Wooo! Billboard No. 1s is the theme this week! The "AI" behind-the-scenes people have been running around our offices this week -- alas, no Miley Cyrus sightings, though. Let's get to it. Oh wait, let's get to it after 10 minutes of inane chatter between the judges.
First up, Miley's advice for the contestants: Have a famous dad, and hook up with Disney when you're 11. Failing that, be true to yourself and connect with your fans.
1) Lee Dewyze, "The Letter" by The Box Tops
Oh huh, Alex Chilton right off the bat. Gee 'AI,' you coulda mentioned that at some point. Hey Simon, maybe Lee Dewyze picked it because the dude just died. Or not. Ugh, like the music industry doesn't exist outside this show. ANYWAY. It was a nice choice for his voice and maybe he did listen to Miley -- he didn't seem as uncomfortable on stage, although I was yelling at him to improve his posture. Not just for visual purposes, but it gives the impression he's struggling with the output of his voice.
2) Paige Miles, "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins
Ugh, when the intro telegraphs that you were pitchy in practice, it creates an instant fear that the performer is going to be pitchy live. And Paige Miles was, hitting a bum note at the end of the first line and then weirdly warbling through the rest of the song. It sounded like she really gave up on the big chorus, too, which is a shame since if she had hit that everyone else might have forgotten the abject hideousness in the rest of the song. (I call this the Siobhan strategy.)
3) Tim "Sanjaya" Urban, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen
Wow, Ryan's outro of "Tim takes on Queen" struck fear into my heart. And then, dear God, it was a Buddy Holly version of Queen - no disrespect to Buddy Holly intended. Freddie Mercury at a sock hop, I can't even imagine. And what was with the rolling around on stage? At the same time, if you consider this week basically an audition for the "American Idol" tour, it was a pretty smart performance. The girls are still squealing.
4) Aaron Kelly, "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith
Oh, the laryngitis excuse at the outset. Which may or may not deal with the basic "not Steven Tyler" problem here for Aaron Kelly. This, by the way, is my karaoke song - and I sing it because I am loud and tone-deaf and shouty and it works because I have no other goal than making a fool of myself. This was not a situation where it worked for Aaron - his voice seemed warbly and weak, even with the key change. I think if he had toned it down even more and done it acoustically, he might have been able to pull it off. It was just too big of a song of him.
5) Crystal Bowersox "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin
Oh, the thing with Miley signing the guitar? Crystal Bowersox, you are BRILLIANT. I'll even give you a pass on my "don't sing Janis Joplin" rule, even though I truly am beginning to worry that you're getting stuck in the Lillith Fair wheelhouse. Hey, she got the kids in the audience dancing, and I'm sure 80% of them have never heard this song before. And weren't the judges making damn sure with their effusive praise that there was no chance of her getting voted out?
6) Michael Lynch "When A Man Loves A Woman" by Percy Sledge
Michael Lynche, you're a total cornball, but you could win this whole thing. It's just such a relief to get someone up there who is in tune, loves being the center of attention and seems to enjoy, you know, singing. It was a safe choice, but LORD, given the rest of the nuts in this competition, I'd rather it be safe and good than a daring choice and hideous. And I don't think what Simon said about how the audition could have taken place in any decade was actually a negative - some people consider a timeless quality a good thing.
7) Andrew Garcia "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye
Aiiiie foreshadowing on forgetting the words. No pressure, Andrew Garcia. Too bad you're too young to remember the California Raisins commercial and therefore didn't have this song committed to memory since you were ten. I actually think Miley gave him some valuable advice to lose the guitar - maybe it was distracting him the entire time up to this point, as Simon said, because this was the best vocal he'd had in a long, long while. The judges are silly. It was a B, which is so much better than his mess in the past few weeks.
8) Katie Stevens, "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie
Wow, Katie Stevens is really pocket-sized if she's smaller than tiny, tiny Miley. And yet she's singing "Big Girls Don't Cry." Here's the thing about Fergie - I know there's a common idea out there that she can't sing. But I've seen her live three times - and she's always been outstanding. No kidding. The strength of her voice is really deceptive. Katie didn't come close to the original of this song-her voice is too tinny and weak. It didn't compare favorably at all. It must have sounded different inside the studio, because I didn't get the judge love.
9) Casey James, "The Power Of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News
"I'm a big fan of your dad's" - that's the funniest thing that's been said on this show all season. Good job, Casey James. I actually thought this was pretty great - Casey had fun on the vocal, and for once the AI arrangement wasn't totally insane and at odds to the song. He doesn't have the strongest voice in the competition, but this was well within his range. Nicely done. Interesting that the Lee Dewyze rock love from the judges seems to have suddenly shifted to Casey.
10) Didi Benami, "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt
Yes, Miley may get nervous, but she doesn't burst into tears at the drop of hat, Didi Benami. But no need to cry - I thought this was Didi's best performance in a long, long time. Maybe I just value a lack of vibrato over actually being on key? She's really gained confidence on stage and worked it, although she did seem to be playing to the in-house audience instead of to the cameras. 500 people in there, 23 million out here, Didi.
11) Siobhan Magnus, "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
Oh, class nerd Siobhan getting props from popular girl Miley made me smile. Siobhan, dressed in one of Kat McPhee's more insane castoffs, gets the pimp spot and predictably does a great job. I don't entirely approve that the big shrill screaming interlude during the song is going to be her thing now, but if the audience is expecting it, she's got to do it. It's the dark side of the wake of Adam Lambert: the weird have to go pro.
So who's gonna go? God, it really seemed that the judges are fed up with almost everyone tonight. Paige gave us the worst performance of the night - and maybe of the season. It will be a true test of the suckitude of this year if she makes it through. Cute shoes, though.
Check back with Billboard after every "American Idol" performance night for our recap and predictions, and follow us on Twitter @billboarddotcomfor our live blow-by-blow of each episode.