American Idol week now begins on Mondays, when the contestant who just left the show appears on the Late Show With David Letterman. Lacey Brown was very game but the segment was awkward since she was interviewed by Dave from across the room. (She was with the band.) Then he and Paul kept talking about her being rejected and kicked off, which is true but hardly necessary to keep repeating. Oddly, she chose to sing "What A Wonderful World," popularized by Louis Armstrong. Lacey did okay with it, but what an odd, old-fashioned number for her to choose as her last chance to make an impression on the public.
But in fact Lacey was right in tune with the Idol contestants. This week they could pick any tune that hit #1 on the Hot 100. But it felt like oldies night since only two contestants (the two youngest) did a song from the past 20 years. The mentor was Miley Cyrus, the epitome of what one imagines an Idol winner might be like, though she's only 17 years old, barely qualifies to compete AND she's never had a #1 hit song. Ironic!
LEE DEWYZE -- Sang "The Letter" by the Box Tops, the only #1 hit by Alex Chilton, who would go on to enduring cult legend status as the head of Big Star. Everyone -- including Miley -- knows the drill. Lee can sing but has zero stage personality. Miley suggested he give them some notes they're not expecting. (Huh?) Lee pulled out all the stops, thanks to horns and backup singers...and he never seemed more like a retread of Taylor Hicks. Nonetheless, the first three judges were very (indeed overly) nice though Simon threw water on the whole affair. Lee even mumbled through his post-critique chat with Ryan. Wake up!
PAIGE MILES -- Sang the Phil Collins hit "Against All Odds," a rather stolid number but one that sent his solo career into the stratosphere (though Collins was sadly not invited to sing it on the Oscars). For Paige, it was a train wreck of epic proportions. She started poorly, singing tentatively and off key, then in the middle of a verse she suddenly started belting and finally collapsed at the end. You could see the fear in her eyes as it all went off the rails. I assumed her voice simply hadn't recovered at all from her vocal problems. But either she didn't want to use that as an excuse or it wasn't the case. Paige blamed song choice as her stumbling block. It's only the second number, but I can't even imagine anyone else going home other than her.
TIM URBAN -- Sang Queen's low-key (for them) "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." If you ignore the vocals, he was pretty good. Dressed in Miami Vice style (t-shirt and a too-large jacket he swiped from his dad's closet), Tim grabbed the mike off the stand, he slid across the floor, and he swaggered into the pit of sorority girls (but wisely didn't indulge in ogling them). It's actually a deceptively difficult song to sing, since the chorus sort of winds down in an off-hand manner that's hard to pull off. Simon blamed the song, but surely Tim just isn't that good a singer.
AARON KELLY -- Sang Aerosmith's hit from Armageddon. It was always a little odd to hear Steven Tyler sing a love ballad while his daughter Liv was being romanced on-screen. But while it's atypical for the band, I actually have a fondness for the tune, which has a great melody. Aaron is suffering from vocal issues, but you'd barely know it from his performance. He stuck to the country twang (a phrase I wrote down before Kara used it), which is clearly where he shines and kept the melodramatic number low-key. On one big note, he was clearly straining, but all in all it was a very solid, well-thought out performance. Week by week, Aaron gets better and I'm starting to see him in the finals and giving Crystal a run for her money.
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX -- Sang janis Joplin's "Me And Bobby McGee," a song written for her by Kris Kristofferson -- and if you haven't read Ethan Hawke's profile of him in Rolling Stone, it's well worth your time. (Unfortunately, only a snippet is available online.) Why didn't I think of it before? If anyone wants to do a remake of The Rose, they've got their gal. A Janis Joplin biopic was bumping around for years, with Melissa Etheridge and Renee Zellwegger committing to competing projects. Maybe Crystal can revive the flick. She did a very good job with "Me and Bobby McGee," and Miley's suggestion she sing in a higher key did bring out some different colors in Crystal. Ellen (who is getting better with time) gave her a good note by encouraging Crystal to react to the crowd more. And Crystal showed more personality by encouraging Ryan to flop down on the carpet she brought onstage for the post-critique chat. Frankly, it was the smartest thing she did all night. We know she can sing; she just needs to make people root for her.
