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Country (Pop) Week

This week on American Idol, the final six took on the music of Shania Twain, who also acted as their mentor. Frequent viewers might remember that she was also one of the judges in Chicago. I have to say, this year's batch of contestants lucked out with Shania Twain being their "country week," since so much of her music is more like pop. That doesn't mean, however, they did much better.



Top 6 with Shania Twain
The Top 6 with Shania Twain



Lee Dewyze started off the evening with "Still the One." Shania advised him that he needs to not be buried by his guitar and advised starting out with just voice and piano (advice which, of course, he ignored; not that it mattered, because the mix was such that you couldn't really hear the guitar). Lee was wearing a black jacket over his favorite waiter outfit: white button down, skinny dark tie, and dark jeans. Despite being on pitch during the rehearsal, he started out rough and continued to have pitch issues throughout the performance. I actually thought it sounded better when I watched it live than listening to it again today. [VIDEO OF LEE]

Randy Jackson thought he'd "found a way to make it your own." Ellen DeGeneres agreed that "you make it your own" and added that he'd "never looked cuter," ending with the pun she'd clearly thought up ahead of time: "All aboard the Shania Twain." Kara DioGuardi thought "the sound of your voice... makes it sound really relevant," but she didn't know "if you related to the love portion of it." She liked that he cracked a smile a few times. Simon Cowell said, "That was absolutely the perfect song out of Shania's catalog" for Lee, but noted he was "pulling some weird faces," which Kara argued was Lee smiling. Yes, it does look like it hurts for Lee to smile!

Next up was Michael Lynche with "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing." Shania liked his voice but urged him not to take it for granted, because "the ones that make it in the end are the ones that feel it the most." He started out sitting on the steps, wearing a black button-down jacket over a black T-shirt with dark jeans. His singing was fine, but the song turned me off: it was very sing-songy. [VIDEO OF MICHAEL]

Randy thought that Big Mike "definitely found your zone," that of balladeer. Ellen was a tiny bit nervous when she found out he was doing this song "but it felt like Luther Vandross." She thought it was beautiful. Kara observed that "one of Shania's greatest gifts is how connected she is when she sings. I always feel that from you." She liked that he "changed the melody enough to put your mark on it" (because it's no longer enough to just sing a song; you've got to take a unique twist on it). Simon agreed with Ellen's Luther Vandross analogy but thought it was "a little bit wet," using a British colloquial term that Americans don't use. Simon refused to define it, though, saying it was "the opposite of dry" and finally saying, "It was a little bit girlie for you." According to online slang sources, to Brits, "wet" means "feeble, emotional, effeminate."

Ryan asked Shania, who was seated in the audience, what she thought about it, noting she'd had a tear in her eye. She said that yes, it was a little emotional: "You really did get me." Will her vote of confidence be enough to keep Big Mike safe this week?

Casey James chose "Don't." Shania observed that "he's missing some inner confidence," something that could be said about many of the contestants this year. She advised him that "true confidence will be in the way you tell the story." Wearing a white button-down with light tan stripes and dots, along with jeans, he performed on the second stage with his guitar, seated on a stool. This was more of a quiet performance, and despite the fact that he pinched his voice a little on the high notes, it was among his best. [VIDEO OF CASEY]

Randy said it was "one of the best Casey James performances ever." Ellen thought "that's really where you belong" and thought it was beautiful, "your best to date." Kara preached that "artists do not hide the good, the bad, the ugly. They show it all." She thought "that's what you did with that performance." Simon, referring to the fact that last week he was in the bottom three, said that "was a much-needed wakeup call for you." He agreed with Randy that it was his best performance so far and suggested "you come down here and give this one [Shania] a kiss on the lips." Casey dutifully came down to the audience, and Shania saved him some embarrassment by hugging him instead.

Crystal has looked up to Shania Twain ever since she was a kid. In an interview with Ryan, she said, "She is constantly glowing. There's an aura about her." She called her "super sweet." Crystal went with "No One Needs to Know," and Shania advised her to let the song remind her of how it applies to her real life. Crystal said that the song would be a message to her boyfriend: "He'll man up one of these days." She performed onstage with a little ensemble of guitar, upright base, drums, and slide guitar. The song was perfect for her, a relaxed country song. Very nice. [VIDEO OF CRYSTAL]

Randy liked the acoustic base. He said it was "not my favorite performance, but I love you." Ellen, after saying, "There's just nothing you can't do," admitted it wasn't her favorite performance either but added that asking her to pick her least favorite Crystal performance was like saying, "What's your least favorite color of the rainbow?" Kara said it's "impossible for you not to be good" and praised her for her honesty. "Was it your best? No, but you're still amazing." Crystal interjected that "it's not as big as the other performances, but bigger isn't always better." Simon was the harshest, saying that it was limp, like "something you'd expect in a coffee shop." He didn't feel any conviction and found the song "a bit forgettable." Crystal responded, "That's OK. I still love you, Simon." She also took the opportunity to point out her boyfriend in the audience.

Aaron Kelly chose "You Got Away," and Shania said that he's often preoccupied and advised him to "give us what you love." Wearing a denim jacket with a plaid shirt and jeans, sitting on a stool, Aaron was accompanied by a piano and guitar on stage. He started out fairly strong but was a little uneven on the chorus. Yawn. I honestly think this is about the best he can do. [VIDEO OF AARON]

Randy said that "this is your wheelhouse," repeating that Aaron is the "country" singer this season (country pop, maybe). Ellen still couldn't get over his young age (17) and complimented him for the "maturity you showed." Kara agreed and liked that he'd changed one of the lines, which was originally about making love. Aaron answered he was singing this song to his mom. Well, in that case, it's really good he changed the line! Simon noted that for the last two or three weeks, Aaron really struggled. "Tonight, you were like a different artist. This is the kind of record you should make." He thought the song felt sincere and believable.

Finally, Siobhan Magnus ended with "Any Man of Mine." Shania reminded her that the "song's about attitude" and that she's "got to get into the character." That in mind, I thought that Siobhan could have been a little sassier. She wore a retro '80s dress, floral with a short ruffled skirt, paired with white cowboy boots. Perhaps she was preoccupied with the stagecraft, which involved her going out into the audience. She ended with another of her big notes, which sounded sweet until she pinched it at the end. [VIDEO OF SIOBHAN]

Randy loved it and loved the punk country look. Ellen punned, "Way to pull the Shania Twain into the station... Fantastic." Kara said simply, "Guess who's back? Siobhan." (Guess who gets shorter comments because the show is running long again? Siobhan.) Simon really, really liked that song but disliked "the screaming at the end." He said it was "almost like you were giving birth up there."

Kudos to Crystal and Casey this week, with a nod to Big Mike.

As far as the bottom three is concerned, Siobhan might be outstaying her welcome (especially given the fact that the audience laughed at Simon's put-down of her "screaming," rather than booing him). Aaron will join her in the bottom three and possibly Mike again or Lee, for the first time. I'm going to call it for Aaron going home, though.

In previous years, if contestants are associated with a particular type of music (like Aaron's been linked, by the judges at least, to country) and fail to impress on the week that type of music is featured, they're always the ones to leave. Siobhan will probably also eke out a few more votes than usual, now that Vote for the Worst is campaigning for her (their previous favorite, Tim Urban, left last week). So don't be surprised if the "country" singer leaves on country week.

Moral:
Shania's glow makes us love even her most mediocre songs... when she's singing them.


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Tags: american idol, music, television
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