Last night's episode was supposed to feature the women, but then contestant Crystal Bowersox was brought to the hospital with what seems to have been a diabetes-related issue, and producers were forced to bump the guys up by one night. As Seacrest explained what had happened, he made it a point to say the guys had "agreed" to the switch, which is, how do I say this... a bold-face fucking lie, because they obviously had exactly zero choice in the matter.
Anyway, the show went on, and, for the most part, it was ugly.
Big Mike: "This Is a Man's World" by James Brown
Much has been made of Mike's huggability factor this season, and I'm left wondering why anyone would want to hug a dude who is so obviously pleased with himself at all times. I can't think of another contestant in the history of the show who's bought into his own hype the way he has, and it's infuriating, especially given his cheeseball stage presence: the over-acting, that disgusting pucker face he made last night, the silly gestures lifted awkwardly from the Christina Aguilera playbook. It's a tasteless mess, and his voice is only average. The judges disagreed with me entirely, which was one of the only times I disagreed with them all night.
John Park: "Gravity" by John Mayer
This is simple: John Park is not a good singer, at all. He was taken to task last week for not connecting with his song, and so this week, he made it his goal to give an honest performance, which he took to mean staring creepily at the camera for way longer than was acceptable. I think he'll be going home, and so do the judges. Kara said it wasn't believable (even despite the creepy staring!) and Simon told him he'd probably get to go home and rejoin his a cappella group Purple Haze. Here's hoping.
Casey James: "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin Degraw
So, props: there's never been this much actual shredding on American Idol, and I'm grateful for it, even as I uncontrollably roll my eyes. But at the same time, he was far too preoccupied with the guitar, forgetting that, as Kara would later point out, it's still nominally a singing competition. The judges called him out for being stiff and completely without character, but I think he's still got at least another week left in him.
Alex Lambert: "Everybody Knows" by John Legend
I'm really into this dude. He admitted to being so nervous before last week's performance that he threw up, and then demonstrated a secret language he made up in 6th grade, all while looking like the kind of guy who will just totally lose his shit and wind up serving hard time if things don't go quite right for him. Anyway, he managed to calm himself down last night, and his voice immediately grew more likable, with a rich, soulful tone that other contestants are sorely lacking. The judges were as impressed by his progress as I was, but I worry that the people at home will find him far too creepy.
Todrick Hall: "What's Love Got to Do With It" by Tina Turner
This was a strange one. In his pre-performance interview, Todrick said he wanted to choose a song where he wouldn't be compared to the original performer, which makes sense, I guess. But then he chose a song by one of the best singers ever, and robbed it of the tension and grit that made it so great in the first place. His voice is weak in comparison, but mostly fine. The arrangement, though, was a disaster, and the judges told him all about it. Randy did his best impersonation of my mom, requesting that Todrick "just sing a nice song!" I think he'll be safe for now, but not much longer.
Jermaine Sellers: "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye
For me, this was easily the worst performance of the night, and it's a shame, because Jermaine can definitely sing. The problem, though, is that, like David Archuletta before him, he has absolutely no idea what the fuck he's singing about. Watching him smile and shimmy and bob his shoulders through one of the greatest songs ever written—about grave social injustice no less—was bordering on offensive. Again, the judges were all over it. Randy hated it, Ellen thought he pushed too hard, Kara said he was forcing things and not paying attention to the lyrics, and Simon called it old-fashioned cabaret. Well done, judges.
Andrew Garcia: "You Give Me Something" by James Morrison
I had to listen to the original recording of this song this morning because I'd never heard it before, and my hunch that Andrew's version was uninteresting and weak by comparison was confirmed. He didn't play guitar this week, which seems like a mistake: if he were to win, or get to release a record even after losing, it would very obviously be singer/songwriter stuff, so I'm not sure what he stands to gain by straying too far from that during the competition, especially when it makes him look as awkward as it did last night. His biggest problem, though, is that the judges are hung up on his Hollywood Week performance of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," which was actually every bit as impressive as they found it.
Aaron Kelly: "My Girl" by The Temptations
Aaron was criticized last week for his obvious lack of confidence, and he showed great improvements in that category last night. He seemed more comfortable on stage, and he can definitely sing. But again, it's hard to have any idea what kind of record he'd make were he to win, which is a problem the judges are growing more and more aware of, across the board, as the years go on. He'll be safe, though, despite having the worst hair of anyone in the history of the show.
Tim Urban: "Come on Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson
If you were to put this dude's hair on that last nerd, he would be completely unstoppable, for real. In a way, Tim was the biggest surprise of the week: after an absolutely disastrous performance last week, he sort of threw caution to the wind and seemed to come into his own, with an energetic, if technically unimpressive, version of Matt Nathanson's cringe-worthy "Come on Get Higher." Randy didn't get it, Kara basically said "meh," and Ellen is harder on him than she is on any other contestant by a long shot, telling him he'd be better off as an actor who'd be able to impress people by being able to sing a little bit. Simon, though, correctly points out that his was, for better or worse, among the most modern of the night. He'll be around for much longer than he probably should be, and I'm ok with that.
Lee Dewyze: "Lips of an Angel" by Hinder
I like this guy quite a bit, even though I know I will hate every minute of whatever shitty flyover-rock album he winds up releasing a year from now. His voice is effortless and sturdy and completely unoriginal, which should take him pretty far. As the theme nights get more specific, though, it'll be interesting to see if he's able to make the most of genres that don't necessarily fit his style. If he is, he'll go far.
So, who's going? John Park and Jermaine Sellers, but maybe, I'm afraid, Alex Lambert.