Final 12 Performance Night

Theme: Rolling Stones

While the internet is still buzzing about the surprise eliminations from last week’s show, tonight the show itself moves on. Next week will be much more important to the contestants than this week. I know, whoever gets dumped this week obviously won’t give a crap about next week, but you know what I mean. Next week sets the roster for the Idol Tour. Other than winning, this is probably the most important achievement of the season. Since the second place finisher also gets a recording contract, it can be argued that this is the week of the season with the most at stake. The Idol Tour can pay as much as a hundred thousand dollars.

Anyway, this isn’t that week. This week is just the one that will get us to next week.

The singers, the songs-

Michael Lynche, “Miss You”

Mike shuffled the beat, making it into a BillyOcean-like song. Again, no range, but his falsetto was better. He wasn’t as in tune as he has been, but he wasn’t that bad. The man knows how to work the stage, which isn’t something to just dismiss this season. There is so much inexperience in this year’s crop that this alone should keep him safe for several weeks. Grade: B

Didi Benami, “Playing With Fire”

Her tone broke up a bit at the end and her high note was a little bit sloppy, but overall she was right on the tuning fork. She did make one mistake, but she recovered so quickly that I wasn’t even sure that it happened until Ellen brought it up. This is a fairly boring song, so there wasn’t much to work with. Didi changed up the melody a few times to good effect, but it would have taken a defibrillator to bring life to this song. She looked good, and strong, on the stage. Think Carole King singing Mick Jaggar. Grade: B

Casey James, “It’s all over Now”

Just a pointless aside, but Casey’s mother is a knockout. I can see where he gets his looks, and his southern charm. If Didi is Brooke, maybe Casey is Bo Bice?

Casey brought out the slide tonight. He didn’t do a lot with it, but his guitar playing was better than a couple of weeks ago. I really liked this one. He used his voice to good effect, taking advantage of some southern rocker chops, and it was maybe my favorite Casey performance so far. He has a cool tone but no real depth, so phrasing is everything to him. Lee is a redwood, Casey is a palm tree. Tonight he phrased very well, and he was thoroughly entertaining. He looks the part of a southern rocker, and that’s probably where he’s going as an artist. Grade: B+

Lacey Brown, “Ruby Tuesday”

This is the second time Lacey stole the perfect song from Didi. The arrangement was a good one, and Lacey sang her heart out, but she didn’t quite have the voice at the top to carry it off. I didn’t notice this before, but Lacey doesn’t have all that much vocal range. She has that little girl tone, but no real high range that she trusts. She was juuuust this close to a very nice performance, but that lack at the top ended up ruining her confidence, and she was seriously struggling at the end. It’s too bad, really. She was just that close. Anyone watching could see by her facial expressions that she was getting flustered, and that she wasn’t happy with herself. The pros slog through, smile big, and kick themselves offstage, away from the cameras. Grade: C-

Andrew Garcia, “Gimme Shelter”

He was trying too hard. The song never really took off, and again Andrew didn’t pick a good song for what he is best at. I kept expecting him to soar, but he never really did. His high, long held note was underwhelming and a good half octave below what he is capable of, and what the song needed. With so many dubious contestants who made it in last week, he played it safe. Sooner or later he is going to have to show off his Stevie Wonder high range chops, or he isn’t going to get back in the mix. He will probably be in the fairly safe range this week, but I would not declare him safe yet. “Straight Up” was a long time ago. Grade: C

Katie Stevens, “Wild Horses”

She was a little bit tight, but her tone is just soooo sweet. It reminded me why she is still here. It’s a tough catch-22 for Katie, being up there under all that pressure. She is something of a shower singer at this point. She sings so freely, and so beautifully, when she is relaxed and comfortable. It’s almost painful to see when she gets tightened up inside and the pure, beautiful notes won’t come out. She might be in trouble this week, and she isn’t going to last long either way, but I will never forget how amazing she sounded when she was singing at her piano, with no pressure. Grade: C+

Aside- The judges are being almost apologetically nice tonight, other than Simon on the first song (Mike), when Ryan practically head butted him to remind him that the show is in trouble this year. Ryan was implying “Be nice, you moron, do you want these inexperienced kids to all lose it and make the show a laughingstock?” They ended up tossing the keys to their 20 million viewer car into the grubby hands of the most inexperienced group in the show’s history. They need to teach them, not break them down, if they have any chance of avoiding a 12 car pileup.

