In what may well have been an "American Idol" first (it probably wasn't, but I don't want to do research), Tuesday (April 6) night's show introduced the theme -- the music of Lennon and McCartney -- and then went straight to commercial without a single performance.
That's what you have to do when you're trying to find a way to fit nine performances into two full hours of telecast.
Click through for a full recap of Tuesday's filler-filled episode...
Singer: Aaron Kelly
Song: "The Long and Winding Road"
My Take: To fill space, the "Idol" finalists are describing each other. It turns out that the Force is with Aaron, prompting everybody to do their Yoda impressions. Becoming increasingly boring, Aaron is. Makes every song super-earnest and country ballad-y, he does. Practically asleep tonight, he appears to be. Slouching around the stage with zero charisma, Aaron does. Sigh. That was much less fun than I hoped it would be. I hope Aaron feels the same about this performance. Even the director seems to be trying to escape the drowsiness, flying out into the audience, where a dozen people are half-heartedly waving their arms. It's not dreadful, but it sure isn't good. That's about as energy-free as I've ever seen an "Idol" contender and kicking the show off, that's the kind of performance that lands people in the Bottom Three.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: There were things Randy liked about the performance, but they had absolutely nothing to do with this particular performance. He agrees with my assessment of sleepiness. Ellen says, "It felt like a long and winding song." Yay! Everybody agrees with me. Kara thinks that Aaron needs to mix it up next week. He promises he will, though Aaron seems to have forgotten how to use his microphone and both Kara and Simon have to say "Sweetie, use the microphone." Some idiot in the audience is aggressively booing every negative comment. I hope that person gets dragged outside and flogged. Kara does a cute little "tempo" dance.
Singer: Katie Stevens
Song: "Let It Be"
My Take: Katie Stevens has been invited to prom five times. She says she'll make her decision based on who has voted for her the most. Katie's a hoot. I like her more than many previous "Idol" Robo-Teens. And she's now found her way into a string of serviceable middle-of-the-pack performances. Then again, she's also been in the Bottom Three in consecutive weeks, so maybe she needs to step it up a tiny bit? There are a few bigger notes in this one and she pulls them off. This performance also is low-energy, but it's many times better than what Aaron did as a vocal.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy calls it Katie's best performance ever. Ellen says there's no way Katie will be in the Bottom Three again and calls it "amazing." Kara is proud of Katie tonight. Simon tells Katie that she got it right and he claims that what Katie did was a country version. The other judges are confused by Simon's claim, especially Kara, who bellows "Let it Be" tunelessly in Simon's ear. Somebody's been drinking from Paula's cup. I'm guessing we're gonna see extravagant praise for all three women this week and probably over-the-top insulting of the six men, because the "Idol" producers really can't afford for a fourth consecutive female to go home.
Singer: Andrew Garcia
Song: "Can't Buy Me Love"
My Take: All of the "Idol" Finalists want to be Andrew Garcia's friend. Andrew's taking his place on the behind-the-judges stage for the night's most newly reimagined cover. I don't get what you have to do to earn this placement, what sort of performances the producers think benefit from this sort of intimacy. This time it's especially odd, because Andrew's acting like this is a solo, but he has a whole band backing him up, they're just nowhere to be seen. I miss the days when I used to enjoy watching Andrew perform. On this cover, I'm not getting the point of his arrangement. I don't know how what he did has improved or even made the song better tailored to his strengths. On the other hand, I appreciate Andrew's recognition that Lennon and McCartney didn't only write ballads.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy thought it was a little bit corny, but OK. Ellen thought it was a perfect song choice and she loved it. Paula, however, didn't see anything new. She wanted him to do more with the song. Simon calls it a wedding performance, dubbing it "corny," "old-fashioned" and "irrelevant." Andrew replies, "If that was corny, then damn, I'm corny."
Singer: Michael Lynche
Song: "Eleanor Rigby"
My Take: Big Mike used to perform this song with his family. He also loves that it tells a story. He's surrounded by a full string section and the initial impression is that this will be another slow and sluggish performance, but the arrangement then turns surprisingly up-tempo. It's not a great choice. Rather than singing, Michael starts spitting out words with a hard-hitting syncopation, just trying to get through the pacing on time. He finishes the song without losing the rhythm and that's an achievement, but he also finishes it without contributing anything melodic or musical.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: You know what Randy is loving? He's not sure that all of that worked, but the parts that worked, really worked for Randy. Randy loves that Big Mike is feeling himself. Ellen is impressed that Big Mike can do everything. Kara is loopy tonight. She thought it was fire. She's talking with her hands and waving her arms frantically and pointing and gesturing. Simon says it was the sort of thing you see or hear in musicals. And again, the twit in the audience boos loudly. Oh good. Randy wants to make sure that he gets a "Glee" reference in. Randy and Simon can't agree on Large Michael's performance, but they agree that they both like "Glee." If the first commercial is for "Glee," I swear I'm going to turn my TV off. [WHEW.]
Singer: Crystal Bowersox
Song: "Come Together"
My Take: This is just a hunch, but I'm guessing that none of the "Idol" Finalists are going to say anything bad about each other. That disappoints me a little. It's a somewhat predictable song choice for Crystal, but I appreciate her saying she chose it because it's fun. She's joined by a musician on a didgeridoo, which I appreciate even more. If you've ever wanted to know how Janis Joplin or Melissa Etheridge would do "Come Together"? Well, now you know. And I'm perfectly happy with that. This is, so far, the night's only performance that has felt like the sort of thing I'd ever want to hear ever again. Like I said, it starts off so straight-forward, but by the end, Crystal is making it her own and finding ways to tear into the melody. Even though they let Crystal apologize in advance for being sick, you'd never know it and certainly never fault her for it. This is a song that's been done on "Idol" and done well. This may be the best it has been done.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Yo. Yo. Yo. Randy doesn't know if it was Crystal's best. You know what Randy loved? She still won him over. Ellen is worried that she may run out of new ways to tell Lacey how good she is. Kara *thinks* this is one of Crystal's best. We'll see if she remembers anything about this performance tomorrow. Simon says that was a performance he could hear on the radio. Simon also calls the didgeridoo player -- Ernie Fields Jr. -- out for a little recognition. Crystal Bowersox got "American Idol" to hire a freelance didgeridoo player. Game over.
