With Oscar winner and R&B crooner Jamie Foxx as their mentor, the “American Idol” top 4 tackled songs from the movies tonight. Sadly, no one picked the awesome “Ghostbusters” theme that was on the list of cleared songs, but there were still plenty of eyebrow-raising choices. Here’s how the gang fared.
“AMERICAN IDOL’S” ALL-TIME TOP 24
LISTEN TO THE ORIGINAL MOVIE SONGS
PERFORMED ON ‘AMERICAN IDOL’
1) Lee DeWyze: Seal, “Kiss from a Rose”
We wouldn’t have necessarily pegged Lee DeWyze as a Seal fan, and neither would the judges, judging from their reaction to his cover of the Grammy-winning “Batman Forever” ballad. Lee’s “Kiss from a Rose” felt rushed and lackluster from the start. Despite Jamie’s attempt — via a very awkward stare-down — to get the grunge-lite rocker to deliver an emotionally intense performance, Lee just didn’t feel all that believable as a blockbuster balladeer. He’s lucky that he nailed Frank Sinatra last week — if he hadn’t, then this number, combined with his starting position in the performance lineup tonight, could have spelled major trouble.
2) Michael Lynche: Michael Jackson, “Will You Be There”
Michael tackled the King of Pop’s “Free Willy” ballad, and though he started off a bit shaky on the first low note, he did deliver a few good runs by the end. Did he connect with viewers at home, though? That’s always the question with Big Mike. Even though the vulnerable side of his personality came through in his pre-performance segment with Jamie Foxx, it didn’t feel like he was connecting with the lyrics when he belted out “I’m only human” onstage. Also, Ellen DeGeneres was right on when she took Big Mike to task for saying that his goal is to make the top 3. Everyone should be gunning for the No. 1 spot at this stage of the competition – heck, from day 1!
3) Lee DeWyze & Crystal Bowersox: Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, “Falling Slowly”
Hello, sweeping camera angles! Nice to see you again, season 8 nostalgia! The judges were all blown away by this song choice, which is ironic because it wasn’t even on the list of cleared movie songs last year. The reason why “Falling Slowly” is now an “Idol”-approved tune is because reigning champ Kris Allen simply killed his rendition in 2009. Once again, though, the judges failed to mention Allen’s name, as though they’re embarrassed to admit that the soft-spoken rocker they worked so hard to downplay is influencing this singer/songwriter-heavy season more than Adam Lambert (especially with Siobhan Magnus gone). But we digress. Vocally, Crystal and Lee’s take was as strong as Allen’s in a few places — with Lee slightly edging out the lone female standing — and this was easily the strongest number of the night. As we’re sure the “Idol” producers intended, this collaboration made it clear why virtually every “Idol” watcher is picking these two for the finale.
4) Casey James: Simon & Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson”
Of all the shrewd and shameless song choices in “Idol” history (Kristy Lee Cook, anyone?), this one is easily in the top 3. Casey James, who early in the season looked mortified whenever Kara DioGuardi mentioned how hot he was, blatantly pandered to his “cougar”-heavy fanbase tonight by performing “Mrs. Robinson.” The song, from “The Graduate,” is about a married older woman who ignites an affair with a man who could be her son, and of course Simon and Randy couldn’t resist ribbing Kara about this subtext. Getting back to business, though, Casey’s vocal performance was leagues better than his treacherous “Blue Skies” cover during Sinatra week. Whether they were top three-caliber is up to the voters, but we wouldn’t be so quick to write him off over another contestant. After all, don’t think for a second that his fans didn’t notice the sea-green jacket that matched his eyes.
5) Crystal Bowersox: Kenny Loggins, “I’m Alright”
Of all the contestants left standing, Crystal Bowersox seems to be the only one who picks songs that resonate personally for her from week to week. Crystal didn’t openly discuss the backstory behind her choice of Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright,” but you could read between the lyrics as soon as she started singing: “Don’t nobody worry about me/Why you gotta get me to fight?/Can’t you just let me be?” It was another solid performance for Crystal — not the kind of “Idol” moment that makes you rewind your DVR, but it proved why she has a stronger sense of artistic identity than Lee DeWyze, and certainly than Michael Lynche and Casey James.
6) Casey James & Michael Lynche: Bryan Adams, “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman”
The two underdogs of the top 4 came together to strum their guitars and sing Bryan Adams’ tender ballad “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman,” a song previously covered by “Idol” hopefuls Chris Daughtry and Matt Giraud. What many were expecting to be an unfortunate rehash of the bunk chemistry between Danny Gokey and Kris Allen last year actually turned out to be quite the opposite. Though their vocal stylings couldn’t be more different, Casey and Big Mike worked surprisingly well together on this duet, giving each other room to shine on their respective solos. Casey did take a few liberties with his guitar riffs, but they were welcome flourishes on the show’s closing number.
So, who’s going home? All the guys had shoddy solo performances tonight, but the elimination will likely come down to Michael Lynche and Casey James, whose duet was just a little weaker than Lee’s with Crystal. At this stage of the game, though, the “Idols” are really trying to woo voters with their personalities as much as their singing chops. We’ll just have to wait and see who impressed the most across the board.
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.
Previous ‘American Idol’ Recaps:
Top 5: Clouds Gather on Frank Sinatra Night
Top 6: Big Mike Shines on Shania Twain Night