1) Michael Lynche "Miss You"
Wow, super sad dead mom story and first sighting of cute new baby in the pre-performance interview? Michael Lynche could mutter his way through this Jack Sparrow-style and be fine. As it turns out, he did a perfectly fine take on the song, although maybe I would have liked him to be a little less of a Mick Jagger-wannabe jumping around. It kind of seemed like he was doing football drills over the big new stage. But even despite that, his voice was strong and he hit some fab notes.
2) Didi Benami "Play With Fire"
Oh, the lure of moving around the big stage is strong for these folks tonight. I liked Didi Benami's version of this, although the emphasis on "FI-YAH" like Jim Morrison every time seemed a bit affected. It think the big ending would have been more effective if she had saved all the emphasis on the word until then. But her voice was lovely, and I think it's one of those situations where the iTunes version with some studio mixing will be pretty sweet.
3) Casey James "It's All Over Now"
Good lord, way to save Casey James' miserable backstory until the Top 12. Bad vaccine reaction and his mom was afraid he had brain damage? Yikes. That's what I mean when I say this is 90% a TV show and 10% a singing competition - the compelling backstories always help inspire voters. His singing was pretty forgettable; I get the impression that maybe he really just wants to be a lead guitarist instead of a singer? He seems to have so much more fun playing than singing - but his enthusiasm for that will probably carry him through this round.
4) Lacey Brown "Ruby Tuesday"
I was with Lacey Brown until the chorus. I really was! And then, oh my. I just put my head down on my desk. I usually get irritated when the judges call a performance karaoke - because people, this is a karaoke show - but the cutesy pacing and the off notes and the breathiness just did me in. Horrible arrangement and her voice just isn't suited for something that requires her to go from low and high in her range in quick succession. I think the purposeful drone of "Mother's Little Helper" would have been great for her. But you know, that's about drugs.
5) Andrew Garcia "Gimme Shelter"
I really wonder if Andrew Garcia's cute parents like the constant references to their gangbanger era on the country's biggest TV show. While I'm thrilled, thrilled that Andrew didn't go a strummy pop version of this song, the sustain that's required in the chorus of this song really showed the limitations of his voice. He really seemed to run out of steam and get shouty at the end. And when Randy Jackson told him he was pitchy, Andrew's reaction of "wha?" didn't inspire conference. Like he couldn't tell?
6) Katie Stevens "Wild Horses"
No. Just no. This was a total pageant nightmare. She was on key a good part of the time, I guess? But this is when it became really apparent that the judges were soft-selling their criticism of everyone - the ubiquity and superiority of the SuBo version may come back to haunt Katie Stevens when people vote. And unless I'm woefully mistaken, the Rolling Stones TOTALLY didn't write this song about their struggles to stay on a reality TV show.
7) Tim Urban "Under My Thumb"
Wow, Tim Urban is his dad's Mini Me. The faux-Marley/Jack Johnson arrangement on this pretty much made me violent. It was risky, and Tim hasn't yet proven himself to have the chops to do something this wacky. And the Rasta colors of the lights in the background? Ugh, the producers have it in for Tim, I think. If Jason Castro did this, he would have pulled it off and it would have been an awesome stoner nudge-nudge wink wink. Tim's too straightlaced.
8) Siobhan Magnus "Paint It Black"
DOES SHE HAVE AN EDWARD GOREY TATTOO ON HER RIGHT SHOULDER? If so, Siobhan, you're my new favorite. Even if I didn't love this. At all. The start was too loungey - and while it got better as it went along, she had this weird sobbing tone to the chorus and the big glory note at the end was a horror show scream. She's trying too hard to be different - and I'm repeating what I say in my predictions - but weird does not win this show. And I think all the judges are crackheads.
9) Lee Dewyze "Beast of Burden"
I really liked this - despite Ryan's psych-out at the beginning that Lee Dewyze was "really nervous." One of the main reasons was that the arrangement was so stripped down - there weren't background singers competing for attention, and the backing band was mercifully muted. And, whoa, I agree with Randy: nice Dave Matthews vibe. And Simon's "safe" critique was obnoxious, simply because it seems like he thinks the Siobhan-style histrionics is the only way to go. Again, Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert. The end.
10) Paige Miles "Honky Tonk Woman"
Goodness, another sad backstory. It's the heartstrings they're playing tonight, folks. This is a dumb critique, but Paige Miles was just waaay too smiley during this performance. Turn off the sound, play "Love Story" by Taylor Swift, and tell me which seems more appropriate for her body language. Her voice was perfectly capable as ever - but grinning from ear to ear the whole time was just so jarring. And holy cats, laryngitis! I don't think for a second it was an accident Ellen, Kara and Simon talked about it. Sympathy vote!
11) Aaron Kelly "Angie"
I'll be honest, before this started all I could think was "Please don't do 'Sympathy For The Devil.'" I think "Angie" really suited Aaron Kelly's voice well; it was definitely one of the smarter song choices of the night. And while he moved around the stage a bit, it wasn't with the same frenetic energy as everybody else. It was measured and mature and quite professional - no hint of nerves. It was a very solid performance - easily his best of the show to date.
12) Crystal Bowersox "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
Crystal Bowersox, full of win, as usual. Lord, she is a talent. She has a tremendous sense of musicality - she knows how to make the song work for her and her phrasing is immaculate. The "overthinking" thing struck a chill in my heart, though - so much of her charm is that she is unfazed by the entire "Idol" circus and I fear that it's starting to dawn on her. And I don't like the Siobhan-Crystal battle they seem to be wrangling. Let's not set two of the best singers in the competition against each other just yet when there are so many sub-par people deserving of criticism.
So who's gonna go? It's not looking good for ya, Andrew Garcia. And under any other circumstance I would say Tim Urban is in trouble, the fact that he blew up Twitter the second after he performed - AGAIN - makes me think he's safe for the long haul. There would be tweens rioting in the streets if he doesn't make the tour. So I'm going to predict that Lacey Brown gets the boot.
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.