Billboard's Ann Donahue breaks down every live performance of "American Idol" Season 9, from the top 24 contestants to the last one standing.
When Simon Cowell said before this week's performances that he thought a woman was going to win this season, I figured he was just trying to stir the pot. Silly ol' Simon, creating controversy for controversy's sake.
I was wrong.
Probably due to the aggressive mist we had in L.A. last night, the signal kept on going in and out for our Fox affiliate. I was apoplectic about it as the show started. Now it just seems like the fates were trying to be merciful.
1) Todrick Hall: "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson
Oh, uh. Wow. Just no. This song is so full of bounce and life that to deconstruct it just takes all the fun out of it. It seemed like Todrick Hall was just showing off to prove he could twist any song into his own style. If he had slowed it down on something that has a ton of quick chatter to it - like, say, Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life," oddly -- it would have been more effective.
2) Aaron Kelly: "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts
I don't know if Aaron Kelly was super nervous, but his stage presence was distracting. His voice was nice, but I kept willing him to move his feet -- or any part of his lower body, actually. It seemed like he was in one of those cartoons when the character gets stuck in quicksand and is lurching around to get out. Of course, it was all very disarming and now I'm totally rooting for him. Maybe it was part of his evil-genius plan.
3) Jermaine Sellers: "Get Here" by Oleta Adams
It was a weird combination of whispering and yelling -- and yep, I'm the fool that actually turned up the volume in the low parts only to get my ears screamed off when Jermaine Sellers starting shrieking the high notes. It was not good. God help me, I agree with Randy Jackson: he should have sung Maxwell or Ne-Yo. Also: Dudes should never wear Carrie Bradshaw flowers.
4) Tim Urban: "Apologize" by OneRepublic
Tim Urban was almost adequate in the lower register, but went totally freakishly dog-whistle haywire when he had to go high. And the judges' "You're cute!" for the gents is obviously the let-them-down-easy equivalent of "You're such a pretty girl!" for the women. On Twitter, @smrtmnky brilliantly referred to him as "WB hot."
5) Joe Munoz: "You and I Both" by Jason Mraz
Dang it all. Joe Munoz mumbled the first verse and was off-key in the chorus -- but I love the tone of his voice, so I'm willing to forgive him quite a bit. I would have picked a different song, something that let him stretch his voice a little bit more and show off instead of just barely making it through the cutesy word salad of the song. (Sorry, Mraz.) However -- super smart to do the shout out in Spanish at the end.
6) Tyler Grady: "American Woman" by The Guess Who
Confusion: we get a bit of the stripped down The Guess Who version at the start, then the Lenny Kravitz full stomp cover second and then with the Jim Morrison dancing it just became a weird pastiche of unfortunate neckwear and hair and shouting. I'm afraid Tyler Grady is painting himself in a corner with the '70s thing. He's just cruising to a horrible embarrassment come, say, country week.
7) Lee DeWyze: "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol
I'm always heartened to see a contestant bring an instrument to stage -- it makes the singer more comfortable, I think, and in my own snobby way I think it proves they're dedicated to being a musician, and not just a TV entertainer. That being said, Lee DeWyze was seemingly undone by nerves, poor guy. There was something about the pacing that made me fear he was on the verge of forgetting the words the whole time. And yet, Simon Cowell obviously sees David Cook/Chris Daughtry dollar signs when he looks at him.
8) John Park: "God Bless The Child" by Billie Holiday
Let me put this out up front: John Park has been my pick to win it all since he auditioned in Chicago. Part of this is selfish alma mater pride (Go Cats! Way to sport a purple shirt, John!) but I also think he has a terrific voice and good stage presence. But wrong song, wrong song, wrong song. I'm channeling Simon, but it's not "Jazz Standard Idol." Country, rock, pop and R&B win this game, not jazz. I fear the results show.
9) Michael Lynche: "This Love" by Maroon 5
There are times when I swear this song was written for "American Idol" contestants: it's fun, it's instantly fa"miliar, it's easily arranged into the compressed" "AI" format and it gives contestants a chance to show their stuff without any crazy difficult runs. I thought Michael Lynche did a good job -- he's enjoyable to watch and has a pretty great rapport with the judges. My favorite of the night.
10) Alex Lambert: "What A Wonderful World" by James Morrison
Started out shaky, and the death grip Alex Lambert had on the microphone made me nervous. It got somewhat better as he went on, but he just seemed so uncomfortable the whole time. Simon was totally right -- he seemed terrified by the TV cameras. I wish he had the confidence to just perform to the coffee shop-sized crowd in front of him and not think about the camera and the invisible terrifying 24 million people out there silently judging him. Sigh. Just sigh.
11) Casey James: "Heaven" by Bryan Adams
Any "Veronica Mars" fans out there? Doesn't Casey James look exactly like Dick Casablancas? More to the point: oh, how vibrato drives me crazy. Even when it's done well and very subtle as Casey does it here, it assaults my ear drums. (You can imagine how much Carmen Rasmusen drove me to drink in Season 2.) At this point, however, Casey could get up there and squawk like a demented chicken and he'd get a million votes and Kara DioGuardi would hit on him.
12) Andrew Garcia: "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" by Fall Out Boy
Oh, how I wanted to love it, but the arrangement drove me crazy. It wasn't Andrew Garcia's fault, but it took all the urgency and rock spirit out of the song. I think if he had played it straight in full Patrick Stump jittery style it would have been a lot more fun and really gotten the crowd into it and ended the evening with a bang instead of a meh. He's safe, but don't do this to me again, Andrew.
Did anyone else notice in the closing montage every single clip they showed was horribly, hilariously off-key? Oh, someone has a sense of humor there in the "AI" editing department.
My prediction: I think Tim Urban is sunk for two reasons: his performance was shrill and people aren't invested in him like they are the other contestants. And I really, really, really, don't want to say John Park also is on the chopping block. But I am.
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.