Recap: 'American Idol' - The Top 8 Men perform
If the "American Idol" women played it safe on Tuesday night, what can we expect from the "American Idol" men on Wednesday (March 10) night's telecast?
Click through after the break, while Kara tries explaining to Simon what a "binky" is...
Singer: Lee Dewyze
My Take: I've gotta say, we're only three weeks in and Lee is the only guy I kinda look forward to hearing. He's got a solid radio voice and he has a little musicality. His pitch isn't perfect and he isn't exactly stretching himself. This song is a darned easy vocal and nobody's bothered to rearrange it to give Lee any big moments. But this is an OK "American Idol" performance, taking a limp, emo-y song and giving it just a bit of edge. And Lee is getting more comfortable with each week. He's smiling, relaxed and at ease. In addition, the "Idol" stylists are slowly but surely cleaning him up a little so that he looks less like a burn-out frat boy and more like a rebelliously preppy frat boy.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: It was a strange song choice, but do you want to know what Randy loves about Lee? He made it work. Ellen also appreciates that Lee made the song rock and she tells him that people have crushes on him. Kara says that Lee looks confident. He smiles and agrees that he is. Simon, though, laments that there's nothing to rave about, warning Lee that he's better than the version of the song he just did. He still suggests that Lee should be safe.
Singer: Alex Lambert
My Take: Time for another vintage Alex Lambert performance! His hideous awkwardness hasn't been mitigated at all, but if I just look away from the screen, his voice is so pleasing I don't much care. You get the feeling that if he could perform inside a cardboard box, he probably would. If he could find a big enough guitar to cover his whole body, he'd do that as well. But Alex has a problem. The more surprising he is, the better he seems to be. After Week One, last week was a huge surprise. After Week Two, this week gets a grade of "Lives Up to Expectations," but it stops his upward climb.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy likes the song choice, but wasn't exactly wowed. The crowd boos Randy. "You're becoming a mushy banana," Ellen says. Next week? I look forward to Alex becoming banana bread next week. She warns him not to become a cocky banana. Kara tells Alex that he's the only thing standing in the way of Alex winning. Simon wants to see Alex relax and have a good thing. Simon advises, "You've kinda got to imagine Randy in a bikini." No, Alex. Don't listen.
Singer: Tim Urban
My Take: NONONONONONONONONONNONONONONONONO. Don't do it, Tim. Turn back. It's a trap. Jeff Buckley? Nooooooooooo. You're not Jeff Buckley. You're not even Jason Castro. The director is convinced of Tim's dreaminess, but his voice is utterly earthbound. There's nothing even vaguely transporting here. AND YET. I've got to throw in the "AND YET." I don't want to throw in an "AND YET," but I can't help myself. Tim murdered the song a good deal less than I worried he would. I had pre-performance micro-nap nightmares about his falsetto and its possible impact on my sensitive eardrums. But no. He kept it simple and hit probably the majority of the notes. It was a silly and irrational song choice, but it was Tim's best performance to date and I can't even deny that.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy loves the song and says Tim did pretty well. Ellen was also worried about Tim's rendition of this song, but she's so pleased that she runs off of the judge's podium and gives Tim a hug. Kara thought Tim was going home a few weeks ago and now Kara thinks he may be among the top of the boys, that he was feeling it. She says he showed it. I absolutely missed that. Simon takes credit for Tim doing well tonight. Simon calls it "very, very smart." Simon says he's had a big hit with a version of the song. Hmmm... Did I miss the Teletubbies version of "Hallelujah."
Singer: Andrew Garcia
Song: "Genie in a Bottle"
My Take: Andrew Garcia is going back to his roots tonight in a desperate move to get the judges to stop talking about his rendition of "Straight Up." It's a playful and catchy cover, but it's also ridiculously over-calculated and a little lazy. Andrew's practically throwing in the towel and saying, "If this is the only way you like me, this is what I'll do." If this works, we can anticipate Miley Cyrus next week and Britney Spears the week after that and then maybe some Shakira. Still, I'd almost listen to a full-length single of this one and I'd shoot a music video of it featuring Christina Aguilera lip-synching.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy thought it was a good idea, but it didn't quite work for for him, that it wasn't range-y enough. Ellen thinks people will love that, but she wanted more. Kara couldn't hear the melody and she tells him that he peaked too early. Simon's agreeing with Kara tonight. He calls it a little bit desperate and tells Andrew that he's going backwards.
