After a 24-hour delay because of Crystal Bowersox’s emergency trip to the hospital on Tuesday, the women of American Idol finally took the stage last night. We got a nice mix of old new material, with Miley Cyrus, Kelly Clarkson and Coldplay appearing right alongside Idol favorites like Aretha, Bill Withers and Sam Cooke. And also Creed? Anyway,the biggest story of the night, aside from Bowersox’s fairly triumphant return, was that Kara and I agreed on almost everything, which is completely fucked.
So who performed first? Well, the woman who was stuck in a fucking hospital room for a full day, of course, because, you know, ratings gold and all.
Crystal Bowersox: “Long as I Can See the Light” by CCR
Crystal is very clearly the judges’ (or at least Simon’s) favorite contestant of the season by a long shot, and it stands to reason that her recent health issues will help endear her to voters who maybe weren’t feeling it off the bat. I’m not her biggest fan, exactly: she does acoustic coffee shop singer-songwriter stuff that isn’t terribly interesting, or interesting at all, actually. But she’s got a hell of a voice on her, she’s got the soulful hippie thing down, and she doesn’t appear to be full of shit, which is nice. Unsurprisingly, the judges went bananas. Randy kept screaming “truth is reality!” for some reason; Kara was slightly more measured in her praise, calling her effortless, focused and centered.
Haley Vaughn: “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
I thought the judges’ criticisms of Haley’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand” last week were a bit harsh. Her voice is completely out of control, yes, but there were moments when I was really struck by how powerful it is. There was no arguing with them last night, though, as she made a complete mess of “The Climb.” She struggles during the quiet parts, to the point where it’s unlistenable, and then explodes during the loud parts, to the point where you wish you had a super heavy-duty compressor, like, in your brain. Her lisp drove me insane last night, as did her constant smiling, which the judges would later cite as indication that she didn’t understand the song at all. Randy called it excruciating, Ellen hated it, Kara said she needs a year to mature, and Simon said it was a mess, but he clearly likes her.
Lacey Brown: “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer
This was interesting. Last week, Kara freaked out over Lacey’s super-shitty performance of “Landslide” and suggested that she try something like “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer. So this week, Lacey actually did it, which I thought was a smart, but also ballsy move. It was a total impersonation, but she pulled it off for the most part. Her dancing cheapened it, though, and she fell into karaoke territory at the end. Also, she totally looks like Natalie Imbruglia. Randy pointed out the karaoke thing; Kara likes her tone but thinks she needs to step it up (right again, Kara!); Simon just kept talking about Crystal, and Ellen said nothing worth repeating. Called her adorable, I think.
Katie Stevens: “Put Your Records On” by Corrine Bailey Rae
It’s hard to imagine a season of Idol going by without someone doing “Put Your Records On,” and it’s not hard to see why. It’s an incredibly good song, and it different enough from all the normal bullshit that everyone who attempts it automatically feels like their (seemingly but not actually, if you look at the show’s winners) ever-important quirk factor gets a boost. It’s a mistake, though, because they tend to feel like the song itself brings enough to the table, and they wind up doing a woefully straight reading of it that always pales in comparison to the original. This is pretty much exactly what went down with Katie last night. The judges were unmoved, and Kara (!) pointed out that, like I said, not a whole lot can be done to that song.
Didi Benami: “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers
Even looking at the notes I typed out while watching the show, I have no recollection of this performance. Here’s what I wrote: “Didn’t know what indulgent means, doesn’t understand how it could’ve been indulgent if she was singing it to people? Everyone is so stupid. Ugh, sitting on a stool. Super pitchy, 20 seconds in and I assume she’s going home, Better in chorus, awkward dancing. Screeching now, eek. This is fucking terrible.” Oh wait, now I remember… I also wrote “poor kid, crying like crazy, I think ryan may be giving it to her.”
Michelle Delamor: “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed
God, this was disappointing, and I assume it’ll get her sent home. I admire Michelle for doing this, because it was going to be a game-changer for her one way or another. There was potential for it to be exactly the type of re-interpretation the judges go crazy over, but instead she took what, in my mind, is the most boring rock and roll song ever, and simply turned it into the most boring R&B song ever. It exposed her voice as weaker than I had previously thought, too. The one point in the night when I disagreed with Kara, who said it was her best performance ever.
Lily Scott: “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
Lily was buried about an hour and fifteen minutes into last night’s show, and I worry that her votes will suffer because of it. It’d be a shame, too, because she was really, really good. Her voice is actually unique, and not just another Duffy ripoff, which is the kind of voice people on this show generally consider unique. She just doesn’t seem to hit bad notes ever, and assuming people aren’t turned off by her “I was afraid people wouldn’t get me” thing, she could go really far. My favorite part of the whole show came right after her performance, when Randy seemed to have said that what he likes most about her is that Bjork, Lucinda Williams and Bob Dylan are all unique. It made no sense, but it was awesome.
Katelyn Epperly: “The Scientist” by Coldplay
So, Katelyn prides herself, apparently, on being unpredictable and hard to pin down. She doesn’t realize, of course, that this is what will ultimately get her booted off the show: if we don’t know exactly what kind of record she’ll make, we simply won’t vote for her. She threw another curveball last night, playing piano on a version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” that just wasn’t very good. Her voice sounded fine, but she rendered the melody 50% as effective as it should be, with her limited vocal range—it just wasn’t as dynamic as it should have been. The judges got on her for slowing it dow too much, and Ellen kept saying she fell asleep.
Paige Miles: “Walk Away” by Kelly Clarkson
For me, the most interesting thing about Paige’s performance was that Simon spent the first half of it bent over, apparently looking for something under the table, and clearly not paying any attention whatsoever. Paige has a strong voice that I find completely characterless and not nearly as powerful as the singers she likes to emulate. She was out of her league with Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away”—a bold song choice considering Kara wrote the fucking thing. And it came back to bite her too, when Kara let her know that she probably shouldn’t have smiled her way through it because it’s supposed to be an angry song. Touché again, Kara.
Siobhan Magnus: “Think” by Aretha Franklin
Like Katelyn, Siobhan likes to talk about how she’s hard to categorize, and I think it’ll work against her even more that Katelyn, because, as Simon just fucking loves to point out, she’s actually just really fucking weird. I certainly don’t know what kind of record she’d make, but I also can’t even figure out if I think she has a good voice—she’s constantly on the verge of falling apart, and at no point was it more evident than when she hit that big money note at the end. I honestly wasn’t sure if glass was going to break or, like, angels were gonna get there wings or something. The judges thought she killed it.
So who’s going home? I’m gonna say Michelle and Haley, but I hope it’s Michelle and Katie.