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American Whitel

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It was "Soul and R&B" week on American Idol as performed by the New Christy Minstrels. A high school girl from Middlebury, Connecticut taking on Aretha; another high schooler getting down with Bill Withers. I'm surprised the celebrity mentor wasn't R&B legend Kristin Chenoweth.

The mentor they did use, Usher, gave some really good advice -- when he wasn't staring at the kids in disbelief. The one tip he forgot to impart was always lock your car when you have over a million dollars of jewelry in it. Big Mike said Usher is "one of the greatest performers they've ever had" to which my daughter Annie chimed in, "Big deal! The only other one was Miley Cyrus!"

In general I wasn't thrilled with the song selection. There are so many incredible soul and R&B tunes to choose from. How could no one do "the Oogum Boogum Song" or "Papa Oom-Mow-Mow" or at least "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman"? Who's guiding these people?

Siobhan Magnus got it started. She always looks so cute in rehearsal with her big mousy glasses and tousled hair. But then on show night she transforms into that strange girl in school only the foreign exchange student will speak to. Last night she was Boy George. Siobhan had an off-week with "Through the Fire." And that last screechy note is overkill on the level of an Oliver Stone movie.

Smilin' Casey James did Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming." In rehearsal smilin' Casey had a tough time remembering the words. But he was a champ on show night and nailed it, even getting the ultra tricky: "Hold on, I'm coming. Hold on, I'm a coming."

Big Mike Lynche sang a beautiful rendition of "Ready For Love." Randy was impressed that Mike "showed his sensitive side." Huh? What other side does Mike have???

Didi Benami tried a Joan Osbourne version of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." Her performance reminded me of that Sopranos episode where they shot Phil Leotardo to death and then crushed his skull under a tire.

Tim Urban wasn't much better. I used to think it was amazing that cockroaches could survive a nuclear blast but Tim has them beat.

Andrew Garcia did well singing "Forever." But then Simon said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you're boring." Uh, what exactly is the right way to take "you're boring"? Simon, don't take this the wrong way but you're an egotistical asshole. Oh, wait... he would find that a compliment.

Little Katie Stevens tackled Aretha Franklin's "Chain Chain Chain." She's got a strong voice but come on. When she sang the line, "For five long years you were my man" I thought, "So, like what? He's been your man since you were twelve?"

The best was saved for last (except for Aaron). Lee Dewyze kicked ass on "Treat Her Like a Lady," and for my money the performance of the night was Crystal Bowersox singing "Midnight Train to Georgia." Wow. Last night she proved that not only could she sing without a guitar, she could sing while wearing stilettos! Crystal is starting to distance herself from the pack.

Rachael Maddow doppelganger Aaron Kelly wrapped up the night with Bill Withers' "Anal Sunshine When You're Gone," or at least that's what it sounded like he was singing.

The overall problem was that none of these kids were in their element this week. Let them have "Afterschool Rock" week and see how they blow the doors down.

Read more from Ken here.