Due to the Passover holiday, as well as my own disenchantment with this season, I took the no-frills approach to watching "American Idol" this morning: just the 10 songs (plus the judges' comments on Andrew and Crystal, because I was busy doing something else for a moment during each). Quick thoughts on how things went just as soon as I point out that the bumblers producing and directing this show somehow ran a minute or two long even though they had 10 performances to sprinkle over two hours...
After mentioning in the column linked to above that Crystal and Siobhan were the only real reasons to watch, Siobhan turned in a complete stinker, while a couple of other contestants stepped up. Still not a great night overall, though.
Siobhan Magnus, "Through the Fire": Starts off bland, then turns disastrous quickly. If some of her previous performances were about showing off the power of her upper register, the message here was "with great power comes great responsibility to find the damn key and stay on it." Terrible.
Casey James, "Hold On (I'm Coming"): Once again, Casey James being Casey James (and sounding oddly more like Huey Lewis than on last week's "Power of Love"). He has his one thing, he does it pretty well, and he at least made an attempt to step away from the mic stand for a moment. Definitely his most energetic performance to date, but there's not a lot of variance to what he does.
Michael Lynche, "Ready for Love": The blinding white spotlights didn't really suit the vibe of this relaxed, intimate ballad, and the idea that he was performing behind the judges kept distracting me. (I know other performers have done parts of songs on that riser, but the whole thing?) Solid but unspectacular on a night you figured Big Mike would own.
Didi Benami, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted": I've got a high standard for blonde women singing this song, which is Joan Osborne's incredible cover of it from "Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and Didi doesn't have the range, power or confidence to do something like that. Instead, it was her usual sultry thing, a bit sleepier than usual, and her attempt at a big note just seemed goofy - like it was something she felt she should try, but not something she was comfortable doing.
Tim Urban, "Sweet Love": I will confess I started fast-forwarding about halfway through this one, in part because I was creeped out by the stalker eyes, in part because it's yet another Tim Urban arrangement that strips away anything remotely challenging about the song so he can be sure to hit the notes. Zzzz....
Andrew Garcia, "Forever": Much, much better. Like Casey, Andrew's only got the one trick, but he's very good at it (and for some reason has attracted the judges' ire for sticking to it, while Casey gets a pass). Not only was he much more comfortable with the acoustic guitar again, but his voice again sounded crisp and clear, where he's had a lot of pitch issues the last few weeks.
Katie Stevens, "Chain of Fools": Speaking of high bars, this is Fantasia's song as far as "Idol" is concerned. (I wonder if the show should start retiring certain songs if a contestant does a definitive rendition of it, the way sports teams retire uniform numbers.) Katie's vocals were okay (if froggy as usual), but couldn't quite overcome the inherent goofiness of her trying to sing this song.
Lee Dewyze, "Treat Her Like a Lady": Lee has always had a good voice, but he's hit a lot of bum notes in past performances, and he wasn't particularly confident on stage the last couple of weeks. Tonight, though, he was strong vocally throughout, very energetic, very committed, and his voice was a great match for this Cornelius Brothers oldie-but-goodie. When I handicapped the Top 12, I said Lee was one of the few with a chance to win. If he can deliver a streak of performances like this one, he's got a definite shot.
Crystal Bowersox, "Midnight Train to Georgia": I appreciate the effort to not do the same thing every week - piano instead of guitar, high heels instead of Birkenstocks - and I suppose that's necessary to keep (some of) the judges and/or the audience from getting tired of her, but I'm with Simon: Crystal knows who she is and should do just fine sticking to that. This was one of the best of the night, but also probably my least favorite performance of Crystal's so far. The phrasing was great as always, but you could tell she was distracted by the piano-playing and then the move to stand up, and the falsetto wasn't that strong. A necessary gambit, but one I hope she doesn't try to repeat later on.
Aaron Kelly, "Ain't No Sunshine": Another snoozer, with Aaron, as usual, sounding strained in spots, passable in others.
Best of the night: I'd probably give it to Lee, followed by Crystal and then Andrew.
In trouble: Andrew could still be at risk, because you'll often see a singer who's been struggling but skating by finally get some compliments from the judges and then go home, because the fanbase gets complacent. My hope is that it's Tim (Fienberg suggested that Simon performed the famed reverse juju on him that he's used to eliminate the likes of Kevin Covais in seasons past), but I fear we're stuck with him and his stalker eyes for another week or two.
What did everybody else think?