I took a week off from American Idol coverage last week because of deadlines elsewhere in my life, but that's okay because really all we missed was the lame "inspirational" week, which somehow left us hearing Casey James singing theme-inappropriate Fleetwood Mac and Tim Urban taking on a forgettable Goo Goo Dolls song. Sure, there were standout moments, such as when Crystal Bowersox broke down in tears at the end of her performance, but ultimately, the night was more noteworthy for the duds, such as Big Mike's horrendous cover of the already horrendous tune, "Hero," from Spider-Man. Simon maligned him for choosing a song about the webby superhero, but let's not forget that Siobahn's tune came from The Prince of Egypt, and of course Aaron Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" is from the one and only Space Jam. Sounds like those two got off the hook easy.
Point is, the week was kind of lame, and it was made lamer by the Idol Gives Back bonanza, which was really only notable for the hilarious skewering Wanda Sykes gave the show midway through. When the dust settled and the poor kids shuttled back to Appalachia, it was Tim Urban who got the boot, thus bringing an end to a charitable week by destroying one person's dreams. Way to go.
Idol got back on track last night, however, with an evening of Shania Twain's music. I can't say I was terribly enthused by this theme, but I did thoroughly enjoy Shania as a guest judge earlier this season, and as such, I felt she would serve as a solid mentor. Turns out I was right. Unlike others (cough, Miley Cyrus) who gave generic advice, Shania seemed both enthusiastic and well-informed in her interactions with the contestants. She's definitely television-ready, and had the producers not already settled on Ellen as a permanent guest judge, I would advocate strongly for Shania to be on the panel. At least Shania wouldn't make repeatedly dumb puns about her last name ("All aboard the Shania Twain," was one of Ellen's not so wonderful nuggets).
Anyway, the night kicked off with Lee Dewyze, who I think is in danger of becoming one of the most overhyped contestants of the season. The judges truly love him, but I'm not getting it. Sometimes the guy shows flashes of brilliance, but usually he sounds uneven and unsteady. Admittedly, when he belts out high notes, he improves drastically, but I guess my problem with Lee is that he's more or less forgettable (unless accompanied by a roving bagpiper). I didn't understand all the praise heaped on him last week for "The Boxer," and I equally was as confounded by the gushing over his pleasant but forgettable take on Shania's seminal crossover hit, "Still The One." It was fine -- don't get me wrong -- but like the song itself (which I do NOT think is one of the greatest ever, Randy) -- it went in one ear and out the other.
Next up was Michael Lynche, who has yet to earn back my endorsement after choosing that Spider-Man song last week. The guy unquestionably has talent (and an appetite -- is it me, or has he been packing on the pounds lately? Perhaps some late onset sympathy pregnancy weight); however, there's something about Michael's personality that's approaching annoying. I don't know what it is, but I'll chalk it up to cockiness (and perhaps memories of that proposed "pec contest") and leave it at that. To his credit, Big Mike did a lovely job with "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing," a song I'd never heard but thought was sort of -- dare I say it -- tragically beautiful? I dug the performance, I dug the song, and I dug the singing. Michael is not my favorite, and if he were to be sent home for some reason, I'd be okay with it, but he deserves to hang around another week.
As for Casey James, he's either awesome or generic, and this week he was awesomely generic. I mean that in the best possible way. Singing "Don't," Casey delivered the sort of polished, professional, and run-of-the-mill pop rock song that we hear on the radio all the time (think Nickelback, Switchfoot, Gavin DeGraw, Hinder). In fact, the song was so expert in its forgettable-ness that it became memorable. What I mean is that Casey himself wasn't forgettable, but he provided us with the type of formulaic tune that would just sit and linger on radio airplay lists for months on end -- and for that he has to be commended. After all, this is a search ostensibly for a recording artist, and last night, Casey proved he could have relevancy (albeit in an annoying form) on the radio. As such, the judges praised him with some of them saying it was his best performance to date. Personally, I'd reserve that for whatever that acoustic ditty was a few weeks ago. To me, that was his high point (even if I can't remember its name for the life of me -- too lazy to Google).
Next up was Crystal Bowersox, who tends to be amazing with everything she does. Well, usually amazing. With a cute, fun musical ensemble on stage with her, Crystal performed a hokey and pleasant version of "No One Needs to Know," which was just lovely, but in the game of Idol, it didn't have the chops to really wow the judges. Luckily, Crystal has earned enough capital with the audience that hopefully she'll be around next week, but you never know, especially since she was the only performer to receive overall negative reviews for the night.
It's kind of curious because Aaron Kelly surely deserved a spot in the losers circle with his typically uneven crooning of "You've Got A Way," but no, the judges just adored him. Even Simon heaped praise on the kid, who alarmingly sang a love song to his own mother. The good news is that Aaron switched the lyric about having sex because, well, one could only imagine the awkwardness had he sung "It's in the way we make love" to Mommie dearest. Nevertheless, the kid certainly has a voice, but it's not there yet, and he still seems petrified of the stage. I swear, you'd think he'd crap his pants if he saw a moth, let alone a few hundred people staring at him. I actually thought he might just throw up on the stage after Simon extolled his virtues. Come to think of it, had Aaron done that, I might have actually endorsed him. Oh well. Maybe next week.
Last but certainly not least was Siobhan, who finally returned to glory with a great performance of "Any Man of Mine." First off, the girl actually had fun on stage, making her the only performer to veer from a sleepy ballad. Second, her voice seemed tailor made for country-pop, and for once her two ranges (low and husky vs. high and shrieky) felt perfectly meshed, especially with another monster scream note finale at the end. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don't. This time, the histrionics most certainly worked, and I'm happy to report that Siobhan returned to the winner's circle once again. The judges all loved it, and I think it's safe to say that as long as Siobhan stays away from weepy dirges, she'll remain the fun wild-card in the competition.
So now who goes home? Given that everyone received great reviews except for Crystal, it's hard to say. I'd say that Lee and Aaron are in the hot seat, and perhaps Big Mike might join them. However, when the numbers get to this point, it's anyone's game. I guess we'll find out soon enough...