Tuesday (May 11) night’s “American Idol” featured a troublesome theme (Songs from The Movies) and a troublesome mentor (Jamie Foxx). With the Finals only two weeks away, would anybody from the Top Four step up and make a case that they’re deserving of becoming America’s Next Top Model? Or whatever it is that they’re here for?
Full recap of Tuesday’s performances after the break…
Singer: Lee Dewyze
Song: “Kiss From a Rose”
My Take: Usually Lee can be relied upon to do slightly more interesting arrangements than this. All he’s doing tonight is a by-the-numbers version of the Seal song, only on an acoustic guitar. The only melodic variations come on the difficult notes that Seal can hit and the Lee just isn’t good enough to nail. There’s nothing horrible here — though the cheating on the big notes isn’t subtle and only calls attention to Lee’s limitations — but I’m utterly bored to tears. That is *not* a performance that says “I’m ready to win this.” That’s a performance that says, “I’m singing ‘Kiss From a Rose’ at a half-full coffee shop.”
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: For Randy, Lee did nothing with the song. The audience boos, but Randy is exactly correct. Ellen sees what Randy’s saying, but she doesn’t care. Oh, but Ellen. You’re supposed to actually judge individual performances, not just natter pointlessly about how infallible these wannabes are. None of them are infallible. Kara says that Lee had a great week last week, but that he tackled a difficult song and he got lost in the arrangement. Kara wants to insist that you can’t take away that Lee is still great. Actually, yes you can. Talk about his performance tonight. Simon agrees with Randy and says it was verging on karaoke.
Singer: Michael Lynche
Song: “Will You Be There”
My Take: When Randy said that Large Michael was doing a Michael Jackson song, I was worried that he was going to do “Smile.” I’m not a huge fan of this “Free Willy” track, but it doesn’t have the same “Idol” history as “Smile.” While we think of Michael Jackson’s high, pure voice, this track has been arranged to showcase Large Michael’s lower register. It starts off low and he carries off the soulful introduction. When it gets to the chorus, though, it becomes sound-alike karaoke, right down to MJ’s phrasing and intonations. The less he sounds like Large Michael and the more he tries to sound like The Late, Great Michael Jackson, the worse he becomes. Might I point out that two straight singers doing covers this bland and mimeographed reflects on the utter uselessness of Jamie Foxx as an “American Idol” mentor. He wasn’t very good the first time around and all he’s brought to the party tonight is a pair of t-shirts.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy didn’t like the song choice and he wished that Large Michael would do something more R&B-y. Ellen refers to “Free Willy” as “one of the classic, great movies of all time.” Then she calls the performance predictable. Kara’s waiting to feel goosebumps, but Large Michael didn’t give her goosebumps, telling him what he did tonight, he could do in his sleep. “I have no idea what ‘Free Willy’ is,” Simon says. He adds, “I can’t connect a whale called Willy with what you just did.” He then says, “What’s it about, a willy?” Simon felt like Large Michael gave 100 percent at least.
Singers: Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowersox
Song: “Falling Slowly”
My Take: Oh look. A beautiful song about synchronicity spoiled by two singers more interested in showing off than melding their voices in a complimentary manner. Lee and Crystal stand across from each other and shout as the cameraman runs circles around them, creating a nauseating effect. The audience loves it, but I somehow lost the beautiful nuance of either The Frames’ or Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová versions. Somebody has to lead and somebody has to follow in this song. If both singers are leading and both singers are determined to show why they want to be stars, this song can’t work. This is one, by the way, where I probably wouldn’t have criticized them for doing a karaoke version. I’d have just been amazed they managed it.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy loved it and thought it was amazing. Ellen says they’re like the new Captain & Tennille. Kara calls it one of her famous moments of the entire season, finding chemistry that I apparently missed completely. Simon calls it a fantastic song and that’s all he gets to say before he gets played into silence. Crystal says that Lee is her musical crush. Somewhere, her boyfriend is wondering if he blew the chance to propose.