Tim Urban, “Under my Thumb”

Tim went Jason Castro all the way, making the song reggae and channeling his inner Lilly. He isn’t Lilly, but he did a pretty good job of it. The arrangement was strong, and his melody choices were even stronger. He missed a few notes, and his command was kind of amateurish. That’s only because Tim is so inexperienced. This type of creativity is exactly what he is going to need to do to survive to the tour. Grade: B-

Aside- Tim was roasted by the judges, and several prominent internet critics, for singing the song in a light tone. That floored me. Go back and check out the show’s history. A singer smiling through negative lyrics? Seriously? That happens every frigging week; this is a singing competition, not a lyric comprehension competition. Why suddenly call foul now? I’m not sure what surprised me more; that they got angry about it, or that they noticed it in the first place.

Siobhan Magnus, “Paint it Black”

Imagine what she’s gonna give us when she knows what in the hell she is doing. That is a scary, exciting thought. Sha-Von just pulled off the most creative, dramatic and original intro of the season, and ended her performance with a banshee scream that will be the talk of the internet for days, if not weeks. In between she hit the occasional wonky note, but who will remember that? Nobody remembers the little things when they are in the midst of a moment.

Sha-Von isn’t Adam Lambert by several decimal points, but this was an Adam-esque performance. I had grave misgivings about making her my second choice in the power rankings last week, but not anymore. Sha-Von announced, tonight, that she is coming after Crystal.

Stupid aside again, but I have mentioned before: I see Sha-Von as this year’s Cinderella at the ball. She might have overshot the mark tonight. She flew past glamorous and soared towards Bride of Frankenstein; with the weird (for her) curly hairdo, the creepy black prom dress and the ditch digger’s boots. It was weird, but it was also really effective. When she looked into the camera and smiled at the end, she looked half cute as a button and half Bride of Chucky. Interesting kid, isn’t she? Grade: A+

Lee Dewyze, “Beast of Burden”

From listening to his parents, Lee has a few options. He can sing in the Broadway review of the movie “Fargo”, at least. I love that Midwestern accent. Let’s leave the wood chipper out of this.

Lee was in tune for the most part tonight, better than he has been. I don’t want to hammer on his pitch, but that’s really his biggest problem. His voice always sounds great, and he is cultivating the cool, shy kid vibe. This wasn’t the song that he could have a moment with, but it was plenty of song to move him on to the next week. Grade: B-

Paige Miles, “Honkytonk Woman”

Paige has this hesitation thing that she does; reminds me of Juice Newton. While she has a definite gospel-tinged way of turning her glory notes, her melodic style is old school country. I hear a little bit of Tammy Wynette in there. I am warming to her voice, now that I’ve heard it a few times. She is something of a hybrid country/gospel singer. That is a very good thing to be. Once she gets some experience, she will be able to sing just about anything. Grade: B-

Aaron Kelly, “Angie”

What in the hell did they do to his hair? He looks like he was head-raped by a crispy crème salesman. I’m surprised that he could even hold his head up, with about 20 pounds of grease in his hair.

I didn’t much like this performance, but Aaron sang fine. He has a lot of tricks in his bag, and he pulled most of them out tonight. It’s just hard to find angst in a such an immature voice. He would be singing in his little boy voice, hitting all of the notes, and once in awhile he remembered to add the Kenny Rogers scratch. Grade: C+

Crystal Bowersox, “You can’t always get what you want”

Her father is very Midwestern, showing the world a hard, strong, stoic face. When he gets emotional he blinks hard and tries to pass it off, but his eyes shine. I’ve seen this same reaction fromCrystalbefore, so I noticed it. She might seem cold to some people, but just look for the shining eyes. Her shining eyes are the emotional equivalent of Didi drowing us in her tears.

I started out hearing Lisa Brokop (just look her up, I know you’ve never heard of her), then I was hearing Bonnie Raitt, but then she flashed a little bit of Tina Turner, then she rocked some Aretha Franklin into a full on Janis Joplin, then for chrissakes she mixed in a little Erika Badu; then back to Tina, Bonnie, and finally a sweet, supplicating Janis at her most vulnerable.

Somewhere in there we will find Crystal. It’s scary. I doubt she was thinking about any of them while she was singing. This is just a little girl who wanted to sing like all of them. Now she can, and she combined the best of all of them into a moment; one of the best performances ever seen on Idol. Grade: A+

Safe to in danger-

Crystal

Siobham

Mike

Casey

Didi

Aaron

Lee

Paige

Andrew

Katie

Lacey

Tim

This is really, really hard to figure. Tim sang really well, but the judges seemed to have instructions to get rid of him, so he is the one in the most danger. Andrew and Lacey both turned in less than stellar performances, so they might be on the chopping block. The confusion means that, other than the top 4, anyone could go.