RATINGS UPDATE: Idol triumphed over the Olympics both Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was especially amazing since it featured night one of the women's ice skating. I'm certain the results show of Idol will place second to the women's ice skating final tonight. On Tuesday, Idol scored 24 million viewers over the 20.8 million watching the Olympics, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Lost, by the way, settled into a so-so 9.9 million. Maybe it's finale won't be the juggernaut I thought it might. On Wednesday, Idol scored 22.8 million, beating the Olympics again.
SHOW COVERAGE: The judges touted the women but the men on American Idol offered a little more positive news in their first live performances. Ellen improved a bit as she found her footing and both Randy and Kara (who wore a shirt that looked like something Tina Turner donned in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome) seem to be working harder to set themselves up for when Simon goes. And Simon keeps staring off into the distance as if he's bored and wishes he could be done already. Happily, his comments remain on target.
TODRICK HALL -- Sang Kelly Clarkson's awesome pop single "Since U Been Gone," which hit #2. It was a clever idea for a guy to do it and he went for a funky, slower take...that removed almost all of the fun. He was rough on the verses and the chorus -- which is awesome in the original -- plodded. Going first is never fun.
AARON KELLY -- Sang the #1 country hit "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts. I thought the choice was too adult and giggled when he sang about "the truck tires" because I wondered if he even had his license yet. But he was convincing and smooth, with a decent big note (which Idol audiences love). Hopefully someone will help him calm down the over-dramatic hand gestures. Seemed too young when they put him in the Top 24 but he's changing my mind. This was a good step forward.
JERMAINE SELLERS -- Sang the lone pop charting song by Oleta Adams, the #5 hit "Get Here." He started off too high and sounded thin, then got piercing and sharp on the high notes when he wasn't trying to throw in a million and one show-offy runs. If I was Randy, I'd coin something like, "All trill, no thrill." On the plus side, he was funny when saying Hollywood Week should be called Hell Week. Otherwise, pretty disastrous and even worse on the recap playback.
TIM URBAN -- Sang the smash #2 hit "Apologize" by One Republic. He says it was a last minute replacement but since they're one of his favorite bands, I'm sure he would have sung it eventually. He started off with a classic Idol sharp move, the savvy playing to the camera by looking down and then staring intently right into it as he began singing. The best news is that Tim did work the camera well and looked very cute, very Shaun Cassidy. The singing however was rough on the falsetto chorus and at best so-so on the verses. It came across even worse on the recap playback.
JOE MUNOZ -- Sang the Jason Mraz tune "You And I Both." He started off sitting and looked pretty confident. He seemed to be having fun, which helps a lot when he's rough on the chorus. Ran out of breath at the end of some sentences but charmed his way through and stoked the Latino vote.
TAYLOR GRADY -- Sang the Guess Who #1 hit classic "American Woman." Grady, borrowing leather pants from Constantine, started it off slow and bluesy which wasn't great but at least different. Then he performed his way past ok vocals, though the judges nailed him for looking like a poser.
LEE DEWYZE -- Sang Snow Patrol's #5 hit "Chasing Cars. He was a bit flat at times and never really grooved on the song but has a distinctive voice. Just needs more swagger. But somehow, though it didn't really work, still promising.
JOHN PARK -- Sang what Ryan called "the jazz standard" of "God Bless The Child." I've had a running commentary on people not always knowing the original performer or songwriter of a tune, especially a pre-rock standard. (Just because Michael Buble sings a song doesn't mean it's now a Michael Buble tune.) But come on. It's co-written by Billie Holiday, she sang it first and it's indelibly associated with her. So that's Lady Day's "God Bless The Child," Ryan. That was my first thought. My second thought was WTF? Why would he choose this song? He had an ok finale but overall it was a trainwreck. You can always spot a bad singer when you don't really concentrate on the lyrics or know what he's singing. That's because he's singing the melody, not the lyrics, so emotionally it doesn't mean anything. Bad bad choice.
MICHAEL LYNCHE -- Sang Maroon 5's #5 hit "This Love." He was a confident performer, which helped mask a lot of middling singing. Simon called him a supporting act (which was devastatingly on target) and Kara accurately said if there had been a lot of good performances that night, they would have been harder on him. But relatively speaking, it was one of the more pleasant.
ALEX LAMBERT -- Sang James Morrison's Top 10 hit in the UK "Wonderful World." It was probably inevitable since his voice sounds so much like that artist, but that's exactly why it was a bad choice. He was rough on the verse, but better on the chorus which is why he sang the chorus twice in a row. Bopping up and down, Alex gave the most physically awkward performance of the night. Ellen said she supported him in sticking with the mullet. But he should lose it.
CASEY JAMES -- At first I thought Ryan Seacrest said he was gonna sing RYAN Adams, which really had me excited. Instead it was Bryan Adams and his first #1 hit "Heaven." There was nothing remarkable about the arrangement though he threw in some slight tweaks on the vocals. But the acoustic guitar and the straightforward performance was good, probably the best performance of the night, though not one to save. He'd do great on John Mellencamp night.
ANDREW GARCIA -- Sang Fall Out Boys first Top 10 hit, "Sugar, We're Goin' Down." It was a stripped down acoustic version and like several others tonight, Andrew was engaging if not exactly great memorable. Bizarrely, the judges criticized him and said what he should have done was something like his revamping of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." Which is of course EXACTLY what he did: an unexpected revamp of a hit, this time a rock one. It wasn't a home run like the Abdul tune, but he was doing what they wanted and it was strange they didn't realize that. Next time, he should avoid that novelty approach and just sing something relatively straight.
Overall, the men had more performances that were...pleasant if not necessarily more memorable than the women. Certainly as far as air time and positive comments from the judges and a good performance, Casey James had a good night and Aaron Kelly proved he won't be the deer in the headlights I feared.
Does social networking matter? This early in the game, a passionate fan base might very well keep you safe for a week. That could be good news for John Park: he has the most fans on Facebook and the second most followers on Twitter. (Andrew Garcia has almost FOUR TIMES as many followers on Twiiter and just eight fans away from him on Facebook.
Three guys are in the bottom four on those sites: Michael Lynche, Jermaine Sellers and Joe Munoz. If two of them go home, we'll know this early indicator is something to keep an eye on.
So who did you like or not like last night? Anyone change your opinion of them for better or worse?
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.