Singer: Casey James
Song: “Mrs. Robinson”
My Take: Really? A guy who spent the first three weeks of the competition being known only as Kara’s boy-toy is doing “Mrs. Robinson”? Wow. That’s mighty on-the-nose, Casey. How is the director resisting cutting back and forth between Casey and Kara for the entire performance? It’s not karaoke. Full credit to Casey for not doing either Paul Simon (or, I guess, Evan Dando) on this one. But it’s a third consecutive low-wattage arrangement. Is anybody tonight going to sign anything requiring energy? Or personality? Or vocal agility?
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy asks Casey why he chose the song. “A lot of things,” Casey says. And then we all point at Kara, horribly and awkwardly. Randy wasn’t jumping up and down, but he thought it was cool. Ellen wished that Casey had changed it a little bit more, but she liked it. Mrs. Robinson… errr… Kara thought this was a good choice of song. Then we spend several minutes discussing the plot of “The Graduate.” Simon didn’t think the song or performance had the substance for this night, calling it “a little bit lazy.”
Singer: Crystal Bowersox
Song: “I’m Alright”
My Take: Crystal loves “Caddyshack.” Therefore, Crystal wins “American Idol.” I couldn’t be happier about this song choice, at least in theory. Crystal’s got her lucky mic and a dude on a drum kit and she’s doing a playful and largely unrecognizable cover of the song. But it’s her best Bonnie Raitt-esque performance in weeks. Is this an established arrangement of the song? I don’t want to give Crystal or the “Idol” band too much credit, but on a night where nobody took any sort of risk, Crystal took a whole song of risks and succeeded admirably. As a lark, Crystal has been bringing herself back to the pack for the past couple weeks. This week, she just held her position and her competition ran backwards. The only way I could be happier with Crystal is if she’d sung “Are You Ready For The Summer” from “Meatballs.”
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: It wasn’t Randy’s favorite performance, but he liked how she switched it up. Ellen says something stale and unfunny and then adds that Crystal took the song and made it better. Kara agrees with the second part. And Simon? “I’m not even going to ask what that movie’s about,” Simon says, before telling Crystal that she’s back in the game.
Singer: Casey James and Michael James
Song: “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman”
My Take: Want to know a funny thing? Lee and Crystal are this season’s two favorites, but on their duet, they were like a pair of Alpha Dogs battling for every big note and losing the spirit of the song. In contrast, Casey and Large Michael both have their limitations, but their duet shows that they know their strengths. Casey begins with lead vocals and he’s awful, goat vibrato in full effect. What he does well, though, is play the guitar. So at a certain point he hands off lead vocals to Large Michael and concentrates on his instrument, while Michael barely seems to be using his guitar by the end. And when the two harmonize, you can actually tell the difference between the person doing leads and the person doing harmony. It’s not as technically proficient, maybe, but it captures the spirit of what a duet is supposed to be. They’re a team.
Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon Say: Randy loved the guitar playing. “As a matter of fact, yes I have loved a woman,” Ellen says. And that’s all. Kara loved tonight’s duets. Simon agrees that the duets were a million times better than the solo performances. The show ends three or four minutes early, forcing Ryan to kill time by conversing with the banal Jamie Foxx, saluting the judges again and intentionally dragging out his description of tomorrow night’s show. Hilarious. But at least your recording of “Glee” won’t get cut off at the end, America.
TONIGHT’S BEST: Crystal won on the solo side. Michael and Casey scored an upset win on the duet side.
TONIGHT’S WORST: Either Lee or Casey was the night’s worst, probably Casey just because Lee’s song had a greater degree of difficulty.
IN DANGER: I’ve gotta continue to believe that Large Michael and Casey are the next two out and that the order they’re eliminated in doesn’t much matter. If I have to guess? I’m guessing Mike goes home.
Who’d you like tonight? Who’d you hate? Who’s going home tomorrow?