Singer: Casey James
Song: "You'll Think Of Me"
My Take: Casey wasn't very good when he went electric last week. He was cocky and settled for mediocre guitar playing over even attempting a vocal. This is much better. It's bland, but it's proficiently bland. He's also just singing the song, rather than trying to flirt with the camera or line up his sex partner for the evening. The first week, he gave a good bar band performance. This is a good "I'm sitting on a small stage in the corner of a Starbucks hoping you'll give me your change" performance. It's not dynamic, but it's OK.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: It was too safe for Randy, who wanted more edge from Casey. Ellen thought it was great and that Casey is more comfortable sitting on a stool playing his guitar. "I'm kinda back on the Casey Train," Kara not-quite-raves. "I would say it was your second best," Simon says.
Singer: Aaron Kelly
Song: "I'm Already There"
My Take: Aaron's warbling this week. Is he nervous? Is he unsure of the melody? Does he think vibrato on every note is a good stylistic choice? Or can he just not stay on-point with low notes? Aaron finally moves out of the warble on the chorus, which becomes nasally and really sharp. It's all out of his head, nothing from his diaphragm. Are the vocal coaches not trying this season? If you can't mold the 16-year-old kid and teach him proper vocal technique, you might as well throw in the towel. This isn't at all pleasant pleasant to listen to. Hardly any of the notes are correct. I praised Aaron as being a far superior Kevin Covais, but this isn't even that good.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy says Aaron has the makings of a great... something. Randy didn't like the lower notes, but he liked the "power notes," calling it a job well done. Really, Randy? Ellen says that Aaron has sounded better and that it was too much song for Aaron. Wow. Ellen breaks away from Randy. Kara loves Aaron. Kara thinks it was a stupid song choice for a 16-year-old kid. Simon tells Kara that what she said was "complete and utter rubbish." Ummm... How many times has Simon told teenage singers that their song choices were too old for them?
Singer: Todrick Hall
Song: "Somebody to Love"
My Take: Todrick Hall doesn't have a bad falsetto, so somebody thought it would be a good idea to built an entirely song around said falsetto. But just because you have a good falsetto isn't an invitation to attempt to do Freddie Mercury. Todrick the Entertainer doesn't have nearly the voice necessary to do this song without an arrangement that turns every single triple jump into a singe. Sorry. I have to get figure skating out of my head. After the opening falsetto, it's actually been arranged tremendously low, so that it has none of the flair of the Queen original at all. It's a snooze, but Todrick *does* deliver on the notes as they've been arranged and his stage presence remains at the very upper tier.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy raves that Todrick is back. Randy calls it one of the best vocals this season by a men. Ellen says that Todrick made it into a gospel song and she commends him for his bravery. Kara says you can't listen and say that it's not good singing. Then she calls it too dramatic. Randy compares it to "Glee." That's our second "Glee" reference of the season from the judges. It's here I say: Kara, you're saying somebody's rendition of a Queen song was *too* dramatic? Simon said it was too Broadway and that it may have saved him, because at least he tried something and gave a performance.
Singer: Michael Lynche
Song: "This Woman's Work"
My Take: Tee-hee. I've got no choice but to giggle at that opening falsetto. That's a mighty high, mousy note from such a big guy. It's also pure and perfect. Big Mike is looking dapper and sincere and he's the first man of the night who seems ready to throw down. He's emotional, in control of the stage and he's tonight's best performer by several country miles. Light years. I mean... REALLY. Big Mike just beat up the competition musically like he would beat up on the competition if they ever had an "American Idol" MMA competition. I am genuinely embarrassed for the other seven men. If they all fell on their swords tomorrow night, it would be more honorable than to continue the way they performed tonight if Big Mike is gonna come out and do this every week.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: "Really? Really really?" Randy calls it crazy. He's utterly incoherent he's so pleased. It's one of Ellen's favorite songs and she tells Big Mike that the show just began. Kara is in tears. Literally. She's bawling and relating as a woman. Simon sympathetically hugs Kara. Simon says that Big Mike calls it the best performances of all of the live shows so far.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Ummm... Yeah. That would be Big Mike. Note that I don't agree that this was necessarily the defining performance of the semi-finals for both genders. I think Crystal Bowersox in Week Two and Siobhan Magnus last night were in the same realm. But it was definitely the best male performance so far, leaving Big Mike a giant among dwarves. [Lee and Alex had moments as well. Neither one offended me in the slightest.]
TONIGHT'S WORST: I could just say, "Anybody who isn't Big Mike." But that would be me coddling Aaron Kelly like the judges did. Aaron moved under Tim Urban as tonight's worst.
IN DANGER: I don't have a clue. I'm thinking Todrick and somebody else. If the judges had actually listened to Aaron's performance -- Simon's gonna be annoyed if he watches the show tonight -- he might be in some jeopardy, but they overpraised him and he'll probably be OK. Put it this way: Out of eight eliminated contestants, six have been minorities, with a corresponding three of four for the men. I wouldn't be even slightly shocked if Todrick and Andrew went home tomorrow.
Guesses? Who's going home? And who did you like best and worst tonight?
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