Singer: Timothy Urban
Song: "All My Loving"
My Take: Dear America, I would like for "Timothy Urban's Urban Family" to be a FOX sitcom next fall, which cannot happen if you don't send him home, Love Daniel. The other contestants admire Tim's smile and his flippable hair. And this week, Tim picked a song that he could sing with a smile. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if one of the Monkees attempted to sing a Beatles song? And not one of the talented Monkees. I'm talking about a gibbon or something. Oh, I'm kidding. About the second part. Not about the first part. Let me put it this way: If this were a dreaminess competition and this were the talent portion of the dreaminess competition and this were the first time you'd ever heard him, you'd probably say, "And he can kinda carry a tune, too!" But there is no unit of distance that can measure how far apart Tim and Crystal are, talent-wise.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: You know what's funny? "I'm gonna start judging your performances, Is it a Good Tim Performance?" Randy explains. And grading on that curve, he liked Tim's performance, or at least his hair. "It was a good Tim performance," Randy says. Ellen says it was Tim's second best performance. Kara tells Tim that when he has a guitar, he gives his best performances. Simon is opposed to curve-based grading, but he still says that "taking everything into consideration," Tim did well. Simon also likes that Tim takes criticism like a man, which was a form of reverse psychology he used on Anoop last season when he got sick of Anoop.
Singer: Casey James
Song: "Jealous Guy"
My Take: Does anybody else get the impression that nobody likes Casey? After several weeks of rockin' guitar band performances, Casey is venturing back into coffee shop territory on this John Lennon solo joint. This performance sent me to the Internet to see if there was an Eddie Vedder acoustic performance of "Jealous Man" that I'd never heard before. Because if there wasn't before there was now. Close your eyes and listen to the vibrato and you'd be convinced that you were listening to a Vedder impersonator. I don't remember the last time Casey did so much actual *singing*.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy loved seeing this sensitive side of Casey James. He really needs to stop comparing Casey to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It's wrong on every level and it also seems to undercut the things that Casey really does pretty well. Ellen thinks this was Casey's best. Kara, calming down a little now, was impressed with Casey's vulnerability and his range. Simon calls it the best performance of the night so far, though he backs down and says that Crystal has been consistent, but that Casey made a bigger leap.
Singer: Siobhan Magnus
Song: "Across the Universe"
My Take: Siobhan says this will be a totally different type of performance. Indeed, it's simple and more stripped down than anything she's done for weeks. She's made such a botch of her past two performances that this was a crucial decision to just sit back and say, "Don't worry. I can still sing." The "American Idol" Munch-kin doesn't go full Scream, messing with expectations by coming close and then pulling back sweetly. It's a nice bounce-back for Siobhan.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: You know what Randy loves? It's not knowing what to expect from Siobhan. It was a bit sleepy for Randy, but he also loved the tender side. Ellen supports Siobhan marching to the beat of a different drum, because she's special. Kara thought it was "restrained" and "polite," which she appears to mean as an insult, because she doesn't think this was a song you could hear on the radio. Simon asks Siobhan what she responded to in the song and Siobhan says that it's about "Nothing's gonna change my world." She mentions her baby sisters and her voice cracks. There's nothing Simon can say after that. He tells her she's much better than last week. The idiot in the audience yells again and, for his trouble, he gets featured on camera. Way to validate the asshat, "American Idol." The asshat's name is Earl. He gets to come up on stage and huge Siobhan. Yes, "American Idol." When you have a clearly deranged dolt causing disturbances in the audience, the thing you want to do is invite him on stage with the pretty female contestant.
Singer: Lee Dewyze
Song: "Hey Jude"
My Take: Crystal Bowersox with the line of the night, predicting that Andrew Garcia and Lee Dewyze are going to get married and have "Danny Gokey babies." When oh when are we going to get a theme night built around the music of Michael McDonald? Lee's performance isn't all that exciting until the half-way point when some dude in a kilt comes down the steps playing a bagpipe. Unlike Crystal's didgeridoo player, this is more of a distraction and an oddity. I'm not sure it adds anything at all to what was otherwise just a decent performance and it definitely forces Lee to shout over his Arbitrary Scottish Accompaniment.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: You know what Randy loves? That Lee's always nervous before his performance and then he delivers. "You didn't even get rattled by that guy showing up," Ellen tells him. Kara's a fan and she could hear him on the radio. Simon's gun-shy. He tells Lee that he was doing great before the bagpipe player showed up. "It was like he turned up on the wrong show," Simon says. Lee owns it and says that the bagpipe player was 100 percent his decision.
TONIGHT'S BEST: I'm standing by Crystal as the night's best. But I'll put Casey in a tier right below that. Then maybe Katie on a level below that?
TONIGHT'S WORST: Timothy Urban was not tonight's worst! He managed his limitations all the way up to the middle of the pack. Well done, Timothy Urban. I think Aaron was at the bottom tonight, but I didn't much care for Andrew or Big Mike either.
IN DANGER: Despite what I've said about Aaron, I'm guessing a Bottom Three of Tim, Katie and Andrew. And in a surprise, I think Andrew goes home. Why do I think that? Dunno.
Who'd you like on Tuesday? And who do you figure is going home?