Shania Twain returns as a mentor and specifically to console me that John Park chose such a woofy group of songs in the early rounds, thereby hastening his exit. The Top 6 will perform Shania's catalogue in a twist on country night, presenting us with the mindblowing option of either
us or Crystal Bowersox performing one of my karaoke songs: "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" I can hardly wait.
1) Lee DeWyze, "You're Still The One"
I do like Shania's point in her intro that it's going to be interesting to have four guys sing songs that were written and performed by a woman; it's a pretty good test at the universality of the song, I think. Despite some flat notes here and there, Lee did a fine job. He never really blows me away, but he's not embarrassing either. Apparently for this season, it makes him one of the frontrunners. I'm not hating, just kind of surprised by the overwhelming love from the judges.
2) Michael Lynche, "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing"
People roll their eyes when I tell them that Big Mike is still my pick to win this whole thing - yes, I know he got the judges' save, OK? - but I think this performance really shows why he's a contender. He held back on the cheese and the bravado that seems to haunt most of his stage appearances and turned out a really lovely version of this song. His vocals are always spot on and when he shows some restraint he's really compelling. He really reminded me a lot of Ruben Studdard tonight...who won. Ahem.
3) Casey James, "Don't"
Hey Shania, if you didn't have that show on tap for Oprah's network next year, I'd say you were vying to replace Simon Cowell. So far her comments have been right on target - I like how she called out Casey's lack of confidence when it comes to actually, you know, singing. I thought this was his best vocal performance of the show yet, even with the overt goat vibrato at the end. He sounded nothing like the bar cover band that's been his style of performance every other week (except for "Jealous Guy.") Good job!
4) Crystal Bowersox, "No One Needs To Know"
Crystal, honey, telling your boyfriend to "man up" on national television right before you sing a song about marriage may really freak him out. And then pointing him out in the audience. And then having Ryan point him out in the audience. Just saying. In the canon of Crystal Bowersox, I'd call this one a B side. It was cute, and I appreciate the way she stripped it down without the backup singer madness that usually overwhelms these performances, but it wasn't memorable. Then again, she can't be brassy and showy every week, or else she'd be...Siobhan.
5) Aaron Kelly,"You Got A Way"
If there ever was going to be a week that was meant for Aaron Kelly's voice, it's country week. This was perfectly in his range, and he actually sounded like he understood what he was talking about when he sang. I knew the judges were going to give him mad love - even before he said he was singing it for his mom. And I think he's going to be helped by picking up the tween cutie votes that won't go for Tim Urban any more.
6) Siobhan Magnus, "Any Man of Mine"
I think this was the first time ever Siobhan Magnus actually looked like she was having fun on stage. I don't know if her voice totally held up while she was running around, but it was nice to see her enjoying herself. And I thought the requisite yelling part at the end worked well, even though her voice cracked quite a bit in the middle. She got herself together again for a big finish, which is pretty admirable. (And I may love Simon's "giving birth" comment the most of all the judges' yammering this the entire season.)
So who's gonna go? They were all actually pretty good tonight - I think all the contestants are settling into the process, and the constructive feedback from Shania certainly helped. But I'm with Billboard.com's Monica when she live-tweeted the show: I smell upset. I'm going to say it's goodbye for Lee tomorrow night. He went first, which is when the fewest number of people watch the show, and it just didn't completely gel for him tonight. (And there's a little teeny corner of my soul that's worried about Crystal.)
Check back with Billboard after every "American Idol" performance night for our recap and predictions, and follow us on Twitter @billboarddotcom for our live blow-by-blow of each episode.
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