MICHAEL LYNCHE -- Sang Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman." After jumping all over the place last week, Michael wisely stayed rooted in one spot and went romantic, right down to the velvet jacket. It was smooth but unremarkable. Plus, Michael needs to work on using the mike better, since sometimes his vocals get lost when he moves too far away from it. Ellen said it nicely by describing him as going the speed limit. He got where he wanted but it wasn't exactly fun. Nothing wrong with it, just not memorable.
ANDREW GARCIA -- Sang Marvin Gaye's 1968 gem "I Heard It Through The Grapevine." Gladys Knight & The Pips took to #2 in 1967 only to get obliterated by Gaye's version later and I don't think she's forgiven him yet. Maybe Andrew felt bad for Paige because he gave her a run for her money in the awful department. Perhaps he started in too low a key? Whatever the reason, his vocals were colorless and dull. (It was even worse on the playback at the end of the show.) Kara said maybe their constant references to his version of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" had messed with his mind and he keeps trying to recapture that moment. So she suggested...he go back to that version of "Straight Up" and try and see what was special about it and do it again. Wha????? Simon dropped the hammer and said they'd simply over-estimated his talent. After weeks of subpar performances, I agree.
KATIE STEVENS -- Sang Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry." (I'm such an old fogey -- or maybe it was just seeing Jersey Boys -- that I thought for a second she'd be doing the Four Seasons number.) It was a clever choice by Katie: she chose a contemporary song so she'd come across as current but it's pretty serious, thus suiting her mature style. She also looked good. But there was a sharpness in her voice that was unsettling (Randy referenced it in an aside when it should have been the focus of all of them). It was literally unpleasant to listen to, not because she was so off-key or awful but simply because that sharp tone left you uneasy. Kara in her street-wise manner said, "You've still got mad pitch issues!" And I haven't the foggiest idea what Ellen's reference to Dakota Fanning meant.
CASEY JAMES -- Made the pretty left-field choice of Huey Lewis & the News' "The Power Of Love," the theme from Back To The Future. After saying he needed to work the stage more, Casey barely budged an inch and sang the song in a fairly straightforward way, maybe giving some lines a bluesy sort of spin. He needed to completely overhaul the song to make his performance special and he didn't. And why were the backup musicians positioned out front? It was OK, but Kara went over board, saying he's ready to make an album. Simon was closer to the truth when he said it was like hearing an 80s cover band.
DIDI BENAMI -- Sang Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good," her sole #1 hit to date, which comes off her masterpiece Heart Like A Wheel. (The Best Of The Capitol Years contains three albums from this period including Heart and is a must-have. Ronstadt is a criminally under-appreciated artist.) Didi's outfit was sexy and fun (love the boots!) but the song dragged instead of slinked during the verses. She was better on the bridge, but Didi continues to emote too much facially; she looks like a kid singing into her brush in front of the mirror. Kara nailed it by saying it looked like she was playing a character on stage.
SIOBHAN MAGNUS -- Sang Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," a funk classic of course. Siobhan did her thing, including a crazy get-up (I always worry when contestants look like they're wearing costumes; Adam Lambert did it all the time) and crazy crazy hair. Anyone spot who was on her t-shirt? I thought it might be Katharine Hepburn. And then she wailed at the finale. Fine, but it is starting to seem formulaic. She should cover Prince.
Well, the bottom three will include Paige Miles, Andrew Garcia and either Didi Benami or Tim Urban. I think Tim still has the Tiger Beat vote while I'm not sure who is voting for Didi. it will come down to Paige and Andrew and Paige will be saying goodbye.
What did you think of the performances? Who will go home? Isn't it annoying that one week that told us the theme in advance and even let us see the playlist the contestants choose from and next week...nothing?
Thanks for reading. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his weekly music radio show at Popsurfing and enjoy the weekly pop culture podcast he co-hosts at Showbiz Sandbox. Both available for free on iTunes. Link to him on Netflix and gain access to thousands of ratings and reviews.
Follow Michael Giltz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelgiltz