Siobhan Magnus and Casey James
After an initial montage of the previous night's performances (interspersed with shots of the finalists in the makeup chair), host Ryan Seacrest entered from the back of the auditorium, shaking the hands of audience members. He announced there had been 33 million votes the previous night.
Several special performances were planned for the evening, starting with country sensations Rascal Flatts, performing "Unstoppable." They were mellow and relaxed on-stage, forming a good rapport with the audience. The guitarist, by the way, was great. Afterward, they told Ryan they're cutting a new album and going on tour in June. [VIDEO OF RASCAL FLATTS]
Next was a montage of the Top 6 behind-the-scenes as they were shooting the Ford music video to the song "Believe." They had a lot of fun with it and with the vampire makeup they wore. In the commercial, Michael Lynche pulls into the woods, and the other Idols, as vampires, get in his car. He scares them away using a pizza with extra garlic. Cute. [FORD COMMERCIAL]
This week, the Top 6 got to meet the director of Shrek: Forever After, Mike Mitchell. He taught them how to do voicework, using the same scene where Ryan gets a small part. Then they saw a screening of the film, walking the red carpet with film stars Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas and meeting pint-sized fans. [VIDEO OF SHREK SCREENING]
After the clip, film stars Antonio Banderas and Cameron Diaz and appeared live in the studio. Following a brief interview, Ryan told them, "I hear you want to host." Antonio and Cameron both declined, but Antonio agreed to say, "Dim the lights, and here we go" in character as Puss in Boots. He experienced some feedback on the first attempt but gamely did it again.
Ryan split the contestants into groups of two, placing Siobhan Magnus in the first group, Aaron Kelly at the center of the stage and Michael Lynche closest to him. Ryan asked Simon Cowell about the British colloquial term "wet" again, seeking a definition. Simon said, "Imagine you singing." Ryan asked him, "Is that a compliment?" Simon told him, "Take it any way you want." Considering the term means "feeble, effeminate, weak," I doubt it was meant as a compliment.
Then, Ryan paired Lee Dewyze with Siobhan and Casey James with Michael Lynche. Finally, Crystal Bowersox was up, who of course, was destined to stand with Aaron. Ryan asked Ellen DeGeneres if that meant Crystal was in trouble. Ellen seemed distressed by the idea but said no. Crystal joined Aaron at center stage, and Aaron grinned broadly and threw an arm around her shoulder, perhaps sensing it was a good omen.
So who was in the bottom three? Ryan grabbed Siobhan and told her to take a walk with him towards the couches, traditionally where contestants are sent when they're safe. This time, though, he told her to stop next to Casey and announced that was the bottom three: Siobhan, Big Mike and Casey. Everyone else was safe. Whoa. [VIDEO OF BOTTOM THREE]
Ryan announced that next week Harry Connick Jr., one of the best modern crooners, will mentor the Top 5 as they sing Frank Sinatra songs. I can predict right now that at least one person will get slammed by the judges for a performance that's too old-fashioned.
Season four winner Carrie Underwood announced the next performance, saying they were "three guys who mean a lot to me," Sons of Sylvia. They're going to be touring with her this summer. The performed "Love Left to Lose," which was kind of emo country, the band dressed like characters in Twilight. Catchy. If they look familiar, that might be because they were known as the Clark Brothers when they won The Next Great American Band in Fall 2007. [VIDEO OF SONS OF SYLVIA]
Next up was another performance, "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum. They sounded more like what I think of as country. The female vocalist has a very nice voice, and they had good harmonies. This performance was actually prerecorded. [VIDEO OF LADY ANTEBELLUM]
For the final special performance, viewers were treated to a unique combination: Shakira with Rascal Flatts, performing her single "Gypsy." She started out playing harmonica, a talent I didn't know she possessed. Cool: a bellydancer who plays the harp and sings. Wearing a sparkly top with a red hippie skirt, she and two dancers used some bellydancing arms to accentuate the song. It wasn't until she moved onto the second stage with the lead singer of Rascal Flatts that I realized he'd been left out of the performance. He did join her for some tight harmonies but didn't get to sing anything solo. The performance reminded me of a sexy Fleetwood Mac. [VIDEO OF SHAKIRA WITH RASCAL FLATTS]
In her interview with Ryan afterwards, Shakira gave the finalists advice: "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." Ryan credited this saying to his own mentor, Casey Kasem. Actually, it's a Theodore Roosevelt quote.
Finally, it was back to the results. The bottom three of Mike, Casey and Siobhan joined Ryan onstage. He asked Mike how it felt to be standing here again and Mike said that "Tonight is different, because everybody did well last night. That's just how it stacks up." Ryan declared Big Mike safe, and his wife celebrated with a friend in the audience as cheers rose up from the crowd. [VIDEO OF MIKE]
So now it was between Casey and Siobhan, "a construction worker and a glass blower." Ryan announced, "The person who goes home tonight is Siobhan Magnus. Casey, you are safe." Her family looked distraught while Casey's family was relieved.
Ryan extolled her: "an independent spirit, laser focus. Incredible work ethic." He asked her what impact her run had made on her and her sisters, for whom Siobhan said she was competing. Siobhan answered, "Hopefully, a good one."
As a montage of her time on the show ran, she smiled placidly. Just before the credits, she sang one more time, the Aretha Franklin song "Think." All smiles during her performance, she waited until afterward to get emotional, going down into the audience and hugging her family. Ryan joined her to guide her stageward, first insisting she give Simon a hug: "He's going to miss you." Simon agreed: "I am going to miss you." Siobhan also got hugs from Kara and Ellen, who told her, "I'll see you tomorrow on my show." Ryan asked Randy to give Siobhan advice, and he told her to "Keep being yourself." [VIDEO OF SIOBHAN]
Meanwhile, the other contestants stood awkwardly on stage until Siobhan joined them, but they didn't surround her immediately with hugs like they'd done for other conestants. Big Mike gave her shoulder a squeeze, and the others seemed a little blase.
So on the season the judges insisted would be the Year of the Girl, only one woman is in the Top 5.
Why did Siobhan go home, when some people predicted she'd make the Top 3? Siobhan showed off some powerful vocals early in the season and seemed to have attracted a following, with her quirky personality and fashions. Lately, however, she seemed to be struggling to find herself, and her performances suffered as a result.
Let's face it: Siobhan probably didn't help herself by talking back to the judges. Unlike other countries that have their own versions of Idol, American viewers don't have much patience for contestants who "talk back." While sometimes it's understandable, especially if a seemingly sympathetic Ryan is encouraging the contestant to respond, it's best to remain polite and grateful for the opportunity. Once or even twice might be OK, but Siobhan had taken to defending herself nearly every performance, and that probably cost her some votes.
Siobhan's stagecraft was fairly good; she seemed much more comfortable than other contestants, such as Aaron and Tim. In her final performance, though, she seemed a bit disconnected: as if she was just walking through it at rehearsal. Perhaps the pressure was getting to her.
Most importantly, viewers were split about Siobhan's vocal abilities. For every fan who raved about her range and her ability to hold high notes, there was someone who, as Simon had the night before, called it "shrieky." No doubt, this also cost her.
Ultimately, her quirky personality (which appealed to some viewers while confusing others), her recent inconsistency, and her unusual vocal style are the main reasons Siobhan is going home.
It's important to stand out, but be sure it's for a good reason.