I was dreading this episode like you would not believe. R&B week was never going to deliver much in the way of Big Moments, not with people like Tim Urban, Katie Stevens and, oh god, Aaron Kelly still around. But my wife just fucking refuses to go into labor, so I spent my Tuesday night much like Usher spent his: bored out of my fucking mind.
Siobhan Magnus: “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan
Fuck, this was really terrible. Siobhan seemed hopelessly out of her element here, trying (and failing) to fit into the song’s original vibe, rather than changing the style to fit her own—it was something of a red flag, too: as awesome as she’s been, I’m still not exactly sure what kind of record she’d make, and this performance made me even more unsure. She seemed uncomfortable, and her vocals suffered like crazy: she was off-key all over the place, and even her trademark money notes at the end failed to deliver. Randy and Ellen were far from sold on it, but they also didn’t seem to realize how bad it really was. Kara was more on point when she said she’d lost her way, and then Simon said something like, “You’re crazy if you think that was a good performance.” I’d actually be worried for Siobhan if Kara hadn’t gone to such great lengths to remind everyone how great she’s been in the past.
Casey James: “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave
Casey is, without question, the best guitarist that’s ever been on American Idol, and he’s made it very clear that he will not be performing without his guitar any time soon. He’s also got one of the best voices of anyone on the show this season, and he’s more aware of his own limitations than anyone else, meaning it’s not likely that he’ll ever have a really bad night, while he’ll occasionally have really good nights. Last night was one of those—not because he’s particularly interesting or anything, but because he found a song that fits exactly into the sweet spot of his range. Randy and Simon were very much on board, Kara and Ellen wanted a bit more.
Mike Lynche: “Ready for Love” by Indie Arie
Much as it pains me to say it, on account of my deep belief that Mike Lynche has bad taste and is mostly full of shit, this was one of the night’s highest points. He was seated out in front of the crowd with an acoustic guitar, which kept him from being able to act like too much of an idiot, and his voice sounded as good as it ever has. The judges were over the moon: lovely, amazing, incredible, tasteful, etc.
Didi Benami: “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
Everything I say about Didi is going to sound really mean and insensitive now, because Ryan blew up her spot and told everyone that she sang it to for a friend who died. But honestly, this shit was a mess. She was making her serious face the whole time, which drives me insane, and even worse, she continued her refusal let her voice sound the way it wants to sound naturally, which is to say soulful and kind of small, but in a perfectly pleasant, more than serviceable way. Instead, she tried to be the big pop-singing diva, with all her runs and her big notes and her horrible posturing. It is not a good look, and the judges recognized it. Over-done, dramatic, etc. Well done, judges. The question here, of course, is this: Will she get the sympathy vote?
Tim Urban: “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker
The best part of last night’s episode was when, after Tim Urban’s predictably embarrassing performance, Simon basically threw his hands in the air and acknowledged that the judges’ words mean absolutely nothing when it comes to Tim. He’s right, of course.
Andrew Garcia: “Forever” by Chris Brown
Aside from the fact that he sang a song by a convicted woman-beater, Andrew was pretty much flawless last night—a nice return to form after a few weeks that had him dangerously close to elimination. The judges reacted favorably, except for when Simon told him he has no personality, which I don’t think is true at all.
Katie Stevens: “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
This should have been a lot worse than it was. It’s a huge, grown-up song that’s more powerful than Katie can ever realistically hope to be. But all things considered, she did a pretty good job. The problem, though, continues to be that she simply has no personality. And the fact that the judges continue to fight over what kind of “artist” she should be is certainly telling. I don’t know, though… I think she’s getting votes from other high school girls with no personality? Meh.
Lee Dewyze: “Treat Her Like a Lady” by The Cornelius Brothers
Lee seemed more connected and more confident right off the bat last night, and you could really tell that something had clicked. He still falls prey to some of that horrible Dave Matthews/alt-rock mumbly bullshit from time to time, but his voice sounded great—definitely his best performance so far. The judges loved it, and Simon even something like “Tonight, you became a man!” It was a bit much.
Crystal Bowersox: “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight
So, I will likely be accused of spitting “anti-Crystal vitriol” again, but I thought this was a disaster. Her big trick, which she mentioned last week, was her plan to play the piano despite not really knowing how to play the piano. It hurt her vocals in a way that the judges didn’t seem to notice, which is simply further proof that they’ve already decided who should win the competition. And then when she stopped playing piano and stood up, she seemed terribly uncomfortable, and her vocals suffered once again during the transition. She hit some really bad sharp notes, but admittedly pulled it together toward the end. Overall, though, far from her best. The judges were deluded: Love that you took the risk! In it to win it! Can’t wait to see what you do next! Ugh.
Aaron Kelly: “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
I have made no secret of the fact that I am not exactly Aaron’s biggest fan, but I will acknowledge that the kid can sing his ass off in his own nerdy, embarrassing way. Which is why it actually came as a bit of a surprise, even to me, that he did such a bad job last night. He pulled another Archuletta move by seeming to have absolutely no idea what the song was about. The judges were unmoved.
So who’s going home? I’m going to say Didi. But I honestly have no idea.