With just one performance separating them from a coveted spot in the Top 12, the women of American Idol took the stage last night, and the extent to which some of them stepped up their game for the occasion was as impressive as the extent to which others completely dropped the ball was shocking and depressing. Before we get to that, though, I feel like I should probably let you know that Kara’s hair looked totally nice and normal last night, seemingly fully recovered from the windblown Desperate Housewives look from a week ago. Phew. Now, the contestants…
Katie Stevens: “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
If I didn’t sort of hate Katie Stevens because she reminds me of Blair Waldorf in all the worst ways possible, I would feel really bad for her. She was taken to task last week for coming off as older than she should have, and the judges implored her to choose a younger, bigger song, which she did last night. Problem is, she’s just not really all that great a singer. There were pitch problems all over the place and no sign of real connection to the lyrics. Her voice was shaky, and she seemed to get a little mixed up when the back-up singers chimed in. Overall, just a super boring performance from kid who has no idea how to be the artist (Kelly Clarkson) she wants to be. The judges were unimpressed, though they acknowledged that she took their advice, which kind of made the whole thing feel like the end of her run, as in, “Well, we tried, but it’s just not working out.” We’ll see, though… remember, she’s got the grandmother with Alzheimer’s, and nothing pulls at America’s heartstrings quite like a grandmother with Alzheimer’s.
Siobhan Magnus: “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals
Well, this was all very nice. In her pre-performance interview, Siobhan mentioned that she chose “House of the Rising Sun” because she used to sing it with her dad, who was in the audience and who looks exactly like Brian Johnson from AC/DC. She started off a cappella, and it was perfect: haunting, powerful, etc. When the band came in, she tripped up momentarily but recovered nicely, hitting some big notes toward the end—they didn’t live up to last week’s craziness, but her ability to show restraint was, in a way, even more impressive. Simon, Ellen and Kara loved it, and Simon carried on with his senseless grudge against her, continuously insisting, for no real reason, that she’s weird. If he has any sway with the American public on this matter, I’m moving to Winnipeg.
Lacey Brown: Some Bullshit Song by Brandie Carlile
I think Lacey has the most underrated voice on the show this year, and finally last night, the judges came around. It took a super boring (but completely adequate) performance of a stupid Brandie Carlile song, and her staring awkwardly at the camera like Celine Dion or some shit, but they though it was great. Great song choice, her best in a long time, etc. I’m not quite understanding who she wants to be, but her voice has a really interesting tone, and I’m curious to see if she can apply it to a style that suits it.
Katelyn Epperly: “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King
This girl continues doing this really weird thing to every melody she encounters, where she squishes it into her unimpressive range, thereby robbing it of all the parts that are actually memorable. She winds up sounding like a wedding singer, and it’s unfortunate, because I think her voice is actually really strong, despite its limitations. It’s all song-choice for her, and she botched it pretty badly last night. The judges were straight-up appalled: Randy felt nothing, Ellen said it wasn’t good enough for top 12, Kara said it felt like she wasn’t competing, and Simon said it was like request night at a restaurant. Ouch.
Didi Benami: “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac
Like Lacey before her, Didi insists on rocking this awkward sex-stare thing during her performances, and it freaks my shit out like crazy. And like Katelyn before her, she didn’t seem to have the tools necessary to tackle the melody, kind of coming up short on all the best parts. It was a huge improvement over last week, though, and I do like her voice. Randy thinks she’ll be back, Ellen was into it, but then Kara and Simon were, surprisingly, really into it.
Paige MIles: “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin
This was really, really bad. Paige can sing, for sure, but she has absolutely no idea what the judges want from her. She chose this song because, oh god, it was Michael Jackson’s favorite, and she’s, like, a really big Michael Jackson fan or something. Whatever, bum notes everywhere, incredibly boring, worst of the night by far. Judges were pissed: bad arrangement, horrible choice, Holiday Inn in 1974. Simon thinks she might be done.
Crystal Bowersox: “Give Me One Reason to Stay Here” by Tracy Chapman
I’m fine with Bowersox, really I am. Her voice is strong and effortless and she seems at least marginally connected to her chosen material. But I simply cannot get down with her in quite the same way the judges are. They continue to blabber on about how original she is, and it just doesn’t make any sense. She sounds exactly like probably a dozen women who rocked the Lilith Fair/coffee shop circuit, which generally isn’t something I have a problem with, but jeez… I just don’t see what the big deal is. Simon said she, quote,” will one-million-billion percent be in the Top 12.” Then Kara kept talking about how contemporary Tracy fucking Chapman is.
Lily Rose: “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline
I don’t think there’s any real debate here: Lily and Crystal are the two best women this year, and I am proud member of Team Lily. Now, that said, I don’t think last night was her best performance. It was good, and her voice continues to impress, but it was an uninspired song choice that just won’t register for much of the country. The judges were on board, but not over-the-top excited.
So who’s going home? Katie and Paige, definitely.