So. Top 5 week. We’ve finally made it. Congratulations (pretend I’m shaking your hand vigorously). At this point of the season, I’d like to (if I may) liken this particular year of American Idol to trail mix.
You know the kind…you’ve got your peanuts, your almonds, your raisins (they heard it through the grapevine), your cashews and the creme de la creme…the M&Ms. Now, in my vast experience interacting with this snack I’ve noticed something…everyone has their favorite combination. Sometimes people will just grab a handful and eat it as is, but most people prefer certain elements to make up the perfect bite. Take myself, for example. My favorite combo is raisins, peanuts and (not surprisingly) M&Ms. Seriously, who even LIKES cashews? They’re really just a wannabe peanut. And I think that these Costco people buy raisins in bulk because the ratio is, like, a gazillion raisins to every one M&M in each and every bag.
Ahem. I seem to have wandered a bit from my point. In any case, I think the point is that I’m ready to lose the “cashew” performer (Aaron) and get to the part where we have the M&M guy (Lee) and the peanut girl (Crystal) and allow Casey and Big Mike to audition for the role of the raisin guy. Have I beaten this analogy to death? Yeah, I thought so. Let’s get down to it.
Ryan strolls down the staircase of stardom and each Idoloonie is perched on a stair as if trying to make a point that each of them deserves a stardom stair to themselves. Now personally, I disagree. I think Aaron should have half a stair. Not Fred Astaire, though.
As Ry-Ry pauses on each stair to proclaim the contestant’s name, the audience screamed for their “favorite”…and if the scream-o-meter were an accurate measure of popularity, it looks like Crystal’s got this competition in the bag. But we all know that the scream-o-meter was probably rigged and so of course the last contestant on the staircase got the bigger screams because the audience was finally figuring out the “oh-we’re-supposed-to-scream-now” plan of the producers.
I’m stoked that Harry Connick Jr. was the mentor this week! He was funny, polished, showcased his extreme talent as a composer/arranger, and really seemed to care about guiding these kids to be better performers. They couldn’t have chosen anyone better for the gig. But…maybe I’m a paranoid person, but I kept wondering how Harry could infiltrate the ranks of the behemoth show so completely. Let us review, for a moment, the facts:
- He started the show with Ryan’s signature phrase and delivered the line with poise and likeability
- He spent more time with the contestants than any other mentor…ever
- He let go of his sunbathing time to compose arrangements and orchestrations for each of the 5 performers.
- He accompanied each contestant and even directed the band (his band, I might add) at points
- He served as the role of “judge” after Casey’s performance
Here’s my off-the-wall musing – Was he lobbying for Simon’s chair for next season? Whether or not that’s true, I think the term “triple threat” is a gross understatement. I half expected the guy to take a zip line across the stage and take over for a cameraman. Let’s face it, he was really more of a life coach. Alls I can say is that he won me over.
My friend Noelle and I were trying to guess how old Harry was (he’ll be 43 this year) and in doing so missed a few moments of the show. Turned out, they were important moments because when the two daughters in the audience stood, we thought Ryan said that they were HCJ’s daughters! Turns out, though, that they were Frank Sinatra’s daughters there to bestow upon Simon one of the late Frank Sinatra’s monogrammed hankies.
And while Simon ripped into the wrapped package like a 4-year-old kid on Christmas morning, we started the singing portion of the show.
Aaron Kelly – “Fly Me to the Moon”
And I Quote: “I thought the piano was a little pitchy” – Ellen DeGeneres (That Ellen is one funny cat.)
Harry seemed to have a lot of fun with young Aaron, calling out “Big Mike!” when he walked in the room and delivering one liners like: “It’s more than fun, it’s my life.” (Harry’s response when Aaron told him that their session was “fun”.)
And all in all, I though Aaron had a fine performance. He had a few pitch problems but he managed to come back from them and deliver a vocal that was mostly spot on. And, he can pull off a vest, even if his hair took a few steps backwards. Simon’s right – America seems to like Aaron. But I ask you, is it too much to ask for him to do more than just rhythmically sway and call that “stage presence”? Aaron just lacks a little something for me–maybe it’s a conviction or the “entertainer” component or just more confidence.
Amy’s Ranking: 5 of 5
Casey James – “Blue Skies”
And I Quote: “I don’t know whose idea it was but I thought it was a bad idea to have the piano on stage.” – Ellen DeGeneres
In his pre-performance interview with Ryan, Casey revealed that he has a friend who doesn’t watch “the teevee” that called him to play a gig on Tuesday night. Casey, of course, turned him down but I found it rather refreshing that not everyone knows about American Idol. However, you would think that he ‘d share the fact that he got on the show with his friends, wouldn’t you?
