It's "Idol Gives Back" week, and it appears as though they're going to do the bootings this week as part of the ginormo charity extravaganza Wednesday night. Because there's nothing like comparing heart-rending scenes of actual suffering in the world with some kid bawling because he couldn't carry a tune on national TV. Stay classy, "Idol."
That being said, yay, Alicia Keys! But boo to squishy themes like "songs of inspiration." What if you take your inspiration from, like, Swedish death metal?
1) Casey James, "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac
Let's start the evening out on a wincy note, shall we? The judges knocked on Casey James, and rightly so. And Alicia was dead-on in her critique -- he needed to connect with the song, and he didn't. He grinned and bleated his way through it. I was expecting some mention of him having a cold or a sore throat or something afterwards. Every time he played the guitar he looked like he was having a blast, though -- he gave that much more emotion than any of his singing.
2) Lee DeWyze, "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel
Wow, Lee DeWyze looks scared even when Ryan Seacrest is shilling for Coke in the intro. I'm with Ellen DeGeneres -- it's the time of the season when the contestants need to get over their tics and weirdness and bring it. Despite his twitchiness at the beginning, I thought Lee did a really nice job. I'm glad that Alicia basically told Lee to enunciate -- it really seemed to help his phrasing, and this is a song where the the words could slur together all too easily. And it just dawned on me now - doesn't he look like Ryan from "The Office"?
3) Tim "Teflon" Urban, "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls
Woohoo Captain Sully! Do something about that volcano, willya? I dwell on the ashen menace just because I couldn't bear to focus too much on Tim Urban. Any time he had to hold a note more than a beat he went wildly off key. On the plus side, he could probably make some major bucks acting as a tester for all those iPhone apps that mimic autotune. I agree with Simon Cowell - keep it simple, Tim. Or not. If the tweens text their votes for you as much as they talk about you on Twitter, you're safe this week.
4) Aaron Kelly, "I Can Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly
Wow, Aaron Kelly has been singing this since he was five? But this was released when I was in college...I'm going to stop doing the math now. Simon's critique of Tim also applies to Aaron - this was just too big for him. Doing the thing where he jerked the microphone away from his mouth was a distraction and didn't give him the buffered effect that he was looking for. He seemed almost ok in the lower register, but when he had to go big, well, he went home. Maybe literally come tomorrow.
Siobhan Magnus's styling was so distracting this week. She looked like a peacock hit by a tractor. I must say, however, that this song was a good use of her crazy upper range, using it as a spice instead of the whole damn meal. There is some hubris that she selected a Whitney/Mariah song, of course, but there is a comfort when she chooses a song by those two that she's not going to embarrass herself. I disagree with Kara DioGuardi - it's pretty obvious who Siobhan is - she's the girl who can hit insane high notes but doesn't quite know when it's appropriate.
6) Michael Lynche, "Hero" by Nickelback
When I read the leaked song list Tuesday afternoon, I was terrified - terrified - that this was going to be the Mariah version. When Nickelback is the better alternative, you've reached a low point. I thought Michael Lynche's rock version was perfectly adequate - and yes, I know that's damning with faint praise. His vocals are always on target, and he kept the cheese factor to a minimum. One big concern - and this is not his fault, obviously - it's the second week that Big Mike was given the short shrift by the judges because they were "running out of time." Uncool.
7) Crystal Bowersox, "People Get Ready" by the Impressions
A message to Crystal Bowersox: I don't know if you actually wanted to leave the show and Ryan talked you out of it or if that little tidbit was leaked to counteract some of Ryan's increasingly manic behavior. (Hey, he may be accosting audience members and flailing/dancing with them in the aisles, but he still cares, dang it!) But I really hope she realizes that she could be one of "Idol's" great discoveries if she sticks with it. And if she doesn't -- well, she'll be just fine.
So who's gonna go? It's not looking good for high school student Aaron Kelly. And despite my snark - there's nothing I like more than a fine whine - never hesitate to give to charity, be it through "Idol Gives Back" or another good cause!
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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