason this guy is still in the competition is that teen girls think he's cute. [VIDEO OF TIM]
Randy said it was "just kind of OK karaoke." Ellen compared him to the soup of the day. "Some times I like the soup, some days I don't like the soup... Today, I didn't like the soup." Kara said he's "finally found your lane but it's a new Tim from what we were used to," whatever that means. She said it was "not the best execution." Simon said, "If this had been the very, very first time we'd seen you, I think we'd be quite impressed." (Really?) He said Tim has improved, "but it was a little bit of a letdown."
A better vocalist, Aaron Kelly, chose the R. Kelly song, "I Believe I Can Fly." Strings were on stage with him, and he wore a black jacket with a charcoal T-shirt. He had some pitchy moments, and overall, while it was better than Tim, it was nothing that special. After the key change, he found himself a little, but he needed that sort of emotion all the way through. [VIDEO OF AARON]
Randy said he'd picked a giant song and that the arrangement was a little funny. Nevertheless, he feels that Aaron has "pure vocal talent" and did a good job. Ellen joked, "There was a time in the '70s when I believed I could fly." She added, "I believe you can fly, and you're on your way." Kara thought that "watching that was like taking off." In other words, slow at first, but then "you hit it and started flying." Simon said, "In the real world, if we'd heard that on the radio, I would have turned it off within 10 seconds." He thought it wasn't very good, "but you made it quite good." Was Simon on cold medicine or something? He wasn't making a lot of sense last night.
Now is the time to admit that, for a few weeks, I saw Siobhan Magnus as a serious contender. Lately, though, she's been floundering, and I cringed when I heard she'd picked "When You Believe" by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, two of the biggest female vocalists of the last 20 years. Alicia, though, was very impressed with her voice. Siobhan looked like she was wearing a costume from A Midsummer Night's Dream, a white and gray dress with flower patterns, butterflies and actual cloth butterflies on one of the straps. This rendition of the song, which I have to admit I don't really know, was leaving me cold. It was very reminiscent of a high-school talent show. After the key change, she showed more life, but it was very uneven. [VIDEO OF SIOBHAN]
Randy said he didn't know why he picked that song, "but it was just OK for me." Ellen disagreed, saying the performance was "more confirmation of why you're here." Kara said, "Technically, it may have been really well sung" (Really? Does it sound that different in the studio?), but she criticized it for being very dramatic. She said she'd "rather hang out with you than buy your record." She might not be the only one, at this point. Simon agreed with Randy that it wasn't the right song. He found the arrangement very old-fashioned and said, "The leaves on the close-ups distracted me." (He meant the butterflies.) Overall, he said it was "a bit odd, a bit all over the place."
For some odd reason, Siobhan decided to defend the song, saying she didn't want who the song was by to scare her away from the song, because she loves the song. Yawn. I've heard that before, almost every time a contestant picks a song by a diva and fails to deliver.
Michael Lynche chose "Hero" by Chad Kroeger, one of 200 songs he'd chosen years ago to sing on Idol, should he ever make it. He wore a dark riverboat shirt, his dog tags, and played his guitar. He was putting a lot into it and was much more emotional than any of the other performances so far that evening. He was on key, too, which is more than you could say for many of the contestants. On a night like this one, that made a big difference. [VIDEO OF MICHAEL]
Randy said he'd been a little worried about the song choice, because it was a band song, which might not have given him a chance to shine. He was pleasantly surprised: "You held your own with it." Ellen said he did a great job. Kara, though, said it "wasn't my favorite performance." She thought he didn't have the tone for it. Simon said he "sang it pretty well" but criticized the song choice. "That was about Spider-Man, wasn't it?" Michael countered that, no, that was about being a hero. Simon thought it was "a little artificial" and "didn't quite gel." Still, he thought Big Mike was going to be around next week.
In the pimp spot was my girl Crystal Bowersox, singing "People Get Ready," wearing a black evening dress, showing a little cleavage, with her hair pulled up in an updo. This time, she had no instrument except her powerful, powerful voice. She's the only one tonight I would say was truly inspirational, adding a gospel or soul feel to the song, which was complemented by the background singers. She actually started crying at the end of it as she sang, "Don't need no ticket, just thank the Lord." [VIDEO OF CRYSTAL]
Randy declared himself "a fan since day one." He gave her a standing ovation. Ellen said, "You have never looked more beautiful." She likes that Crystal keeps evolving and growing, and she liked the quirky mike stand that Crystal brought from back home. Kara thanked her "for taking a risk and putting your guitar down." She added, "Mama Sox, do you know why they call you that? You just schooled all those contestants." Simon said, "That was inspirational." He was happy to see her emotional and thought she "sang it fantastically." He added, "For me, it was in a completely different class to everything we've heard tonight."
Ryan Seacrest asked Crystal why she'd been so emotional. She said that she got that way when she saw her dad in the audience, the first time he's been there. "Thank the lord for my family." She asked Ryan to use his pocket square, and he told her, "I think it's taped" to his suit. She countered, "Hollywood," giggling and wiping her face. That's one of the best things about Crystal: she's very talented, but she's also a real person. It's hard not to love her.
Kudos this week to Crystal and Lee (for the first time!) with a nod to Big Mike.
My ideal bottom three would be Tim, Aaron and a third person (Siobhan or Casey?), with Tim going home. If he's still winning the tween vote, though, it might be Aaron instead. The big question is whether the producers will want to send home a contestant on the big charity night or whether, like they did in the seventh season, they give everyone a pass this week.
Inspirational songs are meant to inspire.
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.