Tonight all performers were sans guitar and I think that’s as it should be on a week theme with Frank Sinatra songs. But, without a guitar Casey kind of faded into nothingness. He had a couple of nice moments but he began with pitch problems and got a little lost in accompaniment. I submit to you that last week’s performance was his best, but I think he’s in danger of going home this week.
Plus, after he performed, it really seemed the judges got incredibly mean all of a sudden:
Randy – “This was your worst performance.”
Ellen – “It felt very stiff to me. I agree with Randy. I’m sorry.”
Kara upped the meanness by a factor of ten by congratulating him for holding a note for more than two seconds but then saying,”The bad thing about you holding notes is that you sound a little like a lamb.”
Not to be outdone, Simon followed his new judging BFFs comment with- “The good news is you’ve got a booking for next week.” Which was followed by an insincere “That was a joke.”
We may have seen the last of C. James.
Amy’s Ranking: 4 of 5
Crystal Bowersox – “Summer Wind”
Crystal made a big deal about how this style of singing was very different from her, but her version of “Summer Wind” didn’t sound any different from any other song she’s ever sung on the show. Boy howdy, though, she looked amazing and while I should have known that Crystal would have tattoos, I was NOT expecting a sunflower that took over her whole upper back. Holy tattoo, Batman.
The thing about Crystal is, though, that she owns the stage. She’s got the confidence and the uniqueness and the musicality down. What I don’t like is that her vocal style tends to be kind of piece-y and that really showed on a night like tonight. I think I would have enjoyed her version of the song more if she had infused some Sinatra-like smoothness into the vocal.
Also, I’m ready for Crystal to stop talking after each and every judging critique. Just stop talking, Crystal. I’ll like you more, I promise.
Amy’s Ranking: 2 of 5
Michael “Big Mike” Lynche – “Just the Way You Look Tonight”
Not to sound like a know-it-all, but I kinda already knew that Big Mike would shine this week. His voice is the most similar to Frank Sinatra’s style and he’s already proven that he can sing complex songs beautifully. My problem with Big Mike was not in his vocal stylings…it’s that with every passing week it seems like he gets a little more full of himself (or at least feels comfortable sharing arrogant thoughts that were previously hidden). His intro interview with Ryan sounded something like this to me:
“I’m so amazing, Ryan, I’ve sung with a band already. I’m totally used to it and super versatile because I’ve been training with a band for many years and my experience is vastly unmatched. ‘Member I told you about that awesome book with 200 songs that I’ve been working on for years so that I could sing them on American Idol? I’m amazing, people. Check me out on iTunes. [insert awkward and totally unnecessary double hand wave here].”
Three more things:
- This song ALWAYS makes me think of “Father of the Bride”.
- I was a little concerned that his hat was stuck on his head. I had a vision of a dozen little gnomes jumping up and down on it to make sure it didn’t pop off of his noggin.
- I’ve never seen Randy so enthusiastic about a performance! He was super pumped up.
Amy’s Ranking: 3 of 5
Lee Dewyse – “That’s Life”
Did anyone else see Lee dash on stage as Ryan brought us back from commercial? I wonder who he was talking with in the audience?
HCJ was pretty funny with Lee, too. Apparently, HCJ’s wife finds Lee cute and so Harry surmised that Lee looked like a younger version of himself. (BTW – I can totally see that).
Here’s the thing about Lee – I like his performances a lot (and they are even better on iTunes, guys) but he is just not super comfortable with himself as a performer and on stage that really shows. His performances are a little cerebral…you can tell that he’s thinking about every note. Big Mike and Crystal totally put everyone else to shame on this point. Tonight there was also a little return of the darty eye. All that aside, Lee rocked it. And there was a moment where Lee looked like he was having fun and that was pure magic. Let’s have more of THAT!
Amy’s Ranking: 1 of 5
To close things off for today, I would like to present a little tutorial called “How NOT to Encourage Someone”. These comments were made by our illustrious judges.
“You do try hard and I’m gonna give you that.” – Simon Cowell
Translation: “You pretty much suck, but I feel bad for you because I know that you’re a likeable person and I wish that translated to a performance that I actually liked.”
“You killed [that song]…two hours ago.” – Harry Connick Jr.
Translation: “You JUST DID this song and did it well. Why in the world couldn’t you pull it off again? It must have been a fluke. Dude. Maybe you’re not cut out for the music scene.”
“At the end you had it…a little more.” – Kara Dioguardi
Translation: “Really at no point in the song did you truly ‘have it’. There were just varying degrees of ‘not having it’ displayed in that performance.”
How glad are we that Tim Urban wasn’t on stage this week? If Frank Sinatra did impeccable phrasing on his songs, I think dear Tim might have been his antithesis.