Billboard's Ann Donahue breaks down every live performance of "American Idol" Season 9, from the top 24 contestants to the last one standing.
Ryan Seacrest begins the evening on a weird note, mentioning Crystal Bowersox's inability to sing as a result of "doctor's orders." Some folks on Twitter were speculating this was a result of her diabetes, but Ryan doesn't give any details. I get it - she's on "AI," but she's still a private citizen...at least for another few weeks. The gents fill in as a result - and here's hoping they outdo their sorry outing from last week.
1) Michael Lynche: "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" by James Brown
Good God, Big Mike Lynche is the living embodiment of the Finn character on "Glee!" He's a jock and a singing nerd! Excellent! He was my favorite last week - and I thought he knocked it out of the park this week. A great song choice and he really showed some charisma on stage. I like when it seems like the singer is actually having fun on stage, which this early in the process is pretty rare.
2) John Park: "Gravity" by John Mayer
You know you're my favorite, John Park. You should also know that I'm being mocked -- mocked! -- about this after last week, but I'm glad you have the self-awareness to critique yourself and try to improve. This week was an improvement, but the Mayer slow jams in general don't win me over. He seems to have such a personality in the behind-the-scenes clips that I'd love to see him do something a little more rockin' and fun on stage. Carry around a picture of Shania if you must, John.
3) Casey James: "I Don't Want To Be" by Gavin DeGraw
Oh yay, time for the weekly ritual of harrassing hottie Casey James. Is it wrong that I'm particularly envious of his hair this week? Oh yes, his performance. I actually think the guitar detracted from his rendition - it started out so overtly rock that the big build-up to the chorus was lost in the shuffle. And if he wants to play the guitar, why didn't Casey choose just a flat out rock song? "Paradise City!" "Home Sweet Home!" (Not the Carrie Underwood version, sorry.) Don't deny the rock, Casey! Embrace it!
4) Alex Lambert: "Everybody Knows" by John Legend
Oh, Alex Lambert. A moniker so close to this craziness, a demeanor so very different thanks to the barfing and the mullet and the made-up language. He's just so unsure of himself -- was he really chewing on his lower lip during the brief pauses in the song? -- and it makes him really hard to watch. I rather liked his voice this week when I closed my eyes, which is NOT the reaction you want to inspire in the "American Idol" audience. Please don't make us long for the days of radio.
5) Todrick Hall: "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner
It was great in theory, but dang, the arrangement just sucked all the life out of Todrick Hall's version of the song. It's the same kind of problem I had with him doing Kelly Clarkson last week -- he tries to jazz it up so much, and the song doesn't need it. (Help me, I agree with Randy Jackson.) It works against Todrick when he changes it up so much because it looks like he's trying to hide his vocals; it is eerily reminiscent of Simon Cowell's accusation that he's a dancer just trying to sing.
6) Jermaine Sellers: "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye
Oh noes. I am tone-deaf and I could tell a lot of that was out of key. Like, most of it. This song is such an anthem, Jermaine Sellers would just have to kill it to do justice, and his version was weird, breathy and screechy. And although it was cute before he sang, he's going to regret the green dinosaur onesie intro because it makes him memorable. Memorable as in: That dude in the onesie botched that Marvin Gaye song.
7) Andrew Garcia: "You Give Me Something" by James Morrison
Very nice! It really worked with the raspiness of Andrew Garcia's voice, and he had a good sense of the contrast of the pacing of the song. One quibble: I wish he wouldn't have camped out on the stool in the middle of the stage. I think his presence should have been a little more dynamic -- obviously he doesn't have to bust out and break dance -- but maybe interact with the audience a little more on either side of the stage instead of doing the awkward stare into the camera.
8) Aaron Kelly: "My Girl" by The Temptations
I'm starting to suspect that little Aaron Kelly could get up there and bleat his way through Subway's "Five Dollar Footlong" jingle and still make it through because he's so sure to rock the Bieber vote. As I mentioned last week with Casey, the vibrato thing drives me bonkers. And the weird growl he was doing in the middle of the song just didn't work because it came across as an affectation, like, "Look! I have range!" That's not range, it's a sound effect.
9) Tim Urban: "Come On Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson
I...I...liked this? What? After last week's "Apologize" abomination - thanks for showing that in Tim Urban's intro, mean "AI" editors -- I think he really redeemed himself this week. His voice sounded nice and the timidity that screwed up his performance last week came across as cute nervousness this week. It was all rather sweet. Go underdog Urban! Am I insane? Agreeing with Simon tells me nothing, since I frequently suspect that he gives raves to people he want to see go and pans to people he wants to stay in an attempt to reverse-psychology sway the voters.
10) Lee Dewyze: "Lips of An Angel" by Hinder
Oh Lee Dewyze, so nervous. Nerves and rock just don't go along -- why did you stroll across the stage, dude? Rockers don't meander! The judges still see him and dream of Chris Daughtry, but Daughtry had a swagger from the get-go that Lee hasn't developed. (Let's go in the wayback machine and check out Daughtry's version of Fuel's "Hemorrhage" when he closed out the show in the early rounds of his season here.) Lee got the pimp spot, though, so he'll be OK for another week.
So who's gonna go? Jermaine -- yikes. Two meh weeks in a row isn't good and I don't think you quite have the right to sass the judges yet. And Todrick, I think you're in trouble -- you're becoming the guy that does poor imitations of great songs. On a positive note: overall the guys did so much better than last week. I have hope.
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.